Processes are defined as a series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular end. Just as you’d want to ease the logistical headaches of booking transport for your dream vacation, businesses look to simplify and streamline processes en route to their dream of success.
Business process design can be summed up as the process of asking which actions are best at ensuring the end goal is reached. Depending on the needs of your business, those actions might be the quickest, the least complicated, or the cheapest. In an ideal world, they’ll be quick, easy, and cheap at the same time.
It’s important to consider that business processes may require supporting processes as well. Take a contact center as an example. The lifeblood of the contact center will be the processes carried out by support staff – call handling, CRM usage, the ability to establish relationships with internal stakeholders, and so on.
However, additional processes will need to be established around the center’s other needs. How do you find the right staff to work in the office? How are they managed? What equipment do they need? What about the IT infrastructure of your business?
Each department in your company will need processes – ideally ones as simple and streamlined as possible – to make your goals a reality.
Navigating the business road
If the business owner is the driver of a race car, it’s safe to say the route to success isn’t a drag strip. Instead, it’s akin to the twistiest, most complex course on earth, where a car with strong grip and traction will win the day over a car that can reach a higher top speed.
Grip and traction are key to the philosophy of entrepreneur Gino Wickman. In his book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, Wickman introduces the “entrepreneurial operating system” (EOS).
This consists of six key aspects of business that your processes should be designed around, regardless of whether you’re creating a new process or refining an existing one. These are:
- Vision. What do you, the entrepreneur, want to achieve? You need to ensure your ambitions are defined and mapped out in a manner equally as clear.
People. Once you have your vision in place and know how you want to work toward it, you need the right people. They will ideally want to see your vision fulfilled and have the skills & knowledge to see it through.
You should be clear on how you will treat those people to keep them engaged and motivated. How will their performance be monitored? What are the consequences of targets being hit, missed, or exceeded?
- Data. Data helps you to understand. Whether you’re looking into customer behavior, market trends, or insights on how your business can work efficiently, you’ll need data. This could include surveys, internal studies, or deep user insights.
- Issues. You need to understand the issues that are holding your business back to improve your processes and come up with new ideas. Wickman believes a culture of openness is crucial to staying on course.
- Process. Essentially the modus operandi of a business. How does your business want to work? When implementing process, think of how you can become the company you wish to be rather than the one you are.
Traction. This refers to the routines that keep the business process running, such as regular meetings or daily huddles. It also refers to more irregular yet critical routines, such as monthly reviews.
Wickman suggests ‘rocks’ – your most fundamental priorities – are set and reviewed every 90 days, and that at least 80 percent of them should be fulfilled.
Fail to learn, learn to fail
Win or lose, the race car driver will usually be involved in a team debrief, and the same goes for any business owner – it’s important to learn from success as much as failure.
In Traction, Wickman recommends that processes are documented in five different ways before they’re packaged up into the type of diagrams and flowcharts that make them simpler to explain to new staff or even potential investors. These five ways are:
Delegation. The top brass within a business need to determine who is responsible for each process being seen through to completion efficiently. Wickman believes the individual held accountable for the process is the one best equipped to document it.
The 20/80 rule. This refers to the Pareto principle – the idea that 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of the work. Wickman suggests businesses need to follow this by identifying the key processes that define their success. These should be mapped out in a simple manner rather than placing too much emphasis on the details.
Simplicity. Perhaps an aspect of your new process feels too restrictive to your staff. Conversely, it could be so broad that there’s confusion as to exactly how a task is intended to be carried out. If the hiring process is about finding people who understand the vision of a business – as Wickman suggests – new processes should ensure staff retain that sense of understanding.
Checklists. Businesses need to set out clear criteria that must be fulfilled. Failure to fulfill them means the process hasn’t been performed correctly.
Technology. Businesses should seek to take advantage of the products software providers produce to solve everyday problems. SaaS applications – or software as a service – are tailored to many business needs, including sales, project management, a range of marketing channels, and many other areas key to success.
Business processes need to be designed around the type of components outlined by Wickman. Whatever you judge those to be, your processes are key to creating your internal business structure and honing your approach to staff and your overall efficiency.
Equally as important, your processes need to be documented in a manner that ensures simplicity, accountability, and an emphasis on good routines that bring results. Whether those results are customer retention or pure profit is down to you and your vision.