Productivity / Project management

Business process review: Turning it outside-in

Want to learn from companies like Apple and Google, who’ve been going from strength to strength despite the GFC? Do a business process review and start turning your business outside-in!


We’ve all heard more than enough over the last year or two about giant companies going into meltdown, but a number of companies across the world have been booming while others have been on their way to bust. And small business owners can learn a lot from their experiences.

Companies like Apple, Google, Southwestern Airlines (US), Tesco (UK) and Zara (Europe) have been taking their industries by storm and soaring to huge profits. So what’s their secret to success?

It’s called outside-in.

We’re currently experiencing a consumer revolution. At no point in history have customers had the opportunity to tell us their opinions as rapidly or effectively. As a result businesses need to be more responsive and in tune with their customers than ever before. It’s a case of “adapt or die”.

To be truly in alignment with our customers we need to look at our businesses through their eyes (outside-in) rather than pushing what we want to sell toward them.

"To be truly in alignment with our customers we need to look at our businesses through their eyes (outside-in) rather than pushing what we want to sell toward them. "

This is great news for small business owners, because we have an immediate advantage. The intimacy of the relationship between small businesses and their customers means that small businesses are much more likely to be aligned and responsive to their customers’ experiences.

To turn an oil tanker takes time and money, but a dinghy can turn on a sixpence! This represents a huge opportunity for soloists to take business from their bigger competitors.

Want more articles like this? Check out the project management section.

Identify problem areas

If you want your business processes to become more aligned to successful customer outcomes, there are three key factors you need to consider when doing your business process review:

  • Moments of Truth: Any interaction between your customer and your business is an opportunity to delight or disappoint! This applies equally to person-to-person interactions and system interactions (for example, a purchase transaction via your website).
  • Break points: At what stages in your process can or does the transaction or relationship break down?
  • Business Rules: Any point in the process where either your customer or your own business needs to make a decision can represent a failure point. And more complexity requires increased effort and makes failure more likely.

The more moments of truth, break points and business rules are involved in your business processes, the more complex, costly and prone to failure your processes become.

Eliminate or improve the weak spots

Take some time to think about your own business processes, identify where the potential weak spots are, and then take steps to either eliminate or improve the issues.

Each moment of truth, break point or business rule represents an opportunity, but at the same time, the more of them you have, the greater the chance of failure occurring – so seek to eliminate as many as you can.

Obviously it may not be practical to get rid of all of them, but your goal is to ensure that the processes you leave in place are as streamlined and effective as possible and aligned to successful customer outcomes.

Does your business operate inside-out or outside-in? Please share your observations and experiences below.

Craig Reid

is The Process Ninja. He helps organisations large and small to reach their potential by improving their processes and procedures. His mission is to save the world, one process at a time.


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