You have decided that you want to use software to automate one or more of your processes, to increase productivity, reduce inefficiencies and make businesses improvements. But, what do you do next? How do you ensure that the new process is better, and you are not just continuing an inefficient process in a new way? To paraphrase a popular TV show, prepare, prepare, prepare. The work you do before you make a purchase or right a line of code can save you from making mistakes and wasting time and money down the line.
Follow our eight-step guide to process planning for business improvements, and you won’t go far wrong.
- Ask Questions
Before you start mapping out a new process you need to find out everything you can about what is currently happening and what the expectations are for the new process. The best way to do this is to ask questions, of the current users, management teams, IT and even yourself.
- What is the current process?
- How is this managed/tracked/changed?
- What are your expected outcomes?
- How often is the process used?
- Who is involved?
- Who will need access to the new software?
- What will they need to be able to do?
- What are the current bottle necks or pain points?
- What is/isn’t working with the current process?
- How do you want to be able to report?
- What resources do you have in-house?
- Who needs oversight?
These are just some of the questions you should be asking of your team, there will be others depending on the type of process you are going to automate. The FLOvate team have a xx-step process discovery document, to ensure that they know a process inside out.
- Map it out
Write a list of all the different tasks and actions you completed throughout your existing process from start to finish, ensure that every task is listed no matter how big or small. Remember to break down the tasks into the individual elements. Once you have this list put them in the order that they happen, and what needs to happen so the next task in the list can be completed. It can be helpful to physically draw this out, either using post it notes, white boards or on a flipchart.
- Know your limits
You may have heard the saying “you get out what you put in”, normally in relation to putting more effort into something you’re doing, like training for a marathon or learning a new language, but it also is relevant with software. Any system is only as good as the information that you put into it, if there is a part of your process that is not working or that is misunderstood, it will not be improved just by automating elements or using software to do some of the tasks. This is why the planning stage is really important and shouldn’t be skipped. If you need some support, outside experts like the FLOvate business analysts are available to help.
- Include end users
To get the most out of any system, you need to understand how it is going to be used every day. As managers we think we know the processes, but we are one step removed and often only see the outcomes and not the steps our team members have to make to show us what we need. By involving those who will be using the system the most we can get a true understanding of the process, flag up any issues and workarounds and, just as importantly, ensure they buy in to the system and are excited to use it.
- Define what isn’t included
It can be tempting to add everything you do into a process plan, especially if the end goal is to automate and digitise the process into a system. However, when trying to maximise benefits for your budget, you can over-complicate things and actually make the system less efficient. This is why it is important to concentrate on one process at a time, defining where it starts and ends and more importantly what parts of what you do aren’t included. A task for the future may be to look at how your multiple processes work together.
- Expect the unexpected
Most projects and process follow the same steps, but there are always exceptions to the norm. Maybe an unusual customer request or a shorter than usual deadline, as much as possible it is best to build these possibilities into your process. By defining what happens when something unexpected happens, even if it is as simple as informing a manager, you can reduce the impact of the uncertainty on your team. Ensure that any workflow solution you use as the ability to map, track and respond to exception events.
- What does success look like?
How will you know if your process has improved? Is it a reduction in time spent, less errors, something else? What success looks like will be different for every company and every system, but it is important to define what success means to you, so not only can you measure your success but make changes once the system is live to continue to make improvements.
- Bring in the experts
For most of us, planning process and building solutions to improve them is not our day job. However, the team at FLOvate have decades of experience in mapping processes, suggesting improvements and building software solutions that have a real impact on businesses like yours. Contact us today to find out more or book a demonstration to see LEAP in action.