Unlocking growth and efficiency: The power of business process optimisation
Adaptability as the key to business survival
In a world where adaptability is the key to survival, achieving operational excellence is not merely a goal; it's a necessity. “Organisations constantly seek ways to streamline their operations, reduce costs, and enhance their responsiveness to ever-changing market dynamics”, Richard Jones, Sales Director for Business Process Services at Ricoh, elaborates. “This is where the power of business process optimisation comes into play.”
In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, the art of optimising business processes has emerged as a critical driver of success. In a candid conversation with Richard, we explore the profound significance of optimising business processes and its transformative impact on organisations.
The essence of business process optimisation
“At its core, business process optimisation revolves around making operations more efficient and effective”, says Richard. “It encompasses identifying inefficiencies, automating repetitive tasks, and creating agile and responsive workflows.” He shares his insights on the pivotal role of business process management (BPM).
Richard defines BPM as a discipline that involves discovering, analysing, measuring, optimising, improving, and automating business processes. “It's not just about deploying technology; it's about reimagining how work gets done. By meticulously mapping processes, understanding interdependencies, and pinpointing bottlenecks, organisations can embark on a holistic journey toward optimisation.”
Challenges in today's business landscape
Delving deeper into the conversation, Richard highlights the challenges organisations confront in today's economic landscape. “Rising costs, talent shortages, inflation, interest rate hikes, and the ominous spectre of recession have converged into a perfect storm. To not only endure but flourish, organisations must embrace operational efficiency.”
He underscores the findings of the 2022 State of Shared Services Survey, where a resounding 81% of respondents identified end-to-end process automation as a top priority. This compelling statistic underscores the urgency for organisations to modernise their processes and establish operational excellence.
Five optimisation indicators
To effectively address these challenges, Richard emphasises the critical importance of identifying the right areas for optimisation.
He highlights five key indicators he believes organisations should scrutinise:
- Processes still reliant on paper: Many organisations grapple with paper-based processes, which are resource-intensive and prone to errors.
- Processes with high labour costs and low margins: Labour-intensive processes with low-profit margins necessitate efficiency improvements.
- Complex processes with numerous handoffs: Processes involving frequent handoffs between teams or individuals often suffer from delays and inefficiencies.
- Processes with long cycle times and high error rates: Such processes can lead to customer dissatisfaction and increased costs, making them ripe for optimisation.
- Processes with low rates of straight-through processing: Low rates indicate potential optimisation opportunities and inefficiencies.
Real-world success stories
Sharing a tangible example, Richard recounts the story of a leading global chemicals provider grappling with challenges in finance and accounting processes. “They faced high processing costs, extended sales outstanding periods, numerous errors, and the daunting task of acquiring a new organisation without expanding their AP function. ”By outsourcing to Ricoh, who apply automation and AI-driven technologies within their hyper automation factory, they made significant improvements. “Processing times were slashed, errors diminished, and the integration of the new business proceeded seamlessly.”
He emphasises that finance and accounting processes often top the list of areas organisations target for optimisation due to their substantial impact on profit margins. These enhancements not only bolster efficiency, but also enhance cash flow and liquidity.
The role of AI in optimisation
Artificial Intelligence (AI) emerged as a game-changer in optimising business processes. Richard elucidated various AI-driven technologies, including machine learning, natural language processing, and generative AI, as transformative tools. “These technologies automate repetitive tasks, extract insights from unstructured data, and even generate content, streamlining operations across various industries.”
Outsourcing and the digital future
The conversation naturally gravitated toward the evolving landscape of outsourcing. Richard references McKinsey & Company's insights: "A focus on transforming operations through digitalisation, with providers taking on more complex processes and being paid based on the outcome they deliver and the range of technology solutions they deploy." This transformation reflects a shift from a transactional approach to outsourcing toward radical digitalisation, where providers play a pivotal role in delivering outcomes through technologies like AI and robotic process automation.
ESG: where sustainability meets optimisation
In today's era of heightened environmental and social consciousness, Richard underscores the growing importance of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors. Organisations are increasingly focused on sustainability, responsible governance, and social impact.
ESG considerations intersect with business process optimisation in multiple ways. “When certain redundant tasks are digitised or outsourced, employees gain more time for high-value tasks, enhancing their job satisfaction and contributing to their sense of fulfilment through work”, Richard explains. “This positive shift towards more meaningful work not only aligns with ESG principles, but also fosters a happier and more satisfied workforce. In turn, this promotes a fulfilling work environment, addresses social aspects like employee well-being, and enhances overall organisational performance.” Therefore, organisations that prioritise ESG not only bolster their reputation and stakeholder trust, but also position themselves for long-term success in an increasingly conscious market.
Process optimisation for a better future
In conclusion, business process optimisation isn't merely a cost-cutting measure; it's a strategic imperative that continues to shape the modern business landscape. It empowers organisations to enhance their agility, resilience, and ability to respond effectively to today's multifaceted challenges. By harnessing cutting-edge technologies like AI, organisations can achieve sustainable growth while making a positive societal impact. It's about thriving in the contemporary world by achieving operational excellence and fostering a better, more responsible, and efficient future.
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BPS & AS Sales Director Business Process Services Ricoh Europe