21 May 2009

Spotlight Article

Nine Tips for Standardizing Business Processes

Clear, consistent processes are imperative for a successful business. Standardized processes help you better manage the quality of your offerings, reliably meet deadlines, easily train and integrate new people, and effectively adapt your processes as your business grows.

The best processes are defined by employees doing the actual work. By tasking your employees to map out processes, you not only get the most productive workflows in place you build morale as employees get a hand in shaping your organization's infrastructure.

The following tips can help your organization establish best practices for any process. The goal is to break down a relatively detailed and complex set of actions into easy-to-understand steps.

1. Identify process goals and requirements.

Be clear on why you are creating this process. What do you hope to accomplish both tangibly (in the form of deliverables) and strategically (in terms of business success)? What marker will indicate whether or not the process is successful?

2. Clearly identify the process start and end.

What action starts the process? What deliverable or action ends the process? These markers establish the framework for the progression of your process. The first action is the catalyst for each subsequent step. The last action marks the finish line and indicates whether or not you met your goal.

3. Identify process steps, sequence, objectives, and owners.

If the first action is the catalyst, what are the subsequent steps? What is the specific order these steps should occur? What must happen at each stage for the process to run successfully—and who is responsible for ensuring these things happen?

4. Pay attention to detail, but don’t get caught up in minutia.

Be aware of the details and requirements that will make or break the flow of events, but don’t get so bogged down in details that your process becomes complicated. Concentrate on priority actions and deliverables, and on overcoming obstacles to productivity.

5. Assign a project or process manager.

Each step of the process should have an owner, but naming one person who is responsible for the process end to end is critical to ensuring process efficiency. This person will establish an overall process schedule, and the requirements and timeframe for each step to ensure a productive efficient flow.

6. Document the process in laymen’s terms.

This is a crucial for getting buy-in from others throughout the company and in training new people. Anyone in your organization should be able to pick up your process map and understand it. Avoid technical jargon and keep tone, voice, and formatting consistent throughout.

7. Get agreement on the process.

If the major contributors in the process don’t buy off on your process, you will not be successful, period. Give each step leader time to review the process and provide feedback. This ensures all dependencies are accounted for and helps people feel more invested in the success of the process.

8. Develop a plan for sharing and training the process.

People need time to learn and adapt to new things. Allow for this, and set a plan in place for training new people as they come on board.

9. Revisit the process every few months to fine-tune.

To ensure your process stays relevant and productivity stays high, take time every few months to assess any changes in your company and adapt your process accordingly. 

 

Get additional help from these business process standardization experts on Microsoft Pinpoint.