On September 23, 1999, NASA’s $193 million Mars Climate Orbiter was obliterated 57km above the surface of Mars.
What caused such a catastrophic event? Badly implemented processes.
“The problem here was not the error; it was the failure of NASA’s systems engineering, and the checks and balances in our processes, to detect the error. That’s why we lost the spacecraft.”
—Edward Weiler, NASA associate administrator for space science
Despite all of NASA’s precautions, preparatory research and technical developments, the deviation from standard procedure for making sure their units were consistently imperial or metric was what resulted in the disastrous calculation error responsible for the loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter, and in turn huge amounts of time, money, and material resources.
In 2004, global research and advisory firm Gartner published a study of 150 BPM implementations, finding that 95% of projects undertaken by these companies were successful, compared to a rate closer to 25% for non-BPM projects. That’s an improvement of 70% for those companies prioritizing process implementation!
What’s more, 80% of the respondents felt an increase in competitive advantage and claimed that BPM’s value was higher than enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and supply chain management (SCM).
Relatively speaking, whilst the data may be dated, these examples remain clear indicators of the importance of implementing processes when undertaking any kind of project, and certainly for anyone considering how they might start implementing processes in their business.
If you aren’t implementing processes, you’re setting yourself up for failure
The statistics speak for themselves.
Simply put, the success rate is higher because the costs are lower, the implementation window is smaller, and there is less room for uncertainty and error at every step of the process, from start to finish.
It’s clear what you stand to gain by applying the proven methodology of implementing processes to your business, but for anyone who isn’t already familiar, it can be difficult to know how exactly to begin breaking this problem down into more digestible chunks.
In this article, my goal is to provide a well-rounded introduction to how to start implementing processes using Process Street, simplifying the “process implementation process” into three core parts, according to principles of the Lean continuous process improvement cycle:
- pre-implementation (plan),
- implementation (execute),
- re-implementation (review).
The final stage illustrated in the image above, “identify”, is characterized by the continuous search for opportunities for improvement throughout each of the stages of the whole process.
By following this structure of process design and optimization, the end result is processes that are robust, immediately useful and continuously improving.
At Process Street, our job is constantly building and optimizing processes, so we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a good process tick. Even if you’re already using processes in one way or another, you might pick up a few pieces of useful information from this article.
Pre-implementation: Planning and process building
First things first, before you start using processes to improve success rates (or do anything at all, for that matter) you have to actually build them.
This is what I’ll be calling the “pre-implementation” stage; basically planning and making decisions that lead to a streamlined and well-designed process.
Bottom line: start with a strong foundation and take time to build your process efficiently, and you’ll benefit in the long run.
Picking your processes
So, one of the most important, and also one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is deciding on which processes to prioritize.
A quick litmus test you can do, is to consider which tasks you’ve ever had to do more than once, and then consider the most commonly occurring of those. These are ripe processes to be implemented!
However, not all recurring tasks will need standardized processes implementing, and this is where you have to make a decision about which processes to prioritize for your business.
For example, Gartner’s BPM maturity model assessment indicates that 75% of organizations attempting to implement processes often neglect to identify the new business outcomes that those processes should support, resulting in blanket process implementation, regardless of whether or not there is a valid business reason.
In short, try to make sure each of your processes are tied to a specific business outcome.
Perhaps you want to standardize your client onboarding process, or supercharge a specific marketing process; these kinds of processes are more valuable than, say, spending a week developing the perfect process for automating happy birthday emails.
Break em’ down
Once you’ve decided which processes you want to implement, your first job is to record those processes by breaking them down into clear and distinct tasks, ideally ones that aren’t too complicated.
You can do this by writing each task down as a list on paper, or inside of a word document, or you could use Process Street to create your own process template.
In Process Street, templates are like blueprints for your processes, and getting started is easy. If you haven’t already, go ahead and create a free account here; it should only take about two minutes.
However you decide to record your process at this point, a single action for each task is ideal. If you can start off each task with a command, even better.
For example, check out the way the tasks in this Process Street checklist are set out:
This helps to give anyone following the process (who isn’t the person that built it) as clear an idea as possible of what they have to do to complete that specific task.
A good process should be easy to follow, and should be broken down enough that any ambiguity between tasks is eliminated.
Remember, at this point, the age old dictum that form follows function rings true; once you’ve got your process down in its basic form, you can run it and make improvements as you test it out.
That’s one of the great things about Process Street – it’s super easy to quickly build your processes so you can get straight to testing them out, deploying them straight to your teams.
From there, you can easily iterate on them by editing the template and running new checklists.
Which ties us neatly into the next stage of implementing processes: deployment.
Implementation: Putting the process to work
Implementing a new process involves getting it to the point where it’s actionable, and then having it “acted on”, so to speak.
That can mean many things in practice, from running through each bullet point you’ve just jotted down in your notebook, to having everyone on your remote team follow a numbered list in a shared Google Doc, but in Process Street, to implement a process, you run it as a checklist.
From here, you can assign the whole process (in the form of a checklist) to whoever has to do the job, or assign tasks within a checklist to specific people.
For example, you might want to assign your team members to a specific checklist and be able to track their progress and activity as they work.
Assignments can also be scaled by using groups to assign both regular and scheduled checklists across multiple user permissions at once.
Zooming in a bit, you can even assign users and groups to individual tasks in your checklists, making it easy to see who is responsible for what task.
Process Street is like a control panel for your processes
Checklists use form fields to effortlessly collect data as your team completes tasks.
This data can be viewed in-app or exported to .CSV, but the real power is in using one of Process Street’s 1,000+ integrations to send that data to almost all of the apps that you probably already use as part of your daily workflow.
Now that you have a process up and running, you can see where it might need some tweaking. Each time a process is run, you can learn from that, and you can use what you learned to improve that process.
This leads us to our final stage, where focus shifts from a base function to a more refined form.
Re-implementation: Fine-tuning and optimizing the process
We’ve built our first process, we’ve implemented it, now it’s time to improve it.
This section I’m calling “re-implementation” because it deals with everything that comes after the first time a process is implemented, including tweaks and optimizations made to improve the process, and re-implementing the new and improved processes that result from those efforts.
Process Street tip: check out our process for optimizing a process checklist.
One of the first things you can do when assessing how a specific process is performing, is to look at Process Street’s Template Overview section.
In short, it allows you to quickly see whether the checklist is active, archived or completed, an overview of which tasks are completed and which aren’t, checklist creation and due date, form field data, and more within a single handy spreadsheet format, all conveniently located within the Process Street app.
Check process performance with the Template Overview
An example of how you might use this is to look for checklists that have incomplete tasks where the checklist itself is marked as complete.
This could be a sign of a weak process that ends prematurely, for example the case of a cold-calling checklist that is frequently left incomplete due to customer hang-ups.
Whatever the cause of the problem, this presents an opportunity to focus in and improve the process at a specific point.
Thankfully, Process Street is designed to make it easy for you to rapidly change and update templates at any time, meaning an agile turnaround for the implementation of both new processes and process improvements.
Simply edit the master template for a process, and all of the instances (checklists) of that process template will be updated automatically, including the live ones.
All of your team members that have been assigned to the checklist in question will also see the updates as well.
When looking at how you might improve a process, consider how you can simplify that process for the person who will be running it.
This may involve eliminating confusing steps and ambiguous tasks from the mix.
Use conditional logic to streamline your processes
Process Street uses conditional logic to streamline workflows and reduce unnecessary complexity in any given process.
For example, you have a process for client onboarding. Within that process, there is a task for adding a new client CRM profile.
However, some of your clients may already exist in your CRM, so you’d benefit from using conditional logic to only show this task when you indicate it’s necessary.
Therefore you save time and eliminate the risk of confusion arising for someone running the process in future. Conditional logic basically helps you cut the fat, making your processes leaner, and easier to follow.
Optimize your processes with dynamic due dates
Dynamic and task due dates are another feature of Process Street checklists that offer huge potential for process optimization.
When a task is due, anyone assigned to that task will be sent an email reminder.
Once overdue, it will turn red so anyone assigned will know it’s time to either complete the task or update the due date.
Toyota is a great example of a company that employs the idea of continuous improvement and optimization to their processes, as part of their lean process ethos.
For instance, they use the Japanese word “muda” to identify waste, and to recognize that what constitutes waste is contingent on your situation:
This is apparent in the video above, which shows how they are re-purposing Toyota Camry batteries to support solar power initiatives around Yellowstone National Park.
For more ideas on how you could improve your processes, check out our article on continuous improvement.
Automation: the final frontier
If you’re interested in learning more about how to achieve automation through implementing processes, check out our ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Business Process Automation.
With the power of integrations, you can build out your processes across all areas of your business and maximize efficiency through automation.
McKinsey estimates that about half of the work in your business could be automated, with Forrester predicting that it can cut operating costs by up to 90%.
Whether you use LinkedIn, Buffer, Asana, or MailChimp, every app has processes which can be automated to cut down on the amount of time you spend on menial tasks that are taking the focus away from your main business goals.
So what are you waiting for? Create your Process Street account today and find out how much more work you and your team could finish with double the time, and near double the resources.
What are some of the ways you implement processes in your business? Have you learned any harsh lessons in your experience with implementing processes? Let us know in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!
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