We saw in the first instalment of this three part overview of business processes that implementation of processes carries a number of benefits based around creating efficiencies through de-duplication of effort. Having established the ‘why’, we can now shift the focus to the ‘what’.
Typically, anything that is done more than once in any workflow becomes a candidate for conversion into a process. Look carefully at each sector of your business and identify where particular actions are repeated, taking in the smaller details as well as the larger picture; when designing processes there is nothing wrong with starting small. From the way in which a component is fabricated, down to the transfer of incoming mail onto a computerised accounts system, each department of any business has areas where efficiencies could be created by automating repetitive tasks.
Traditionally, processes are broken into two categories, Top/Down processes that address high level tasks, and Bottom/Up that automate lower level issues. Top/Down processes are created to be more general, providing a flexible guideline for completing a larger task, essentially directing the way in which a task is to be completed without specifying the exact steps to be taken. Acting almost like goals, Top/Down processes help define the ‘big picture’ and the steps required to make the final goal.
A Bottom/Up process however is far more prescriptive, acting like a recipe for the specific steps required to complete a smaller task. Typically, Bottom/Up processes, by their very design, are less flexible than their Top/Down counterparts, although it is possible to create some room for minor adjustments. Bottom/Up processes define the smaller steps required to maintain the Top/Down overview and goals.
Once potential processes have been identified, they should be implemented as soon as possible to reap the benefits immediately.
In the final part of this series we will examine the nature of ongoing process improvement.