Every organization aspires to grow with time. The most common hurdle faced by an organization in the path of scalability is the absence of proper processes and systems. To overcome this, an organization needs to adopt a standard approach to business process creation and documentation. All business processes should be documented in a systematic way to remove operational ambiguity and to serve as a training reference for all the process users. This meets the organization’s current and future needs of achieving a desired business output in a methodical and replicable fashion.
The New Way of Process Documentation
Over the years process flowchart preparation has undergone a sea change in its approach. The traditional approach to process flowcharting covers the sequence of events in a process by including all the exceptions in the path. Today flowcharts should present the desired flow of the process without the exceptions. The exceptions are presented in a separate section below the flowchart. Some of the exceptions that are lengthy and difficult to manage are detailed as a separate process altogether for better understanding. The difference between the new approach and the old approach of process documentation is shown in Table 1.
|Table 1: A Comparison of Approaches to Process Documentation|
|Traditional Approach to Process Documentation||New Approach to Process Documentation|
|Graphically represents the entire sequence of events in a process – including the flow exceptions||Graphically represents the desired sequence of events in a process – minus decision boxes and exceptions|
|Exceptions are presented within the process flowchart||Exceptions are presented in the process description section below the flowchart|
|Exceptions that are lengthy are covered within the main process flowchart making it cumbersome and difficult to understand||Exceptions that are lengthy and have a unique flow are detailed as a separate process|
|Does not identify improvements in the current flow readily||Identifies immediate improvements in the existing process|
|Lean cannot be implemented easily as documentation does not readily identify improvements||Lean solutions to eliminate waste can be easily implemented|
|Difficult to understand and implement because it is bulky and complex||Easy to understand and implement|
|Has been made redundant by Lean experts and process writers because all exclusions can never be covered in totality in process flowcharts||The preferred way of documentation for Lean experts and process writers|
Advantages of the New Approach
The new approach, as opposed to the traditional approach of covering all exceptions within the flowchart, has several advantages. They are:
- Referenceability: The output of this approach is a neat document which is easily referenced – unlike the cluttered bulky document, produced by the traditional approach, which is confusing and difficult to follow.
- Management: The process documents (containing process flowcharts and process descriptions as well as key process indicators, escalation matrix, glossary, etc.) produced by the modern approach can be easily managed as they are not as cumbersome compared to those produced through the traditional approach.
- Dynamic exception addition: Making process flowcharts without decision boxes gives an opportunity to the process owners to include exceptions dynamically. The exceptions can be easily listed in the process description without changing the flowchart. This is particularly useful for processes with a large number of exceptions that are discovered as the process matures.
- Implementation: This approach is easier to follow from the implementation point of view.
- Handling of new versions: It enables ease of handling of newer versions of the processes (created due to modifications in the existing sequence) as the basic flow fundamentally remains constant.
- Continuous improvement through Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA): It presents an opportunity to the team to do FMEA on all of the process boxes separately and ensures all the exceptions are mitigated with the appropriate solutions.
- Continuous improvement through Lean: Lean can be more easily deployed in this approach than in the traditional approach.
- Visualization: The flowchart in this approach gives a one-shot view of the process steps and registers more significantly in the minds of the process users.
Example: New Service Connection Process
The figure below is an example of a process flowchart done with the modern approach. It details all of the steps in a new service connection (NSC) process in a power management company.
This flowchart describes a cross-functional process flow establishing clear-cut accountability for each business function. The business function that has the maximum number of activity boxes becomes the “process owner function.” The accountability of an activity box, which is critical in the overall process, stays with the process owner function even if it is to be performed by another business function. The process owner function remains responsible to create mechanisms (in the form of metrics, dashboards, etc.) to bring transparency into those particular steps.
In this flowchart the NSC team was the process owner function as the customer documentation was outsourced to a documentation agency, which was managed internally by the NSC team. The activity “Do the dedup [deduplication], basic details captured” was critical but was being performed by a different function. Here the NSC team brought in transparency with system-driven checks and measures so that when the details of the customer were entered, dedup happened automatically and the consumer number was generated through the IT system.
The activity boxes that could be automated in the future were color coded (yellow) to clearly display out the IT system requirements. Moreover, there was a need for standardization of some activities in the existing flow for eliminating occurrence of errors in that step. These were color-coded as well (blue). The mapping allowed for readily recognized areas for implementing mistake-proofing solutions through Lean. The activity box “FE collects and verifies the documents” was identified as a step which could generate maximum errors if not done properly. The Lean solution, which was implemented to counter this pain area, was preparation of an activity checklist that is mandatory for the FE to fill up during the visit to complete the document collection and verification.
The procedure to handle the exceptions are not covered within the flowchart but are explained in an accompanying table, an excerpt of which is shown in Table 2.
|Table 2: Examples of Guidelines for Exception Handling|
|Exception||Process of Handling the Exception|
|Customer does not make the payment of the demand note||
|TF report – not feasible||Site is not ready
Load falls in these ranges:
Case is sent to planning team, which will judge the requirements (e.g., civil work, access, transformer availability to assess from where connection needs to be allocated, etc.) based on the category in which the load falls and implement the appropriate course of action for the range.
Business process creation, optimization and detailed documentation are indispensable for an organization’s sustenance and growth. Voluminous process documents prepared by a traditional approach (which are rarely referred to after their creation) are archaic. The new approach of process documentation gives businesses a definite edge in process adherence and maintenance. The key process indicators defined on the process can be used to track the performance of the business in various areas and an action plan can be put in place to address any issues.