How to Identify Areas of Improvement within Processes and Systems?

Whether caused by external forces like the pandemic or internal shifts at a specific company, there is a renewed focus on operational efficiencies.

Your employee resources may be consistently frustrated by challenges such as:

  • Extensive manual data manipulation in Excel
  • Lack of reporting functionality in your system
  • Information maintained in multiple systems
  • Difficulty gaining cooperation, collaboration, and accountability between departments
  • Inability to budget to the detail necessary
  • Non-cloud systems lack accessibility and reliability

Leaders can appropriately respond by keying in on process and systems improvements.

Where to start?

Bandwidth issues and lost opportunities due to process inefficiencies are often an impetus for change, but pinpointing root causes and prioritization is a project to manage in itself. AAFCPAs advises clients to start with a Business Process Assessment (BPA), which is a fact finding exercise designed to highlight roadblocks and determine changes that can be made to streamline processes.

The BPA establishes a baseline and helps call out the clearest pain points. These typically include tasks that are manual, error-prone, or areas that are not being adequately supported by other departments. For an assessment to be successful, however, there needs to be a solid understanding of how everything and everyone works together.

To achieve this, all essential stakeholders in the business process should be involved. Meetings should be inclusive and encourage everyone to discuss their concerns, processes, dependencies, and obstacles. By talking to multiple departments, team members who may not have previously had the opportunity or confidence can raise concerns and voice their thoughts. An inclusive approach can bring communication gaps to the surface, as well as, reveal whether departments are sharing information effectively.

Another critical aspect of the BPA is evaluating data management. Following the “data in, data out” journey helps identify breaks in the system and better gauge the value of data. In some cases, there may be pathways to streamline data translation or speed data delivery so that it plays a more timely and impactful role.

Of course, processes go beyond data. Employees will be at their best with clear deadlines and accountability; eliminating ambiguity goes a long way to ensuring smooth, reliable operations.

By exploring these and other factors through a BPA, companies gain a clearer understanding of how tasks are currently working and how they can capture business improvement opportunities.

Outlining Business Improvement Opportunities

Once the BPA is completed, the next step is to conduct a Gap Analysis to determine whether the primary issues are process or system related. If the team lacks the tools to operate effectively or get data from one place to another, then the focus should be on the system. If there are fundamental issues such as workflow confusion, lack of policies, or staffing concerns, the answers likely lie in an improved process.

After locating the gaps, companies can begin to outline tangible business improvement opportunities, which may involve multiple phases and a combination of process and system improvements.

Regardless of whether the best course is to repoint an existing system or bring in new technology, thoughtful, deliberate implementation is crucial. Prioritizing speed over a measured approach can lead to unsuccessful outcomes, and organizations should be aligned and engaged around how new systems and processes will be rolled out.

At AAFCPAs, our Business Process & IT Consulting practice helps clients improve their business processes and identify technology solutions to provide efficiencies. We design system setups and workflows and set clients up for long-term success. Our broad expertise allows us to identify operations or employee skills that may be improved to ensure smoother procedures, more efficient workflow, and improved operational performance.

If your organization is considering implementing a new process or system, or would like to discuss your approach, please contact Robyn Leet at 774.512.4010,, or your AAFCPAs Partner.

About the Author

Robyn Leet
Robyn brings over 20 years of continuous business process improvement and internal controls experience to AAFCPAs’ diverse clients. From her beginnings as an auditor in public accounting, she learned the fundamentals of business requirements and frameworks. This knowledge was applied to further her impact in her roles as Controller in private, closely-held businesses. These opportunities have bolstered her broad exposure to businesses in multiple stages of growth and with varying levels of needs to validate her insight into the inner workings and requirements of business operations and functions, always looking at the big picture and keeping the client in scope.