A look at the ins and outs of a business process review—and why an association might consider conducting one.
I’m a multitasker. When the kids get home from school, I help them with their homework while simultaneously making dinner and folding laundry. My husband is just the opposite: He focuses on the most critical task, gets it done, and then moves on to the next one. Why do we perform these functions so differently? Mostly because it’s the way we’ve always done things.
Organizations, like individuals, do a lot of things because they’ve always done them a certain way, so they might not consider whether the way they perform a certain function or process is the most efficient or effective.
But those self-reflective questions (e.g., What do we do? Why do we do it this way? Is there a better way?) are integral to the overall success of an organization—and a business process review is a great tool for getting those answers.
“A business process review really looks at the people, the processes, and the technology, with a goal of identifying opportunities for improvement,” said Amy Williams, CAE, vice president of business development and consulting at AH, a professional services firm that specializes in nonprofits.
Here are the ins and outs of a business process review, which just might convince you that your association is ready for one.
What does a business process review look like? The first step is zeroing in on the area up for review, whether a certain department within the association or the entire organization. When AH performs business process reviews for its association clients, it reviews the association’s current process documents and interviews staff who are carrying out those processes.
If the association doesn’t have written process documents, AH maps and documents the processes. In doing this, pain points, bottlenecks, and gaps are identified, and AH makes recommendations on redesigned processes based on those. “When we do that, we really look at the current processes and make recommendations based on ways they can make those processes more efficient and effective with less wasted effort and more time spent on valuable work,” Williams said.
When is the right time to complete a business process review? A business process review could be conducted every few years to ensure efficiency, or the need for one might arise when a business function or department seems to be dysfunctional, but you can’t put your finger on why.
However, Williams said one of the best to times complete one is when there’s a major staff change. “When you bring in a new person, especially if it’s replacing someone who has been at the organization for so long, this is a good first step for them to have an unbiased opinion of the areas to focus on, so that they’re not spending that first year of their new job just even identifying these problems,” she said. “It really does help them a lot. They have a roadmap of improvements that they could be making as they start the position.”
Can we do it ourselves? Whether you can go it alone will depend on several factors, including the breadth of your review. Are you examining one function, one specific department, or the association at large? “I think having a consultant can definitely be helpful because they have an unbiased view of your organization, and they may know of potential solutions that the internal staff is not aware,” Williams said.
Yet, it is possible for associations to take on the job themselves. AH completed a business process review of its finance department when its CFO left, which uncovered a couple of inefficiencies that the organization remedied. The review also produced a document for AH’s incoming CFO, which served as a roadmap for some of the high-priority, medium-priority, and low-priority issues that he might tackle during his tenure.
What are ways that you monitor what’s working and not working at your association? Please leave your comments below.