Operational Improvement: 5 Key Steps to Operational Excellence

Ayush Sood
October 27, 2022
min read
March 15, 2024
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Boost your business's operational performance with our 5 key steps to operational excellence. Learn how strategic operational improvement can increase efficiency and financial success.
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The term "Customer Success" (CS) doesn't refer to a one-and-done action. Keeping up with the ever-changing needs of your customers, your data and the market demands regular revisions to your company's methods and practices.

Some companies fail because they aim too low. 

Others fail because they try to implement lean and other performance-enhancing practices without first investigating how their existing operational management procedures and employee attitudes may be stumbling blocks.

How do you know if the experiments you're conducting will benefit your business and your customers? 

This is where operational improvement comes into play.

TL;DR: Operational improvement

  • Operational improvement is the process of making changes to increase efficiency and financial success.
  • The operational improvement cycle involves continuously developing and implementing new processes, managing change, monitoring processes, analyzing data, and finding business process improvement opportunities.
  • The cycle consists of five stages: process design, change management, data collection, data analysis, and gap analysis & iteration.
  • Process documentation can help you automate repeatable work and create a comprehensive knowledge base.

What is operational improvement?

Businesses frequently refer to "operational improvement" while discussing strategies for progress. Operational improvement aims to maximize team productivity and overall business efficiency. In its broadest sense, it's any change made to a process or organization to increase operational performance and financial success.

What is an operational improvement cycle? 

The operational improvement cycle is fundamentally a constant auditing tool that ensures you're improving efficiency while eliminating unnecessary tasks.

It's crucial to recognize that the conclusion of the original program marks the start of a continuous cycle of operational improvement. 

A strategic operational improvement cycle mandates that an organization continuously:

  • Develop and implement new processes.
  • Successfully manage change.
  • Monitor processes on an ongoing basis. 
  • Gather and analyze data from relevant key performance indicators (KPIs). 
  • Find business process improvement opportunities.
  • Business process optimization.

... and then repeats the continuous improvement cycle.

5 stages of the operational improvement cycle

1. Process design

While many managers associate the term "process" with complex mechanisms like "systems" or "handoffs," operational processes are really just any standardized method for doing a task repeatedly. 

Business process development requires strategic planning. Think about it — even creating a perfect cup of coffee requires several planned steps. It takes time to brush your teeth properly. Consider something that is easily carried out and can be done again and again.

Alterations to the current process flow constitute business process design. Success planning is one example of a tried-and-true practice that might be put to the test.

Other examples include:

  • Tweaking your present dashboard.
  • Improving the handoff from Sales to Service or Customer Success during onboarding.
  • Implementing a brand-new procedure, like using Gainsight. 

The operational improvement cycle can inspect and evaluate processes like these. 

2. Change management

Employee behavior change is at the heart of a change management plan. Many mistakenly believe documentation and training are the only resources needed to implement a new procedure

The actual impact of change management on your achievement increases in proportion to the complexity and importance of the process change.

The first step in effective change management is getting your team emotionally on board; nowadays, people want to know what is happening and why. 

Spread the word early and often that a significant shift is on the horizon so your team can mentally prepare for it before it happens. 

Inform them of the alteration and how it will benefit their daily lives. Top management must recognize the significance of this shift and be willing to act under the new standards.

Plan your enablement schedule and break down training into manageable sessions, ideally one hour or less each. 

Train the team, and offer concrete next steps for how they are expected to start using the new procedure; this is where your data will come from for the next phase. 

Schedule regular office hours and checkpoints with the managers and their teams after the paperwork is ready, and the training is finished.

3. Data collection

One of the most important steps in the continuous cycle of operational improvement is gathering information on how the process is implemented. McKinsey estimates that by 2025, nearly every aspect of work will be optimized by data — and companies that are able to make the most progress using data have the potential to reap the most benefits.

You can't gauge the success of your new process or measure the degree to which various stakeholders accept the change without data. 

Your strategic operational improvement cycle will only be worthwhile if the data you use to drive it is accurate, complete and present. 

You need to install a reliable, regularly updated and readily available data-collecting method to reach this goal. 

This method may be built in immediately. If, for instance, you've implemented a new set of fields that must be kept up-to-date regularly, you should instruct your team to go back and fill in those fields for all of your current clients.

By doing so, you can see who is adapting well to the change, who is having difficulty, and who is avoiding it. You can also gauge how many people participate in the new process.

4. Data analysis

Once you have collected sufficient trustworthy information, you must conduct an in-depth evaluation of your most important health indicators. Measure efficiency against your key performance indicators and identify any areas of improvement — or areas still in need of improvement.

You may use your information to conduct a gap analysis and zero in on problem spots. As you go through the numbers, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your new procedure require less time from your Customer Success Managers (CSMs)?
  • How effectively are your resources being used?
  • Can your customer success managers take on more clients?
  • Is the new procedure resulting in more valuable outcomes for your customers? To what extent do they feel dissatisfied?
  • Can it be made better yet? Ask yourself if there is room for improvement in your procedure.

5. Gap analysis & iteration

A gap analysis examines the discrepancy between your new process's results and your expectations for those results.

When doing a gap analysis, it is typical to find a process overly complicated, cumbersome, illogical, or in the wrong places. We frequently encounter situations when a process starts well but has unintended repercussions, such as making preparations for success take longer than expected.

Doing a gap analysis to determine what's going on and why will help you iterate, tweak, or eliminate the complicated procedure. Then, you may reenter the continuous improvement cycle and keep auditing and testing to ensure your processes deliver value to customers and produce the intended results for your business.

How to build an operational program that lasts

Refining operational improvement is the first step toward increasing productivity. Process efficiency is the foundation for operational effectiveness. Operational planning changes that are made without first investigating the current structure of the company's work and the factors that drive day-to-day business operations are likely to fail.

Repeated, non-billable work and a lack of structure are always the true enemies of operational efficiency in a services firm. 

They not only prevent the timely completion of a project but also waste valuable time that you can't reclaim. 

This is where automating process documentation with Scribe comes in. 

Automating repeatable work

The professional services sector is not just labor-intensive but also weighed down by boring administrative tasks that provide little to no value. 

It may come as a surprise, but virtually every basic business function in professional services is open to automation, beginning with project planning and proposal generation and continuing through knowledge exchange and financial reporting.

The manual documentation of processes presents several difficulties, not the least because it requires a lot of time and effort. 

Various stakeholders and subject matter specialists are common sources of process information (SMEs). Their time must be highly valued. 

To make matters worse, processes are always changing and improving. By the time you finish writing a standard operating procedure, it's already outdated. Incorrect implementation might arise if you can't successfully update these intricate procedures.

With Scribe by your side, you can easily write informative and interesting guides and manuals. Scribe's flexible design allows you to solve typical problems associated with maintaining a knowledge base.

Companies frequently center their knowledge bases' development on customer requirements. In addition, customers get a great deal from reading knowledge base articles. A knowledge base is a great way to share information with customers, but it should also be useful for your operations team and other parties working with you.

Using Scribe, you may organize your thoughts and build a comprehensive body of knowledge. Some features of Scribe to help with the knowledge base are: 

  • With Scribe's flexible capabilities, you may compile your information in an easily digestible format.
  • Scribe makes it easy to quickly document business processes.
  • Use the header feature to divide up your article into logical chunks.
  • Use alerts and hints to draw attention to critical information.
  • Incorporate screenshots into each stage automatically to illustrate each procedure.
  • You can use Scribe Pages to create an orderly folder structure for all of your files.

Learn how to record your workflow in Scribe by reading this guide:

How to use Scribe: operational improvement
How to use Scribe

Creating & updating process documentation

When numerous persons contribute to the creation of a process document, the risk of inconsistencies increases when the document is created manually, that's because it's likely that people will all approach problems differently. 

The quality of a process document and its subsequent adoption will suffer if certain biases are introduced.

When you use Scribe to document your processes automatically, you can say goodbye to inefficiencies and hello to a more streamlined documentation procedure. Repeated uses yield the same outcomes and include a polished interface.


A quick reference guide is a document that provides a shortened set of instructions for a product or procedure. They're a time-saving tool for finding specific information without having to read a ton of text.

Combine Scribes with videos, images and more. With Scribe, you may use Scribe Pages to easily generate streamlined documentation of processes and quick-reference tools. 

‎Create multi-step procedures, incorporate checklists and distribute your whole library of Scribes to your staff and clientele.

Here's a Page in action!

Getting started with Slack: operational improvement
Getting started with Slack

Increasing profitability & efficiency

Finding the sources of administrative inefficiency allows you to consider how you may use technology to eliminate costly manual processes.

Even a modest increase in billable hours of two percent per person due to process automation would be a huge step in the right direction.

The elimination of basic activities is a major contributor to increased productivity, made possible by automated process documentation. 

There's no need to choose screenshots, explain steps, or switch between programs. You can activate Scribe and capture everything as you go through the motions of the process. Yes, it's that simple.

📌 Related resource: How Operations Teams Use Scribe

Reducing errors with process automation

There will be fewer human mistakes in the documentation process because of the elimination of manual work. Which ultimately leads to better precision and wider process adoption.

Follow this helpful step-by-step tutorial on how to create customizable, automated step-by-step guide templates with Scribe, like the one below!

Create an email template in Salesforce: operational improvement
Create an email template in Salesforce

‎Your process flow is captured in real-time as Scribe creates documents to describe it using text and graphics. 

The document will be automatically created for you, and you can simply use the browser to make any necessary changes or additions.

And even human mistakes may be readily fixed using Scribe. A Scribe's whole process can be modified or discarded in a few seconds.

By eliminating tedious procedures and minimizing redundant data input, your teams can get more done in less time. 

Use Scribe for operational improvements at your company

Finding the right balance between new initiatives and constant improvements is essential for consumer value delivery in the dynamic subscription economy. 

Increase efficiency by running your process designs through an operational improvement cycle.

Better still, with a process automation solution like Scribe, you can effortlessly keep your process documentation up-to-date, save your company data securely, and interact rapidly.

Ready to get started with operational improvement? Build clear, step-by-step guides and work together to perfect your processes by signing up for a free account!

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