Business practices are some of the most important yet least recognized facets of our day-to-day work in businesses. Simply put, business processes are your rules and procedures for how you manage data in your organization. They identify the five Ws and H:
- Who manages the data?
- What data are managed?
- Where it is managed?
- Why it is managed?
- When it is managed?
- How it is managed?
How can you tell if a business process needs improving? Listen to what your staff and customers are saying. If you’re hearing complaints from staff like “Why does it take so long just to process a simple membership application?” or complaints from customers like “Why is it so difficult to buy a product on your website?” then you probably have some business process problems. Inefficiencies will cost your business money, waste time, reduce quality and damage morale
Know (and Fix) Your Processes
Whether you know you have business process problems that need to be corrected or you just want to ensure that your processes are as efficient and effective as possible, the same basic steps apply.
#1 Establish your Objectives
What are you trying to accomplish? Most business processes have multiple objectives or outcomes. For example, let’s say you are discussing the process for meeting registrations. Ask yourself: “What outcomes do I need from a successful meeting registration?” Typical responses include “I need to have payment accounted for,” “I need to get a list of attendees,” “I need a badge for this attendee,” and so on. Be sure to think this through and discuss it thoroughly, so that you list all of your objectives.
#2 Document your Processes
Research shows that businesses spend more time fixing errors in the database that were created by lack of process documentation than it would have taken to document their processes in the first place. With proper documentation, errors will be minimized, as all staff will be able to use the documentation to enter data correctly. In the example above, we should have documentation that not only outlines how we process a registration and all of its attendant data (guest registration, ticketed events, session registration, and so forth) but also how to process changes to registrations, cancellations, substitutions, and refunds.
#3 Review your Processes Periodically
It is frequently discovered that staff are not in agreement about a given process. It is not unusual for three staff people to have three different answers to an ostensibly simple question like “How do you process new members in the database?”
#4 Review and Update your Documentation Periodically and as Needed
When a new program is introduced at your business, it may require a new process. If you create a certification program and have never done certification programs in the past, you will be creating new processes. These need to be documented. By the same token, existing processes will change over time. It is incumbent upon you to review your current documentation periodically at least once per year to determine if the existing documentation needs to be revised due to changes in the process or even thrown out due to a program’s closure.
#5 Use Simple Process Maps
This will help you to get a sense of how easy (or complicated) a given process is. A process map shows in visual form the distinct steps that occur in a given process. For example, when an event registration is processed in the back office, the first step is that the form arrives in the email. The second step is where the form is routed. The third step is what questions are asked (e.g., is this a member or non-member? Is this a check or credit card payment?), and so on. Once all the steps are mapped out, you get a visual representation of how easy or difficult a process is. You also get a sense of where decisions are being made, whether they are yes/no decisions or multiple choice, and where opportunities for error are. Finally, you can see where a change in process might be more efficient while still achieving the stated objectives.
Processes You Can Live With
While having effective and up-to-date software is critically important to the long-term success of your data-management efforts, effective and up-to-date business processes are equally important. Using the processes outlined above will help ensure that your business processes are cogent, complete, and current.
Share Your Thoughts
How do you manage your business processes documentation? Please write a comment, I’d like to hear your thoughts www.johnstringer.com.au