Tuesday 15 February 2022

Golden rules for describing business processes

Work describing processes should be effective, and the developed process diagrams should be used in the activity. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Pitfalls encountered in the description of processes can reduce the effectiveness of this work to zero. In this article, we will tell you how to avoid them.

Most often, the problems of effective description and further use of process diagrams are caused by the human factor. The experience of describing processes in Russian companies has shown that often the staff is not interested in these works. The reason is clear - the description of business processes provides answers to the questions "who does what" and "who is responsible for what". 


This makes the work of the company transparent, controlled by management and manageable. Transparency, first of all, is beneficial to managers, it allows you to stimulate the company's personnel to work more actively for the goals of the organization. 


In addition, the description of business processes allows you to identify the "surplus" of financial, material, time and labor resources. It is not surprising that there are always employees who in any way refuse to disclose real information about the activities of the enterprise.

To reduce such resistance and increase the efficiency of work on the description of business processes, it is recommended to use the following "golden" rules, developed on the basis of practical experience.

Rule 1. Draw up, refine and confirm the schemes of business processes together with their owners (responsible) and executors. Make performers and experts authors of process diagrams.

To work on the description of business processes, it is necessary to actively involve specialists who participate in them and are responsible for the effectiveness of their implementation. First, it will speed up the work and improve the quality of the results, since the participants in the process know it better than others. Secondly, it is on the basis of the developed descriptions that business processes will be optimized in the future. And one of the main rules for the effective implementation of changes is the involvement in the early stages of these works of employees directly involved in the processes, and those whose activities will affect the changes.

More information about the description and optimization of business processes and organizational structure is described in the book "Analyst's Handbook. A practical guide to the design of business processes and organizational structure". The book includes more than 70 examples of the application of methods and tools for describing processes and organization, as well as their optimization.

Rule 2. Use simple and intuitive approaches to describe business processes.

When mass description of business processes and their subsequent analysis, it is recommended to use simple, visual approaches and notations of business process description. These approaches should be understandable both to managers at any level and to ordinary employees who are not deep specialists in the field of business modeling methodologies. The experience of describing business processes (both in Russian and Western companies) has shown that if the approaches and notations of the description of business processes are not clear, then stakeholders lose interest in the process, which jeopardizes the achievement of project goals.

Rule 3. Use language that is understandable to owners and participants in business processes.

When describing business processes, you need to use the language and terminology that are accepted in your organization. Each company has its own specifics, has its own well-established names of business processes, documents and departments. Therefore, it is recommended to use terminology familiar to your company, such process diagrams will be more understandable and recognizable for all participants. This will save a lot of time and effort in their coordination, analysis and optimization.

Rule 4. Create activity diagrams, not organizational structures.

When describing processes, you need to abstract from the existing organizational structure and not use it as a means of highlighting business processes. Business processes should be built on the basis of strategy, and the organizational structure is adjusted to them, but not vice versa. Only when all business processes are described, the organizational structure is "superimposed" on them. If it "does not fit" with the processes, then it is not optimal. If you neglect the rule and use the existing structure as a basis for highlighting processes, then the probability of developing descriptions of processes that do not correspond to the actual situation in the company is quite high.

Example. Where does the "Delivery of goods from the supplier" process end?

In one company, employees described the business process "Delivery of goods from the supplier" and the question arose about the boundaries of the process. One group of specialists suggested that the final boundary should be considered an event when the delivered goods are already on free sale. Another group, the specialists of the purchasing department, who were more involved in the process, believed that the boundary of the process is the event when the goods are purchased and delivered to the warehouse gates. In the second case, the existing organizational structure was used to determine the boundaries of the process. However, at that time it was not clear how this structure is optimal, which means that determining the boundaries of the process on its basis can lead to errors.

Rule 5. Avoid over-detailing processes, especially on the "as is" scheme.

One of the problems that arises when describing business processes is the violation of the optimal level of detail, which, in turn, leads to a significant increase in the amount of work. As a result of excessive detail, project participants are overloaded with information, which ultimately reduces the quality of work.

Rule 6. Avoid scheduling a process for the sake of a schema that does not lead to further analysis and action.

The situation when the emphasis is not on solving problems, but only on the development of process diagrams, is quite common. Many companies that improve business processes often make a typical mistake: they begin to aimlessly describe business processes in the hope that after the development of detailed process diagrams, problems will be identified, and then optimization goals will be formulated and its paths will be determined. Such an approach is ineffective, such a description of the processes, taking a lot of time and effort, often does not give almost any results and in the future can even lead to the rejection of process technologies. Moreover, without outlining the goals of optimization, it is impossible to choose the right approach and methodology of description, tools for analysis and improvement, and it is also impossible to build the right business process scheme that can provide answers to the necessary questions. 

One company described processes to prepare an enterprise for the implementation of an integrated information system. The IDEF0 methodology was used to describe the processes. Specialists involved in the description of processes for a long time solved the controversial issue that arose - what to attribute the consignment note that came with the goods from the supplier when describing the process "Acceptance of goods". Some believed that the invoice was an input to the business process, others considered it management. The dispute took two weeks of working hours, and each of the parties remained unconvinced. Such a time investment could have been avoided if the parties to the dispute had remembered the purpose of the process description.

Rule 7. Do not confuse the concepts of "as is" and "as it should be".

When describing business processes, you can not mix the concepts of "as is" and "as it should be". According to the process optimization technology, first of all it is necessary to describe the process "as is". Therefore, it is necessary to describe only those processes and organizational structure that actually exist, even if they are not optimal. Often, when interviewed, employees whose activities are described begin to get ahead of themselves and tell things that are very different from reality. When asked why they do this, they answer: because, in their opinion, this is how it should be. As a result, the constructed schemes of business processes do not correspond to reality, and this does not make it possible to effectively optimize the processes.

Compliance with these seven "golden" rules for describing business processes will allow you to effectively describe the process, get a useful process diagram, which, in turn, will allow you to solve the tasks that were set for the project.

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