Simplicity – The best kept secret to building an effective process

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I promise you that process building isn’t as headache inducing as it may seem…

It’s easy to over complicate things in our lives and process building is definitely no exception to this. You can get so caught up with trying to transform everything that your end result is a more complex and difficult system to use than you first started with! Then you picture the developer of said system, writing page upon page of green and black Matrix style code, tapping away feverishly at the keyboard.

Yes. This sounds complicated.

I on the other hand enjoy the simple things in life, and embrace anything that can be refined down to its simplest possible form. By its very nature simplifying an action or task can serve its purpose with minimal amount of risk or failure, in return giving you a maximum result.

In my eyes, every aspect of our lives should be in their simplest form. I believe nothing should be made more complicated than necessary, and this belief stands even stronger when creating a process. It may sound odd knowing how complex system development can be, but simplicity should always be acknowledged and aspired to.

It is also worth noting that no process has to remain complex, any system has the capacity to be simplified, removing any unnecessary steps or requirements. This is achieved through a term known as Normalisation, but I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ll discuss that later.

First of all, let’s start from the beginning of process development by simply explaining what a process actually is.

1. What is a Process?

The concept of what a process is can often seem vague and confusing, especially within a technology landscape when it’s the most popular term used to define all Business Management Platforms.

But the definition of a process isn’t as complicated as you may expect.

A process is simply defined as a starting task, some decisions to decide upon it’s progression, then a final outcome depending on the tasks journey. Condensing this down even further a process is simply a flow of decisions and actions from start to finish, nothing more than that.

2. Process Design Considerations

So, you know what a process is but what do you specifically want it to do? These requirements are obviously different depending on your business, along with who is using the process and how many people will need to operate it. I would say these three main areas are the most crucial sectors that companies enlist processes to assist with:

  1. Customer Experience: A positive customer experience will ensure their continued support along with their referral for others to use your services/products.
  2. Process Outcomes: Defining the outcomes that a business needs to accomplish gives the process defined goals to achieve. This also allows for any ‘unnecessary’ actions or tasks to be removed.
  3. Operational Expense: Any business will have operational expenditure, it’s a necessary evil. But optimising this through a clearly structured process will reduce wastage of expense, and in return improve business profitability.

Out of these, I will always champion that fact that Customer Experience is a vital priority, as their happiness equates to your incoming revenue stream. But I will save your ears (well, eyes) and not start that debate today.

Understanding and improving these sectors will provide your business with a solid infrastructure, that will return on its investment.

3. Components of a Process

Now we’re thinking about what a process would need to achieve it’s time to talk about the components of said process and the journey that’s involved. People seem to assume that any process has hundreds of components, all serving a particular complex function within that system. But this simply isn’t true. Yes, one process may be operated by hundreds of users, but the actual defined components of a process are very different and much simpler.

A fundamental structure of a process consists of five components which I have listed below, along with the typical titles and actions that are associated to these:

  1. Actors: The operators that carry out the tasks involved in a process – Call Handler, Administrator, Team Manager, Director
  2. Data: The details communicated and manipulated within the process – Cases, Policies, Properties, Suppliers
  3. Stages: The different routes a task/action progresses through – Enquiry, Validation, Request Information, Review, Consultation, Result
  4. Decisions: The internal decisions completed by the process as to where the task/action should travel to next – Is the task/action valid?, Who deals with the next stage?
  5. Outcomes: The final verdict based on the tasks/actions evaluation – Passed, Failed, Refer, Appeal, Review

All these components are like a jigsaw puzzle, only complete and fully functional once joined together!

4. Process Mapping 101

Right, we have the main framework of what a process is, the considerations and what components are required figured out. So now we need to enter the wonderful world of process mapping! Sitting down and having a structured mapping session is the first vital step of this journey, which will help you picture all your business requirements, and build an effective road-map moving forward. It’s also important that your whole team have an input in these sessions, particularly your IT/Operations department, as they will be implementing and using this system most frequently, along with having the best knowledge of your business process wants and needs.

A process mapping session should always begin with a brainstorm of your current process, identifying your overarching business structure, such as who does what, the key stages of your company’s decision making and all the possible outcomes you can reach as a result. To get a clear and detailed structure of this, that’s why collaboration across all departments and job roles is so crucial.

After this initial session of brainstorming the critical analysis of your existing process begins. Through thorough step-by-step tracking any abnormal occurrences can be identified and recorded, to ensure these issues don’t occur in your improved process. It’s also important to try and put a timeframe and level of authority onto each stage, successfully building estimated timings from start to finish.

As you start to conceptualise your improved process more and more questions will arise that need to be addressed. Just remember process improvement doesn’t need to be completed internally. Here at FLOvate we offer a comprehensive consultancy service along with workshop sessions to assist in process mapping.

A couple of key questions we suggest you consider are:

  1. Are there any external user requirements?
  2. Do you want to include a sign-off function at specific stages of progression?
  3. Do you need to manage documents?
  4. What can you automate? (Automation is the easiest way to streamline your processes – Look out for the pros and cons of this in a later blog!)
Process Planning Road-map

Once your process specification has been put into action, with these improvements starting to take shape, this is when Normalisation should be applied to the entirety of your processes. Normalisation is simply when the process is reviewed to identify repetition, remove any defects and most importantly dead ends.

When this is achieved your process will be seamlessly optimised to embrace the core value of simplicity.

5. Continuous Review

So, you have successfully implemented your improved and normalised process resulting in increased operational efficiency and productivity… So, what happens next? Well any process no matter how innovative and advanced needs continuous reviewing to ensure it’s optimised, as a number of external factors alter its effectiveness.

Industry landscapes change and evolve overnight causing numerous changes, such as customer behaviour or supply and demand for example. This means your processes need to be flexible to adapt and embrace these changes effortlessly.

For an effective process that will stand the test of time – Embrace simplicity.

Want to get started on your process mapping journey? Click here to book a free demo for your business with our solutions team.