In this post, we will look at how Assistants can learn to improve business processes. Have you ever taken time to analyse your business processes, or do you just ‘do’ them without thinking? Do you ever notice any of your teams’ processes that are a bit clunky?
Earmarking some time to document your processes is such a valuable exercise, and you can then think about how to improve them to save time and streamline your days.
What are business processes?
Any task that you perform as an assistant regularly is a business process. Examples of processes could be:
- Writing and posting social media content
- Onboarding new clients.
- Creating monthly invoices.
- Requesting testimonials.
- Writing a blog post.
- Planning an event.
- Recording expenses.
- Adding a new product to an e-commerce store.
- Planning and writing an email newsletter.
The list is endless but includes anything you do regularly in your working day, whether for yourself or your clients.
Why should you analyse business processes regularly?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and busy when you work as an assistant. You always seem to be chasing your tail, so regularly documenting and analysing your business processes puts you back in control.
Your processes must align with your business goals. You should think about what you want to achieve in the next 6 to 12 months and then focus on the processes which will benefit this.
You will likely spot inefficiencies that use up more of your valuable time than they should. You may be duplicating tasks, or unnecessarily keying data into more than one system, or doing manual tasks which could easily be automated.
Taking time out for process analysis will pay for itself quickly, as it will buy back some time that you can spend on more worthwhile tasks.
A regular review will accommodate changes to the way you work overtime and keep on top of any new steps that creep in and can make existing processes unwieldy.
How to map and document processes
When you look at your processes, you must involve your team if you have one. If you are doing this for a client, it should include any stakeholders who perform a particular task. It should be a collaborative and empowering process, which will make their jobs easier and benefit the company. Having slick processes will improve job satisfaction as well as productivity.
The first thing to do when mapping processes is to brainstorm them and create a list that includes the name of the process and what its purpose is. You should categorise them as ‘marketing’, ‘finance’ and ‘operations’. Some processes may span many business categories, which is fine.
Next, break down each process into what steps you take to fulfil it, from start to finish. For each stage, make a note of who does the task and what systems they use.
You can do the brainstorming on a whiteboard or with sticky notes, whatever is easier. If your team is virtual, then you can use online whiteboards such as Miro or Mural.
How to improve business processes
For each step in a business process, you should analyse how it could be improved. Can you modify a step to speed it up or remove unnecessary complexity? Can you use a different software tool to make it easier to achieve and potentially reduce human error? Is there functionality in your existing system toolkit which can be used to make the steps more efficient or automated?
Sometimes, just brainstorming your processes will highlight areas that can be improved. It’s only when you think about what you do each day/week/month that inefficiencies are identified.
If you introduce new or amended steps, you should review them for risks to ensure they are robust before implementing them.
How to document processes
Documenting your processes is the final step. You should do this to ensure they are consistently performed, especially if they are done by more than one person or need to be handed over when a team member takes a holiday. The documentation process shouldn’t be onerous and will save time in the long run because having a clear framework for your workflows will reduce human error and ensure no time is wasted wondering what the next step is.
There are plenty of options for documenting your processes. The simplest is to use a spreadsheet, with a tab per process. You could use replace physical post-its or whiteboard sheets with digital tools such as Miro or Mural.
You could use a flowchart tool like Visio or Draw.io.
Or you can use a specialist digital process management tool like Process Street or Process Bliss, which allow you to create Standard Operating Procedures (or SOPs) using checklists.
Find out more
We hope this introduction to improving business processes has been useful, not only for your work but for your clients or employers too. Documenting processes is extremely valuable for any organisation, regardless of size. Clients will soon realise that improving procedures have several benefits, including increasing productivity, losing fewer leads, and making them more money.
Kelly Goss is a business automation expert and consultant and has posted many helpful blogs about improving productivity on her website, solvaa.co.uk.
If you’d like to learn more about streamlining your processes, then you can download Kelly’s free e-book here.
Kelly has also just published a book that has a chapter devoted to improving business processes. The book takes you through the steps and then introduces business automation using Zapier to streamline your workflows even further. Here are links to buy the book on Amazon (UK version) and Amazon (.com version).