Clear, well-thought-out business processes can be the difference between the success or failure of a company.
The executives behind this plan then must ensure that their decisions are targeted, direct and well-instructed.
But above all they must ensure the processes remain relevant and are a help rather than a hindrance to productivity and creativity.
New goals, technologies and thinking, all impact business process within a company, and so leaders must be vigilant to ensure their plan is up-to-date in order to be successful.
As a company matures, too, its business processes need to evolve. To get some insights into the field, Business Insider spoke to some successful Australian executives about the evolution of their own processes.
From 'do everything' to 'help others do': We’re still a small team so although we still do a lot of things ourselves, we do have to delegate a lot to make sure that the best person is allocated to each job and can have the freedom to do things the way that they thing is best.
From 'just get it out' to 'get the best value': When we started it was all about getting something (ie. anything) out to market in the quickest possible way which meant cutting some corners to build MVPs which we could test. Now that we have more customer insights and a great team of people who understand our market, it’ more about building something which will make the biggest possible impact in the next 3-6 months, rather than just next week. Again, we’re not a big company yet, so we don’t embark on 1 year plans to build huge projects, but we have moved away from 'day-to-day hacking'.
From thinking 'cost upwards' to 'outcome backwards': At the beginning of a business when you’re trying to validate a hypothesis it’s all about minimising costs in order to minimise how much you might lost if you’re wrong (of which there is a good chance that you are!). Once you’ve broadly proven a concept, then I think you start to think about what outcomes or targets that you want to hit and work backwards from there.
There’s no doubt, processes separate good businesses from bad. As a company grows, process can give you a competitive edge, keep you agile, build a unique culture and ultimately help you make better decisions. After over a decade of trial and error, adopting dozens of new technologies only to move on from them quickly if they proved not to be the right solution, I also know that your processes are only as good as the people responsible for delivering them. Process needs to be developed from the bottom up, it’s not something a CEO can impose or that can be created from metrics. Implementing off the shelf technology thinking it will solve your challenges is a mistake many make. Being thoughtful about the technology that can make you more efficient and allow your staff to shine is the best way forward. The best processes are iterative and custom-made and they can take time to build - you should be constantly assessing their value and ensuring they aren't becoming an extra layer of administration or reporting preventing you from focusing on the actions that really make your company a success.
Pureprofile is by nature an early adopter, and we were one of the first companies to use Salesforce when it launched in 2005. While it was initially successful in helping us kickstart Pureprofile and indeed taught us a great deal about our own business model, we quickly grew out of it. We moved on, building our own propriety system which again worked well for a few years.
Now, as the developer of our own platform technology we continue to focus on the best allocation of resources, and are constantly trying to replace cumbersome processes from our core business with sophisticated SAAS platforms that enhance or add value to our unique capabilities. Salesforce won us back because it's evolved and now allows us to implement our own customisations, - key to any business that finds process optimisation important. Added to that is its ability to integrate with other technologies (Hubspot, Exact Target) and our own unique platform.
Be brave enough to look at your processes holistically, dive aggressively into new technologies and don't be afraid to throw out an old process - they all have a lifespan.
A few years ago online businesses were constrained in terms of the media they sold by how much site traffic they generated. With the rise and rise of programmatic buying through demand side platforms this constraint has completely turned on its head. Take what we did at CareerOne. Using job search cookie data we served our clients messages - both advertising and job ads - to targeted users based on what job they do, wherever they are online. For instance, for a car manufacturer we put their commercial vehicle advertisements in front of thousands of tradies and construction workers as display ads, ads in social media and also using pre-roll video through video platforms such as YouTube. The result is perfectly targeted ads using high quality search data and other businesses site inventory. This has completely negated the traditional online media constraint of limited page impressions. This solution is so transformational as to now be the core part of CareerOne's business - intelligent media targeting based on what people do for a living. We call this Digital Head Hunter.
Over the last 10 years, we have seen the birth and adoption of lean startup processes and a shift from long-term thorough planning to MVP testing. To me, this is one of the key innovations in business processes over the last century and a complete revolution, because it goes back to the very core of business beliefs. It’s these lean startup processes that have powered small companies to innovate, take on massive companies, and disrupt their industries.
As a start up, the business processes and dynamics are constantly changing. When we first began, we would make a decision with little collaboration or consideration of the consequences. We soon found that this hurt our customers and existing user base. As we have developed and grown, so too have the processes. Today, our decisions and movements are guided by analysis, research, trend checks and careful deliberation. It takes a little longer but the results are worthwhile. Our customers are happier and that is worth the extra effort.
You have to walk the talk with process. We tell our online merchants to focus on identifying and removing the friction when a customer is doing business with them. We use the same philosophy with the way we serve our merchants, our customer services and sales processes are optimised to remove all friction and our staff are 100% dedicated to this.
The second thing I'd say is to keep it simple but flexible. Ask your managers and staff for their help, to find two things each week that improve your processes they are after all at the forefront of customer interaction and service. They will also appreciate being part of the solution and remember that process excellence is a journey not a destination.
Over the past 15 years, the whole process of communication in business has leap frogged in light years. Then, nobody had a mobile phone, Google, or Instagram. Everyone worked off a PC, and Internet Explorer was the only search engine. Majority of communication with both internal or external stakeholders was face to face, otherwise you picked up the telephone or wrote an email. Relationships were personal, as they weren’t built via email or social media. One of the fundamentals of success in business is communication and that’s one of the processes that has changed the most. Even after all the tech advancements that make everything more efficient, effective and cheaper, I still think that the greatest form of content marketing is face to face storytelling.
Technology has turned traditional business processes upside down. Processes in the past were frameworks to create best practice to take an idea to market, slowly and surely, as stakes were high. High in investment, high in time, high in risk and high in opportunity cost. We didn’t want to stuff things up, nor did we want to recreate the wheel, so we had many forms to fill, lots of meetings with stakeholders, loads of market research and constant checkpoints to pass during implementation.
The digital world has transformed how we think and work, enabling a faster, more efficient validation of new concepts and rapid go-to-market with cost-effective cloud based tools to plan, collaborate and execute. In the past you had one long marathon to launch, now you have many bursts/sprints as you quickly take a lean product to market to get the ultimate feedback, data and validation from customers, which in turn would enable you to iterate to find the perfect product-market fit.
A very visual representation how business processes have changed with the digitisation of the world is the blurring of the lines of the proper working day, and the amount of face-time in the office. Online tools and processes enable realtime work anywhere-anytime, making working from home and flexible working hours the new norm. We now have the tools and business processes to work from anywhere in the world!
When I started my career over twenty years ago, office workers essentially worked business hours and designed their lives around these schedules. No matter how long these hours, there were regular starts and finishes to the work day. Extra hours of work involved 'bringing work home'. Technology-led process developments have changed all of that.
Today, the work isn’t 'brought home' at all. Work follows the worker around in a continuous pipeline of interaction and correspondence. Real time responsiveness is expected in a work day that has no beginning or end.
Whilst these changes have somewhat intruded upon the way we organise our lives, advancements in technology have also allowed for workforce mobility and agility. This is more suited to today’s diverse family structures and schedules, allowing greater flexibility in both working times and location. This means that home carers more able to continue to participate in the workforce in a ways which would not have been imaginable twenty years ago. These advancements in business process help retain a pool of talent, which would otherwise have been lost.
Finally, advancements in communication and collaboration processes have also facilitated efficiency, consistency and best practice benchmarking in an increasing global business community.
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