South East Training - Business Process Auditing Toolkit

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Business Process Improvement Activities

Business Process Improvement

The steps involved in changing a business process follow the sequence below:

1. Identify and Prioritise Opportunities for Change

It is during this first step where Business Process Auditing is most useful. 

Business Process Auditing provides a quick and relatively cheap way of identifying processes that would benefit from improvement. The technique also helps the Business Process Improvement team identify exactly where, within the selected process, they should concentrate their efforts. 

This targeted approach saves both time and money.

Information about the Business Process Auditing Course is available on the South East Training Business Process Auditing page.

2. Establish Measures of Performance

Once having decided what aspects of a business process we need to change, the next step is to establish a target performance for the process. Objectives need to be realistic, so it is often useful to have some sort of framework (such as SMART) for setting those objectives. The most important requirement is that any performance objectives should be consistent with the higher level business objectives.

3. Define and Validate the Current Process

As with any journey, it is impossible to plan a route to your destination unless you know your starting point.  The same is true for the process improvement journey.  Once we have set an objective for the process, we need to find out exactly how far away we are from reaching that goal and what obstacles stand in our way.  The approach we advocate at South East Training is to construct an 'as is' process map.  This means creating a business process diagram exactly as the process operates at the moment, complete with exception paths and any anomolies. 

This diagram provides us with a blueprint for subsequent analysis.

Further information on Business Process Mapping is provided on the South East Training Business Process Mapping and Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) courses.

4. Solicit Commitment and Support

The following step involves the Business Process Improvement team in collecting data about the performance of the process.  This can be intrusive and resource intensive.  It is good practice, therefore, to solicit commitment and support for the change activity from the process owner and those involved in its operation.  This can be achieved by explaining why you believe improvement is necessary and what help you need from them in collecting the data necessary for process analysis. The Business Process Improvement Team needs to be careful, however, not to suggest options for change at this stage.

5. Collect, Collate and Analyse Data

Techniques for collecting, collating and analysing data depend on what it is you need to know about the process.

Data collection methods might involve interviews, focus group meetings, questionnaires, observation, measurement or testing. 

Data collation involves displaying the data in a format suitable for analysis.  Techniques for quantitative data range from simple tally charts to frequency plots and scatter diagrams, while affinity diagrams and flowcharts can be used for display of qualitative data.

Useful analysis techniques include tools such as Pareto Analysis and Ishikawa (cause and effect) diagrams.

Further information about the use of these techniques is provided on the South East Training Business Process Improvement course.

6. Select Options for Change

The process analysis activity is likely to throw up a number of options for change.  Some may be mutually exclusive.  This requires the Business Process Improvement team to make choices.  A number of techniques are available to assist this process including nominal group technique, multi-voting and paired comparison.  Options for change should also be validated to ensure stakeholder acceptance and risk mitigation.

7. Re-Define the Process

Once the Process Improvement Team has settled on the changes that are required, the next step is to illustrate the revised process in a new Business Process Diagram.  This provides a blueprint for revision of the process.

8. Plan Implementation

Simply redefining the process will not have any impact by itself.  Implemention may involve activities such as automation of parts of the process, reallocation of responsibilities, introduction of new technology, retraining or even outsourcing.  As with any change initiative, this needs to be planned.

Further information on project planning is provided on the South East Training Project Management course. 

9. Gain Approval for Your Plan

It is good practice at this stage to take your plan to your stakeholders for comment.  This involves explaining to them why you feel the changes are necessary, the options you have considered and the one(s) you have chosen, and the process you have followed in reaching that conclusion.  Their feedback can then be incorporated, giving a higher probability that the plan will succeed at the approval stage.

10. Evaluate Success and Close

Once your plan has been implemented and the changes made, there is a need to confirm realisation of the benefits you predicted.  This is where Business Process Auditing can again be used. 

These ten steps provide the framework for the South East Training Business Process Improvement course.  Further information about this course can be found on the South East Training website by following the Business Process Improvement link.

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