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About Business Processes

Processes can be formal or informal, formal processes or procedures are documented and has a number of established steps. For example, you might have a procedures for submitting and receiving invoices, or establishing relationships with clients. Formal procedures are important when there are reasons for following processes which are safety-related, legal or financial.

Informal processes are likely to be ones that you have created yourself, and you might not even have them written down. For example, you might have your own set of procedures for noting meeting actions, carrying out market research, or communicating new leads.

Importance of Efficient Processes

All efficient processes have one thing in common, they are designed to speed up the way you and your team work. When everyone follows a well-designed set of procedures, there are fewer errors and delays, there is less duplicated effort, and staff and customers feel happier.

Processes that don’t work can lead to numerous problems. For example:

  • Customers complain more about poor quality or bad service.
  • Individuals in your team get frustrated.
  • More tasks gets duplicated, or not done at all.
  • Your costs are higher.
  • Precious resources are wasted.

Improving Your Processes

When you encounter some of the problems mentioned above, it may be time to review and update the relevant process. Follow these steps to do this:

Step 1 – Map the Process

Once you’ve decided which process you want to improve, document each step using a Flowchart or a Swim Lane Diagram. These tools show the steps in the process visually. Swim lane diagrams are slightly more complex than flowcharts, but they’re great for processes that involve several people or groups.

It’s important to explore each phase in detail, as some processes may contain sub-steps that you’re not aware of. Consult people who use the process regularly to ensure that you don’t overlook anything important.

Step 2 – Analyse the Process

Use your flow chart or swim lane diagram to investigate the problems within the process. Consider the following questions:

  • Why do team members or customers get frustrated?
  • Which process steps create bottlenecks
  • Where do costs go up and/or quality go down?
  • Which process steps requires the most time, or causes the most delays?

Speak to the people who are affected by the process, ask what they think is wrong with the process? What suggestions do they have for improving it? What tactics have your team developed to deal with similar situations?

Step 3 – Redesign the Process

You’re now going to redesign the process to eliminate the problems you have identified. It’s best to work with the people who are directly involved in the process to reveal new approaches, and, also, they’re more likely to buy into change if they’ve been involved at an early stage.

  • Make sure that everyone understands what the process is meant to do.
  • Explore how you can address the problems you identified in step 2 (Brainstorming can help here).
  • Note down everyone’s ideas for change, regardless of the costs involved.
  • Narrow your list of possible solutions by considering how your team’s ideas would translate to a real-life context.
  • Start by analysing the full effects of your team’s ideas to spot possible risks and points of failure within your redesigned process.

These tests will help you to understand the full consequences of each proposed idea, and allow you to make the right decision for everyone. Once you and your team agree on a process, create new diagrams and document each new process step.

Step 4 – Secure the Resources

You now need to secure the resources you need to implement your new process.

  • List everything that you’ll need to do this.
  • Communicate with your team, and make sure that they understand how this new process will benefit the company.

Step 5 – Implement and Communicate Change

Improving your business process will involve changing your systems, teams, or processes. For example, you may need to acquire new software, hire a new team member, or organise training for your team.

Rolling out your new process could be a project in itself, allocate time for dealing with teething troubles, and consider running a test first, to check for potential problems.

Change is not always easy, people can be resistant to it, especially when its a process they have been using for some time to help overcome resistance to change.

Step 6 – Review the Process

Few things work perfectly, after you introduce a new process, ensure you closely monitor how things are progressing in the weeks and months that follow. By monitoring how the process is performing will allow you to fix problems as they occur.

Make it a priority to ask the team involved with the new process how it’s working. Small continuous improvements made regularly will ensure that the new process stays relevant and efficient.

Key Points

A business process is a set of steps or tasks that you and your team use repeatedly to create a product or service, reach a specific goal, or provide value to a customer or supplier. When processes work well, they can significantly improve efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction.

However, processes that don’t work can cause frustration, delays, and financial loss.

To improve a business process, follow these steps.

  1. Map the process.
  2. Analyse the process.
  3. Redesign the process.
  4. Secure the resources.
  5. Implement and communicate change.
  6. Review the process.

Bear in mind that you will need to improve most processes at some point in the future as new technology, and changes in the business environment will cause established processes to become inefficient or outdated.