Process Analysis for Small Businesses
Whenever anyone asks me to write some sort of software for them whether it be a website, or an application of any kind I always ask in response, “what problem will this solve for your business?”. Particularly with business websites but also with other types of software for small businesses, this question is something that the client has not spent much time thinking through which then leads to a discussion much along the lines of what this series of posts is going to be about.
At the heart of the question above is business processes. A business process is basically an organized and related group of tasks that are performed to accomplish some goal within the business. Some examples are hiring an employee or billing a customer. Business processes can be defined and documented at varying levels of granularity. Business processes tell you what you do as a business and how you do it. Typically, more attention is given to business processes the larger and more complex your business is. It is fair to say that if you are a small business with 2 to 3 employees that it may not be the most effective use of your time to formally document the processes that you follow but that all depends. I would suggest that if you have more than 3 employees and as you grow in size, it becomes more and more essential for you to have a documented set of business processes that you maintain over time.
Many problems can arise in your business because of the way you are trying to accomplish a goal or complete a task. Maybe you are experiencing low customer satisfaction, this could be because there is an issue with the way you do product quality assurance or maybe you are experiencing high employee turnover rates and therefore you have an issue with a process in human resources. But, if you don’t know what your processes are and how you do them, it can be quite difficult to identify the root cause and solve these problems.
Technology is merely a tool, like a pair of pliers or a drill. Each tool you have in your toolbox has its own purpose, it wouldn’t make sense to use a pair of pliers to try and drill a screw into a piece of drywall, while it would be possible, it would probably take a lot of time and the end result would be less than desirable. There are other tools better suited to solve that particular problem. The same is true when it comes to technology. For example, if you are struggling to build your customer base you might think that a website will solve this problem because it will give your business much more exposure. While that may be the case, there may be other tools more important for solving this problem before a website ever makes sense. For example, your brand, if you’re brand strategy is lacking, those deficiencies will transfer to any website that you build and your problem will persist. You might also find that there is a more pressing problem that needs to be solved before you start to use technology to improve the way you work. This proactive and prioritized understanding of your business issues can’t really take place as easily if you don’t have an overview of what you do and how you do it.
So when you decide as a small business that you think you need a website, you should first ask what problem will the website solve for my business before you go off and pay someone a lot of money to build you a tool that may not actually add that much value to your business.
You may be asking, so how do I answer that question? Well, that is what this series of blog posts is going to be about. You need to first understand what it is that you do as a business. Then you need to understand how you do it. Only when you have this information clearly documented will you be able to best answer how to solve the problems that your business is facing. This is what business process analysis is all about.
Quite often it is thought that Business Process Analysis only really makes sense for large business with multi million dollar budgets. I don’t think that is the case. If done correctly, business process analysis can add a lot of value and it can be done at a reasonable price. Stay tuned for future posts that get into how this all works for a small business.