I got bitten by a dog recently, and, funnily enough, it gave me the idea for this article.
The dog wasn’t the issue. The problem was having to get 5 vaccines over the course of a month, and my only major compliant is the way patient records are kept and processed at the hospital I went to.
You know how frustrating it is to deal with a business that refuses to use anything made in the last three decades?
Every single time, I had to fill out my name and address again in some tattered paper version of a spreadsheet that got shoved in a filing cabinet. After I’d gone to do that, they were able to confirm that I needed injection 3 because of the paper ‘injection passport’ I got given, and I was sent to pay for this particular session before coming back to queue up again.
Why paper-run businesses are making a big mistake
Like I said, the dog bite didn’t bother me anywhere near as much as how they ran their systems and how that reflected on their customer experience. There are a few problems involved with the way the hospital went about their operations, and these problems apply to any paper-run business:
- Everything had to be handwritten
- Everything had to be stored physically in bulging files
- The only way to move information around the place was by hand
- The same job was done over and over again (in some instances, several times weekly)
And these aren’t just problems with that one hospital… these are problems with every business that doesn’t centralize its information in the cloud because it’s using paper (and it isn’t much better either to work from local files on a computer).
The exact same thing goes when it comes to managing your business process documents…
How are you going to make sure they’re available to everyone? Track revisions? Update them? Distribute copies to entire departments without wasting a ton of ink and paper? See who’s even using them?
The solution is pretty simple, but one that so many businesses I’ve noticed seem adverse to. For these businesses, it’s time to make the switch from paper to business process management software.
What is business process management software?
Business process management software is a tool used to create, update, and distribute process documents. Not only that, it also assists with tracking the executing and automating some elements of the business process. It started out as an enterprise system to integrate siloed applications, work, and data and integrate the movement of data and tasks across teams and departments.
Recently, a new wave of software has been developed to enable small/medium businesses to access the BPM power that enterprises have been using for years.
If you’re wondering at this point what a business process exactly is, it’s a set of instructions that gets executed repeatedly by a designated team or individual. It lays out a plan from start to end that tells you how to achieve a particular goal. This can be anything, from packing a box for delivery to building a new warehouse from scratch. Once you’ve got your processes, you need a way to manage them.
If it’s particularly useful, it won’t just be simply for managing the maintenance of the documents, but it’ll also track runs and activity around the processes, like our tool Process Street does.
To achieve the best possible similar effect without software, you’re going to need a lot of paper, physical space, filing cabinets, labor hours and at least one person with intense organizational skills.
The result will basically be a library of documents, and, every time you change your CRM solution, department head, office block or email provider, hundreds of documents are out of date and need rewriting, printing, filing, labeling, and storing.
Basically, business process management software avoids that kind of time-wasting behavior and lets you focuses on what matters: centralizing up-to-date processes.
Getting started with business process management software
Let’s say you’re an old school paper-reliant business right now. Your processes are maintained in a labyrinthine filing system, the methodology of which is so arcane it’s only truly understood by one person who left the company 20 years ago.
“Customers wouldn’t phrase it this way, but they are demanding from companies in many industries a radical overhaul of business processes. Intuitive interfaces, around-the-clock availability, real-time fulfillment, personalized treatment, global consistency, and zero errors—this is the world to which customers have become increasingly accustomed. It’s more than a superior user experience, however; when companies get it right, they can also offer more competitive prices because of lower costs, better operational controls, and less risk.”
You heard ’em. Time to improve. What’s the first step?
Transferring paper processes to digital
If you’re currently using paper to document your processes, it probably looks something like the process I referenced in the first chapter:
There’s a much better way to use a document like this. A way that isn’t passive, easily overlooked, or untrackable. Instead of using paper, use Process Street.
Here’s the same document written up in the app:
For every time this process needs running, the requester can go into Process Street and run a checklist. The department head can tick off task 2 if it’s approved, and the whole process can be tracked effectively, start to end.
You can even add email templates into the task that can be sent off in one click to the right person:
And, like in the original where a certain member is assigned to the step, you can make sure that’s set up by adding assignees:
Best of all, when it comes to updating it, you don’t need to break into another ream of paper, load up on printer ink and run process updates around the office. You just need to edit the template and changes will be applied to all future processes.
When processes are run — when a new vehicle is purchased, for example — it’s represented as a checklist, like this:
That allows you to run, assign and track every process you own — not just keep it sitting around in a filing cabinet, gathering dust and going out of date before it gets chucked out with the rest of the rubbish.
Make your BPM software do the hard work for you
It’s not like all a BPM tool does is store your standard operating procedures. It’s also used for automating workflows. Traditionally, you’d have those automations running from an on-site server that links to your local network, like this:
Again, you can see it’s not particularly neat and tidy. And running massive servers like that isn’t an option for startups and small businesses, so there’s thankfully another way. A way that involves the cloud.
Our process automation tool of choice (and one that works seamlessly with Process Street) is Zapier. While some apps have support for a handful of integrations, Zapier makes that functionality worthless by connecting over 500 apps together in potentially millions of different ways.
You can automate your marketing efforts by triggering emails and social shares. You can automate document creation and send those documents out to be signed. Zapier saved companies like yours over 14,000,000 hours last year by automating tedious work like data entry and transferral.
Want to learn more about how you can use Zapier? Get a free copy of our ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Business Process Automation with Zapier, and become an automation expert today.
We’ve created the perfect resource to get you saving time and money by automating your business’ processes.
From basic tasks such as saving Gmail attachments into Dropbox to shipping your Salesforce leads into Mailchimp, the Ultimate Guide will guide you through setting up the perfect Zaps to automatically handle the tasks that clog up your schedule.
Plus, with Zapier’s 500+ integrated apps, chances are that your favorite programs are just waiting to be linked!
Better yet, it’s completely free!
In the next chapter, I’m going to be talking about business process reengineering, which is basically the overhaul you do when you find out your processes are complex, inefficient or out of date.