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What is a Business Process?
Is it a series of steps? Maybe it’s linked tasks? Perhaps a set of activities? Or is it a collection of stuff you gotta do?
Truthfully, any of the terms above can be used, although “collection of stuff you’ve gotta do” is not entirely professional. For our purposes, we’ll define a business process as a series of linked steps or tasks performed in order to achieve a concrete goal, which is typically the delivery of a product or service.
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Defining and understanding the processes that keep your business running is critical if you want to ensure your resources are being used optimally. Additionally, a process on paper gives you a clear view of exactly who is involved and how. This lends itself to streamlining individual activities as well as employee-to-employee flow.
Why Do You Need to Define Your Business Processes?
There are some critical reasons to ensure that the processes you have in place are well-defined, easily understood, and adequately documented:
- The overall process can be streamlined to improve efficiency. You may find that some steps are extraneous.
- Communication between employees and departments can be streamlined.
- A system of checks and balances or a hierarchy of approvals can be created and easily put in place to make sure everyone is accountable for the completion of their particular tasks, as well as ensuring resources are used optimally.
- Knowing what you’re doing keeps chaos from taking over your day-to-day operations.
- Procedures can be standardized and prioritized in a way that lets you focus on what really matters to the bigger picture of the success of your business.
What Are the Typical Steps of a Business Process?
While your business will have multiple kinds of processes with varying goals, every process must have a fixed route that leads to that goal. With that in mind, KiSSFLOW has outlined the necessary components of any business process, whether it be a sales process or the process of putting the new coversheet on the TPS reports (Office Space reference!):
Check out what KiSSFLOW had to say:
Goals – What is the purpose of the process? Why was it created? How will you know if it is successful?
Plan – What are the strategies needed to achieve the goals? This is the broad roadmap for the process.
Set Actions – Identify the individual tasks your teams and machines need to do in order to execute the plan.
Test – Run the process on a small scale to see how it performs. Notice any gaps and make adjustments.
Implement – Start running the process in a live environment. Properly communicate and train all stakeholders.
Monitor – Review the process and analyze its patterns. Document the process history.
Repeat – If the process is able to achieve the goals set for it, replicate it for the future processes.
What are some essential attributes of an ideal business process?
KiSSFLOW has also helped to define the essential attributes of an ideal business process:
- Finite – A good business process has a well-defined starting point and ending point. It also has a finite number of steps.
- Repeatable – A good business process can be run an indefinite number of times.
- Creates value – It ultimately aims at translating creation of value into executable tasks and does not have any step in the process just for the sake of it. In other words, if any step in the process isn’t adding value, it should not exist.
- Flexibility – It has an in-built nature to be flexible to change and is not rigid. When there is any scope for improvement that is identified, the process allows that change to be absorbed within itself without operationally affecting its stakeholders as much.
Some things to keep in mind
when detailing the business process you have in place,
or when creating new ones:
- A business process requires you to define a series of actions to achieve a certain objective. You’re probably thinking, “This point has already been made repeatedly!”, but repetition works. You must clearly define the objective in order to know how to get there in a way that avoids unnecessary steps and paths. If it doesn’t contribute to the objective (whether directly or indirectly), reconsider its presence in the process. And remember, repetition works.
- Streamlining the efficiency of your business processes is a continuous process in and of itself, and it should allow for ad-hoc action. Again, you’ve read this already, but flexibility is a suggestion worth repeating.
- Processes can be simple or complex based on number of steps, number of departments and employees involved, and sources of data. This likely seems pretty obvious, but don’t fall into the trap of trimming too much off your process in an effort to streamline. If there’s efficiency in the complexity, simplicity may break the machine. It is, of course, important to ensure the complexity of the process is well defined and well understood.
- They can be short or long running. Duh, right? But…
- Longer processes tend to have multiple variables and therefore have a greater documentation requirement. This feels like another duh, but we will never be able to stress the importance of documentation enough. Imagine you have a process that spans years (like the process involved in fulfilling a ten year contract to help a company collect their economic incentives). If you have an employee involved in negotiating the initial terms of the contract and then assessing success of that service upon completion of the contract (10 years later), what happens if that employee leaves the company after 5 years? What if they were working independently and there are no other employees who were involved in those steps? What should happen is that your new hire should look over the documentation for this process to see, first and foremost, where you are. Thanks to that documentation, the new employee should also be able to review all work that has been completed in the previous steps, as well as full descriptions of the expectations moving forward.
If nothing else, it’s important for you to document this:
Documentation is important, and repetition works,
so document your work to repeat your successful process.
Now that you're able to answer the question
"What is a Business Process?"
join us next month when we address the reality that
"Your Business May Have a Process Problem If..."
We hope you found value in this MYOBis installment
addressing a common problem experienced by all businesses.
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We're looking forward to seeing you again next month for
another installment in the Mind Your Own business series.
In the meantime,
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