The phrase business process management might sound like a grandiose, fear-inducing term. Yet essentially, it’s just documentation that describes how you do things and who does them.
It tends to feel complicated because even the smallest of businesses has a lot of moving parts. When you put those into writing, even the simplest of tasks appears complex.
Every company has processes in motion every day. Some are documented. Some are only in people’s heads—they do it from memory. For instance, your staff doesn’t need to refer to a manual to answer the phone or enter a new contact in your database.
(A quick aside: all processes should be documented. There should, for instance, be documentation on how to correctly answer the phone. Your staff won't have to refer to it once they learn it, yet it's there for training or reference when needed.)
Let’s say you have 100 processes, or tasks of varying complexity, being performed every day. How do you diagnose when something is going wrong? One of the challenges of business process management is that you can’t review all 100 processes every day.
No one is handing out report cards to say your processes and systems are failing. Nor is it likely that you have a system in place for reviewing and managing these 100 separate processes. (If you do, congratulations! You’re ahead of most small businesses.)
As with any other complex organism or machine, symptoms appear when a process problem is brewing.
Small Business Process Management Failure - Do You Suffer Any of These 5 Common Symptoms?
Today we’ll show you five specific and obvious ways your business is telling you it’s time for a business process checkup, that it’s time to reassess and streamline.
1. Email and Voicemail Overload
If you’re swamped with emails or voicemails with messages piling up unanswered or partially answered, something needs to change.
Perhaps help desk automation or a website FAQ can field questions before your customers email you. When you can’t keep up with incoming email and phone calls, look at the process and see where you can refine it.
2. Lack of Understanding
If someone isn't performing their job well because they don't understand, there’s a good chance the process simply needs to be clarified. It may be the employee doesn't understand the overall goal or the context into which the task fits.
For example, let’s say your shipping department isn’t packing boxes correctly and you’re getting a high rate of damaged products in transit. You discover that your experienced staff know how to pack for various shipping methods (e.g. parcel shipping versus truckload shipping) while some of the new employees do not. It’s time to outline the shipping process in more detail so a newcomer can do it without coaching or instruction.
3. Repetition or Duplication
When two or more people do the same task or when someone repeats a task multiple times, a business process needs to be reviewed.
Eliminate the duplicate. Break down each task into steps and look closely to determine which can be removed.
4. Wasted Resources
Perhaps you're investing resources that aren't producing results. Just like paddling along in a leaky boat, you need to find the leak. The resource can be in the form of money, time, or labor.
Let’s say you have a staff member handling social media, but you're not seeing the traffic you expect. It’s time to break down the tasks from top to bottom.
Perhaps social media automation isn’t being used or its underutilized. Perhaps the team member can’t keep up with new content creation. Re-purposing existing content could fix that problem.
A manufacturing operation might waste resources in the form of excess movement or material handling. Perhaps materials are being handled twice for no reason. Maybe inventory levels are too high. Maybe there are too many approval steps in the creation of a single product.
Finding and patching even the smallest of resource leaks can have a big impact on net profit.
5. High Levels of Stress
Last but certainly not least, company-wide stress is a major warning flag that you need a business process overhaul. You might not be able to spot inefficiency in the company workflow, but you see the symptom in employee burnout and turnover.
The chart below from a UK employment study shows that 70% of those surveyed said stress is one of their top five hazards at work. A staggering 44% of UK employees know someone who has been forced to give up their job due to stress.
Chart source: Statista
Check in with your staff and ask them how they're doing. If they’re stressed, find out why.
Stress is a perfect opportunity to initiate a streamlined process. The added benefit is that the prospect of improving the employee's life gets their buy-in to your revised process.
Conclusion - What Are Some Tools for Business Processes?
As a business owner or manager, you understand the relentless forces of change, both internally and externally. That’s why business process management (BPM) should be a regular task, especially as you start to grow.
It pays to regularly assess, analyze, and update business processes for maximum efficiency. Tiny improvements to one process can have a huge impact throughout the company.
Streamlining your business processes isn't hard to do because everything isn't done at once. Changes are implemented gradually. Start with one task, refine it, implement, and monitor. Once you've finished with one, you move on to the next.
For a step-by-step system to streamline and manage all your business processes, take a look at our specially created Business Process Management (BPM) for Small Businesses™.
By the time you finish the steps outlined in this A-B-C implementation plan, you'll have some tools for business process management.
1 - You get one new, streamlined and efficient business process in place, and you'll be prepped to move on to the next one.
2 - You get a permanent system in place for managing all your business processes.
Designed by small business owners, for owners.