Are you a busy entrepreneur or in a company where the work feels as though it is never done? In such cases, it may feel as though strides to maintain productivity might be preventing procedure and process improvement. There is a way to make doing tasks easier while improving revenue. It’s called business process documentation.
In a situation where limited staff members are already multitasking and using limited resources, the most practical decision might be to delay such tasks. But, this is often where many businesses go wrong.
Business process documentation and business process management go a long way to encourage increased productivity while minimizing costs. They enable businesses to objectively analyze processes, identify areas that contribute to errors and lower standards, and as a result, apply superior procedures. The documentation of this analysis ensures the repetition of tried and tested solutions. It also empowers businesses to improve and innovate. This, in turn, makes organizations stay competitive during the harshest of economic climates.
Customers are constantly looking for faster and better quality services for less. If a business fails to adapt to industry standards or rises up to the competition, its audience might shift to a different vendor, resulting in a loss of revenue.
What is Business Process Documentation?
Business process documentation refers to a written record of the necessary steps of certain business operations. It is an essential discipline of business process management. Business process documentation contains a detailed record of a process to complete a business task or procedure. It is often demonstrated through a flowchart and illustrates a clear top-down view for both employees and managers to visualize and grasp workflow processes.
Process documentation is designed to improve business efficiency and operational agility through optimizing strategic procedures and processes. Creating a step-by-step paper trail of activities enables employees to learn as they work. This way, they can extract insights from both success and failure and make adaptations to refine the process or procedure.
Benefits of Process Documentation
Process documentation is a vital aspect of running a business that should not be ignored. It is important for both small and big businesses. It is far easier to document processes from the very beginning of a venture, even at its earliest stages as a one-person operation. This documentation then becomes part of the company culture, where additions, adjustments, and corrections are consistently carried out.
Excellent business process documentation makes it easier to train new and old staff and change and improve business areas. It also helps in eliminating inefficiencies in the business, which often carry a hefty cost burden.
Some of the biggest benefits include:
Operational cost reduction
Business process management systematically uncovers inefficient processes and procedures. This facilitates strategic analysis of any problems that may arise. It also enables swift solutions to be applied. Repetitive processes may be automated to maximize productivity.
Once business processes are defined and documented in great detail, it becomes easier to identify areas where the internal business structure is simply unable to maintain or improve standards. This enables companies to quickly and confidently outsource without compromising product or service standards.
Due to the availability of detailed steps and procedures, having an employee take over a task mid-way or replacing a staff member is made easy. This reduces potential errors without the need to reinvent the wheel.
Improves In-House Efficiency and Revenue
Process documentation enables businesses to first, “Get their house in order”. It corrects internal inefficiencies, which in turn makes hiring, outsourcing, and business planning easier. Areas enhanced may often also include:
Improved employee engagement
When documenting processes, employees discuss and negotiate procedures amongst one another. These important discussions ensure efficient utilization of the correct labor resource. It also encourages improved communication and an environment where the staff feels trusted to take ownership of day-to-day operations. In this way, SMEs are largely benefited. The business owner can rely on employees to effectively deliver requirements without management oversight.
Access to the physical documentation of every detail of a company’s business processes means replacement or new staff may easily and consistently continue tasks in the event of any employee’s absence. Knowledge is not lost or dependent on the individual bodies within the business. Instead, it becomes a shared business resource, easily available without incurring costs to the company.
Patent and trade secrets
Both patents and trade secrets tend to involve legal documentation that often comes with a high-security requirement. Process documentation needs to be carefully applied and adhered to to ensure sensitive company intellectual property safety. Inappropriate or unapproved access to such company assets may come at a huge reputational or revenue loss. Often, it leads to both.
Process documentation is a simple procedure. Perhaps this is why its importance is often overlooked. However, its application is essential for both basic day-to-day business operations – which may cover hiring, product, or service procedures – and rare events, such as emergency drills and technology breaches or malfunctions.
Case Studies in Process Documentation Failure
Depending on the industry and nature of the company, business process management failure may lead to catastrophic events. History holds a few tragic examples where it was overlooked within an organization, leading to the loss of more than just revenue. Here are a few incidents that highlight the effects of business process documentation and management failure.
A famous fast-food restaurant was on the verge of failure in 1983. The chain did a full 180 through a massive restructuring of how it does business. Through a stringent procedure of process documentation and trial and error, the chain resolved to remove the kitchen component from its restaurants. Efficiency improved as profits surged.
The company is now producing $1.98 billion in annual revenue and caters to two billion customers every year from 6,407 restaurants the world over.
A well-known space exploration company forfeited $193 million when it lost a satellite in the late ’90s. Complete neglect of protocol, technical oversight, lack of business process documentation, and miscommunication led to a long sequence of equipment defects and as a result miscalculations.
These events brought on mission failure and the loss of expensive equipment. In these circumstances, documentation of the correct procedure may have averted disaster.
Energy – Chernobyl
The April 1986 Chernobyl disaster resulted from an erroneous reactor design operated by inadequately trained staff. The incident led to a total of 30 fatalities within a few weeks of the event as a result of exposure to high levels of radioactivity.
There are various failures in history where there is a direct link to inadequate or nonexistent process documentation. These incidents often lead to revenue loss or worse. With the rise in technological software advancement, various businesses have the expertise and experience and assist both small and big businesses with business process management.
How to Create Business Process Documentation
To improve efficiency, try methodically going through the correct process documentation procedure.
- Choose the process to be documented.
- Determine how its improvement will benefit the business.
- Establish when the process starts and ends.
Inputs and outputs
- Determine the desired outcomes.
- Define and list what is needed to complete the process and documentation.
Brainstorm and organize
- Put together all process steps by chronologically working through them. (You may also work backward.)
- Define what triggers each step.
- Create a process flow directly from the steps produced.
- Limit the number of steps for easier processing.
- Name every individual involved in the process, along with their job title and duties.
- Ensure that written content is legible and understandable to all employees.
Illustrate the process
- Create a flowchart that can be presented as part of official company documents.
- Identify possible exceptions and necessary steps that should be taken in their event.
Review and test process
- Identify potential risks in the process and add possible solutions to help the process manager.
- Define success criteria for the process and suggest possible improvements.
- Bring together all individuals involved to review the process.
- Identify possible missed steps and opportunities.
- Test the process in a practical scenario to identify shortfalls.
When you outsource tasks to Noon Dalton, the partner does more than manage efficiency, it also creates the right business process documentation related to those duties.
Business Process Management Best Practices
There are a few easy ways both big and small businesses can follow to kick-start their efforts in process documentation.
Measure current process
It is best to evaluate the effectiveness of current processes and procedures before documentation begins. This way, no time is wasted, and there is a strategic focus on what is most necessary for efficiency and revenue generation.
No business can manage business process management all at once. Additionally, not all processes within the business require full re-engineering of documentation. Analyze business objectives and weaknesses to identify the areas that urgently require improvement and modification.
With the rise of technological advancements, several companies have emerged that are equipped to leverage new tools and technologies. These companies have experience in manipulating technological systems to assist companies with process documentation. Consider reaching out to a leading organization with proven success in the space.
In an ever-advancing world, where market competitiveness is essential, it is best to consistently analyze, rework and re-engineer all documented processes. Consider every draft a prototype that may at some point, soon require re-evaluation.
Put Your Business on the Path to Success
Business process documentation encourages businesses to revisit and improve their processes. This, in turn, facilitates increased revenue generation and prevents loss – whether material or financial. However, there is no fool-proof way to ensure a perfect process. This simply does not exist.
If you want the best chance at creating business process documentation that puts you head-and-shoulders above your competitors, consider Noon Dalton. As a leading business process outsourcing (BPO) services provider, we are experts at streamlining processes and helping businesses scale seamlessly. For a fully functional process that’s 100% future-proof, contact us today.