Small businesses often stand to gain from adopting some of the practices of larger companies. So it is with "business process mapping", this week's topic. But what is business process mapping, and how can it help the small business to grow and prosper?
At a fundamental level, all businesses can be viewed simply as a collection of activities, albeit of varying complexity, frequency and duration. Sure, most organisations have access to resources of one kind or another (assets, people, technology, finance), but a defining characteristic of a business is that such resources are not merely owned, but applied to certain economic ends; the manufacture of products, the provision of services - whatever trade it pursues.
It is therefore helpful for the business owner periodically to analyse, and assess the efficiency and effectiveness of, the various activities that go on within the business; in other words, to "map" and evaluate the "business processes". Process mapping can reveal areas of inefficiency; identify unnecessary activities; suggest better or more cost-effective ways to get things done; provide a useful way to train staff; and encourage a greater understanding of how your business works and how and where everyone fits into the big picture.
Even very small businesses can undertake a wide array of activities, so it is sometimes useful to start the process mapping exercise with a "high level" view and then break down the overall activity into smaller steps. One common approach splits business activities into three categories, "management", "operational" and "supporting" processes. However you choose to do it, the important point is to have a systematic way of analysing the activities that go on in your business.
Consider each of the following areas of activity, all of which will probably be relevant to your small business at least to some degree. Then ask yourself; what are the key processes within each area of activity; what is the objective or purpose of each process; does each step within each process add value to your customers; is there a better way to achieve the end objective?
- Product/ service delivery
- Sales & marketing
- Finance & accounting
- Human resources
- Product/ service development
For example, Human Resources might break down into a number of sub-processes; recruitment, development, reward, or discipline of employees, perhaps. Going one step further, the recruitment sub-process (for example) might involve a series of steps; identifying a resource gap, advertising, shortlisting, interviewing and assessment, selection, offer, perhaps. The analysis becomes meaningful at the level of detail of the individual process and the steps within it.
Business process mapping requires a degree of skill and expertise to apply correctly; the insights offered by thorough process mapping and assessment, however, can often deliver big efficiency and profitability gains for the small business. If you feel this might benefit your small business, give us a call.