As discussed in part one of this blogging series, business process management is the foundation for achieving process excellence and for building a culture of continuous improvement and process excellence. If you missed it, you’ll find part one, with the first two techniques, here.
Here, in part two, we unpack four of the six tried and tested techniques that teams can use to create process documentation that really works.
Tip # 3: Cluttered notes indicate the need for multiple processes
So far we’ve dealt with how processes are typically executed – about 80% of the time. Now we need to address those other 20% of cases where something other than the usual flow occurs.
The best way to approach exceptions like these is to capture them as notes within the process activities. There you can include ‘what-if’ scenarios, any business rules that might need explaining, or background information that clarifies the procedure.
Using our example again, one of the ‘what-if’ scenarios could be having milk that’s past its expiry date. This isn’t likely to happen often, but it is worth capturing what to do for those less-than-20% of the time cases that it does.
Tip # 4: Always start with a verb
Processes, activities and tasks are things people will do, so they should begin with action words that immediately make it clear what the user needs to do next.
Labeling a step ‘Sales order’ isn’t really helpful.
‘Enter sales order’ however tells your user instantly what they’ll be doing with the order, and points them in the right direction. It may be that that’s all the information they needed, and you just saved them from having to click through to the next level and skim unnecessary paragraphs to find that information.
Keep those descriptions simple: 6-8 words is enough to capture the essential action without overcomplicating the intended instruction. Be clear and concise, and avoid vague language. These will form the core of your user instructions, so you want to make them easy to follow.
Tip # 5: Optimal number of activities in a process is 7, plus or minus 2
A good process is one your user can grasp at a glance. The first layer of activities should be easy enough to comprehend that the purpose and procedure are clear at the top level. As we said earlier, that means keeping your process to under 10 activities.
Ideally, a process will have between 5 and 9 activities. If you’re finding your process won’t fit this framework, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Do you in fact have two or more processes here, which need to be split up and mapped out separately?
By dividing one mega-process into several, and chaining them together, you reduce information overload and the chances of your users getting overwhelmed by the amount of information in front of them. Consider the difference it makes here by dividing one process into several:
Tip # 6: Make your processes relevant by adding multi-media
Not every process can be adequately captured by a written procedure. There are plenty of opportunities for a process to be brought to life by illustrations, graphs, images, or even video clips.
Additional content like guides, forms, policies, and other supporting documents can all add vital information to the process which will make executing it simpler and more effective.
By including that supporting information in the process itself, you save users time and ensure nothing gets missed or forgotten. A good business process management platform will serve as a document library in this way, providing a central repository for the media related to your processes.
With everything in one place, you have a central source of truth that everyone knows holds the most up-to-date and relevant process information.
Make your processes work for you
Business process management is about improving how your business works. By building better processes, you improve the chances of those processes being used by your staff. When they can find the information they need, easily and in an understandable format, they’ll be less inclined to take shortcuts and be more engaged in offering improvements.
Having your teams on board can only lead to better ROI and a growing culture of process excellence. It all starts with processes that work, so set aside those overcomplicated flowcharts and start building simple, clear processes for your teams.
Click here to get the first two techniques that can help your organization create business processes that really work.