Companies have numerous business processes and activities that work together in a system to deliver products and services. Some business processes are critical for business operations, and service delivery and those processes specify the detailed steps to follow, requirements to meet, control measures and responsibility of individuals. It is important that businesses document their business processes either as a process map or procedure or work instruction.
The following are few significant benefits of documenting a business process:
- Meet Compliance with applicable legal, statutory and other requirements
- Operational needs are met through policies and procedure
- Maintaining Organisational knowledge
- Effective implementation of internal controls
- Better risk management
- Provide opportunities for continual improvement
- Used for training and communication
- Reduce business continuity risks
As per the ISO management system standard, your business is required to describe the processes and their interaction within the business. A typical business process is a simple set of activities that converts the input to an output. All ISO management system standards promote the adaptation of a process approach when developing, implementing and improving an effective management system. Below is a schematic representation of the elements a single process (ISO 9001 Standard)
Tip: It is recommended to identify potential risks and opportunities while drawing the process map. These identified risks can be managed to improve overall business performance.
There are different ways to document a business process based on the level of information required. It can either be a process map (flowchart or mind map) or procedure or work instruction / Standard operating procedure. Each type of documentation has its pros and cons.
It is a visual representation of the business process. A process map is usually drawn as a flowchart that shows a high-level view of the business activity/process. A process map is a workflow diagram that provides a clear understanding of the activities (both series and parallel), interdependencies and control points. As mentioned earlier, a process map usually carried less detail and only provides a helicopter view of the process and its activities. Swimlane type (as shown below) of process maps are favourite among process maps. There are many software applications such as MS Visio, Powerpoint, Business Process Mapping, Promapp and Tallyfly.
- Easily to understand
- Visual representation of business process
- High level view of the key activities and stakeholder involved in a process
- Require special skills to draw process flowchart
- Require understanding of basis flowchart shapes
- Need of system software tools to draw
- Not easy to update or carry frequent changes
- Less detail in only presented in a process map.
Procedures are documented information that shows detailed steps required to perform an activity within a process. A typical procedure provides step-by-step instruction on how to complete an action. It is quite common that procedures are written in word format that documents scope, objective, procedural steps, reference to applicable requirement and other documents and responsibilities. In some cases, a process map is part of the procedure document.
Examples: Procedure for internal audit, Purchasing procedure, Training procedure etc.
- Easily to understand
- Detailed information on each step in the activity
- Easy to update and make change when required
- Easy to control the document
- No special skill required to write a procedure
- Sometimes lengthy and difficult to understand quickly
- Time consuming to document all the steps in detail
Work instructions are quite similar to procedures, and it has more detail than a procedure. Work instruction usually provides detail on the step that needs to be carried by the responsible person within a particular activity. Work instructions are also called as a standard operating procedure, and its primary purpose is to help someone do their job tasks correctly according to the requirement set by the organisation.
Examples: Using a laser cutting machine, testing work instruction, steps in handling customer feedback etc.
Your business process can document the business process either as a process map or procedure or work instruction. The data obtained from the documented processes can significantly help the business in strategy development, resource utilisation and improvement.