Knowing And Understanding Your Processes
It is not at all easy to understand your business processes if you don’t know what they are. And it is nigh on impossible to improve business processes if you don’t know what they are. But what exactly is a process, and what does understanding it mean for your business?
What Is A Process?
When we talk about processes, there are probably a few key things that come to mind. Things like processing payroll (where the clue is in the name) or creating a product have fairly obvious processes attached to them, so are easier for you to identify and plan out.
But what about the processes in your business that you might not automatically think of as processes? Thinks that fly under the radar because they are just ‘a thing person X does’? If we take a look at the definition of a process:
“A series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end”.
Or the ISO definition:
“A set of interrelated activities that turn inputs into outputs”.
We start to see that there are actually a lot more processes in your business than you might initially think.
A great example of this is building a car. So, you have raw material in one end, the activity to put it all together, and the output is the finished car. Everything you do is, to a degree, part of a process. From customer orders (receiving an order, taking payment for the order, picking the order, packaging the order, dispatching the order), to setting a marketing budget, updating employee information or even uploading new information to your company website – all of these things are processes within your business. You just probably haven’t thought of them that way before.
Why You Need To Understand Your Processes
Hopefully by now you’re starting to realise just how many separate processes your business has going on every day. So we want to ask you a difficult question: how many of them are written down? How many of those processes have been formalised, so that they could be picked up by anyone and replicated? This is one of the key issues process mapping can address – knowledge transfer and skills gaps.
If you currently have one employee whose job it is to do a business-critical process (let’s call it Process X), what happens when they leave? Or if you move them to another department? Without a formal workflow for Process X written down, how can you expect their replacement to be able to do their job? Instead, your new employee will be left trying to work out how on earth they did it, with only half the information they need. This could result in them changing the process, creating their own to get the same result, or using the process they used in their previous company – both of which can create knock-on effects in your business.
Understanding your processes also makes it possible for you to choose tools that will improve how well your business functions. Once you’ve mapped out your business processes, you will know what features you need from your software and hardware, and what skills you need from your staff. You will also have a deeper understanding of your business, which will help you set priorities for improvement. So instead of addressing all issues at once, you can focus on the issues that matter most now, and move down the list to gradually improve your business. But if you don’t know how your business processes work, then you can’t choose applications and tools that will move you towards increased sales and success.
Common Business Processes For Businesses
The processes within your business will probably be different from any other business out there. Even if the end result is the same, the way you go about achieving that result will be unique to your business, which is one of the many reasons it needs to be written down. However, we can identify a few of the most important processes for most businesses, which includes:
- Managing financial and physical assets
- Developing business plans
- Developing new products
- Raising funds
- Managing human resources
- Billing and revenue collection
- Supporting customers
- Leveraging information technology
If you like, you can use this list as a starting point to help you discover processes within your business.
How Do I Understand My Processes?
Understanding your processes doesn’t have to be a big difficult thing, and you don’t have to struggle through it alone either. At Process Envision, we work with business owners who want to understand their business processes properly, and use that information to create real change within the business. We regularly run practical process mapping workshops, where you can come along with your team and draw out all of those processes step by step, and optimise them at the same time.