The way you do one thing affects how you do everything. In business, the crucial steps you define and follow to provide value to your customers can reap success or sow a downfall. Here’s everything you’ll need to know about what a business process is so that you can make the best blueprints for your business.
What is a Business Process?
A business process is a set of steps taken to deliver value to your customer. It involves a set of stakeholders who all have their share of responsibilities and duties that are necessary to deliver the final product. These tasks are related and inform one another, so a business process must be clearly defined and optimised. In this way, each stakeholder will fulfil their job efficiently, and error-free and the process can flow smoothly.
In business today, business processes can be automated to avoid errors, increase the timely delivery of outputs and maximise efficiency. We’ll jump back to this point later, but first, let’s go deeper into why business processes matter so much.
Importance of Business Processes
A business won’t survive without its business processes. The importance resides in how you design and execute business processes so that you can operate at your optimal level. Business processes help to standardise your outputs, inform stakeholders of their responsibilities and reduce costly mistakes from occurring.
Why You Need to Have Well-Defined Business Processes
When you can clearly define and communicate your business processes within your organisation, you can help to achieve the following:
Outline the tasks that matter to help you meet your business goals
Standardise procedures (this is especially useful to businesses that operate remotely or in different locations)
Streamline communication and collaboration between people and departments
Reduce operational errors and minimise bottlenecks
Steps of Business Process Lifecycle
If you’re setting up a new business or performingprocess improvementin an existing business, you can leverage these steps to set up your business process life cycle.
Define goals: Take this step seriously because it will be used to define what happens next. In this step, you’ll want to set your goals for establishing this process, as well as outline how you will measure its success.
Plan and map process: What needs to be done to achieve the goals you’ve defined in step one? Map out the process. You can do this in a variety of ways, including flowcharts or using a business process template offered by an automation solution. This is the roadmap that stakeholders will follow to execute the process.
Set actions and assign stakeholders: Since a business process relies on several hands-on decks and may include various departments, you’ll need to allocate tasks to each stakeholder.
Test the process: Before you implement the process across the board, be sure it works efficiently. This is the testing phase. Run the process on a small scale and assess the results. If there’s holes or bottlenecks, then adjust the process by going back to Step 2.
Implement the process: If all goes well, you can implement the process to run in your live business environment. Of course, this could bring up new issues since the process has now been scaled. This is something you will be able to learn over time and through Step 6.
Monitor the results: Review the process and keep a close eye on how your business is operating by monitoring analytics. Automation tools provide you with dashboards of KPIs and trend analysis so you can be sure that your operations are benefitting your business.
Repeat: If the process is reaping success, then continue to replicate it for future endeavours.
Business Process Examples
What does a business process look like in action? Here are a few common examples of business processes in businesses.
Monthly Reconciliations: Every business creates reconciliations to understand variances and track different finance ledgers such as actuals against budgets and has a process to do so. It’s a smart process to automate because you can save a lot of time and reduce errors in data mapping. The process usually looks like this:
Import, cleanse and map data (can use the capabilities of a software tool for this)
Define the workflow (Identify who is responsible for what under each role while ensuring sensitive data is secured)
Investigate, understand and write a commentary on the variances (can use automation tools for fast and efficient deep dive into data)
Track the progress and allow approvals to be managed within the system, so everyone is aware when reconciliation is edited or approved.
Employee Onboarding (HR department): At some point, most businesses hire employees. Bringing on a new team member is a form of a business process because it relies on a series of connected steps. This is how it goes most of the time:
Prepare and provide the necessary paperwork to the new hire
Assign their role
Provide them with the resources they’ll need to fulfil the role
Introduce them to their team and colleagues and so on
This is a repeatable process no matter how many people you’ll hire. But, as you can see, every step is equally vital to the last. The scalable and repetitive nature of the process lends itself well to use an automation tool to help manage. This way, you can keep an eye on every step along the way and be sure that nothing gets missed.
Content Marketing (Marketing and Communications department): Content marketing exists to help build your business and expand your reach. However, if it’s not managed, it becomes a complete mess and can just cost money with no benefit. By approaching content marketing as a business process, you can clearly outline the steps and execute your strategy. A basic example of how this would work with a hierarchy of approvals before the content is published may look like this:
A research team compiles information on keywords and content that is needed.
A content writer outlines a draft of an article and includes imagery.
An editor or content director reviews and approves the article
A designer may supply the writer with assets for the article.
The write adjusts the article based on the feedback and new creative items.
The SEO expert signs off on the overall content, and the piece is published.
A marketing professional amplifies the content via various streams like social media, advertising and email newsletters.
The marketing team assesses its performance to ensure it’s working as planned (i.e. achieving goals of increasing website traffic)
Attributes of a Business Process
Every day in business is privy to a lot of events and moving pieces. So, how do you know if something should be defined as a business process? These attributes are what make a business process what they are.
Finite: There are a clearly defined start and endpoint. The number of steps necessary to complete the process is limited.
Repeatable: You can repeat and run a business process infinitely and still achieve results.
Creates value: Importantly, a business process creates value. Every step of a defined business process should be deemed necessary. And, if it’s not, then it can be avoided entirely to increase efficiency.
Flexibility: The process is malleable such that a change can be made without affecting stakeholders significantly.
Types of Business Process
Business processes can be organised into three main categories, namely:
Primary processes: These are processes that deliver a product or service to the customer. They are considered fundamental to the business.
Support processes: Support processes surround primary processes to ensure the environment is conducive for them to function. They can be considered the processes that define day-to-day operations.
Management processes: Both internally and externally, processes have to be managed. Management processes refer to corporate governance and strategic management, for example. They set the goals, standards and benchmarks for how to execute primary and support processes.
Best Practices for Optimising Processes
All processes should be designed to optimise efficiency and decrease waste/costs. These tips help you make that a reality.
Compile a process inventory: Write down a list of all business processes so you can visualise it. Having the list means you can prioritise the most critical processes.
Create a foundation: You can outline the start and end of a process and give the necessary information.
Define responsibility: Allocate the tasks and duties to each respective department. Business processes involve handoffs, so it’s essential to state who is responsible for what to keep the process moving forward.
Estimate time/cost/resources: Take count of the time, resources and cost associated with the steps of the process. This is important because you’ll use it to assess where you can improve.
Verify the blueprint: Get feedback on the process outline from colleagues and managers to ensure that this process reflects reality.
Apply techniques for improvement: Find ways to improve the process by eliminating redundancies, simplifying reporting times, and implementing data and process automation (for example).
Create controls: Set up tools and controls to track progress and monitor the process. Tracking metrics will help to pinpoint errors if they should arise.
Test run: Before changing current operations or enacting a business process, test it out to make sure that it works as you envisioned.
Implement changes: If all goes well, you can implement the change and communicate it with your organisation. If you miss this step, then your process won’t work because the necessary people will be unaware of it.
Drive continuous process improvement: Even though the process is running and working, that doesn’t mean that things can’t be better. Continuously monitor the outcomes and implement updates to increase efficiency as time goes on.
The Use of Automation Tools to Help
If there was a cost-effective way to maximise efficiency and streamline business processes, wouldn’t you want to use it? Automation tools make it easy to implement, execute and monitor business processes. They aid to:
Run processes automatically: You can outline procedures within the system and then click a button to run them automatically.
Remove bottlenecks: Since processes cross department boundaries and rely on collaboration if one person misses their approval or duty, the whole process will draw to a halt. With automation, you can set notifications and reminders to track the process flow. The system can even approve information based on a set of defined rules so that bottlenecks will never be an issue again.
Increase efficiency & productivity: The smooth operation of an automated process will result in increased efficiency and higher levels of productivity. It also allows human resources to focus their time on high-level tasks rather than low-level, repetitive ones.
Improved compliance: Automation solutions track processes and retain history. They tell you who touched data or pressed start on a process. The documentation provides audit trails and increased compliance.
Access controls: You can set up access controls based on user profiles so that managers have more power than a coordinator, for example. This way, you can ensure your business process is safe and protected.
Accessibility and transparency: When a process runs through an automated solution, you can easily see what step is currently running. This way, everyone within an organisation with access will be privy to its status.
Minimise costs: You’ll be able to save money by reducing the costs of errors, mistakes and inefficiency.
Improved collaboration: Across departments, team members will be more collaborative since all information is stored in a centralised system.
Clearer responsibilities: With the access controls and defined user roles, your internal stakeholders will have a better grasp as to what they are responsible for completing within the process.
Terms Related to Business Process
When talking about business processes, you’re likely to come across these related terms.
BPM: Business process management (BPM) is the systematic approach by which a business creates, defines, edits and monitors its business processes.
Business process modelling: This is the structural or diagrammatic flow of business activities. It documents processes so that business leaders can identify where there is an opportunity for improvement. It’s done through standard notations so that professionals can easily understand the business process model.
Business process improvement: As a form of planning, business process improvement assesses business processes to make it better. It’s a method by which businesses can discover small steps to take that will incrementally improve and achieve business goals.
Business process reengineering: To take business process improvement to the next level, you can utilise business process reengineering, which involves a thorough analysis and complete redesign of business processes to make a significant impact.
Business process optimisation: The use of analytics for business processes to locate and eradicate bottlenecks and reduce inefficiencies that exist.
Business process mapping: Break down processes by logical steps to document and clarify what needs to be done. This can come in the form of flow charts, or a business process mapping software can be used.
Business process analysis: Taking stock of business needs and finding the right solution to solve business problems. From process improvement to strategic planning and organisational change, business process analysis can play a crucial role to benefit your business activities.
Business process transformation: If you need to change business processes to meet a business goal dramatically, then you’ll rely on business process transformation. It allows you to make sure that employees, processes and technologies are all geared toward the same goal.
Business process simulation: This is used to analyse and test a process before implementing broad-scale changes. You can use business process simulation to test changes, find bottlenecks, and see how variables will affect how a process operates.
Business process integration: Defining a process model in terms of sequence, hierarchy and movement of information within different systems. You can think of it like piecing together various sources of information to move and flow between systems.
Business process flow: A business process flow is a visual representation of a process that includes: stages and fields (or steps) to complete.
Business process monitoring: A tool for management to monitor and ensure that business processes are functioning adequately and as intended to achieve business goals.
The Bottom Line
No matter what industry your business resides in, you have a list of business processes that are vital to your business’ success. A business process is a set of steps and tasks that are assigned to respective parties to complete so that you can deliver your value to your customer.
With automation solutions, you can map, design, test, execute and monitor business processes without a hassle. Automation tools exist to help make businesses run smoother and more efficiently as they reduce human error and standardise processes across the board.