A small business guide to process management

- July 2, 2020 3 MIN READ

In 2020, businesses of all sizes have faced challenges unlike ever before. As the world went into a COVID-induced lockdown, many were forced to rethink their offerings and day-to-day operations. For some small and medium-sized businesses still reliant on manual processes, centralised teams and antiquated ways of working, this has been particularly challenging, writes Andrew White, ANZ Country Manager at business transformation solutions provider, Signavio.

Now, more than ever, businesses of all sizes need to transition into the digital era, and one practical way of doing this is with Business Process Management (BPM). BPM is often mistakenly defined as an expensive and complicated technology exclusive to large enterprises, but in reality BPM is more about boosting efficiency in repetitive tasks than building an army of robotic workers.

The true definition of BPM refers to several activities including analysis, testing, documentation, collaboration, and potentially, automation, of specific processes within a business. The term ‘process’ is defined as a series of tasks or activities that are linked by numerous people or systems. For example, employee onboarding is a business ‘process’ because it requires the sharing of information between multiple employees, and involves various administrative duties.

How BPM works is by using your company’s data to look for, or ‘mine’, inefficiencies. This data is much simpler to extract than you think. Most operations that your business carries out online, be it payroll processing, file storage or even emailing, leave behind a digital footprint containing valuable information about what points along a process are slowing your business down. The beauty of BPM is that it thrives off finding these pain points, and then allows you to test or ‘model’ ways to fix it.

BPM strives to make daily tasks more efficient, boosting productivity and ultimately, benefiting your business’ bottom line.

So why do small and medium-sized businesses need to pay attention to BPM? Here are four key reasons:

Move over manual processes

Research from Reckon shows the average Australian small business spends 541 hours, and nearly $15,000 on administrative tasks every year. On top of that, 46 per cent of those surveyed claim admin and compliance is “killing the dream” of owning their own business.

Creating a streamlined approach to how you and your team manage admin allows you to uncover the processes that slow you down the most. Then, you can look at automating certain repetitive processes to alleviate the administrative load so that you can focus on more important things. This is especially crucial in times of crisis, as things like cash flow management and responding to a rise or dip in customer demand becomes the focus.

Symbiotic systems

‘The Great Lockdown’ has been a lesson to all businesses that in order to survive disruption, teams must be able to collaborate and communicate from anywhere in the world.

In process management speak, siloed information – that is, knowledge limited to one employee or function – can be detrimental to smooth workflows. It can create ‘bottlenecks’ when workflows slow down or stop along the process chain.

BPM opens up communications channels by providing a clear snapshot of a process’ end-to-end execution. It promotes collaboration, as well as individual accountability, because everyone’s tasks are defined, yet that knowledge is transferable across all team members.

Using a cloud-based BPM system ensures that remote teams still have access to the essential workflows that keep your business running, no matter where they are in the world.

One for all

Part of creating collaborative processes is establishing a ‘single source of truth,’ otherwise known as a set of guidelines or steps for how an operation should be carried out, based on data-driven insights.

The idea is to standardise workflows, so that a process can be executed in the same way, every time. This ensures consistency and efficiency, which is essential to maintain during turbulent times.

Creating crisis resistance

Crisis survival comes down to taking decisive action, but it’s not always easy to know if you’re making the right decisions for your business.

BPM allows you to test or ‘model’ different processes to create certainty around decision-making. For example, Victoria recently announced a rollback of COVID-related restrictions, meaning hospitality businesses are no longer allowed to host large groups, as planned. This is where BPM could be used to scale-down or scale-up operations quickly, keeping regular processes on track even as external conditions change at a moment’s notice.

As every employee refers to that ‘single source of truth’, companies can maintain ‘business as usual’ and eliminate reactive decision-making. Better yet, having a structured crisis-response will keep your team cool, calm and collected in the face of uncertainty.

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