The industry of business process experts has generated a lot of great tips that can be applied by small business owners in finetuning their own businesses. Business process is an enterprise term more or less synonymous to workflow.
But while a workflow usually refers to a series of steps within a program or a department, business processes can involve external actors such as suppliers or contractors.
Business process management company Laserfiche has refined the identification of a business process.
Diagramming a business process:
- Lets you look at the big picture and take into account all types of potential scenarios.
- Helps you research and understand your process thoroughly so that you can see how it can be changed or improved when automated.
- Produces a visual aid that everyone can agree on, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
- Helps you reduce upfront errors and prevent unnecessary changes down the road.
Laserfiche recommends three steps to creating a business process, which can be repeated until it has been defined in sufficient detail.
Create an Initial Diagram
The best place is just to start with what you know. Stakeholders should begin with a high-level overview of how they think the process works. This skeleton should have pretty clear idea of the initial input and end result. The magic is in fleshing out what happens in between.
Gather More Information
The next step is to interview people involved in each part of the process. Find out the exact tasks required to fulfil their role. This might be end users, admin staff, managers, contractors or suppliers. In particular you are looking for any steps which could stall the process, either because they are waiting on another action to occur or because they could take a long time to complete.
During requirements gathering phase, you may discover that employees no longer follow the established procedures or that the current office workflow is exceedingly frustrating. You can also find out how tasks are actually completed as opposed to how they are supposed to be completed.
LaserFiche recommends answering these questions during requirements gathering:
- What is the overall goal of the business process?
- What triggers the start of the process?
- What signals the end of the process?
- What are the activities in each step and who is involved in each activity?
- Are there any alternate routes in the process?
Business processes can tend to reflect an ideal rather than reality. The interview process is essential to discover whether an employee is following the process as intended.
Ambiguous words include “file”, which could refer to a single document or several documents, and “sending” a document could be interpreted as emailing, saving it to a network folder or physically transporting the hard copy.
Try to eliminate assumptions; the more detail the better. A diagram is useless unless it is detailed, correct and comprehensive, LaserFiche says.
Rethink Current Process
Once you have created the diagram show it to everyone involved to make sure they agree with the final process. Now you can more easily see where the opportunities are to improve it.
- Are there any steps in the process that seem redundant?
- Is there a certain part of the process that can be reconfigured to be more efficient?
It is a great opportunity to perfect and streamline existing processes to make them as smooth and efficient as possible.