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15 May 2023

How to Identify Business Process Bottlenecks

Efficiency and productivity are crucial elements for any organisation aiming to achieve success. In order to optimise processes and improve overall business performance, it is essential to identify and address business process bottlenecks.

A bottleneck refers to a stage or step in a process that limits the flow of work, causing delays, inefficiencies, and a decrease in productivity. By identifying these bottlenecks, organisations can implement targeted solutions to streamline operations and enhance overall business efficiency, increasing profitability.

In this article, we will explore effective strategies to identify process bottlenecks and provide ways into how to resolve them.  Here are the main steps:

  • Map the Processes
  • Gather Process Data and Metrics
  • Conduct Root Cause Analysis
  • Analyse Business Process Flow
  • Identify Resource Constraints
  • Engage with Employees
  • Utilise Process Mapping Software
  • Use Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Implement Continuous Monitoring
  • Test and Evaluate Solutions

Map the Process:

To identify bottlenecks, it is vital to have a clear understanding of the entire process. Start by mapping out each step, from the beginning to the end, and identify dependencies and workflow handoffs between different stages. This visual representation will help you identify potential areas where bottlenecks may occur.

Gather Data and Metrics:

Collecting data and metrics is crucial in identifying bottlenecks. Quantitative data provides insights into the time taken at each step, the number of resources involved, and the volume of work completed. By analysing this data, you can pinpoint stages that experience delays or consume excessive resources, indicating potential bottlenecks.

Analyse Process Flow:

Examine the flow of work through the process and identify stages that slow down the overall progress. Look for steps where work queues build up, causing congestion and delays. These areas are often indicative of bottlenecks. Additionally, observe the interactions between different stages and identify any dependencies or handoffs that create delays.

Identify Resource Constraints:

Bottlenecks can often occur due to limited resources, such as equipment, personnel, or technology. Evaluate the availability and capacity of resources at each stage of the process. If certain stages are consistently overloaded or experience shortages, it suggests a bottleneck. Assess whether additional resources are required to address the constraint.

Engage with Employees:

Frontline employees possess valuable insights into the daily operations and can provide information on potential bottlenecks. Engage in discussions with employees involved in different stages of the process to gain a comprehensive understanding of their experiences and challenges. They may highlight specific areas that cause delays or present opportunities for improvement.

Utilise Process Mapping Software:

Process mapping software can be a valuable tool for visualising and analysing complex processes. These tools allow you to create flowcharts, track the flow of work, and simulate different scenarios. By inputting relevant data, you can identify potential bottlenecks and evaluate the impact of process changes before implementing them.

Use Performance Indicators:

Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for each stage of the process. These indicators should be quantifiable and directly related to the efficiency and productivity of the process. By regularly monitoring these KPIs, you can identify areas that consistently fall below the desired performance levels, indicating potential bottlenecks.

Implement Continuous Monitoring:

Bottlenecks can emerge or evolve over time due to changes in demand, resources, or other factors. Therefore, it is crucial to continuously monitor the process and regularly review data and metrics. By implementing ongoing monitoring practices, you can quickly identify emerging bottlenecks and proactively address them.

Conduct Root Cause Analysis:

Once you have identified a bottleneck, conduct a root cause analysis to understand the underlying factors contributing to the problem. This analysis may involve examining process documentation, interviewing employees, and analysing data. By identifying the root cause, you can implement targeted solutions to address the bottleneck effectively.

Test and Evaluate Solutions:

Implement potential solutions to resolve identified bottlenecks and assess their impact. It is essential to test these solutions in a controlled environment before implementing them on a larger scale.

Lets have a closer look at these in a bit more details:

Map the Processes

When we talk about mapping the process, we mean creating a visual representation or flowchart that outlines the steps involved, the sequence of activities, and the interactions between different stages.

Process mapping provides a clear and concise overview of the entire workflow, allowing you to visualise the process from start to finish. It helps in understanding how inputs are transformed into outputs and reveals the dependencies between various stages. By mapping the process, you can identify critical touchpoints, decision points, and handoffs where delays or inefficiencies may occur.

The process map acts as a blueprint that enables you to identify potential bottlenecks visually. It provides a comprehensive view of the entire workflow, making it easier to spot areas where work may pile up or become congested. This visual representation allows you to identify stages that have long cycle times or create queues, indicating potential bottlenecks.

Furthermore, process mapping enables you to analyse the sequence and interactions between different stages. By examining the flow of work, you can identify any dependencies or handoffs that may cause delays or hinder the smooth progression of the process. These insights help you pinpoint specific areas where bottlenecks are likely to occur.

Process mapping is a crucial initial step in identifying bottlenecks as it provides a clear visual representation of the process. It helps you understand the workflow, identify potential areas of congestion, and pinpoint stages that may be causing delays or inefficiencies. By having a comprehensive map of the process, you can lay the foundation for a systematic analysis and effective resolution of bottlenecks.

Gather Data and Metrics

Data and metrics provide valuable insights into the performance of each stage in the process, allowing you to identify areas of concern and potential bottlenecks.

Collecting quantitative data related to the process is essential. This data may include metrics such as cycle time (the time taken to complete a task or activity), throughput (the rate at which work is completed), and resource utilisation (the extent to which resources are being used). By analysing these metrics, you can identify stages that exhibit longer cycle times, lower throughput, or higher resource utilisation, which are indicators of potential bottlenecks.

Data on work queues and backlogs can provide insights into potential bottlenecks.

Analyse Process Flow

Understanding the flow of work through the process and identifying stages that impede the overall progress is crucial in pinpointing bottlenecks.

When analysing the process flow, you need to examine how work moves from one stage to another. Look for areas where work queues build up or where there are delays in handoffs between different stages. These areas are often indicative of bottlenecks.

Pay attention to stages where work seems to accumulate or pile up, causing congestion and delays. These can be critical points in the process where the capacity or efficiency is insufficient to handle the incoming workload. By identifying these congested areas, you can focus your efforts on resolving the bottlenecks that are hindering the flow of work.

It is essential to analyse the interactions and dependencies between different stages. Identify stages that heavily rely on inputs from previous stages or where the output of one stage directly affects the performance of subsequent stages. Delays or inefficiencies in these handoff points can create bottlenecks that impact the overall process flow.

By carefully examining the process flow and identifying areas of congestion, delays, or dependencies, you can pinpoint potential bottlenecks and gain a deeper understanding of the factors contributing to them. This analysis will guide you in developing targeted solutions to optimise the flow of work and improve overall process efficiency.

Identify Resource Constraints

Bottlenecks can often occur due to limited resources, such as equipment, personnel, or technology. Identifying and addressing these constraints is crucial in resolving bottlenecks effectively.

Firstly, assess the availability and capacity of resources at each stage of the process. Evaluate whether the resources allocated to a particular stage are sufficient to handle the workload efficiently. If certain stages consistently experience resource shortages or are overloaded, it suggests a bottleneck. This could be due to insufficient staffing, inadequate equipment, or outdated technology.

Once you identify the resource constraints, you can explore various options to address them. This may involve reallocating resources from less critical areas to those experiencing bottlenecks. Alternatively, you may need to consider investing in additional resources to meet the demand and alleviate the bottleneck. This could include hiring more staff, acquiring upgraded equipment, or implementing new technologies that enhance productivity.

It’s also essential to consider the balance and utilisation of resources across the process. Sometimes, the allocation of resources may be uneven, with certain stages having excess resources while others face shortages. Adjusting the resource allocation to achieve a more balanced utilisation can help alleviate bottlenecks and improve overall process efficiency.

By identifying resource constraints and addressing them appropriately, you can effectively remove or minimise bottlenecks that are caused by limitations in resources. This will enhance the flow of work, reduce delays, and improve the overall productivity of the process.

Engage with Employees

Frontline employees play a crucial role in the daily operations and possess valuable insights into the challenges and inefficiencies within the process.

Engaging in discussions with employees involved in different stages of the process allows you to tap into their knowledge and expertise. They can provide first-hand information about the pain points, bottlenecks, and areas that cause delays or hinder productivity. Their insights can be invaluable in identifying bottlenecks that may not be apparent from a purely analytical perspective.

When engaging with employees, encourage open and honest communication. Create a safe and supportive environment where they feel comfortable sharing their observations, concerns, and suggestions for improvement. Actively listen to their experiences and take note of their feedback.

In addition to informal discussions, consider conducting focused interviews or surveys to gather more structured feedback from employees. Ask specific questions about potential bottlenecks, challenges they face, and areas where they believe improvements can be made. Their input can provide valuable perspectives and help you uncover bottlenecks that may have gone unnoticed.

By engaging with employees, you not only gain valuable insights into potential bottlenecks but also foster a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement. Employees feel valued and empowered when their input is sought, leading to increased morale and engagement in finding solutions to address bottlenecks.

Frontline employees are the ones directly involved in executing the process, and their input is crucial for identifying and resolving bottlenecks effectively. By actively involving them in the process improvement efforts, you can leverage their expertise to streamline operations and enhance overall efficiency.

Utilise Process Mapping Software

Process mapping software provides a digital platform for creating visual representations of complex processes, facilitating a deeper understanding of the workflow and aiding in the identification of bottlenecks.

Process mapping software offers several benefits when it comes to identifying bottlenecks:

  • Visual Representation: These tools allow you to create flowcharts and diagrams that visually represent the process steps, dependencies, and interactions. This visual representation helps you gain a clearer and more comprehensive view of the entire workflow, making it easier to spot potential bottlenecks.
  • Simulate Scenarios: Process mapping software often includes simulation capabilities that allow you to test different scenarios and evaluate their impact on the process. By inputting relevant data and making adjustments, you can simulate the effect of process changes or resource allocations on potential bottlenecks. This helps you identify the most effective solutions before implementing them in the actual process.
  • Collaboration and Documentation: These tools enable collaboration among team members, allowing multiple stakeholders to contribute to the process mapping and bottleneck identification process. Additionally, process mapping software provides a central repository for documenting and updating process maps, making it easier to track changes over time and maintain an accurate representation of the process.
  • Data Integration: Many process mapping software solutions offer the ability to integrate with data sources, allowing you to import and analyse relevant quantitative data directly within the tool. This integration enables you to overlay metrics, such as cycle times or resource utilisation, onto the process map, providing a comprehensive analysis of potential bottlenecks.

Remember that process mapping software should be seen as a supportive tool rather than a standalone solution. It complements other techniques, such as data analysis and employee engagement, to provide a holistic approach to identifying and resolving process bottlenecks effectively.

Use Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are quantifiable metrics that measure the performance of specific stages or aspects of a process. Monitoring these indicators allows you to identify areas that consistently fall below the desired performance levels, indicating potential bottlenecks.

When selecting KPIs, it’s important to choose metrics that are directly related to the efficiency and productivity of the process. Some commonly used KPIs for identifying process bottlenecks include:

  • Cycle Time: This measures the time taken to complete a task or activity within a specific stage of the process. Longer cycle times than expected can indicate a bottleneck in that particular stage.
  • Throughput: Throughput measures the rate at which work is completed within a specific stage or the entire process. If the throughput is consistently lower than desired, it suggests a bottleneck that is limiting the flow of work.
  • Resource Utilisation: This KPI assesses the extent to which resources (e.g., equipment, personnel) are being utilised within a specific stage. High resource utilisation indicates a potential bottleneck due to overburdened resources, while low utilisation may indicate a bottleneck caused by underutilised resources.
  • Work Backlog: A backlog refers to the accumulation of unfinished or pending work within a stage. Monitoring the size of the backlog can help identify bottlenecks where work is consistently piling up, leading to delays and inefficiencies.

By regularly monitoring these performance indicators, you can identify stages that consistently underperform or exhibit patterns of delays and inefficiencies. These indicators act as red flags, signalling potential bottlenecks within the process.

It’s important to set targets or benchmarks for each KPI based on your desired process performance. When an indicator consistently falls below the set targets, it indicates the presence of a bottleneck that requires further investigation and resolution.

Monitoring KPIs should be an ongoing practice to ensure timely identification of bottlenecks as they emerge or evolve over time. Regularly reviewing and analysing the performance data enables you to proactively address bottlenecks and make data-driven decisions to improve process efficiency.

KPIs should be aligned with the specific goals and objectives of your organisation and process. By selecting and monitoring relevant performance indicators, you can effectively identify and address bottlenecks, leading to improved process performance and overall efficiency.

Remember that process mapping software should be seen as a supportive tool rather than a standalone solution. It complements other techniques, such as data analysis and employee engagement, to provide a holistic approach to identifying and resolving process bottlenecks effectively.

Conduct Root Cause Analysis

Conducting a root cause analysis is a crucial step in identifying and addressing process bottlenecks effectively. Root cause analysis is a systematic approach that aims to uncover the underlying causes of problems or bottlenecks rather than just addressing their symptoms. By identifying and addressing the root causes, organisations can implement more sustainable and impactful solutions.

Here are key aspects of conducting a root cause analysis to identify process bottlenecks:

  • Gather Data and Information: Collect relevant data, metrics, and information about the process and the specific bottleneck. This can include historical data, performance metrics, process documentation, and input from stakeholders. The more comprehensive and accurate the data, the better insights can be gained during the analysis.
  • Define the Problem: Clearly define the problem or bottleneck that needs to be addressed. This involves understanding the specific symptoms, impact on the process, and any associated challenges or constraints. By precisely defining the problem, the analysis can be focused on identifying the true underlying causes.
  • Use Root Cause Analysis Techniques: Apply various root cause analysis techniques to identify the underlying causes. Common techniques include the 5 Whys, Fishbone (Ishikawa) Diagram, Pareto Analysis, and Cause and Effect Analysis. These techniques help in systematically exploring potential causes and tracing them back to the root cause.
  • Analyse Data and Patterns: Analyse the gathered data and look for patterns or trends that may contribute to the bottleneck. This can involve identifying recurring issues, common factors, or correlations that impact the process performance. Data analysis techniques, such as statistical analysis or data visualisation, can be employed to gain insights and make informed decisions.
  • Identify Contributing Factors: Identify the various contributing factors that play a role in the occurrence of the bottleneck. This can include factors related to people, processes, technology, resources, or external influences. By understanding the contributing factors, it becomes easier to pinpoint the specific root causes that need to be addressed.
  • Determine Root Causes: Evaluate the potential root causes identified during the analysis and narrow down to the most probable ones. This requires careful consideration, critical thinking, and weighing the evidence gathered. It may involve further investigation, discussions with subject matter experts, or additional data collection.
  • Develop and Implement Solutions: Once the root causes have been identified, develop and implement solutions to address them effectively. These solutions should be targeted at eliminating or mitigating the root causes rather than just addressing the symptoms. Consider a range of potential solutions, evaluate their feasibility, and implement the most appropriate ones.

By conducting a root cause analysis, organisations can gain a deeper understanding of the underlying issues leading to process bottlenecks. This enables them to implement more targeted and sustainable solutions, preventing the recurrence of similar bottlenecks in the future. Root cause analysis empowers organisations to address the core issues, optimise their processes, and improve overall efficiency and performance.

Test and Evaluate Solutions

After implementing solutions to address process bottlenecks, it is crucial to test and evaluate their effectiveness. This step ensures that the implemented solutions effectively resolve the identified issues and deliver the desired outcomes. Testing and evaluation provide valuable insights into the success of the implemented solutions and offer an opportunity for fine-tuning and continuous improvement.

By testing and evaluating the implemented solutions, organisations can ensure that the identified bottlenecks are effectively addressed and the desired outcomes are achieved. This iterative process allows for refinement and optimisation, leading to continuous improvement in process performance. Through ongoing evaluation and fine-tuning, organisations can maintain their competitive edge, enhance operational efficiency, and drive sustainable growth.


In order to streamline operations and improve efficiency, it is crucial to identify process bottlenecks. This article outlined ten strategies to effectively identify these bottlenecks. Firstly, gaining a deep understanding of the process flow, dependencies, and objectives provides a solid foundation for pinpointing potential bottlenecks. Additionally, analysing data using various techniques helps identify patterns and anomalies that may indicate areas of concern. Seeking feedback from stakeholders provides valuable insights and perspectives on potential bottlenecks, while process mapping visually represents the workflow, aiding in their identification.

Engaging with frontline employees is vital, as they possess valuable knowledge and first hand experience of process challenges. Utilising process mapping software enhances the identification of bottlenecks by creating visual representations, simulating scenarios, and analysing the process flow. Monitoring performance indicators, such as key performance indicators (KPIs), helps measure process performance and identify areas that consistently fall below expectations. Implementing continuous monitoring practices, including data analysis, real-time monitoring systems, feedback loops, and regular review meetings, allows for timely identification and resolution of bottlenecks.

Fostering a culture of continuous improvement creates an environment where employees are empowered to actively participate in identifying and addressing bottlenecks. Transparent communication, training, and development, continuous feedback loops, and process documentation promote a collaborative approach towards process optimisation.

By implementing these strategies, organisations can effectively identify and address process bottlenecks, leading to improved efficiency, productivity, and overall business process performance. The continuous monitoring of processes, combined with employee engagement, data analysis, and also the utilisation of technology, forms a strong framework for achieving optimal process optimisation and sustained business success.

Next steps?

Velocity is a leading provider of business process automation solutions, dedicated to helping companies streamline their operations. With our expertise in workflow automation, we assist organisations in automating their processes, resulting in improved efficiency and a high return on investment. Our solutions are designed to optimise and streamline business workflows, reducing manual effort and minimising errors.

One of our key strengths is our low-code approach, which enables us to deliver solutions in shorter timescales. By leveraging low-code technology, we can rapidly develop and deploy automation solutions tailored to our customers’ specific needs. This approach reduces development time, allowing businesses to start benefiting from automation sooner.

If you have processes in your organisation that you wish to automate, we invite you to contact us for an obligation-free discovery call. Our team of experts will work closely with you to understand your requirements, identify potential areas for automation, and provide tailored recommendations. We are committed to delivering efficient and effective workflow automation solutions that drive productivity, cost savings, and improved business outcomes.

Partner with Velocity to automate and streamline your business processes, unlock operational efficiencies, and gain a competitive edge in your industry. Contact us today to schedule your discovery call and embark on the journey towards optimised and automated workflows.

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