A new hope.
The start of a new year brings the hope of a fresh start. Facebook is flooded with advertisements for personal journals. Facebook business groups are all chatter about focus words, plans and goals for 2017. Michael Gerber has even released a new book “Beyond the E-Myth”, fuelling a desire for process and systems so we can all own a business that operates without us. http://www.beyondemyth.com/
And then we get stuck
Documenting your business processes just seems so … hard. Sometimes it feels like a daunting amount of effort considering your staff will probably just continue to work on, regardless. This is especially true if your history with business processes involves a large, dusty ‘Policies & Procedures’ manual that hasn’t moved from its place on the shelf since it was put there with pride. Yet it seems to be the hallmark of any great, thriving, duplicatable, successful enterprise. Will 2017 be the year that you finally nail those business processes and turn your operations into a clockwork machine? Or will you get stuck evaluating Cloud solutions that all promise the world?
So many choices!
It’s so easy to run to Google to solve this business problem. Searching for “business process software” will reveal the solution to all our needs. Well, 72 million solutions. Ask your Facebook business group buddies and you’ll get everything from the office whiteboard, wall of Post-It Notes (don’t laugh – that can be a great initial way of mapping out a process!), Kanban board, Google sites, SharePoint Online (Office 365), Google Docs, Word Docs on a server file share, Google Drive, OneDrive or even specific Cloud software solutions like Promapp, Process Marker, Process Mate, Appian, KissFlow or Apps for Ops.
Great, just great.
The truth is there isn’t one magical solution out there that fits everybody. Sorry.
We’ve always said it’s not the technology that counts, it’s what you do with it. Regardless of whether you choose the same solution as the business next door to you, how you adopt it and how committed you are to using it will determine the level of benefits it will unlock in your business. The software isn’t the differentiator here, you are.
So you need to pause and think long and hard about the following questions. They should heavily influence the technology decision that you’re about to make:
How many staff do you have?
How many locations?
Who will need access to which processes and are some processes restricted (eg how to run the payroll)?
Who will be creating the processes?
Who will be updating the processes?
Who will be using the processes?
How do you want staff to give you feedback if the solution or the process just isn’t doing it for them? Does this feedback mechanism need to be part of the software or do you have another communication process in place to handle that?
How will you handle version control and communicating changes to the processes?
Do people outside of your organisation need access e.g. suppliers, customers, outsourcing partners or key advisors?
What business processes are you documenting?
Do you need step-by-step instructions?
Pictures? Maps? Videos?
Do you want the solution to track a process using a ‘workflow’ or status indicators, including notifying people of status changes? Or are you happy with a static list of procedures for somebody to follow?
Do your business processes need to be easy to find?
Do you want to be able to search for something across all your business processes (eg if a title or role changes)?
Current technology systems:
What software & hardware do you already use? Are you a PC/Office shop or a Mac/Google shop? Do you use or are you looking into tablets or iPads for any of your staff? What about mobile phone access?
Do any of your business processes need to integrate with any other computer or Cloud systems (e.g. leave requests into your payroll systems)? Note: If it feels like that particular step is much too big to take on right now, just be aware of the capability to be able to do it when you are ready, from your chosen solution.
And if it’s the worst experiment ever ….
Is it easy to get information out of the system if you decide to try something else, or will you need to throw away that effort and start from scratch?
Please don’t …
Please don’t decide this is all too hard and give up. If this article prompts you to grab some Post-It Notes and map a business process on a wall, you’re one step ahead that you were before.
Please don’t type up a Word document and email a copy to your entire team. Email is where information goes to die or, even worse, get outdated and then have three people following three different versions of the same process (assuming it’s not lost amongst Inbox 2,000 or buried in a folder, never to be seen again).
Please don’t implement what 13 Facebook contacts said (all who might have vastly different business and requirements than you do).
So to move forward
Ask somebody you trust and who knows your business. That might be your accountant, your bookkeeper, your IT person or your business coach.
Maybe you have time to research and try a few different things yourself?
Or maybe that can be a mini project for your most trusted operations manager on staff?
The worst thing you can do is nothing.
The second worst thing you can do is spend time and money on a solution that doesn’t fit the answers to your questions above.
P.S. If you want to know what we do, our solution is a combination of a Wikipedia style section in Office 365’s Sharepoint Online (complete with pictures, photos etc.) and some portable, searchable Microsoft OneNote Notebooks. Both methods really suit our business and tick the boxes for all of our questions.