Understanding a Process

I have spent a lot of time recently helping organisations to understand their own processes.

Each client had their own reasons for wanting to define their processes, ranging from needing transparency, through to getting to grips with how things work before the installation of a new IT system.

Some started the task before contacting me, whilst others needed me to start the activity for them.

However, I have had numerous conversations about just what a process is, and how to truly understand it.

So, here are my thoughts:

  • First thing first – a business process is NOT a flowchart. A flowchart is great for defining an activity, but a business process contains several contributors which may be internal and/or external, all of which require definition int he process document.
  • Every business process needs a purpose. Why does it exist? Without a purpose we cannot understand whether it is effective or not. Or required at all.
  • Responsibilities and authorities – who makes the decisions/performs the key actions?
  • Be clear about the inputs and outputs. Think of an input as a trigger. The process is started because of some form of activity or request. Define the inputs and also, the end-points. Be aware that outputs are often the inputs to the next logical process.
  • Documents. Processes need instruction to ensure standardisation, so what documents are used? They may be manuals, procedures, checklists, forms, etc.
  • Records. Processes should generate useful records to provide evidence of activities that are retained for future reference.
  • What resources are required to ensure the process is effective? Financial? Skills? Equipment?
  • Identify the risks associated with the process. What can happen that would prevent the process from being effective? Are we aware of them and are we managing them?
  • Finally, consider the key performance indicators (KPI’s) that are required to be monitored to understand the process performance.

For a process to be effective, each section above must be defined and managed.

If you need more help, just get in touch in the usual way.

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