What makes a good project manager? The answer isn't someone who comes up with one perfect solution and then moves on to something new. In fact, the best project manager will consistently strive to improve their existing business workflows and create a culture of continuous improvement and process optimization.

As Harvard Business Review points out, the field of project management has seen plenty of improvement initiatives over the past 20 years. These include the introduction of project management methodologies such as Agile, Lean, and Six Sigma. Agile project management is an excellent example of how a process can be adjusted to suit a more flexible working style. This willingness to adapt and take advantage of alternative approaches is key to effective optimization.

So what exactly is optimization, how is it done, and why is it essential for business process management? Here is your ultimate guide to process optimization.

What is the definition of optimization?

Optimization means making the best out of a situation or the resources available to you. When you optimize something, you aim to maximize its potential and make it as useful as possible. 

An everyday example of optimization could be a sales representative planning an overseas trip to meet with an important client. Before leaving, they could arrange to meet with other clients on the same trip, or even research new sales leads in the area. This means they are making the most of their own time. It also reduces the company’s expenses, which can include airfare, accommodation, and meal costs.

So how do you define optimization in terms of business process management? This practice is known as process optimization. Process optimization is an exercise that aims to streamline operations within a project process, maximizing resource use and improving overall output. It is a significant element of business decision-making and is used in many different project management areas.

Why optimize processes?

When managing multiple processes, optimization is vital. It can be hard to keep track of every business process, which is precisely why optimization is so important. It guarantees that each one is working to its full potential. 

Process optimization is also an integral part of Agile project management. The software development process requires an iterative approach, whereby steps are repeated and consistent tweaks are made. One example could be a video game development team that regularly deploys bug fixes. This ensures that the software product is fully ready before it is launched. 

When you optimize project management processes, you're increasing the likelihood of a host of benefits. These include:

  • Streamlined operations: A successful optimization plan can overhaul outdated, repetitive practices and automate them to create a smarter system. It also provides a clearer view of business processes by uniting all operations under a single solution.
  • Better resource management: By seeking ways to cut waste and maximize resources, project teams will become far more efficient, saving time and money.
  • Reduced error: With constant optimization at every stage, teams can spot risk factors and issues early on and rectify them before they escalate. Automation can also help reduce human error and improve accountability.
  • Improved quality assurance: When teams consistently assess the performance of their project deliverables and make regular changes to improve output, they will increase their quality standards.
  • Customer satisfaction: A high-quality product or service is guaranteed to please customers and encourage return business. This, in turn, will boost business profitability.

What are the challenges of process optimizations?

There are plenty of obstacles to process optimization.

One major challenge is that it can be resource-intensive. The main process optimization techniques have numerous steps that need to be implemented, requiring data analysis, time, and effort. However, as mentioned above, one of the overall goals of process optimization is to make the most of project resources. Therefore, it could be argued that if team members devote some effort to optimizing processes now, they will save a lot more time in the long run.

Another challenge with process optimization is that some team members may be reluctant to change. It can be difficult to convince people to alter their daily practices, especially if there are no apparent disadvantages to them. In addition to employee pushback, there will also be a teething period where people adapt to the new way of doing things. The key here is for project managers to share their vision with the team early, highlighting the myriad advantages of process optimization to get everyone on board.

Finally, there's another pitfall to be wary of: optimizing processes for optimization’s sake. While it is important to identify areas for improvement and strive for new achievements, the potential disruption caused by an ill-conceived process optimization plan can be highly detrimental to a business. Project managers should conduct extensive research before implementing any kind of process optimization and be confident that there is strong potential for an improved outcome. Otherwise, it might be better to follow the old rule of: “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Process optimization methods and techniques

There are many process optimization techniques you can use to get you started. Here are three examples:

Process mining: This is a group of techniques with a data science approach. Data is taken from event logs to analyze what team members are doing in a company and what steps they take to complete a task. This data can then be turned into insights, helping project managers to spot any roadblocks and optimize their processes.

DMAIC: DMAIC is a data-focused method used in Six Sigma to improve processes. It stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. These five stages combine to form a cycle. First, customers are defined. Then, performance is measured, and the data is analyzed. Finally, improvements are implemented and controlled to ensure the process remains in optimal condition.

PDSA: PDSA is an acronym for Plan, Do, Study, Act. It uses a four-stage cyclical model to improve quality and optimize business processes. Project managers will start by mapping what achievements they want to accomplish. Next, they will test proposed changes on a small scale. After this, they will study the results and determine if these changes were effective. If so, they will implement the changes across the entire business process.

It's good practice for a project manager to take some time to research various process optimization methods before deciding which one is most suited to their business.

Who should take charge of process optimization?

A project manager is responsible for initiating process optimization. It is their job to define project processes before making a roadmap of what needs to be optimized. They will then put their plan in action and monitor it to ensure it achieves its goals.

However, to ensure the best plan for process optimization, a project manager needs to consult critical stakeholders to help them in their decision-making. These stakeholders could include the chief operations officer, line manager, or other senior executives. This is to ensure that the process optimization plan will be suitable for the relevant department. For example, there is no sense in trying to optimize HR processes without valuable input from the person who understands them best: the HR manager.

How to use Wrike as process optimization software

Looking for easy-to-use business process management tools? Wrike is the ideal option for project managers who want a versatile platform that enables teams to do their best work. Wrike’s work management software has plenty of features that can help you optimize your processes effectively. 

Here’s how to use them:

  • Customize your workspace: Make Wrike work for you with easy-to-configure features. Create custom statuses, dashboards, and request forms that match your team processes.
  • Automate your workflows: Build automated workflows that eliminate time spent on repetitive tasks and boost process efficiency. 
  • Communicate in real time: Start with a communication plan template. Use @mentions to notify team members of updates, collaborate with live editing features, add comments in custom fields, and integrate your favorite messaging apps for optimal communication.
  • Create detailed reports: Data analysis is an essential part of process optimization. Design your own reports with charts and graphs. Get project portfolio visibility at a glance and gain insights for future planning.

Take a tour of Wrike’s business process management tools and sign up for a free two-week trial to find out how you can kickstart your process optimization plans.define optimization