People think just by adopting best practices, they will get rid of all their problems. If this is the case then everybody will board the bandwagon and they will rid all their problems in one stroke. Is it so?
Before we delve deeper, let us first understand what is a best practice. A best practice is a way of doing something in a prescribed way; which is considered as the best way to do by industry gurus or some reputed organization. For example, a credit card issuing company might impose credit limit on its credit cards depending on the risk exposure it may face for each of the card holder. So a card holder having a high risk taking profile along with his income levels will be set a particular credit limit by the credit card company. How this limit should be set depends on the research done by the credit company along with the kind of risk exposure it is willing to take. A best practice might dictate a fixed formula for setting the credit limit for each card holder.
This is a good example of applying best practice for a product or service. Now consider another example. The process for finding credit limit may involve several tasks. The credit card company might have to get personal and financial information about the individual person who has applied for the credit card. The credit card company will have to do verification of all these pieces of information. Based on this verified information, the credit card company will have to apply the formula to get the safe credit limit for this individual person. The biggest task in this entire process steps is verifying the personal and financial information about the individual person. The verification can be done in a number of ways. A best practice can state how this is to be done.
This is again a good example of application of best practices. But this time it is not for a product or service. Instead this time it is for a process.
Do you think that the process of financial information verification will always be the same? Not really! Over time, things change. Some 10 years ago when internet was not much used, enterprise systems were confined to only some departments and different office sites located at distant places were not connected to each other; a verification process may involve sending surface mails from one office to another. So most of the processes were done offline. But these days, connectivity is much better and almost always; all the tasks involved in verification process will be done online. Online work will be faster, cheaper and more accurate.
So we can see here that there is improvement in the process of financial information verification from the previous process of doing it offline. This also means that the best practices if any adopted in the offline mode of doing things will no longer will be valid for the online way of doing it.
So what is the relation between best practices and process improvement? As we can imagine, all business organizations constantly keep trying to either cut costs or increase revenue or add value to their products or services so that they are able to be in the market. So they keep trying to improve their processes so that they are able to do these things. When they realize that they are way behind their competition on many benchmarks then in those cases, they might think of adopting some best practices which will bring them at par with their competitors. Once it is done then they should keep improving their processes so that they are ahead or at least at par with their competitors.
In a nutshell, a process improvement is doing something which is up and above a best practice. But to get to a certain standard they need to adopt some best practices.