About business processes IV. - Steps, decisions, responsible, deadlines

Back to the drawing board!

One pillar of your company's well - being is that you, as a leader and company owner are able to see through your company's operations and day to day tasks. In order to achieve this, even in case of simple processes, it is important to clearly define activities, therefore it becomes possible to broadly see through what is happening in the company's life.

Such activities shall be recorded, possibly in a written form. From such records it becomes immediately visible what is going on in your company and why. Also, these records shall give you information about responsibilities - viz. who does what in your firm.  A record like this may look like the following:


  • Sales: Personal sales, based on incoming customer requests. Process: make contact, issue offer, personal iterations, contracting. Approvals of offers and contracts as needed. Responsible: Carl, Mary and John.
  • Marketing and advertising: Online ads, website management, Facebook Ads, blogging, PR management, direct mail campaigns, seasonal campaigns. Preparing brochures, cards, accessories for exhibitions. Tender management. Responsible: Jane
  • Design and workmanship: Technical planning for offers, cost analysis, deadline setup. Responsible: George. Managing materials, production and logistics. Responsible: Bob.
  • Accounting: Filing and forwarding incoming invoices. Bookkeeping, payroll, cost accounting. Writing and forwarding outgoing invoices. Posting. Responsible: Lisa and Kate.
  • Management: Managing all previous areas, setting aims and follow-up of achievements. Keeping contact with key partners and VIP customers. Approving invoices, costs and investments. Professional supervision of operations. Participating at exhibitions, conferences, events. Giving interviews and expert opinions to the press. Responsible: Michael.


And the list could go on, depending on the size and complexity of your company. It goes without saying that even in case of mid - sized companies, it is really hard to identify who exactly does what from day to day. Therefore it is needed to involve colleagues and advisors in this process. Doing it this way is beneficial from more aspects: First, involving your people will increase their satisfaction and therefore might perform better. Second, if you also have and expert opinion in the definition of your operations, there will be much less related pitfalls in the future. (eg. ineffective operations due to poor process definition)



Processes in detail

The next step is defining the above processes in detail. It will take more time, effort and know-how, but the result will speak for itself as these details will make a difference between chaos and organized operations in your company. (The devil in the details...) So it really worth to perform such detailed analysis.

It is practical to begin with the most obvious process: by analyzing your own activities in your company! Think through what is your exact role in the activities you are involved in. How could you be more efficient? How could you realize more added value to your company? What are the previous and the following activities before and after your part? For example, in case you have to approve or decline an invoice, what do you do exactly? How the invoice reaches you? How you forward the approved invoice? And so on.

Let's see an invoice approval example, using the previous names and functions.


Steps, decisions, deadlines

So the company owner - Michael  - shall approve an incoming  invoice. What happens?

  1. Lisa or Kate sends the invoice to be approved to Michael for approval by email.
  2. Michael examines if the invoice and identifies if they are payable or not.
  3. In case the invoice in not payable for any reason, Michael declines it. In case the invoice is payable, Michael examines the values included in the invoice.
  4. In case Michael finds any problem with the invoice, he sends it back to Kate or Lisa and might ask them to correct or explain the invoice contents. (Of course the ladies shall do the necessary discussions with the client regarding the issue)
  5. In case Michael finds that everything is in order with the invoice, he approves the payment for example by sending a confirmation e-mail to either Kate or Lisa.
  6. After the invoice is paid, Michael have no further tasks related to the invoice. At the same time the process does not end here as Kate or Lisa still have many tasks with the invoice eg. recording it in the accounting system, notifying the client or others.


The above simple approval process shows that participants and decisions shall be specified to keep your process running. Different decisions can be made during the process, eg. I approve or I deny the payment, and there can be many grounds for such decisions. Also, deadlines are involved in the process, as all invoices contain payment deadlines - and within that timeframe all approval and related processes shall be completed.

Based on such logic, all operations in your company can - and shall - be reviewed. This method might not be a perfectly professional approach to business process mapping, however, it delivers transparency to you as the owner that will have instantaneous  positive impacts. Such transparency is not only beneficial for you as the owner and the company as a whole, but to all your colleagues, as they will be able to better understand their role in achieving corporate goals. Inadequate and useless steps can be eliminated this way and work efficiency of all departments involved will be increased.

All in all, mapping company processes it is worth to take a look at the big picture first, then go into details involving all colleagues and participants. Therefore, it will be clear which goal is achieved through what steps and the timeframes required to complete goals and sub - tasks will be defined. Also, decisions involved in certain processes will be clear and therefore, responsibilities can be distributed optimally.


Coming up next

In our next post we will review process modeling and see how to draw processes and how is it efficient to picture more complex processes while keeping it transparent and understandable. Also, inadequate steps will be clearly visible this way and their correction can be made right away, so stay with us!