5 tips to create business processes teams will actually use
Business process management (BPM) can encourage and sustain process excellence when you make it more about people, and less about technology. Involve teams to create processes that are well-constructed, easy to follow, and encourage suggestions for improvement.
This is critical if your business process improvement efforts are going to be successful. Anyone can create business processes. Here are five ways to create business processes teams will actually use.
5 ways to create business processes teams will use
These tried and tested techniques have helped hundreds of organizations across the globe create and capture their business processes. Use them as a guide to create processes that are meaningful and more likely to be used by your teams:
1. Less is more
A good process map contains all the information you have at your disposal, right? Wrong. Traditionally processes have provided an end-to-end view of procedures, and usually include between nine and 12 decision points.
But decision diamonds multiply quickly and charts often become too complex to understand. They certainly can’t be absorbed by users in one glance. Many of us have first-hand experience using traditional process maps in tools like Visio, which often look like the dumping ground for a series of actions and tasks.
This visual shows the level of complexity many teams frequently run into:
Not surprisingly, these bloated processes are often ignored by teams. The reality is that process maps are just too busy when processes include every detail possible. They flood the user with information and drive teams to fall back on asking one another what steps to follow.
Generally, users only need to understand what happens most of the time - capture ‘the happy flow’ by including those tasks and activities that happen 80% of the time.
The exceptions that only happen 20% of the time still need to be captured and made available, but they aren’t key to what usually happens.
For instance, the process for filling an order for a hot drink could include the following:
Process maps become a lot simpler – and easy to follow – when you remove the exceptions, like needing to buy more milk:
2. Simplify your steps
Group tasks together under activities. It’s helpful to remember that activities are related to the key steps in your process, and tasks are related to how you perform an activity.
Start by writing down the ‘what’, sticking to those high-level activities that make up your process.
Then simplify your steps even further by grouping activities together that naturally fall under high-level categories. Where it makes sense, clump together tasks that form part of the main activity.
As an example, you’ll see the seven-step process for filling a hot drink order is easily simplified in three steps:
Teams find it best to limit high-level activities to a maximum of ten for each process. If you can’t restrict the number of activities to ten despite finding commonalities, it’s usually an indication that you may need to divide the process into sub-processes.
Next, add more detail to each activity by capturing how each one is performed.
For instance, the activity ‘make hot drinks’ includes four tasks: get the cups; add the coffee or tea; add boiling water; and add the milk.
3. Pay attention to exceptions
Once you’ve captured what happens most of the time, you can work with those tasks that happen the remaining 20% of the time.
Capture the exceptions as notes inside the activities, which include the ‘what if’ situations, business rules and background explanations.
For example, if you create a process for making a hot drink, an exception could be that the milk has expired. It may only happen 20% of the time so doesn’t need to be part of your key process, but it shouldn’t be ignored.
4. Start with an action word
Use verbs at the start of every process, activity and task to help users immediately understand what they need to do next.
Instead of a process that says ‘Sales orders’, start with a doing word: ‘Enter sales orders’.
For even more meaning, add descriptions to the activity. Avoid vague language and restrict yourself to 6-8 words per activity, so your activity reads like a clear instruction. For example: ‘Enter sales orders in Salesforce’.
5. Add related media
Images, illustrations, graphs and video clips can help bring processes to life. Documents like forms, guides and policies also make it easy for users to follow the process.
A good BPM tool should be an effective central repository for processes, and should house the relevant multi-media that updates dynamically. This gives organizations a single source of truth where teams will always find the most up-to-date processes.
Increase people engagement, drive ROI
There are a number of ways to engage your people in your BPM efforts. Upskilling them on how to create solid processes will get you off to a good start. It won’t take long to see the difference.
By implementing these tips, your teams are more likely to engage with and rely on your business processes every day. That’s key to creating and sustaining process excellence.