Definition: A business process improvement consultant will help design and implement strategies to increase the efficiency of workflows across your organization. Process improvement usually comes down to organizing data and building new systems using a combination of SQL, Excel, and business intelligence tools.
Skills a Process Improvement Consultant Should Have
As technology continues to impact businesses significantly, a consultant well versed in a few technical areas will have a greater chance of delivering a successful project. Therefore, when hiring a consultant, consider these skills.
Excel + VBA
Many business processes can be simplified in Excel. Therefore, being fluent in Excel is critical, whether it is a budget process, account payables reconciliation, or simple financial statements.
Within Excel, VBA is often used to create custom macros. VBA can be used to pull data from different systems and different excel files, automatically clean data, or even send emails. Creating custom formulas in VBA can also simplify an Excel process; by putting all the business logic in VBA, messy native Excel formulas can be avoided, making the worksheet less error-prone.
When handling a large amount of data, a relational database is used. SQL is the language used to access the data stored in the database. A good process improvement consultant can help build queries to help automate reporting duties.
Consider an example of a manufacturing company needing to better track of gross margin. Instead of building complicated workflows to track this, SQL could be used to create a query that displays product margin and compare it to estimated margin, broken down by product type.
General programming skills will be handy for cleaning data, building statistical models, or even creating custom applications. For projects that require connecting to an API to pull source data, being able to parse and manipulate JSON data is crucial.
CPA or Professional Certifications
One of the main benefits when working with SurveyKing consulting services is access to CPAs and business professionals. Consultants with certifications will understand your needs and how data should flow in a system, from purchase orders to journal entries.
Process Improvement Methodologies
Here are the five core methodologies SurveyKing consulting uses with clients when improving a business process. While there are other methods, you might find in additional resources, the core of process improvement comes down to finding ways to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve your company.
Six Sigma is a data-driven approach to improving business processes. Six Sigma was introduced by American engineer Bill Smith while working at Motorola in 1986. While initially developed for manufacturing, the core principles can be used to improve non-manufacturing business processes.
Six Sigma has two main methodologies. You’ll notice each methodology has a step for measure and analyze.
DMAIC – Used to improve existing processes.
- D – Define – Map the process and define broad goals on what should be improved
- M – Measure – This could include customer satisfaction data for external processes or time for computer-related processes.
- A – Analyze – Define goals based on numbers so improvements can be made.
- I – Improve – Create a strategy to improve.
- C – Control – Do a final check to make sure goals can be met and the process improved; if so, implement the process.
DMADV – Used to create new processes. Similar to DMAIC except for the two steps, which are just used to map out a new process and validate if that new process will be successful. Many business processes that need heavy modification often fall into DMADV since a new set of processes needs to be defined.
- D – Define
- M – Measure
- A – Analyze
- D – Design
- V – Validate
Total Quality Management (TQM)
Total Quality Management focuses on offering high-quality products or services to ensure customer satisfaction. Companies that want to focus on TQM often need to set up feedback tools, such as Net Promoter Score, to track customer satisfaction over time and spot problem areas. TQM is quality control that continually tries to incorporate all company departments to improve.
Theory of Constraints (TOC)
The theory of constraints helps identify bottlenecks within a system or business process. Any process consists of multiple linked steps, one of which acts as a constraint, slowing down the process.
Custom solutions often need to be built to improve the workflow when addressing a business process with a constraint. A custom solution can be as easy as a new Excel file or as complicated as implementing a new ERP system.
Kaizen: Culture of Continuous Improvement
Kaizen continuous improvement is a strategy where all employees at a company work together to achieve minor improvements. These small improvements over time add up to increase the efficiency of an organization. When a company wants to implement a Kaizen strategy, employee surveys are often used to generate ideas for improvements.
Lean thinking means reducing waste and using fewer resources. It is similar to Kaizen in a continuous approach, but its focus is on eliminating unnecessary steps. For example, from a business process standpoint, automation can save the effort of creating manual reports repeatedly.
Microsoft Excel Workbooks
Many business processes revolve around creating Excel files. As a result, automating Excel files is one of the most common projects SurveyKing consulting undertakes when improving business processes.
VBA can be used to pull in source data and eliminate the step of copying and pasting source data. VBA can also be used to upload files to SharePoint, send automated emails, or even create custom formulas. Conditional formatting rules are often created to highlight process errors.
A new system might have to be implemented depending on the business process. Implementing a new ERP (Enterprise resource planning) or CRM (customer relationship management) system could be implemented. NetSuite is a typical standard ERP system to help book revenue and track costs. Salesforce is a common CRM used to track sales leads and organize sales efforts. Our consulting team can implement these tools for you.
Tools like Tableau and Power BI are used to build charts, graphs, and tables that can be used to visualize information. Often these tools are used when company management wants to track key performance indicators. For example, a CEO may want to track product margins over time. A dashboard will let them know when performance starts to fall.
Surveys and Feedback
ny process improvement should revolve around feedback from either customers or employees. When working a customer-facing business process, surveys can be used for measurement, quantifying how bad something is. For example, when a company wants to build better products, MaxDiff can determine feature importance, and Gabor Granger can be used to find an optimal price.
Custom Built Solutions
While ERP systems like NetSuite are excellent, not all businesses can easily conform to premade systems. For example, consider a manufacturing company that sells products on its website. If a customer places an order, the company would need to create a system to log a journal entry using the NetSuite API, process the order, then keep track of inventory that might need to be reordered.
If the company had its own internally built system, functionality could be shared between the website and a custom accounting system. In addition, data from industrial automation machines could also feed into the accounting system, making it easy to spot production errors and its effect on margin.
Custom-built systems might sound like an enormous undertaking, but web frameworks like React make it possible to build components and reuse them for other tasks. This route saves on licensing costs for large systems while increasing data availability within an organization.
Our Approach & Rates
Our approach is simple. Understand the problem, suggest alternatives, and help you create the perfect solution. Our goal is always to help you increase productivity and, in turn, increase your bottom line.
For projects that require building Excel files, writing SQL queries, or building new systems, we can provide ongoing support contracts in addition to creating documentation, reassuring you that your company owns the new process.
Our rates are flat $50 per hour. No project is too big or too small.