A quick guide to finding and describing business processes

So what is a “business process,” anyway?

There are many complex ways to define a meaning of Business Process, but here’s a simple one:

A business process is a pre-defined sequence of steps, repeatedly executed in a company to get some particular result.

Some good examples of business processes are:

  • Steps to get from a quote request submitted from company’s website to a signed contract.
  • Steps to get a guest from entering the restaurant to being seated and finally to paying for a dinner.

Processes are usually repeating over and over in almost the same way. Because of that you can describe a process, document it once and then refine and improve it.

But what does it mean to improve the process?

An improved process can take less time to run, require fewer resources or add more value.

Remember my examples above? Here’s how they could be improved:

  • A customer gets a quote in one hour instead of one day.
  • Company closes 20% more deals in the same time.
  • Guest is seated in 15 seconds instead of 15 minutes.
  • Three waiters can now do what required 5 waiters before.

So as you can see, improving existing business processes just as important as just having them in a first place.

If you have a business, you have processes – whether we want it or not. You can recognize them or ignore, but processes are here, and they define how your business works.

What should you do with business processes?

  • Recognize and describe.
  • Follow them.
  • Refine and improve.

Well defined processes is what distinguishes streamlined, effective business from chaotic ones.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that having distinct business processes is important. So, let talk about recognizing and documenting processes.

Recognizing the processes

The first thing you want to learn is how to see existing business processes. Processes are here in any business, whether we notice them or not. Any company – from Google and Apple to a 1-person tech startup – is using business processes.

Seeing your company through the lens of business processes is the essence of a process-based management. This approach is very different from a traditional one, based on viewing the company through its org structure.

Most successful companies are already run on processes today, so there’s no question if business processes are necessary or not.

All processes could be divided in:

  • Operational processes.
  • Supporting processes.
  • Management processes.

Operational processes

Perhaps the most frequently used and the most important type of processes in any company are the operational processes. These are processes which define the primary activities that a company needs to perform in order to successfully execute its business.

Results of any operational process are:

  • Providing value to a customer.
  • Gaining a profit – could be in a form of money, but also additional experience, brand exposure, new business partners etc.

Examples of operational processes are:

  • Developing a website design.
  • Designing a business card.
  • Selling a house.
  • Conducting a marketing campaign.
  • Organizing a wedding ceremony.

A simple operational process for a digital agency may look like this:

Process steps simple diagram

Notice how step (3) is not called “Make an advance payment”. Always name steps looking from a single, company’s point of view, even when the task is for someone outside of a company: customer, business partner or contractor.

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