Do you really need a business process?
As a startup, probably not. But as your organization grows and takes on bigger accounts or hires new employees, business processes become crucial to productivity, efficiency, and achieving your business goals.
But do you actually know what a business process is or why they’re necessary for growing and sustaining a successful business?
Don’t worry. This article will bring you up to speed quickly and help you build your internal business processes. So let’s get started.
What is a business process?
A business process is a system or structure an organization implements to produce a specific outcome. It outlines the exact series of steps each employee must take to achieve a particular goal and consistent results.
Every task in a business process is defined and documented in a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP). Mapping out a good process requires the input of the team members who’ll use the system. Once you have an effective business process, your employees will be more productive and require less management. Most importantly, they’ll produce value.
So what would you use a business process for? Everything, really. From onboarding new employees to sending out customer invoices to writing an email lead nurturing sequence, you need business processes. It’s what keeps your business running smoothly.
Is business process management the same as a business process?
The short answer is no. A business process is a series of interrelated tasks organizations use to achieve a business goal.
The purpose of business process management (BPM) is to improve business processes and more readily achieve business goals. It requires management to review and assess all processes to determine the most efficient way of doing things.
- What tasks can be automated, what tools do they need to achieve this, and which are manual (requiring human intervention)?
- Where are there delays?
- Why do they consistently see breakdowns in certain phases of a process, etc.?
After using BMP to analyze a process, it’s up to management to refine the workflow.
But while processes are vital to expanding and escaping your business, they can cost a lot and demand more resources than a company can afford. In this case, a process will often be outsourced.
For example, a small business with fewer than five employees might outsource its accounting or legal needs to a third party. This is known as business process outsourcing.
Why are business processes so important?
Creating a well-documented and repeatable business process is what sets your business up for rapid business growth.
Automating specific tasks allows you, the owner, to take a break from your business without worrying that things will fall apart. It also makes your day-to-day role much more manageable because your time is freed up to go after bigger customers and take bigger risks.
And let’s be honest, your business would run more efficiently without you handling everything.
2: Consistent Experience
It ensures your customers receive a consistent experience when using your service or product. This is key when scaling your business.
You want to deliver value and do it consistently. Look at the processes you can automate. For example, an email welcome message for new subscribers and an automated thank you message when someone purchases a product.
The development of these supporting processes is crucial in delivering a personalized experience.
3: Attracts investors
It’s also very attractive to potential investors. Exiting your business will be your biggest payday, but only if you have processes in place.
Investors want to purchase a well-oiled machine that only requires a little maintenance. If the running of your business resides in your memory banks, you’ll never sell it.
4: Easy To Follow Process
But most importantly, it’s the gold standard for how things should be done in your organization. Your employees feel empowered because they’re not reliant on you for approval at every stage in a task. They take responsibility for their tasks.
Management spends less time policing and more time improving management processes (goal-setting, planning, implementing, and executing activities to achieve a positive ROI). And it improves efficiency across the organizational structure.
And a key to building world-class processes is to automate.
Why do you need business process automation?
Technology augments your abilities. Think Tony Stark. He’s a billionaire playboy genius philanthropist. But with a bit of help from technology, he becomes Iron Man. A badass superhero capable of saving the day.
Organizations use business process automation to enhance and streamline their operations. Leaders love automation because it frees up their time to focus on management processes.
It reduces costs (software takes on the role of certain tasks), there is less need for manual intervention (which reduces the potential for things to go wrong), and your people are more efficient and productive (so it enhances output).
A great example of business process automation is your marketing system. Things like website opt-in forms, email lead nurturing sequences, calendar bookings, and payment gateways continue to work while you sleep.
These are supporting processes that you create once and then don’t need to think about again, giving you the freedom to shift from self-employed to entrepreneur.
Types of business processes
Regardless of industry, virtually every facet of running an organization should have a business process. From invoicing customers to employee onboarding processes, the development of these processes makes doing business much more straightforward. They give your business credibility and are crucial to customer satisfaction.
Here are a few types of business processes, but this list is by no means exhaustive:
- Human resources process
- Marketing process
- Sales process
- Accounting process
- Affiliate programs or JV process
- Product development process
- Recruitment process
- Direct mail process
An example of a business process
Business processes can be found in every successful company. Here’s what a client onboarding process might look like:
Step 1. A lead fills in a web form.
You create a form on your website specifically for warm leads interested in working with you. It captures the following information:
- First name and last name
- Email address
- Telephone number
- Business name
- Tell us a bit about your business
Step 2: Management assesses the lead and reaches out over email.
Management or sales receives the email and follows a series of checks. For example, they might check out the potential client’s website and social media channels. If the company falls into the list of organizations they work with, they’ll send a follow-up Q&A email.
It’s a personalized deep-dive into their business. So it will establish how many people work for the company, how long they’ve been in business, annual turnover, etc.
This helps them to determine if the organization in question is a good fit.
Step 3: If the lead meets specific criteria, arrange a Discovery Call.
After reviewing all the data, you’ll know if this is a serious prospect. Now -expertise to understand what this organization is doing well and where they need improvement.
Nail down goals and objectives. Explain where you can deliver value, how you provide support, and what resources they expect from you.
In my coaching business, not only do my clients get access to my coaching managers, but I also give them all my SOPs. This is my intellectual property handed over on a silver platter to implement directly into their business so they can start seeing results. But I don’t work with just anyone. So this discovery call is a vital step in my customer onboarding process.
Step 4. Draft a contract.
You’ll likely have a standard contract already drawn up. But based on discussions, you’ll need to adjust it to support your new client’s needs.
Include details about deliverables, terms of payment, company policies, and other essential details. Make sure everyone that needs a copy of the contract gets one. This could be your legal team, IT, and other departments.
Step 5. Prepare your team.
Every employee that will be handling the new client and their project must be appraised. Communicate your new client’s goals to the team and decide who will handle what.
You don’t want to be fielding questions about your service or product all day. So this is a great time to decide on the point of contact (the first stop for all your client’s questions or concerns). I have coaching managers on my team, but for you, it might be an account manager or support. Make sure you’ve defined who does what in your operations manual.
Step 6. Arrange a welcome meeting.
Introduce your new client to the team that will be working on their account. Explain who handles each part of a project and clearly outline the project plan.
Go over goals again. If you use particular software or tools to contact your customers, you need to demo these products and get them set up. For instance, I use Slack to stay in touch with my clients and Calendly to book calls. So I’ll get each set up on Slack, and they’ll get access to my coaching calendar to book a call with me.
This is just one way I’m able to enhance their experience and deliver greater value.
Remember, using a business process like this can increase customer satisfaction. Where human intervention is not required, automate. It simplifies processes and reduces human error. The next step is to build your first business process. Here’s how.
How to build an efficient business process within an organization
1: Start with goal setting.
Define your goals for each task in a process and decide what you want to achieve. It might be to streamline operations, improve performance, and free up management to focus on growing your business.
2: Plan your process.
Once you’ve defined your goals, start planning your process. This often requires group discussions with all stakeholders involved in a process.
Who will work on what and when? What software is needed to achieve your goals? Something like Asana, a productivity management tool, could be massively helpful to your people when determining each step in your business process.
3: Map it out.
Now that you’ve identified your process workflow, map it out. Jot down what resources you need. Who does what and when? What tools are necessary? And any other important element.
Then analyze each step. What can be improved? What takes up the most time or requires the most resources? Can you include examples to help simplify the process? This all needs to be considered when creating your business process.
4: Assign each task in a process.
To implement your process, delegate which tasks your employees will handle and which tasks you can automate.
5: Test the process.
Try a dummy test. This is your chance to catch mistakes and discrepancies early and adjust accordingly.
That’s right, get your process up and running.
7: Monitor the results, review and revise accordingly.
The first step to improving your processes is to pay attention to them. Just because things are getting completed, doesn’t mean the processes are optimized.
Suboptimal processes cost your business money, and they waste resources and time. Work might be duplicated or not done at all, and deadlines may be missed.
Check in with your team and see if they have any helpful suggestions. By monitoring new processes, you’re able to create better ways of doing things and, in turn, deliver value.
8: Repeat at scale.
Pretty much everything in your organization should have a business process, so once you’ve identified a gold standard process, roll it out at scale.
Business process mapping: Like a map shows you how to get from point A to point B, business process mapping visually details each step within an organization’s operations. For example, you might represent the process of writing and publishing a blog post or resolving conflict with customers in a workflow chart.
Use business process mapping to optimize operational procedures and ensure everyone in the company has visibility into how things get done. Remember, mapping makes the business process model possible.
Operational processes: Also known as core or primary processes, operational business processes are essential to delivering value to your customers. Core processes are the activities that keep your business up and running. Think of the things you do on a day-to-day basis that would halt your business if they didn’t happen. Those are your core processes.
Knowing which processes are necessary to keep your business functioning properly is a surefire way to keep your customers happy. If an organization spends too much time focused on secondary business processes, customer relationships may fail.
For example, in some businesses, core business processes may include marketing, manufacturing, addressing customer questions or concerns, etc. It’s necessary to document these processes well.
Supporting processes: These are the processes that support and help manage an organization’s operational processes. For example, in software development, you need accounting to manage the financial side of your business.
Process modeling: This is a visual representation of an organization’s workflow or business processes. It shows the set of activities required for each task to be completed. Organizations use process modeling as a gold standard for getting tasks done timely and correctly. It removes confusion, improves performance and productivity, and reduces downtime. Process modeling is a crucial element of process automation.
Process improvement: A key feature of business process management (BPM), process improvement focuses on analyzing existing processes, identifying areas of weakness, and re-engineering them to enhance customer experiences to get better results.
Management processes: The purpose of management processes is to create more effective managers. These five functions make up a management process: planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling.
Business process automation: Using technology or software to perform essential repetitive tasks saves time and money.
Wrapping it up
The primary goal of every business should be to create processes.
Now that you know how important business processes are for your business, it’s time to start building and implementing yours. As a business owner, you want to identify tasks that currently take up a lot of your time but don’t benefit your business financially. Map them out, test them, assign them to key team members, and implement them as soon as possible.
Once you free up your time, you’ll be able to focus on the facets of your business that drive growth. If you found this article helpful, share it or leave a comment.