Three Steps to Improving Institutional Business ProcessesJackie Anderson | Director of Student Accounting, Illinois Institute of Technology
Business processes are in action every day and impact every aspect of consumer life, from doing laundry to ordering food online. Each process is a sequence of tasks, resulting in a final product for the customer. The quicker the sequence is completed, the faster the final output is received. In the two examples above, the final products are clean clothes and delivered food. Slightly alter this production example by replacing it with services, the result is always the same: quicker sequence equals better service.
In higher education, universities are trying to identify ways to improve the student experience through better services. Business processes in higher education occur in all areas the student touches: scheduling an appointment with an advisor, registering for classes, purchasing a book, requesting a health waiver, completing verification, paying a bill, ordering food in the dining hall, applying for graduation, attending commencement.
Every time a student is shuffled from office to office without a final answer, the positive student experience diminishes. Each unique business process in the university landscape shapes the student’s experience, forging lasting memories the student will retain long after graduation.
Targeting existing business processes is an easy way to improve the student experience without requiring an elaborate budget to implement.
Here’s how it works:
1. Map the process
2. Find the bottleneck
3. Design a new process
Step 1: Map the process
A process will never improve without identifying what is currently happening. The only way to do this properly is to engage everyone involved in the existing process. Even though this step requires time and possibly staff from across campus, all the actors need to be engaged in defining the current sequence. A map of the process serves as a way to document the current state of events, while laying framework for opportunity.
Step 2: Identify the bottleneck
Once the process is mapped, review each step in the sequence and identify the constraint. The bottleneck is always the step requiring the most time of all the steps in the sequence. It’s possible one business process to have multiple bottlenecks. If this occurs, this just means there is additional room for improvement.
Step 3: Design a new process
After identifying the constraint, the final step is to design a new process that alleviates the bottleneck. This step analyzes the bottleneck and helps develop solutions to fix it. This is where the process can be creative, but also inclusive. This is the part of the process that engages the original actors from step one to have a voice in solving the problem.
The magic of business process efficiency is every process has room for improvement. Just because something has been done the same way forever does not mean that it’s the best way to do it. Dedicating time and resources to improve existing business processes is the most effective way to improve the delivery of services to students without spending money. Now, find a process and fix it!
Author Perspective: Administrator