In every aspect of managing and growing your business, process will play a key role. The tasks and activities you and your staff carryout daily, weekly and monthly, along with the ad hoc unplanned service requests, all roll up into what many consider the abyss of business process.
However, you can take control of the processes that power your business and tame them. They then take on a new “look”, contributing to efficiencies and profitability. Of equal importance, getting critical steps and workarounds that exist only in the mental storage of your collective team’s minds onto paper will improve consistency and contribute to business continuity.
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There are three key ways identifying, documenting and managing your processes will help your business.
- Your entire team is largely cross trained due to the documentation of core tasks and activities your business executes upon
- You can more closely align with your technology services (or find new ones more accommodating of your processes) and start to take advantage of any workflow automation available from those vendors (CRM calendars and tasks, batch reports for clients, etc)
- More easily train new staff, both incoming advisors and administrative/operational personnel
Start with Small Steps
If your practice is new to capturing and documenting your processes, start small. Take a look at your handling of incoming mail each day. Below is a simple example of a two-step process to start identifying the steps, staff and tasks involved in reviewing, assigning and routing work based off of daily mail.
First – take a good old fashioned legal pad and pen and sketch out how this process currently works.
You can then discuss with the staff involved in these steps and fine tune any components of this process. Once you are satisfied you can turn this into a visual diagram that is included in your documentation, as seen below.
Thinking of efficiency and integration
From the diagram you can see that this process of daily review of incoming mail touches not only multiple staff but also multiple systems. While initially sketching your regular activities, have an eye toward how you can consolidate, redirect or reassign staff and systems to find efficiency and opportunities to integrate.
In this example, the process includes both the imaging and CRM system, which can integrate through the indexing of account numbers and tax ids. When new business for an existing client is scanned into the imaging database – a different user accessing the imaging database through CRM will now see this new document(s) automatically.
Not only did we eliminate paper handling from desk to desk, but also simplified how all staff get to this new information through one system instead of needing to access two or more systems.
Graduating to More Complex Processes
From handling incoming mail, there are several layers of more sophisticated actions you and your team carryout on both a scheduled and unscheduled basis. Other areas to consider documenting include:
- New prospective client –what responsibilities does your team have?
- Converting a prospect to an active client – what does your team do?
- Preparing for client meetings and reviews
- Quarterly statements and report assembly, review and distribution
- Common service requests – deposits, withdrawals, billing, etc.
A Note on Documentation
The tools you need for documenting your processes are approachable and fairly familiar to you and your team. This is a basic set you can use to get started.
- Pens, pencils and legal pads
- A screen shot tool such as Snag-It, Jing or Skitch (these latter two support Macs)
- A word processor (Microsoft Word, Google Docs, etc.)
- Microsoft Power Point can also come in handy for using screen shots and bulleted lists of tasks associated with a system or online service
- A diagramming tool such as Smart Draw, Microsoft Visio, OmniGraffle (for Macs) or an online tool like Gliffy
There are literally dozens of tools in this space that can be used for process documentation (mind mapping, alternate diagramming tools and other utilities). Just like starting with small steps on your actual processes – also stick with mostly familiar tools when it comes to documentation. This will greatly reduce the stress of getting the processes in all of your team’s minds onto paper.