Does business process management immediately make you think of large corporate structures? With armies of people working together like clockwork with each cog meshing perfectly with the others? As processes tick through to completion, workflow improves. In addition, productivity increases, overhead shrinks, and customer service improves. But why shouldn’t process management SMB style make these advantages be available for small and medium businesses too?
Companies that implement BPM benefit from as much as a 41 percent increase in ROI within one year, according to AIIM research.Brian Hughes
Size Matters, Especially When Your Business is Smaller
SMBs have similar needs to those of bigger enterprises. In some ways, SMB needs for process management are acuter. This is because they do not have the levels of resources, the granularity of resources, or economies of scale of larger organizations. Enhanced process management can compensate in many ways. Examples are:
- Hiring and training. A sound process for onboarding and bringing employees up to speed offers two major advantages. You avoid mistakes and you save time and energy by not having to rethink the whole activity each time.
- Profitability. Good process management exposes inefficiencies. You can spot wastes of time and other resources and eliminate them. Less waste means lower costs and higher profits.
- Company image. Do you want to convince a prospective major account to do business with you, persuade your bank to extend financing possibilities, or even sell your company? Being able to demonstrate solid processes and process management can significantly boost the attractiveness of your company to all these entities.
The Need for Alternatives to Paper or Programming
Historically, business process management was linked to company IT systems. Specific tools were created, such as Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) and Business Process Management Notation (BPMN). Business users “talked” BPEL and BPMN to specify to IT teams how they wanted IT systems to manage processes. On-premise solutions had relatively high price tags and required consultants and specialists to get results.
The more affordable alternative for smaller companies was the use of paper-based systems. Many of these are still in operation today. However, if the paper document doing the rounds gets lost (aka buried in somebody’s in-tray), the process breaks down. When the process is in operation, there is no easy way to know how far it has progressed or to accelerate it. Indeed, the waiting time for tasks in physical in-trays or queues accounts for as much as 90% of the total time to accomplish the process.
Making Business Process Management Intuitive and Accessible
Cloud computing and easy, pay-as-you-go access to cloud-based service have radically changed the technical context. Tallyfy leverages cloud accessibility to offer process management SMB organizations can use immediately, without capital investment or specialist involvement. Features that make it easy for SMBs to start or improve their process management include:
- Intuitive graphical interface. Properly simplified and streamlined BPM makes it obvious how to define a process, run it, and improve it. Most SMBs have neither the in-house expertise nor the inclination to use any kind of programming language. Tallyfy eliminates such complexity right from the start.
- Natural, “speed of thought” BPM. The way you think about your business process maps directly onto the way you define it in the application. Terms used for activities and objects correspond to those you use every day. So do any choices to be made within the process when it is running.
- Dashboards. BPM works best when businesses can easily see processes in action, track progress, and immediately resolve any issues or performance bottlenecks.
- Integration with other SMB tools and systems. Some SMBs function with PC-based word-processing and spreadsheet tools, like MS Word and Excel. Others use server-based systems and applications from vendors like Oracle and SAP. With Tallyfy, the same ease of use is available for business process management that uses different levels of IT sophistication, with integration to leverage existing IT resources.
- Mobility. BPM should also be available to employees working off-site, plus those simply using mobile computing devices (smartphones or tablets.)
Applying Process Management to SMB
One challenge in putting BPM to work effectively in SMBs is to make necessary changes to attitude and behavior of staff inside the SMB. The process management SMB mindset can be inflexible. This is especially true in companies where in-house experts feel close to the processes they know and operate. Thus, it may be difficult to change a culture or “the way we do things around here.” Patience and persistence will be your allies, plus a process itself to help bring conscious, constructive BPM into the smaller business:
- Identify processes and the rules by which they work.
- Select one of the processes to start with. A quick win that brings visible and meaningful advantage may be a good choice.
- Start with a first draft and add or modify rules as required. If you find processes becoming too lengthy (double-digit numbers of steps is one indicator), try defining sub-processes.
- Iterate with additional processes and improvement as required.
Leveraging BPM Knowhow and Tools
There is also a good chance that somebody somewhere has already tackled the kind of process improvement that could benefit your business. Tallyfy offers information on many of the use cases that are relevant to SMBs. Client and employee onboarding, sales processes, safety checks, project initiation, and compliance are just some examples.
In addition, whether your existing processes are as efficient as you would like, they also represent an important body of knowledge. In SMBs, knowledge about processes is often held in the company owner’s or employees’ heads. With Tallyfy, you can easily transfer and document your knowledge, by recreating the processes directly on the screen as easily as you would write them down on paper.
Scaling Business Process Management for Growth in your SMB
If profitability is the highest priority for SMBs, growth is often right behind. Thus, business process management must, therefore, scale with company operations. Ongoing adjustment, improvement, and extension should be possible at any time, without having to suspend the process or activity while changes are made. However, remember that common sense and sound business thinking must always underpin business process definition. BPM applied to bad processes will only make the poor performance happen faster. On the other hand, SMBs that apply a system like Tallyfy to build and manage sound business processes lay the foundation for solid business and growth.
Are you an SMB or startup that’s making good use of BPM? Let us know how down in the comments!