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What Is a Business Process and Does Your Business Need One?

By Neera Mathur Email By Neera Mathur
November 2013
What Is a Business Process and Does Your Business Need One?

Most privately held businesses, especially small ones, will typically “figure things out as they go.” What business owners often fail to realize is how they can benefit from the structure that a business process brings to their company. The use of a business process can make the difference between a good company and a great company. The definition of a “business process” is the focus on how work is done within an organization that enables a business to run smoothly. With time and success, organizations grow larger and have no time to step back and recreate the formality of a structured process. Organizations start to suffer from the lack of definition that these structured steps and guidelines can provide, which can hold back the growth of a business.

What is a Business Process?
It is a set of logically related tasks performed to achieve a defined business outcome. A good business process defines proper handoffs between teams so each person is aware of what is expected of them and when they are expected to complete their tasks. When defining the business process for your industry, consider listing all the tasks that need to be completed, what is required going into starting a task (input) and what is expected as a result of that task (output). You also need to consider the chain and sequence of the required steps, such as who must complete a task with what desired outcome, prior to passing it on to another person or group.

Consider the Following Questions
Who are you doing the task for? Is it for an internal or external customer? What is the expected result? Is it benefiting anyone internally or externally?

Does the completion of this task provide valuable information or required data for another required task? Can it be combined with other tasks? What happens to your business or your customers if you stop doing this task? Does something break? Who is needed to perform the task? What types of skills are necessary to execute this task? Do you really need yourself or your experienced, high-skilled resources to perform this task?

Consider the Organization or the Sequencing of the Tasks
Could you be doing a task later in the sequence of events when more information or data is available that is required to complete the task or may benefit the performance of the task? Document all your answers on a tablet, board or paper to organize your thoughts. Taking the time to document your business process gives you the opportunity to identify redundancies. Are you duplicating efforts? Are you performing a less efficient process? This type of documentation can also help identify areas where you can save time by changing the sequence in which tasks are done, and help you identify the need for additional information (input) beneficial to performing a task.

The Benefits of a Business Process
A documented business process brings consistency to any task done multiple times or by multiple people. This makes it easier to train new staff, monitor and manage all staff and processes, and provide timely feedback for improvements. As the business grows, new tasks can be effectively integrated. A simple word processing document or spreadsheet is certainly adequate, but consider supplementation with computer software to support or “enable” parts of the process.

The Risks of Not Having Processes
If your organization is running without a documented business process, then it works as long as it works, but who can fix it when it doesn’t work? How much time and money will you waste in analyzing what went wrong and how to fix it? Who can optimize the workings of an organization when it grows too quickly?

In short, business process definition increases effectiveness, which brings value to the customer, and it increases efficiency, which means lower cost for the company. Having defined business processes in place allows for ease of repair, simplification, and streamlining of your business’s daily— and most integral—work.

Neera Mathur is a Certified Executive Architect with IBM, where she is currently working as the B2B and Web Commerce Architect in their CIO Headquarters.
Business Insights is hosted by the Law Firm of Kumar, Prabhu, Patel & Banerjee, LLC.
Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or other professional advice.

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