In our previous blogs and posts we have often highlighted the importance of process definition, process documentation and process improvement - which are all part of Business Process Management. No surprise, as processes is one of our key services. But recently someone asked me a very important question I realised I never covered:
What do processes mean from a business perspective?
I worked on processes pretty much since leaving University – starting when a Graduate working for a bank. Defining, documenting, and improving them became standard for me when working on complex transformation programs or strategies. Hence, I never really wondered about this question. Though I must admit, when I train people on documentation, I always highlight how dangerous assumptions are. And here I fell for the very same trap.
For a better understanding you can separate Business Process Management into three stages:
Process Definition – Process Documentation – Process Improvement.
They usually fall into this order when done correctly, but sometimes there no proper process definition happened.
In a perfect world, the definition of processes comes first. For the best result, a team should identify every single step and requirements. If done correctly, they considered every option for every step and as a result the involved team knows what to do – and also what not to do.
However, not every business follows this approach. Very often, only a few people know or understand a specific process – without any review. Especially start-ups do not fully define all required steps and they often use a trial-n-error system. They think they save time. This might work, but it can lead to issues in the long-term. And might even result in losing customers immediately.
We therefore recommend taking some time and have those involved define every single step of a single process. This way businesses limit assumptions to a minimum. And as additional benefit you have an efficient and streamlined process.
However, there are traps people fall into when defining processes, like assumptions, missing steps, or interdependencies with other processes.
RSP International can help you avoiding these shortcomings and have the processes properly and efficiently defined.
Smaller teams usually handle the process definition. Though, usually it does not always include everyone who will follow the process. Therefore, good practice is to document the defined processes. It ensures that anyone who is involved in each process knows every single relevant steps.
Unfortunately, too often businesses do not see documentation as important. The usual reason is that processes might work or there is no time for this exercise. However, this could become a critical issue. Without clear instructions no one knows if staff follows the correct steps or if there are ongoing issues. There is also the dependency on staff who knows the process well. If they leave, the knowledge is gone as well.
This is why I feel that process documentation is critical for any business. It helps with consistent delivery, protects knowledge and allows proper staff training.
But ensure that you do make common mistakes like including assumptions or unknown terminology. This can lead to confusion and issues when following the documented processes.
We can help you with documentation. With our experience we can make this stage as easy and simple as possible for your businesses. We also have standard templates for process documentation we will share with you.
The final stage is actually a continuous one. You can continuously improve your existing processes. Just because you improved it once, it does not mean you cannot improve it even further at a later stage.
In short, process improvement is a review of existing processes to identify anything not adding value. We call these items waste. Remove those and a process becomes more efficient, requiring less resources.
Other well-known terms for this stage are Business Process Optimisation (BPO) or Lean Management. If you want to increase your long-term efficiency – this is a must-do-exercise.
In the past some business leaders told me that you can do process improvement without knowing the current processes. I fully disagree with that statement. How can you improve anything if you do not know the starting point? You might not need documentation. But if you want to improve a process you must know where you are now first. It must start with defining it. Having it documented is a plus. Do not be tempted to go straight to this stage. You might waste time and resources for this approach.
RSP International can help you with this stage. We use different techniques to identify waste and provide a solution that will deliver benefits for your business.
This blog just covers the basics for these three stages of Business Process Management as an introduction. Of course, I can easily write much more details for each stage. Over the coming weeks we will provide more details for each stage on the website and our social media sites. If you do not want to miss it make sure you follow our pages or subscribe to our newsletter.
And if you need help with your processes for any of the 3 stages, contact us now for a FREE CONSULTATION.