This is a guide to all things process, written to give you an overview and hopefully some tips on where to begin.
As part of this we’ve pulled together our best articles from our blog so you can delve into topics you’d like to know more about.
If there’s anything not covered here that you’d like to see, get in touch!
What is a process?
A process lists the steps that are performed to carry out a certain activity. Processes don’t have to be long and complicated – making a cup of tea or a sandwich are processes.
First things first: What is process mapping?
Then secondly: Why do people document their processes?
How to map an individual process
1. Pick the most important process. To get the most value you should choose an activity that means the most to your business, and one which is performed fairly regularly. A good example would be client onboarding or following up a sales call.
2. Write down the high level steps. You might not know every detail, but you should have a rough idea of the main parts. Then, fill in the gaps and break down the larger steps into smaller ones. It doesn’t have to be perfect!
3. Assign the steps to the person who should perform the activity.
4. Talk to a colleague to get their feedback. Even if they don’t perform the process themselves, showing it to someone else will prompt questions and highlight the sections that are unclear or need more detail.
5. Add instructions and files. Processes are the most useful when they contain enough information so someone who has never done the activity before can complete it without asking for help. Adding template documents or email text is a great way to do this.
6. Analyse and iterate. Are there steps missing? Are there steps that don’t need to be done? Can any parts of the process be automated? Look for repetitive actions, or actions that require entering data multiple times, perhaps between systems.
7. Try using it for real. Often you only notice what is missing when you’re actually using the process. Follow the written copy next time you do the activity, and update the process as required.
8. Ensure they’re reviewed and updated regularly, otherwise they will become out of date immediately. Create a scheduled repeatable process to review your processes! Collect feedback and then it’s a case of discussing the feedback rather than having no ideas or evidence of what needs changing.
What processes do I need?
Although each company is unique, there are still processes that every business needs. Even for small businesses, it’s important that the core activities are documented and followed to reduce errors, improve efficiency and allow you to scale your business more effectively.
These are often back-office processes, across areas such as HR, Finance, IT, Administration and Operations. From a compliance perspective, there are certain processes that the country in which you operate require you to have and follow, as well as those within your specific industry.
Read our list of 25 processes every business needs to help get you started.
The customer onboarding process is one of the most crucial to your business. We’ve written two articles to tell you everything you need to know:
Your employee onboarding process sets the tone for every new member of staff. Read our advice for how to write the best one for your business.
So you’re sold on the benefits of mapping out your processes, and you might have made a start on documenting a few. But how do you implement process across the whole of the business? How to make sure the processes are adding value to your business, not just creating more work for your employees?
How to create a process repository?
- Make it the single source of truth
- Make it accessible for all your employees, at any time, from any device
- Make sure the processes are easy to navigate through. We suggest splitting your processes into departments or areas of the business
- Make sure the right people have access to them – consider edit and read access as well
- Tell employees where the processes are located and how they should be used
- Tell employees when they should be used – give guidelines/expectations
- Link to them from other commonly used places e.g. intranet or knowledge base.
How to get buy in for my business processes
Get your employees involved early. Explain why you’re doing this and actively ask for feedback and people to help write/audit them. Listen to their pains and you’ll not only get ideas for what to be improved, but also you’ll discover who will be motivated enough to help you implement and embed processes. We can’t overstate how important clear communication is. Consider nominating a dedicated resource or person who can answer any questions.
Work on one process first, and really get it working for your employees. Make it as useful as possible – remember that processes are for your staff, not for you. Or, choose a willing department who is organised.
Set expectations on when and how the processes should be used. If appropriate, set KPIs or employee targets around the processes. Make it clear that this is something the company is committed to for the long term.
For more advice, read the 5 reasons why process fails.
Software for managing processes isn’t yet mainstream (although we argue it should be!). Many companies use spreadsheets for documenting and even running their processes, but as spreadsheet programs aren’t designed for this purpose, they have many disadvantages.
Of the process management tools that do exist, the majority are complicated systems that enforce the idea of managers controlling their employees. At beSlick we believe that process can be empowering, and that people are smarter than process. We trust employees to do their job well and understand that encouraging their feedback and input benefits the whole company.
At the other end of the scale, there are task management systems that can help companies manage their daily to do list or one-off projects, but aren’t suited to running repeatable activities.
Continuous process improvement
Implementing process isn’t the end of the story. A process is only valuable if it is being used and is regularly reviewed. Without this, the process will soon become out-of-date and a detriment to your staff.
Process isn’t something you can embed once and forget about. It needs to constantly adapt to your organisation to provide continual returns. It sounds like a burden, but process is there to free your business from the day to day operations, not to restrict it.
BPM – Business Process Management / Modelling
Business process management is a discipline relating to the modelling, measurement and improvement of processes.
BPR – Business Process Re-engineering
Business process re-engineering is a strategy that deals with the analysis and documentation of processes and workflows within a business.
GTD – Getting Things Done
Getting things done is a methodology devised by David Allen that centres around breaking actions down into manageable steps, and recording these somewhere so they’re out of your head.
Read how beSlick supports getting things done.
Six Sigma is a concept focused on removing waste and variation from processes. Initially used in manufacturing processes, the ideas are now being used more widely in businesses to increase efficiency and consistency.