How to Standardise a Business Process
Having a business process or business processes is vital for all facets of your business.
Whether that process is order to cash, onboarding, payroll operations or any other business process, you must have an idea of the flow and steps you follow in each occasion. Because these processes happen continuously as part of your business.
You do not want to have to come up with a method or flow each time. To do it right, you need to make sure that you describe all your processes the same way. And for that, you need to know how to standardise a business process.
What Is Business Process Standardisation
A business process is a series of steps with a particular goal for your company.
Usually, they’re made up of several moving parts, and there can sometimes be sub-processes within a larger process step. The main goal of the process should be simple enough to communicate to employees or stakeholders, even if it takes numerous moving parts to get there.
Processes should be repeatable, flexible, specific, and measurable.
Repeatable so that multiple people can do it and that it makes sense. Flexible so that unexpected events or troubleshooting can take place. Specific so that you are not trying to do too much at once. And measurable, so you can analyse and evaluate if the process as-is is working.
To evaluate if a process is working correctly and to communicate it with others, business process mapping was developed. By visually having processes laid out, it is easier to find spots where you can change things for improvement.
To get started it is a good idea to map your existing processes, your as-is processes, as they are. A lot of the time you’ll have to ask various team members and yourself what they are doing and when.
From here, you can then also map out a to-be process, including the improvements you want to add, for example, an automation tool, so that you know how it should fit. Once you start using it you can re-evaluate if it is working as intended. However if you haven’t mapped out the process adequately in the first place then your automation objectives are destined to fail.
So once you’ve set this up correctly, and tested your way through it, you can then ensure that your organisation is following a standard approach on how to ensure that the way you capture your processes is regulated. Business process standardisation is making sure that your organisation understands how to map out the steps and how to display that information.
For an easy, everyday example, you can think of ordering at Starbucks as a customer. You go up to the till, tell the worker what you want, give them your name, and wait for your order. This is the standardised process that has since been applied to several other coffee chains and smaller stores.
In the world of B2B, you can think of how you treat your inbound leads. Having a set process for responding to interested prospects, with specific steps and who is in charge of what, is one of the first things any competent business should figure out.
Without having a standardised business process, every interaction can end up being captured differently and thus slowing down operations as well as costing you money and time. Additionally, different people may be applying different approaches, so you will never have clear data on what works well, nor will your customers always go through the same steps.
Without the consistency of standardisation, engaging in business can prove tiring and exhausting to both you and your customers. This will result in loss.
But simply deciding to standardise your business processes is not enough to actually get it done.
Challenges With Business Process Standardisation
Business process standardisation to arrive at best practices is a crucial step for any business, but there are a few innate challenges that companies must overcome in order to achieve it.
The first one is defining the one process to rule them all.
If you have yet to standardise your processes, chances are that you have a situation with too many cooks in the kitchen, each one doing things the way they think is best. Arriving at clear communication is one of the great struggles in business processing and analysis, and conflicting personalities and opinions are just one of the reasons why.
Having one, singular process and ensuring everyone is in agreement without any possibility of different interpretations is a lot harder than it seems at first. Depending on the product you are using to document the process, you are liable to run into the possibility of misinterpretation by those reading the process map. This will only cause confusion and frustration to your team and customers.
Ultimately, you must compromise after reviewing and analysing what everyone is doing.
Unfortunately, compromising will mean that no one will be truly happy.
But even before arriving at a compromise, it takes a long time to gather all the information and engage with subject-matter experts. You must then take what they tell you and capture it in a process map that they sign off on. Stakeholder sign-offs are notoriously difficult to get in a good time frame.
It can take weeks or months of back and forth with them until you have an actual idea of your existing processes. And the longer you wait to standardise it, the more complex and delayed your process will be for yourself, your team, and your customers.
Then the more complex or open to interpretation the process map is, the harder it will be to have anyone agree and sign off on it. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that takes away precious time from you. You aren’t winning hearts and minds with complicated and technical software.
To quickly and efficiently standardise a business process, the way the map is presented has to be engaging and collaborative for all involved parties as well as easy to review, understand and comment on.
Having a particular expertise in certain symbols to truly follow along with a process map is not the way to determine your best practices and have your stakeholders involved.
How to Achieve Standardised Business Processes
The first thing to do to arrive at a standardise business process is to agree on the meaning of your mapping. That way you can build it collaboratively and no one can have differing opinions on what each step means.
You want to have a single source of truth and information you can constantly refer back to instead of conflicting narratives.
At Skore, we favour Universal Process Notation (UPN) for this exact reason. It is simple and has unified, clear meanings, so anyone can follow along without requiring certification or testing. A what box and a why box, along with a responsibility section, answer the two key questions of any step in a process.
As a tool, Skore also makes it easy for anyone to follow along and understand a process map at a glance, as we keep everything neat, organised, and streamlined. Any user with access can contribute and add their part, offering transparency and correct accountability for each task.
Your stakeholders will sign off a lot quicker if they attend one collaborative workshop wherein you map the process at the speed of the conversation. They can easily follow along and understand what you are doing without having to be an expert in process mapping or unclear as to the meanings of your notation.
There are a number of ways that Skore’s guidelines can make your standardisation aims a reality:
- By agreeing a common methodology i.e UPN you are already taking a first step to clear standardised business processes.
- Standardise how roles are displayed in processes (avoid duplicate roles with different wording – acronyms or full role names) – Skore helps support this with our role managers functionality.
- Agreeing a common responsibility model – Skore helps you to define a default model in your diagram template
- Keep the basic data of your processes up to date and informed – when was the process published? Who is the owner? Skore ensures all this information is easily available.
- Design and agree a diagram template and stylesheet to ensure all processes follow the agreed look and feel. (Company branding, logo’s, colours etc) – make sure you have a way to cascade any style changes through every process (Skore’s central management system helps you with this).
- Design & agree a process standards process for editors to reference – consider the standardised way all editors should present information or findings in their processes.
- Agree standardised use of icons to enrich your process maps
- Design & agree a Process Framework or Hierarchy -Skore’s software makes this incredibly easy to do.
Instead of the usual email exchanges or to-ing and fro-ing that results in a weeks-long wait, you can achieve the same result in one focused workshop and standardise your process a lot sooner.
And a standardised process means clarity and revenue for all.
Above all, you can keep all of your processes in one place, building a process library that you or your employees or stakeholders can constantly refer back to or update easily. This ensures that you do not lose out on built knowledge.
You can also keep constantly improving your standardised processes for even more efficiency.
Standardising your business processes is key for you to continue to grow as a business. Without having your best practices outlined and agreed upon, you will simply run into constant problems and spend a lot more time troubleshooting than working on improving your product or service.
But standardising a business process may itself be a complex process.
Not so with Skore.
Our software ensures ease of use for all parties involved, making it easier and quicker than ever before to arrive at a consensus with stakeholders for process consistency.
Interested in seeing how we can help you out?
Get in touch with us, and we’ll get your processes standardised in no time!