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Everything You Need to Know About Business Processes

Semyon Scherbak
Whether you are a small business owner, a startup founder, or a C-suite executive, a business process can become the bane of your existence. In the good old days, you could assign tasks and expect them to be completed within the deadlines. Nowadays, that is no longer enough if you want your business to stay afloat, beat the competition, or reduce expenses. That's where business process mapping, modeling, development, and management come into play. However, before you give up on the idea altogether, let me explain the basics and prove that business processes aren't that complicated and can, in turn, become a significant benefit for your company.
business process

What Is a Business Process?

The business processes definition reads like this:

A business process is a series of connected actions assigned to specific stakeholders designed to achieve a set goal or produce value.

In other words, it is a set of steps that individual employees must take to deliver value to the customer. Flowcharts of all types are the customary way to visualize the business process, and they may include varying amounts of data. The simplest form is a top-down flowchart, though swimlane and state diagrams are also popular, along with data flow diagrams and value stream mapping.

Let's dive deeper into the inner workings of business processes to ensure you have a full grasp of the concept before you try your hand at business process management (BPM) or process automation. Read on, and I'll provide a business process example or two to help you make sense of the term.

Why Are Business Processes Important?

At first glance, it seems that business processes are nothing but an additional way to complicate daily operations and increase bureaucracy. The amount of documentation and reporting necessary might intimidate and convince you against developing and implementing business processes in your day-to-day operations. Before you make the final decision, consider the difference:
Before business process implementation

Poor time-management on a business-wide scale. Your employees waste too much time and resources to complete every step and continuously miss the deadlines, increasing operational costs, and losing customers.

Unsatisfactory performance and low motivation level among employees. Team members find themselves in positions they are not qualified for, causing bottlenecks, poor performance, and overall low morale. Increased employee turnover is just one of the negative consequences the business will face.

The company repeats the same mistakes and does not implement necessary changes to improve operations. A lack of standardized processes and regular reviews prevents the team from recognizing recurring problems and introducing improvements to daily operations. The vicious cycle of repeating mistakes might ultimately lead to bankruptcy.

Employees engage in busywork and do not produce actual value, increasing the operational expenses, and driving the net cost up. Without accountability and performance metrics, team members do not realize their place in the value-generation framework. Customer satisfaction is far from their minds as long as it does not affect their salary.
After business process implementation

Efficient time-management throughout every department. Every employee is aware of their role in the generation of value and performs their duties according to a clear flowchart. The time and resources are used efficiently, with minimal drag at handoff between team members.

High performance and satisfaction rates among team members, along with reduced human error. Throughout business process development, employees are assigned to positions where they can generate maximum value and use their full potential. The tasks are assigned to team members specializing in them, increasing overall business performance, and lowering the risks.

The business implements the most efficient ways of producing value and adapts to new challenges quickly. Risk assessment is at the core of business process development, and it allows companies to reduce operational risks in the long run. Adopting new technologies to automate or scale existing processes is just one way companies can manage the changing market landscape or customer preferences.

Every member of the team realizes their responsibilities and is accountable for both successes and mistakes. Employees can improve their performance thanks to comprehensive metrics. They are motivated to improve productivity and generate more value for the customers to receive bonuses and salary raises.

Types of Business Processes

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Not all business processes are created equal. Some generate immediate value, while others are necessary for everyday operation.

Traditionally, three types of business processes are recognized:

Primary (core or key) business process
Primary (core or key) business process. This essential set of processes adds value to the company's offers and delivers the product to the customers. Key business processes examples include product development, product delivery, customer acquisition, and more.
Support business process
Unlike primary processes, the ones in this category do not generate value directly. However, they create an environment for the efficient operation of the core processes and support everyday business needs. Support business process examples include procurement, employee onboarding, development and satisfaction.
Management business process
This set of processes involves setting business goals and developing operational standards that support the primary and support processes' efficiency. Strategic, tactical, and operational planning, monitoring, and control are all examples of management business processes.
It might be tempting to focus your efforts on developing and improving core processes at the expense of support and management business processes. However, without them, your business will not be able to generate value consistently and will ultimately succumb to chaos.

Business Process Development Steps

If you have only just discovered the need for business process implementation in your business, this simple step-by-step guide should be enough to get you started. I won't go into details and keep the process generic enough for it to be applicable in any industry or market.

To develop your first business process, go through these seven steps:
    steps of business process, business algorithm
    Set the goal you wish to achieve
    The purpose of the process should be measurable and possess clear deliverables. If you don't understand how to evaluate the process' success, you need to narrow down your goal further
    Map out your strategies for achieving the goals you set
    At this step, you should get the big picture view of the operations and resources you will need to implement or use to accomplish the goal.
    Define individual tasks
    Use your strategic map to identify every small action your team needs to take to achieve the goal of the business process. You should also assign every task to individual stakeholders and provide them with the necessary resources, including hardware and software.
    Perform a test run
    Scale down the process and test it out in real-life conditions. Get feedback from stakeholders, observe bottlenecks and troubles, and adjust the initial process to prevent them.
    Implement the business process
    Once you are satisfied with test results, scale the process up, and use it in a live environment. To ensure all stakeholders are on the same page, set up efficient communication and training framework.
    Keep track of implementation results
    Do not leave the business process to its own devices. Monitor the results, review the metrics and analyze patterns. You should also document any changes in the process.
    Rinse and repeat
    If your business process accomplishes the goals from step 1, analyze its success factors, and duplicate them in the development of future operations. If the goals are not met, review the methodology and consider altering your approach.
    Once you have established primary, support, and management processes, you can combine the best of business processes and information systems for BPM, process automation, and a score of other ways to improve your operations to decrease expenses and increase profit.

    If there's only one thing you take away from this post, I hope you understand that business processes can never be static and unchanging. They should adapt, improve, and scale according to your current goals. With the deliberate implementation of business processes and restrictions, you can take your business to the next level.

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