There are always unspoken yet assumed norms at any company, such as: Friday is casual dress day, don’t park in the CEO’s parking spot or don’t drink your coworker’s cold brew in the fridge. These assumptions can be great for low-risk situations, but the problem with assumed norms is that they are far too open for interpretation.

A business process should definitely not fall under the umbrella of an assumed norm. Quite the opposite actually. It should be clearly defined, repeatable, improvable and regularly reported on.

Regardless of business model or industry, clearly defining processes is important to set your team on the right track. Then, ensuring you keep tabs on the effectiveness of the process through automated reporting allows you to continually improve the process.

Ensuring Your Process is Clearly Defined

Having your processes committed to memory is fine, but sharing those processes and identifying any potential pitfalls is difficult when they’re not written down or recorded.

The first step is to make sure that all components of your processes are clearly defined.

Let’s say your process for granting new customers access to your membership site has six steps. You have to process their credit card payment, put them on a recurring billing cycle, update their customer file, create login credentials, send a confirmation email and then mail them a welcome gift. Great. But what happens when you’re getting 50 new members a day and one of those tasks falls through the cracks? You want to make sure that each step is clearly documented with details on how to complete each one.

When defining a process, there are seven key components to keep in mind. A process should be:

  • Predictable: To ensure consistency in the products or services you deliver, there must be “a way” you do it every single time. This creates a repeatable and consistent customer experience.
  • Delegatable: With clear systems in place for all ongoing business tasks, delegating the responsibility of a task becomes easy, without having to micromanage it.
  • Measurable: When a process is completed the same way each time, you are able to gather consistent data over time. This way, you can see when everything is operating normally, when something is wrong, and when it’s time to step in and make changes.
  • Improvable: With established processes, you have the ability to create a measurably better business over time by using the one strategy that is time-tested and proven to work in all businesses: trial and error.
  • Scalable: Once you have systems that are predictable, measurably working and clear enough that you can delegate them successfully, doing more becomes a simple matter of allocating more resources.
  • Automatable: When a process is clearly defined and understood, it opens up the door to automation. Automation platforms exist to automate manual and time-consuming processes to help you successfully grow your business.  
  • Sellable: Processes ARE your business. To a prospective buyer, systems that are documented in detail and easy to follow create value for your business.

Using Automation to Streamline Tasks

Once you get into the routine of accurately defining your processes, you will have the information you need to successfully identify roadblocks and streamline your tasks.

A good place to start is identifying the steps within your processes that take the longest amount of time to complete. Going back to our example of a membership site onboarding process, say you discovered that mailing the welcome gift was the most time-consuming manual step. Rather than just accepting it, the question becomes: Is there a way to use automation to reduce the time it takes to accomplish that step? The answer is often yes.

Business process automation platforms offer tools such as automated fulfillment lists that can streamline the task of mailing out that gift. You could set up your process to automatically send each new member’s mailing information to the fulfillment center or person who is mailing the welcome gifts. This ensures that every customer receives a consistent experience, while reducing the time it takes to provide that experience. And that’s just one isolated example.  

Of course, not every process is automatable, but for those that are, employing business process automation software to run things can take the burden off you and your team so the business runs more efficiently and reliably.

Using Reporting to Continually Improve

Creating a successful process is more than just documenting the steps involved in executing a task — it’s understanding the process as a whole, including the results that it produces. One of the most overlooked components of process creation is reporting. In fact, reporting is where most business find the gaping holes in their processes.

Reporting encompasses categories such as who the process should be reported to, what is expected to be seen in the report, and what designates a success, a failure and more.

Continually reporting on the results of a process can be extremely time-consuming if you’re doing it manually — especially as your business grows. Successfully incorporating automation tools into your process reporting can increase your efficiency and identify if the results of your process are underperforming.

Going back to our previous example of onboarding new members to your membership site, let’s say you weren’t keeping track of the number of logins your website got each week. You might not notice if that number started to trickle off as engagement for new customers went down. By incorporating automated reporting tools into your processes, you would be able to easily monitor that number and know immediately when to take action.

A metrics dashboard is a reporting tool that generates a customizable display of your business statistics. These stats are updated in real time to give you an in-depth overview of what’s happening live in your business. You can consolidate all of your most important metrics onto one display panel, to manage the reporting of multiple processes at once. You can track conversion rates, email open rates, web page visits, conversion times or any other statistics pertinent to your processes.

When you define, automate and report on your processes regularly, you’ll ensure everything is running consistently and optimally and no longer have a team chaotically working based solely off of assumed norms.

About Tatiana Doscher
Campaign Strategist Tatiana Doscher is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a dual B.A. in Communication and Global Studies. After working with several small and local businesses, Tatiana joined Ontraport’s Marketing team. She loves running, hiking and enjoying Santa Barbara’s beautiful beaches.