Get Serious about Business Processes
Business processes improve customer satisfaction
Customers don’t get happy by accident! You spent a lot of time and effort to give the customer just what they wanted…and then you messed up because you don’t deliver consistently. Your CSAT or Net Promoter Score ended up in the ditch and the customer that cost you a fortune to win went looking elsewhere. All it takes is one dropped ball in that long chain of activities and you’re done!
What you need is a clear process for making the customer happy. Lay out the steps. Make the standard clear for each step. Be clear about who does what. Documenting that process will also make you think about your promise…can you actually deliver what you promised, every time?
Business processes make your team more effective
The usual steps to achieving the vision of a business often miss out business processes and go straight from strategy to organisation design. Including business process design between those two steps makes organisation design more effective. Simply laying out the key business processes gives important clues to which activities should be grouped together and what type of person is needed in each role. This makes recruitment more accurate. Ironically, recruitment itself is a process. My good friend and industrial psychologist, Steve Rogers, does a great job explaining why here.
Once in the role, on-boarding is much easier using clearly mapped out processes. The new incumbent has their responsibilities laid out along with which activities precede and follow their contribution. Not guessing improves focus and delivery!
Business processes improve execution and reduce risk
Execution is the number one problem most businesses face. Yet most businesses place little value on the obvious…execution is no more than diligently carrying out the intent of each business process, again and again. All your key business processes should have measures that confirm execution effectiveness. Performance management of individuals can be improved too…just take the business process KPIs and add them to each person’s scorecard.
Consistent, accurate execution of carefully developed business processes reduces risk through fewer mistakes. Your team gets better at doing something right when it gets done the same way each time. Think of the pilot of that airplane you last flew on…you wouldn’t want him working out what to do each time you were on board, would you?
There is another benefit that lurks here too. In an earlier post, I said that there can be no Operational Excellence without Process Excellence. I became aware of the business benefits of operational discipline in my oil refining days. The discipline required to make sure nobody gets injured pays dividends through making sure the stock gets counted, the payments are collected. Operational discipline pays off in many ways.
Accurate business processes that mirror what actually happens in your business form the basis for ERP design and Lean Six Sigma programmes. I recall at least three instances in the past where inaccurately mapped processes resulted in tears and huge SAP implementation bills. In one instance I canned a SAP project for that very reason…once bitten, twice shy!
Business processes improve your bottom line
Effective business processes reduce mistakes and the costs that go with them. Obvious, right?
Not so obvious is the value good business processes make to growth strategies. Replicating good business processes makes for simpler and swifter expansion. Sending a team to a new country armed with a battery of good processes makes a huge difference. Starting up in a new country is difficult enough without the new team having to reinvent the wheel. Getting that new team on-boarded is immeasurably easier if you have good processes to onboard with! The earlier revenues make a difference to small businesses in particular…earlier to profit-positive and cash-positive and the fundraising is easier too.
So why don’t more businesses have a focus on their processes?
More often than not, there is poor understanding of the value business processes bring. Too much work, they say. Can be…but only if you also map out insignificant activities. Keeping them up to date is a chore and a cost, they say. Can be…but the rewards far outweigh the costs.
I have not seen many examples out there of cohesive methodologies linking business processes to strategy and people elements of the business. If you are in Southern Africa, you might explore the Correlate product introduced a few years ago by Steve Rogers and Roger Knocker.
Introducing a focus on business processes to your business will add value well beyond any investment you make, improving customer satisfaction, the effectiveness of your team, and operational execution. That focus will reduce risks and improve your bottom line.
So there you have it! My views on business processes and the value they add. What do you think? Does this gel with your experience? Have I missed something critical? Maybe you disagree? Please share your thoughts by clicking on that little ‘Leave a Reply’ button below!
About the author: Wayne Hartmann, founder of H2 Business Consulting, has been in business for over thirty years, all but three of them in operational leadership roles. He has led organisations in the downstream oil industry, in the logistics arena and more recently in the renewables space. He has worked in large corporations and also in small organisations, in growth and turnaround environments. Known as a strong, values-driven leader, he has developed a reputation for working out how to make organisations successful, growing them and the people in them through hands-on engagement.