Business Process Consulting
You hear the words so often, you can’t help but begin to drown them out.
Streamlining systems. Leveraging resources. Pivoting outputs. Strengthening core competencies. Value. Right the first time and every time.
These business buzzwords might be easy to parody, yet their omnipresence across industries speaks to an undeniable significance. What’s going on when so many businesses across so many sectors cite the same universal, systems-based goals?
Cue business process consulting.
Business process consultants take these concepts from words to reality. They live and breathe efficiency, shaping the organizations they work with to be scalable, streamlined, and cost-effective in ways beyond feel-good strategy. And they do so through fresh, transformative performance measures tailored to each project they commit to.
What are the steps and benefits of business process consulting? What can you really expect when you hire a process consultant for your business — and why is doing so more important than ever?
What Is Business Process Consulting?
Business process consulting is the approach to improving the ways your employees, resources, and technology operate. Your organization’s processes are the key asset that enables employees, resources, and technology to come together to produce value for your customers. Business process consulting takes a critical look at how your day-to-day functions either contribute or detract from short- and long-term goals, then help you re-work operations to better align with actual business results.
Business process consulting is outcomes-based. The best business process consultants implement measurable solutions with data-backed, quantitative results for their clients’ needs.
That does not mean every point of a business gets reduced to a digital metric — just another cog in a computerized machine, without a “human” touch. What it does mean is businesses becoming equipped with contemporary, data-driven process analyses that give fact-based perspective into wastefulness or weak spots. These analyses guide how your org process can change, and those changes get tracked with measurable improvements.
Overall, a business consultant works to make your operations run faster, leaner, and less prone to problems. They design solutions that bring your employees, technology, and capital together to flourish.
How Do Business Process Consultants Work?
Business process consultants find system solutions through two approaches.
First, consultants will conduct personnel meetings, sitting down with employees, management, and any other relevant stakeholders to assess how daily roles and responsibilities work.
These interviews are far from shapeless. Analysts structure and properly prepare for them, bolstered by surveys, questionnaires, in-depth observations and hands-on tests of current processes. Interviews aim to get direct system feedback straight from the source, including highs and lows, pain points, and insights on how an organization operates from the ground up.
Second, business process consultants will track and collect process data. Using process-data mining tools and applications, they will further assemble information and issue reports on where your organization sees bottlenecks, interruptions, redundancies, and wasted resources, plus where you could automate.
Business Process Improvement Methodologies
There are many business process consulting and improvement methodologies. Different methodologies focus on different aspects of the organization. The methodologies collectively are like tools in a toolbox. A skilled business consultant doesn’t try to sell an organization on the consultant’s favorite methodology but selects the right tools that the organization needs. Depending on an organization’s preferences, business-process consulting often works to help companies improve their operations under a preferred methodology. Here are some well-known process improvement techniques (change management, Lean Six Sigma, CMMI) and management philosophies (DevOps, Agile).
- Change Management: Improving an organization’s results begins with understanding and improving the organization’s behavior. Business process consulting works with all of a company’s components—technology, resources, and employees—to move the organization’s performance in the right direction. The most challenging part of any improvement is convincing people to change. Most people look at how a change will impact them before they look at the benefits to the business. The tools and techniques of change management, force-field analysis, SWOT, and more, help organizations bridge the divide between the need to improve and the ability to do so. The business process consultant has the experience and knowledge to help make it happen.
- Lean Six Sigma: A fusion of the lean production philosophy and Six Sigma management science, Lean Six Sigma was a direct result of the manufacturing sector eliminating non-valued-added, wasteful, inefficient, or redundant production steps. Lean Six Sigma is now used not only in manufacturing but also in the service and government sectors. Adaptations of Lean Six Sigma have even led to the creation of software development, delivery, and maintenance methods like DevOps! Lean Six Sigma particularly shapes the team and collaborative practices to create a better and more predictable end-value for the customer. It looks for ways to make employee roles more streamlined and specialized, and for your overall product creation or services to deliver more consistency and low defect rates.
- Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI): Capability maturity models began as a set of software development best practices derived from the processes of industry titans like IBM, Lockheed, and Northrop Grumman. The original Software CMM was created at the direction of the US Department of Defense to improve the quality and predictability of defense software development. Over the decades, the Software CMM was joined by the Systems Engineering CMM, the Data Management Maturity Model, and other topic-specific CMMs. Today, the CMMI provides an evolutionary path to better processes in systems, hardware, and software development, services of all types from retail to banking to restaurants, data management, systems resilience, supply chain management, and human resources. And the CMMI is now used worldwide, with more CMMI activities occurring in China and India than any other country. CMMI version 2.0, released in 2018, includes linkage between how processes operate and the value that the process delivers to an organization and its customers. Government contractors continue to earn CMMI certification along with many other organizations seeking to objectively demonstrate their performance excellence.
- DevOps: Development Operations is an application of Lean principles to help organizations improve their overall ability to develop, deliver, and maintain products and services in coordination with and at the pace of customers. DevOps was originally created for the software world at the junction between agile development, information technology infrastructure management, and Lean value-added and mistake proofing. DevOps is a cultural philosophy to strengthen the relationship between product development (often software), operations, and customers. DevSecOps incorporates the concept of security into the DevOps framework. The DevSecOps philosophy is that everyone is responsible for security in the software or product development process.
- Agile: Agile methodologies (Scrum, XP, Kanban, etc.) are about driving the creation of new services and products, particularly software, based on the demands of competing organizations. Traditional product and service creation emphasize the schedule and the plan as the ultimate measures of progress. Agile creation focuses on responsiveness to changing customer needs, providing new capabilities in small and frequent deliveries, and creating trust between product creators and customers by making and keeping promises. Good agile focuses on disciplined engineering to understand and respond to customer needs. (Bad agile is about avoiding a disciplined approach, something for which the software industry is all-too-infamous.) Agile is where project management best practices meet software-development best practices. Whatever type of product or service an organization delivers, agile thinking focuses on how to achieve the nimbleness needed to meet a changing world.
- Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL): ITIL is a framework to help a business’s Information Technology services run effectively. The goal of ITIL is to turn IT services into an integrated business partner. The ITIL system helps companies select, plan, deliver, and maintain IT services. Software developers often use ITIL to manage their services. The principles are flexible enough to work for any business that has IT services. ITIL principles lay out six activities that encompass the Service Value Chain: Plan, Design and Transition, Obtain/Build, Improve, Engage, and Deliver and Support. These six activities can be completed in any order, so IT managers can adjust them to their situations. The current version, ITIL4, outlines best practices for IT administrators and focuses on creating value. It also supports integration with DevOps, Agile, and other business process improvement methodologies.
What Industries Can Business Process Consultants Help?
The advantages of business process consulting are relevant to a vast array of business and service types. That’s because the following workflow pain points are hardly industry-exclusive.
- Bottlenecked work orders that consistently pile up, without a clear alternative in sight
- Resource inefficiencies, from misuse of employees’ time to needless processing loops to out-of-date equipment and software
- Repetitive or overly bureaucratic organizational processes
- Work processes that could get automated
- Error-laden or continuously redone work
- Excessive organizational red tape
- Poor systems or channels of communication
- Unstructured or overstructured departments
- Disorganization, whether from disorganized data to office layout
Consider the following industries that have benefited from business process consulting.
Business organizations are ultimately motivated by producing a profit. Government organizations are motivated to directly or indirectly serve the people, which is much more difficult to measure. As a result, measurably improving a government organization must focus on change management to help government workers understand, accept, and support change and sophisticated analysis of value-added activity to discern what is truly contributing to success without the convenient metric of profitability. Business process consulting can help government organizations address these challenges, as well as the challenges faced by every organization in terms of policy compliance, IT infrastructure, data security, and limited budgets and resources.
The ever-changing demands of the government’s mission mixed with perpetual funding hurdles and the vast array of regulations, compliance mandates, and authoritative bodies make government contracting a prime candidate for engaging the assistance of a business process consultant in improving processes. Typical business process improvements include compliance documentation procedures, succession and change management, IT infrastructure, data security, and tracking overall performance measurements.
A diverse and highly competitive industry, aerospace and defense organizations can benefit from product development cycle time improvement, reduction of defects and rework, product evolution and obsolescence management, and supply chain management. Business process consulting can help aerospace companies understand the relationship between strategic-level results and detail-level activities while shaping the lowest level activities to perform more predictably, with less waste, and with greater customer satisfaction.
4. Health Care
Insurance agencies and medical institutions alike contain a vast network of operating systems, constituents, needs, and demands. Business process consultants can help simplify filing and documentation headaches through cutting-edge healthcare software and other automation tools. They can strategize financing, growth opportunities, and industry-specific, cost-effective business models amid this continually evolving market.
The retail world can rise or fall at the whims of consumer tastes, lightning-quick trends, and increased global competition. That doesn’t even factor in operational challenges exclusive to the industry. From supply chain management, inventory, and order processes, store startups, multi-location staffing, and more, business process consultants can implement improved modes of control for retail to make storefronts run more profitably.
Utility providers and services face inevitable changes in sectors like renewable energy and oil and gas markets. Business process consultants find tailored solutions to some of the industry’s most pressing concerns, like portfolio and business model definitions, fuel sourcing processes, customer service, company support functions, and a more refined management strategy.
Finance institutions turn to business process consultants for a variety of organizational needs. As strategic financial partnerships grow and the public’s perception of financial institutions fluctuates, financial services must adopt secure growth strategies, data management and protection, systems resilience, regulatory compliance, and risk mitigation — all while adapting to customer expectations and advancing client-facing technology.
Whether it’s software, hardware, cloud-centered, an IT services provider, or a company somewhere in between, the information technology sector is one that’s always ever-changing and moving at warp speed. Startups and established tech giants alike face variability in an industry that prioritizes staying ahead of the curve at all costs. Business processes can fall to the wayside when companies fixate only on innovation and “out-creating” competitors. As such, consultants work with IT and tech businesses to create realistic operations models, keener scalability, better customer responsiveness, lower rework rates, and tactical resource management.
Benefits of Business Process Consulting
Business consultants turn the abstract into the concrete. Across their data-driven insights and process changes, they offer vital advantages and step-by-step information that leads to transformative, yet tangible, success.
- Fresh Eyes
An external third party can lend an objective perspective in ways that are hard to cultivate internally. Take, for example, the in-person employee interviews by a consultant. Many of your employees may find it hard to provide criticism — even the constructive kind — to their colleagues or management directly. The presence of a consultant eases this discomfort since their role is to hear employee insights. A third party brings fresh eyes and creates new space to champion change.
2. Data-Driven Decisions
Data-mining analysis is the scalable solution to understanding an organization’s behavior and rapidly identifying all potential process changes. Performance gets tracked using historical and real-time data alongside programs that identify bottlenecks and minimize error. All this innately leads your organization to make clear, numbers-backed process improvement decisions.
- Sharper Business Model
Performance enhancements are only useful if they improve an organization’s guiding business model. If the business model itself needs revisions, business process consultants are more than ready to do so. You’ll see better-executed and more fully realized business goals along every stage of your workflows.
- Save Resources
One of the most significant advantages to business process consultants is their ability to track how your organization is currently carrying out operations, versus how you think they are taking place. With a tailored set of digital tools, performance analyses, data mapping, and transactional observations, you identify overworked or underused resources — from employee domains to software to managerial practices — plus develop a model to “fix” it.
- Become More Scalable
Scalability is one of those business buzzwords you hear often, but you rarely see in action. From organizations experiencing sudden growth pains to those searching for the next big opportunity, business process consultants give you a practical map to get there.
- Get Advanced Certifications
Business process consultants can offer both company-wide and personal-level certificate training. Whether you need these certificates, or you’re trying to set yourself apart from the competition, they’ll go beyond traditional test management and improve organizational processes. Common advanced business certificates include technical ones like DevOps, ITIL/ITSM, and CMMI maturity levels or organizational philosophies like Lean Six Sigma.
- Bid on Government Contracts
To be eligible for government contracts, you must prove your business’ adoption and implementation of certain programs and data-management software. The surest way to do so is through certification, where you bolster your resume and become a more competitive bidder.
How to Find a Business Process Consultant or Firm
The reasons to use business process consulting services differ across numerous industries, yet hiring the right business process consulting firm that’ll deliver acute, actionable plans for your organization’s exact needs and pain points can seem daunting.
It doesn’t have to be once you have armed yourself with the following screening and selection tips.
- Approach Consultants Like You Approach Job Candidates
Business process consultants will be an active part of your organization over the course of your contract. As such, you need to get a sense of how they’ll fit into that organization — just like you would when hiring for an open position.
Portfolio work and consulting experience in your industry are one of the best places to cut through the fog. These give you a solid sense of not only the projects a consultant has spearheaded, but — more importantly — how they approach projects. Do they favor systemization? Do they have a clear, one-size-fits-all methodology? Are they transparent and honest about their abilities and consulting styles? Knowing this track record gives you a sturdy set of expectations to rely upon.
- Communication Skills
Industry insiders will tell you the best business process consultants focus on people. They understand interpersonal skills and productive communication practices are just as crucial for a business’ success as technical acumen. They will also practice what they preach, with keen listening skills as well as teaching, facilitation, and clear information conveyance through proper messaging.
- “Dot-to-Dot” Literacy
It’s a funny-sounding name for a serious consulting skill. Dot-to-dot literacy is the term for individuals who possess a rare ability to connect the dots between seemingly disparate information. They solve problems by seeing creative, yet data-driven, patterns behind processes, and behaviors. They can identify key pieces of information and create structures around them, filtering through the noise.
A consultant’s track record and resume will indicate their levels of dot-to-dot literacy. You’ll quickly be able to glean if a consultant follows a static approach project after project, or if they genuinely adapt tailored business process solutions.
- Data Modeling
Process models are the backbone of business process consulting work. They detail consultant findings and point toward your business’ most critical growth areas. Consultants should be fluent in data-modeling best practices, from using relevant generative software to putting forth data presentations to shaping those figures into an action plan.
- Asks the Right Questions
If you want to become more successful, you need a business process consultant who will help you generate results. That happens only when people ask the right questions — the ones that elevate a conversation, highlight key points and pivot past fluff. Your business process consultant should be the person in the room who always seems to ask the right questions, framing ideas, and guiding enlightening, much-needed conversations.
- Look at Case Studies, References, and Testimonials
Your process consultant should have the track record to back up their promises. It’s not necessary to find someone with experience in your industry — although a foundation can be useful. Instead, look at the consultant’s experience with processes similar to yours. Look for case studies that present solutions to similar problems and read about their services to see how they align with your processes.
You’ll also want to look for a team player. Your process consultant should get your team on board with process changes. So, their ability to motivate and provide results is vital. Reading testimonials shows you what it’s like to work with the consultant, and if you share common values.
- Weigh Cost and Experience
When you shop for anything from your lunch to a business consultant, you find differences in price and quality. It’s vital to weigh both when considering which business process consultant to hire. Consider that a process consultant with a lower hourly rate might take an extra week to finish their work. In that case, you might pay more for a less-experienced consultant. A great way to help you weigh your options is to ask about the measurable benefits the consultant will provide.
Know that a process consultant will need several weeks at your company to offer lasting results. You should expect to make a significant investment. With the right partner, your company will save time and money in the long run thanks to improved processes. So, place experience, commitment, and knowledge at a premium as you choose a consultant.]
Business Improvements That Go Beyond Buzzwords
At Business Transformation Institute, we know so often businesses have the right people, the right resources and the right mission in place guiding operations. They just can’t seem to streamline tying it all together.
Our business process consulting doesn’t do anything for show. We’re about tailored, efficient, value-producing systems backed by data and powered by measurable results.