Business Processes 6 of 6: Strengthening Business Processes

At the least, organizations can strengthen business processes by documenting them.

Despite a wide call in industry for “capturing knowledge” so that others can learn from it, even in the largest organization, easily captured material—like business processes—go undocumented.  This lack of documentation results in inconsistencies, unmet expectations, and many similar sorts of avoidable problems.

Because documenting processes takes time and most people cannot easily quantify the benefit of the documentation, many organizations avoid doing so.  In small organizations that have few workers, that might be understandable.  But the problem arises in large organizations, too, especially processes in individual departments.

In other instances, organizations document the processes but either fail to inform all stakeholders that the documentation exists or, worse, the documentation does not match the process as people perform it.  In some cases, that’s because the person who documented the process wrote it as the process should be performed, not as it actually is performed.  In most cases, however, that’s because no one updated the process as characteristics of it changed.

At the most, organizations can strengthen their business processes by regularly reviewing them to find opportunities for improvement.  Several types of improvement exist:

  • Corrections, which fix problems in the process.  For example, a request for educational records might require that people submit a form that no longer exists.  A correction would address that problem.
  • Process improvements, which refer to performing the process more effectively or efficiently.  For example, universities often can shorten registration times by moving some or all of the process online.

That raises another type of process improvement: improvements from technology. For example, Learning Management Content Systems let instructional designers easily find and reuse content.  As a result, some organizations changed policies to require that instructional designers look for content in the Learning Content Management System before authorizing the creation of new content.

Similarly, Content Management Systems automate the process of reviewing draft documents and automatically publish content after it receives management approval.  As a result, review processes required changes.

In other instances, process improvements primarily involve strengthening the documentation of decision making criteria.  For example, a current process might merely indicate that a senior manager approves all product training and documentation.  An improved process might state under which situations the senior manager would approve the draft training and documentation, and under which situations the senior manager would not.

  • Service improvements, which refer to ways to personalize the process to the needs of the recipient.  For example, Subway restaurants found a way to let customers create their own sandwiches while still offering consistent service.

Organizations look for these improvements by going through the process, step-by-step, and asking, how can we do this more effectively and efficiently, or to better serve our customers?

But they should also ask, “How will various stakeholders—executives, suppliers, customers, Subject Matter Experts and, of course, our own instructors and technical communicators feel about the change?”  Anticipating, soliciting, and addressing concerns among staff plays a significant role in successfully improving processes and is called change management, because it involves successfully introducing and shepherding the improved process.

For example, many instructional groups faced serious resistance when introducing Learning Management and Learning Content management systems because they significantly changed well-understood processes.  Some people just did not want to change; others were afraid that they  could not change.

Many technical communication groups have faced similar resistance to Content Management Systems.

© Copyright 2012. Saul Carliner. All rights reserved.  If sharing or excerpting, should be properly cited.


About idmodelsandprocesses

Exploring, reporting, teaching, and advising on learning and communication for the workplace and consumers.
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