The best process isn’t the perfect one. The best process is one that gets used. Once you learn how to avoid the mistakes that lead to impractical procedures, you can implement steps that build a stable foundation for your company.
This article covers the in-depth functions of process management and how to create successful strategies that grow with your business. Here, you’ll find out which people are involved, how to make proper documentation, what software options you have, and where to go when you need help.
Now, see who you need to get your process management off to the right start.
The Who’s Who of Process Management
A team who doesn’t understand their roles accomplishes their tasks by luck at best. Without assigning someone as the driving force of the project, the project is likely to go nowhere. To understand why you have to understand a little about human nature.
Humans are animals that like to do things efficiently. When we don’t pay careful attention to what we’re doing, we revert to whatever we immediately perceive as the path of least resistance. For example, if only one person is working with a process, they already understand how it works and do it just fine every day. Why would they go back to update the procedure if nothing is wrong?
Imagine that they have to train someone to do this task who has never touched it before. This is where the problems begin. If they’re not sure the last time someone updated their SOP, it could involve outdated software, lack of new steps, or involve irrelevant processes that have since changed.
There are a few ways to ensure this doesn’t happen, and when used in combination, they create a valuable safety net for your company.
Make it public
One way businesses can avoid outdated processes is by sharing SOPs with their entire team. Naturally, the team members working on the task already have access to their documentation. However, adding extra eyes to the mix pays off with quality and cultural gains.
You’re documenting your processes to increase your team’s knowledge. Restricting access to only a few users is counterintuitive. In fact, limiting who can access the information sends an indirect message that it’s available to only an exclusive part of the team. Instead, encourage feedback from someone with a fresh take on the flow. People who work with this procedure may miss things they will notice in an instant. Open pathways for feedback and improvement create a culture of learning, access, and openness.
Assign a driving force
A team with a leader is like a chicken without a head. There will be movement, but forward progress is most likely the result of luck. The best outcomes happen when one individual is tasked with ownership. This gives your team a point of contact for feedback and identifies who is responsible for periodic quality checks.
As your company grows, so will your library of SOPs and documentation. You may start by documenting only a handful of procedures if your company is small. However, as you grow, that number will, too. Make sure that part of your periodic quality checks ensure there is a fair division of responsibility.
First, to start modeling your processes, you’ll need a few basic materials. The first is any writing implement and a large surface where you can map out your flow. Whiteboards are the preferred choice. This is because they allow for quick edits, have ample space, and are big enough to be seen by a room of the project’s collaborators.
Next, you’ll want to select a chart-making program to transfer the diagram once created. There are free and paid options, high and low-tech, and those that allow you to integrate with software you’re already using. Before choosing your software, think about how many people will be using it, your overall budget, what you need it to do, and how tech-savvy its users are.
Some modeling programs come as part of a larger product, called business processes management software, or BPMS. These incorporate machine learning, data mining, and predictive AI to efficiently use your data. They make decisions using a software called a workflow engine to make decisions based on its programmed parameters.
These parameters are pieces of logic called business rules. The workflow engine uses business rules to know when to make decisions and automate parts of a process.
There is something to be said about automation. It is not to altogether remove a person from the process. Instead, it gives them an oversight rule to ensure that the method returns the desired outcome. Even computers aren’t 100% error-proof, so for now, oversight will remain a part of the job.
Getting your Hands Dirty
The best way to start documenting a process doesn’t start with the process at all. The first thing to look at is your goal. For example, it could be to increase your leads by 150%. Or it could be to publish a podcast episode every week. Whatever it is, it will be the focal point of the process. It is much easier to get where you want to when you know where you’re going.
After identifying the goal, take a look at the points marking the start and the end of the project. If you respond to customer support requests, you could define the beginning as the moment the support ticket is received and the end as when the ticket is marked as resolved.
Next, think about the steps that take place between the beginning and the end. Here, it is essential to involve all of the key players in this task. Work together to identify each step to the process and the associated details. For example, what method does a customer support agent follow for issuing a return? Is there a script for their message? How do you determine when the problem is solved? Write this out in the best detail you can, including points where the person involved must make a decision to arrive at the next step.
When you’ve got these pieces listed out, take a look at the other people involved. These may include the different tiers of support, other departments in the company, or outside logistics services. This gives you a good understanding of the person on whom the result depends.
During the different steps of your process, information gets passed along from person to person. There help the people involved make the correct decision that leads them to the final goal. These pieces of information include the scripts that your support reps use, the CRM where they can view a customer’s order, and the details communicated to handle escalations properly.
When finished, review the process with your team and check that there are no missing steps. Then, transfer the finished diagram to your process management software and distribute it to your team.
Executing your process
Once you document your process, begin running it precisely as written. Don’t expect your strategy to create ideal results on the first try. Once it’s in place, set your KPIs and begin measuring success. Here, it’s crucial to think about what the authentic markets of success are for your business. While business process management software includes presets for tracking data, these are general and need to be refined to your specific goals.
Once you have these KPIs listed, find out how you will measure them and implement tracking. This will give you a clear picture of how your normal operations look. After measuring them, you can set up alerts and notifications for when something falls outside of the acceptable range.
Now that you know what to expect, you can set your sights higher and aim for new goals. With a library of data from your operations, you can test changes to your process within a safe environment before implementation.
A Good Process Can Still be Better
Sometimes, even your most well-thought-out adjustments fall short of your goals. This is a normal occurrence and brings in a vital part of process management; Re-engineering.
Re-engineering usually begins when a process becomes unbearable. A team becomes so frustrated with the current method that it forces change. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to come to that. A business process review looks at existing processes to improve whether or not a company already feels its effects.
Business Process Reviews
A business process review can look different across different teams. A small company might start with the most ineffective processes and work internally. Another business may hire outside help to perform an audit. Regardless, the first procedures you review should either be the easiest to change, the most flawed, or the most important to your operations.
The data you’ve collected from your existing processes now comes back into play. When you draft a new method to accomplish your goal, comparing it to the old data helps you avoid making the same mistakes.
When performing a business process review, the aim is to create efficient procedures and avoid further avoidable upsets. What this all boils down to is getting the most out of your business process review so you can prevent other disruptions down the road.
When setting out to do your BPR, make sure you know your resources. These include your staff, their experience, your budget, and your tools. Once you’ve outlined these, you can narrow down your options and decide on your approach.
Deciding Who Helps
Business process reviews can be done either in-house or with contracted service providers. Agencies, consultants, and even fractional chief operating officers offer business process reviews. Like any decision, each option has its benefits and drawbacks.
Agencies and consultants are the most common choices for companies looking for a business process review. They offer pricing structures for all budgets, specialists in specific industries, and wide ranges of experience.
A fractional chief operating officer is essentially a part-time COO. They perform the same roles as COO with more flexibility for clients with a limited budget. This option is perfect for businesses who also want other services they provide. Those services include helping the CEO manage the administrative functions of a company and helping execute its strategies.
First, consider your budget and needs, listing out exactly what you expect from this process. Spend some time looking online and collecting names. Remember to compare multiple services before deciding. Interview them thoroughly, ask for reviews and case studies, and research their methods so you understand precisely what they provide.
When you’re finally ready to decide, your chosen service provider will lead you through the steps to creating the right processes for success.
A Word About Outsourcing
Outsourcing will at some point come up when looking at ways to make processes more efficient. These days, outsourcing is more common among large and small businesses alike. Graphic design, accounting, marketing are frequently outsourced to consultants. Whether or not outsourcing is the right choice will depend on several factors.
Outsourced services provide fast work for businesses and bring cutting-edge technology that a business may not otherwise have. This benefit is especially pronounced in small companies and start-ups. Without a substantial in-house team, they would have a hard time getting the same results.
On the other hand, outsourcing leaves companies vulnerable to more security issues. Data breaches are far more likely when sensitive information is shared with a third party. Some steps can mitigate this risk, but it is by default higher than the risk of not sharing it at all.
Overall, whether outsourcing a process to an outside service provider is the right choice depends on what you value the most. If the good outweighs the bad, then you’ve made the right choice.
Documenting your process is the start, but not the end of the journey. Quality checks, optimization, and re-engineering maintain robust processes that accomplish your business’s goals. There are plenty of professionals who can lend a hand. With all of the current options, no company is without resources. For more tips on aligning your business’s strategy with success, read about the areas where strategy consultants and business consultants guide their clients.