The Business Process Guide


Table of Contents

  1. What is a business process?
  2. Why is a business process important?
  3. Perform a business process analysis
  4. Design a business process
  5. Business process improvement
  6. About ProcessMaker

What is a business process?

A business process is a set of tasks performed by people and/or technology, like automation, that once completed will achieve an organizational goal. Each task in the process is assigned to a stakeholder or team. The efficiency and overall success of a business process is dependent on stakeholders performing their duties in a standardized and optimized way.

Why is a business process important?

Business processes are important because they specify how tasks are performed within an organization. Business process design and implementation ensures that organizations are operating efficiently.  The end result is saving precious time, money, and resources.

More importantly, business processes provide organizations with a framework for continuous improvement. Through business process management, organizations can make incremental changes to their processes to become more efficient and profitable over time.

How to create an effective business process

Effective business processes are specific, flexible, measurable, and repeatable. Specificity requires well-developed steps and assignment of roles, as well as clearly defined starting and end points. Flexibility facilitates continuous improvement. Measurability ensures that organizations are able to identify areas for improvement.

Finally, organizations must be able to replicate their processes in their day-to-day operations if they are to be efficient and scalable.

Of the four attributes, measurability can be the most challenging for organizations. It can be difficult and time-consuming to manually pinpoint specific areas and/or individuals where workflows slow down. There are, common warning signs to look out for, including:

  • Specific tasks that are frequently stalled within a given department or with a particular individual.
  • Organizational workload imbalance. Some departments and individuals are busy while others have excessive downtime.
  • Work product completed by a given department or certain individual are often returned due to errors and quality issues.

Inefficient approval processes are also common sources of bottlenecks. For instance, expense reimbursement procedures that require signoffs by numerous decision makers. If one or more individuals are unavailable, the entire process can come crashing down.

Many organizations fail to drill down the root cause of bottlenecks since their existing processes lack sufficient detail. Yet, it is possible to manually perform a business process analysis through business process mapping techniques. Advanced business process mapping software, however, makes it easy for organizations to identify trouble spots. This is accomplished through features like a customized dashboard that gives organizations instant access to key performance indicators and allows them to make changes to processes in real-time.

Software also helps organizations with business process improvement by moving them away from time-consuming and wasteful paper-based processes. For instance, tasks like manually filling out forms or filing away papers, are both tedious and prone to human error. ProcessMaker’s software makes it easy to both store your documents and automatically extract data.

tcc tulsa community collegeTulsa Community College – a case study

Tulsa Community College (TCC) is one of many large institutions that ProcessMaker has helped to go digital. TCC, a multi-campus institution, relied on 100% manual processes that were heavily dependent on paper applications and request forms. Their approval processes were inefficient, requiring paper forms to go from one campus to another for multiple signoffs. Bottlenecks in their administrative workflows had grown inefficient and unsustainable.

With ProcessMaker’s business process management software, TCC was able to digitize its most tedious processes. Their graduation approval process became electronic, allowing applications to be approved infinitely faster. Their paper-based request process for system access was replaced entirely by a digital one. TCC can now take inputs to ProcessMaker webforms and automatically pass them along to the requested system for access. TCC was also able to digitize their HR processes and faculty processes at their testing centers. TCC’s operations have become more efficient, less costly, and both work and learning are more enjoyable.

Perform a business process analysis

Business process analysis is a method where an organization determines how well a process achieves its desired goal. It focuses on a specific process, while business process management involves the continuous review and improvement of all organizational processes.

Business process analysis is built on a foundation of process mapping. It looks at every part of a given process to identify the steps, the parties involved, and the exchange of information. A process map is a visual depiction of a process designed to help organizations identify issues. For instance, determining whether a process is working at maximum capacity and identifying the reasons for systematic delays. Stakeholders can then identify areas for improvement.

Business process analysis may seem foreign to organizations that are unfamiliar with the process. Fortunately, there are well-established procedures that you can follow. The steps to perform a business process analysis are:

  • Identify and define your goals
  • Identify the process to be analyzed
  • Collect information
  • Map out the process
  • Analyze the process
  • Identify the potential for business process improvement

Identify and define your goals

This is perhaps the most important step in the process. It involves asking yourself what you hope to achieve. Is there a specific area of your organization that you are concerned about or looking to improve? Or are your efforts part of a much larger goal like digitally transforming your entire organization. No matter what your goals are, clearly define them upfront. Not only will this better focus your efforts, but it will serve as a useful measure of your overall progress.

Identify the business process to be analyzed

Once you have considered your larger goals then you can identify which processes you want to start with. A good place to start is with smaller business-critical processes. These could be individual processes or smaller parts of larger intertwined processes. Clearly define your starting and end points to ensure that the business process analysis is focused and manageable.

Collect information

This step involves gathering information to help you identify why the process was created and what its purpose is. Review all available sources of information about the process. Interview individuals or teams involved. Collect as much information as you can, it will provide you with a better understanding and save you time down the road.

Map out the business process

Humans are visual creatures. Diagrams help us to better understand confusing and scattered information and concepts. Process maps provide a visualization of workflows. They can be used to identify inefficiencies and opportunities for business process improvement.

Creating a process map can be as simple as sketching out a workflow diagram or flowchart. You can also use workflow software to design detailed business processes at the click of a button.

Analyze the business process

Using the information that you have gathered, conduct a thorough analysis to identify aspects of the process that can be improved. Focus your business process analysis on:

  • Key components of the process. Consider how changing one component may impact other components and whether that will be enough to improve the process.
  • Bottlenecks and/or other reasons for delays in the process. Identify their causes and possible solutions.
  • Inefficient or wasteful components. If one or more components are consuming a disproportionate amount of resources, consider alternatives.
  • Anything else that comes up during your analysis

Identify the potential for business process improvement

During your analysis you identified problem areas and began thinking about potential solutions. Discuss the solutions with stakeholders to get their feedback. Begin testing your improvements. Start small and gradually scale up if your tests are successful. Train all stakeholders and make sure they understand their roles. Following implementation, have systems in place to regularly monitor and review results. Repeat the process based on your findings.

Design a business process

Business process design is the act of creating a new workflow or process from scratch. For instance, for organizations that are just starting out, it is necessary to think about the ways that they will produce and deliver their products and services. Organizations also engage in business process design when they create new processes or redesign existing ones. In this sense, business process design following an analysis is an aspect of a larger plan of business process management.

Process mapping as part of the analysis process serves to give stakeholders a better understanding of existing processes. In terms of business process design, however, mapping serves a more formal function of setting forth how a process will work.
Business process design consists of the following steps:

  • Identifying and defining the problem
  • Identifying inputs, outputs, and steps
  • Mapping out the process
  • Testing the process

Identifying and defining the problem

This step involves answering the question “why are we establishing the process.” Consider whether it adds value and what its benefits will be.

Identifying inputs, outputs, and steps

This step is largely a brainstorming session. Identify what the output of the process will be, this is related to the problem that you defined in step one. Identify key stakeholders. Involve them in your brainstorming sessions to identify the best and most efficient ways to achieve each step.

Make a list of all inputs, outputs, and steps required to achieve your goals. If you are doing this manually, this is as simple as listing each on a separate post-it note.

Mapping out the process

Mapping out the process involves putting the pieces together from the previous step. If you are using post-its, lay them out on a table or whiteboard. Use arrows to show the flow from one step to the next. Once you find the ideal configuration, draw your process out on paper. Business process software can save you a lot of time and effort here. You can simply drag and drop tasks on an easy to use dashboard.

See how easy it is to design a business process in ProcessMaker.

Testing the process

Before you implement your new process, be sure to test it thoroughly. Take note of any issues, gather feedback from stakeholders, and make changes until you are satisfied the process is ready to be implemented.

Business process improvement

Business process improvement involves identifying, analyzing, and improving existing business processes to optimize performance and/or improve quality. By improving business processes, organizations can become more efficient, more compliant, and more profitable.

Process improvement involves the following steps:

  • Mapping the process
  • Analyzing the process
  • Redesigning the workflow
  • Assigning resources
  • Developing an implementation plan
  • Executing the plan
  • Monitoring and optimizing

Mapping the process

Map out the steps of the process that you are focused on improving. You can sketch out a diagram manually or by using workflow software.

Analyzing the process

Using your map, identify areas where problems occur. Trace problems back to the source to identify causes of bottlenecks.

Redesigning the workflow

Discuss problems that you identified with key stakeholders. Identify ways to solve the problem, including how long it would take and what the potential risks are.

Assigning resources

Determine what roles key stakeholders will serve in the process. Inform them of their roles and explain how the new workflow will impact current operations.

Developing an implementation plan

Your plan should be as detailed as possible. Include stakeholders that you identified in the previous step. Identify all tasks and assign completion dates to each.

Executing the plan

Communicate the plan to all key stakeholders and then follow the plan that you created.

Monitoring and optimizing

Regularly monitor and measure key performance indicators. If you discover bottlenecks or other issues, work with your team to come up with some solutions. Continue to follow these improvement steps to optimize performance.

About ProcessMaker

ProcessMaker is a low-code business process management and workflow software. Its intuitive design featuring drag and drop process modeler and form builder helps users get started with automation in a matter of minutes. Headquartered in Durham, North Carolina in the United States, ProcessMaker has a partner network spread across 35 countries on five continents. Hundreds of commercial customers, including many Fortune 100 companies, rely on ProcessMaker to digitally transform their core business processes enabling faster decision making, improved compliance, and better performance.

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