27 September, 2021

Key Business Concepts 101: Quality and Process Improvement

By: Lotfi Al-Sarori

Quality and Process Improvement
“Better safe than sorry”, a saying by Samuel Lover that we hear, usually as a friendly advice, when we are about to pursue an endeavor that requires cautiousness to minimize risks. This entails, for example, being well-prepared when starting a new business, project, or just a family trip. Planning the details of every step you take and making sure everything is done properly is essential to avoid risks, time wastage, and unnecessary expenses, and to get the results you seek. Similarly, organizations create business and operational plans to implement and follow throughout the year to achieve the objectives they seek in an efficient and productive manner.

But what does business planning entail? And how does it relate to business processes?

Moreover, how can this help in achieving better business results? And where does quality management fit in all of this?

These are the areas we are going to discuss in a series of articles about “Key Business Concepts”, starting with this one on process improvement, so let’s get to it.

Business Processes

Before we get into the topic of quality management and process improvement, I would like to start by defining business processes since they are the building blocks of any organizational work. Business processes are the combination of steps and actions people follow to execute their daily work. They are the procedures employees perform to achieve the outcomes they seek.

For example, a business process may be applying for a vacation in your workplace. Such process may require you to fill in a form, whether paper or electronic, with details such as your personal info and dates of planned time off, etc. The next step usually involves getting it approved by your supervisor. It typically then goes to human resources to approve it and record it in their system to take note of it and update your vacation balance.

The steps taken in this scenario by you, your manager, and HR personnel all comprise one business process, let’s call it “Applying for Vacation”. Work in organizations is made up of processes typically performed and grouped by departments or projects, although they may span more than one department such as in the previous example. Business processes have different classifications and categories which vary depending on purpose.

Core business processes, for example, are the main processes performed in an organization to fulfill and deliver the “core” results it exists to provide such as product development. In businesses, they are the processes that are conducted to deliver direct value to customers. Other processes in the organization are usually called “support processes”. Their purpose is to support the work done in core processes. The above mentioned “Applying for Vacation” process is an example of these types of processes, “Support Processes”.

"If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well." Chinese Proverb

Process Improvement

For work to be more effective, business processes, both core and support, need to operate at optimum levels. This necessitates those processes to be continuously evaluated to make sure people are performing their work activities in the best way possible to get best possible results. At the basic level, this requires eliminating unnecessary steps based on feedback from your employees or customers, observation, and/or reviewing performance results. However, process improvement entails much more than that as discussed in the following sections.


Process Documentation

Documenting organizational processes is a good practice that helps in evaluating them to streamline and improve them. In addition, process documentation helps in standardizing, implementing, and enforcing organizational processes. Following undocumented procedures is not practical. People may have different interpretations or may forget the steps and start doing things differently from how they should be done. Quality standards certifications, like ISO 9000, are based and enforced by making sure standard processes are documented and being followed.


Process Visualization

One helpful area in process documentation is using process charts. They help visualize the process steps, the different routes it may take, the approvals it needs, and the people who use it and interact with it. This makes process documentation more effective, consistent, easy to understand, and easy to follow. One popular process graphical notation is the BPMN (Business Process Management Notation), which is currently in version 2.0. BPMN 2.0 specification is used in business process management to facilitate process improvement. Business Process Management (BPM) is a key practice in process optimization. It uses a BPMN 2.0 for visualizing business processes. However, BPMN 2.0 can be used with any process improvement methodology to draw process flows.


Process Automation

Process documentation and visualization greatly help in process automation. Using software to implement business processes requires those processes to be well-documented. And if they are already visualized using process charts, implementing them in software becomes much easier. While all types of business software, such as ERP and HR systems, are used to automate business processes, business process management and workflow systems can be used to automate any type of process.


Best Business Practices

Process improvement also entails following best business practices in the different business functions such as finance, HR, or product development. Moreover, certain industries have their own best practices. Throughout the previous and current centuries, many standards and methodologies were crafted to establish common practices of how to keep work execution at an optimal level to ensure optimum results. From TQM and ISO standards to Six Sigma, Lean Process Improvement, and others, there are many standards varying by specialty, industry, and/or applicability. Some of these standards provide general guidelines based on common practices while others are specific to certain industries.

One prominent example particular to the information technology industry is CMMI. CMMI is a world-renowned quality standard and process improvement model originally created by the US ministry of defense and is currently maintained by the CMMI Institute. The CMMI model is a set of best practices to improve quality and organizational processes. It has five levels of “maturity” for organizations to follow with each level adding more requirements of higher quality standards. Achieving the highest level of CMMI, level 5, is an inspiration of many successful organizations worldwide especially those in IT and software.

There are also other standards for specific industries to make sure businesses in the industry are adhering to the same standards. These are usually maintained by a prominent organization in that industry. For example, one well-known organization maintaining standards for the communications industry is the TM Forum. It is an alliance of over 850 organizations in 180 countries that establishes and maintains standards for the telecom and communications sector. The TM Forum maintains a suite of standards and best practices, the most relevant of these that is relevant to our discussion is their Business Process Framework. It defines the various business processes in a typical communications service provider such as telecom operators and ISPs (Internet Service Providers).

A business process is the building block of business workflows. Improving business processes is critical to increase efficiency and achieve better results. Moreover, streamlining processes is made easier with process documentation and visualization, which helps greatly in automating them using software. In addition, following best business practices from prominent standardizing organizations helps greatly in achieving optimal business flows saving you time and effort.

To learn more about how ESKADENIA can help your organization be more effective, check out ESKADENIA’s software products and the company’s quality and process improvement standards by visiting ESKADENIA has been a CMMI-certified company since 2011 and is currently a holder of CMMI Level 5 certification. Moreover, ESKADENIA telecom products are based on TM Forum standards.

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About ESKADENIA Software

ESKADENIA® Software is a three-time MENA Award Winner & CMMI® level 3 certified company that is active in the design, development and deployment of a range of software products in the Telecom, Insurance, Enterprise, Education, Healthcare, and Internet application areas. The company is based in Jordan and has sales activities in Europe, the Middle East and Africa; more than 85% of its sales are exported to the global market. For more information, visit, or contact us at