When starting a business, growing your business with process management is almost certainly not the first thing on your mind. First, you have to develop the product, win over customers, and in many cases, survive before your cash runs out. In this context, a young company often cannot plan everything in advance, as the focus is on finding creative solutions for situations you have never been in before.
Over time, and with some early successes, every business begins to settle into a rhythm. Certain activities and requirements are repeated: at some point, you will have sold your product ten times, for example. And each time, your customer expects the delivery on time, with excellent service, as well as an invoice when they need it, and their resulting payment accepted and recorded promptly.
The first couple of times, you will find the best way to solve a situation in an ad-hoc manner. In fact, these first times you may actually have fun reinventing the solution again and again; after all, there are so many ways to handle the purchase order, so many new and creative ways to issue invoices and take care of them in accounting—if you even have an accounting department. But with the third misunderstanding, the fifth delay, and the ninth customer complaint, you will ask yourself why things can’t run more smoothly.
Most companies start small, but very few plan to stay that way. Growth is the driving force for most organizations, as they seek to take advantage of new markets, new opportunities, and new ways to leverage economies of scale. Growth is the engine of the broader economy as well, albeit with an increasing understanding that unlimited or unsustainable growth comes at a cost to the environment, living standards, and other non-economic factors.
But for a small business starting out, or a large business hoping to become larger, sustainable and supportable growth is necessary. Of course, this kind of growth is only possible if the organization itself can demonstrate the twin requirements of scalability and repeatability.
Scalability requires you to maintain the same level of productivity during growth, even as the actual quantum of production increases—think of it as delivering at least doubling your output (in products, services, satisfied customers, etc.) if your input (raw materials, requests for services, customer inquiries, etc.) is also doubled. Repeatability means delivering the same high-quality products or services in the same way, each time.
The key to scalability and repeatability? A common procedure that can be repeated over and over, while also being clear enough to operate at higher and higher capacity over time. In other words, you need a process. In order to get the most out of your processes, and therefore your business, you need to be growing your business with process management.
As soon as a given task within your business happens often enough, you will automatically start developing initial rules or guidance on how to handle it. At first, checklists, structured notes, or even verbal briefings from more experienced staff, are how this process knowledge is passed on.
Of course, as a business pursues growth, this information needs to be standardized and distributed more widely.serve as a more structured form of capturing process knowledge. By following the standard notation, the most relevant information about a process will come together automatically. In this way, growing your business with process management becomes easier each time you identify, map, and standardize a process.
For example, if you are scaling from one customer support person to a team of five customer support people, you have to ensure that all five employees can actually work productively. The knowledge about how to deal with typical customer interactions, and the solutions available to employees to offer customers, must be consolidated into a single process, to be followed no matter the employee, and no matter the customer. That way, not only the first five additional employees can benefit, but the five after that, then the next ten, then the next hundred, and so on.
If this sounds unnecessarily rigid or inflexible, remember that a process only describes the repeatable stuff. Growing your business with process management is a creative task as much as a structured one. It specifically leaves room for freedom, including finding innovative solutions, as it leaves uncommon scenarios undefined. In the same way, a process model allows for ongoing optimization, as you will be able to handle typical cases faster and better if you continuously improve your processes.
An innovative business idea is a good starting point for a company, but excellent execution—ensuring your business is scalable and repeatable—is just as important. Fortunately, there is no such thing as ‘starting too early’ with a strong process management framework. Theoffers a range of tools to support businesses from the smallest start-up, to global players looking to jump-start their next period of growth.
If you’d like to know more about how Signavio’s collaborative approach to process management and optimization can help your business, download your free guide to bringinginto your organization. Or, if you’re ready to get started, why not sign up for a free with Signavio today?