There's a process for everything.
From ordering your morning coffee to scheduling a phone call with a client, you have a process in which you need to follow steps to execute a task or complete a job.
There's also usually someone that manages that process. What do you do when you find you are unable to manage a process within your firm? Processes help run things and when things run, you generate results and it moves you forward on to the next project.
For startups, solid accounting processes, and processes in general, are especially important because without them you will not be able to scale quickly, if at all.
How to approach creating a process.
Step 1: Define and Plan
Define which essential problems or inefficiencies must be solved and define the goal outcomes of the process. Additionally, set a project timeline, estimated completion date, and set project milestones.
Step 2: Research
Do your research on best practices and trends for the process you are trying to create. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Interview all stakeholders and individuals that you believe will play a part in the process you are creating to discover their common pain points. This will help you create a process that will actually help others and ensure your process is useful.
Step 3: Develop and Test
Based on the project goals and the information you gathered from the team, you can now begin a checklist to map out each individual process step. As you work through the process, try to predict loop holes or problem areas and make adjustments accordingly. Walking through hypothetical procedures will help you identify areas that need improvements or don’t make sense in practice.
Step 4: Implement
This is the first, live test run of the process being created. Throughout each step, document any notes, changes that needed to be made, and what needs improvement based on how well the plan was executed with the full team.
Step 5: Revise
Go back and make all the necessary changes noted from the initial implementation. Going through revisions of processes is important and is something that may continue to happen for the lifetime of a company. Companies change, teams change, customers change - change is a good thing and not being aware or willing to roll with the punches can be problematic for anyone, including company processes.
Two tips for success.
Creating realistic timelines in which the project will be managed will help you have a sense of the depth of the project itself. It's important to be honest about the work load, the dependability of the team and the goal you are trying to reach collectively.
Your team is the heart and soul of the process and how it starts to develop, so it's always really helpful to have team members contribute during the creation of a process. Team members are not only your fellow experts in the field or line or work, but they are your sounding boards and contribute unique perspectives that will allow you to look at your process from multiple points of view, often resulting in more well-rounded and logical processes.
Two common mistakes.
No stakeholder buy-in.
The hardest part of a process is not creating it. It is convincing people to use it consistently. Get those who are involved in the process to contribute to the creation of the process from the beginning. Members who have an influence in their steps of the process will be more likely to take ownership of the task when the time comes to implement the process. Plus, you will be able to gauge whether or not their step in the process makes sense for them. Remember, the best processes are the ones that are actually used.
Not keeping it critical.
When creating processes, it is extremely tempting to break the process into tiny, tiny parts and steps. While breaking down the larger picture into smaller step is an important part of process creation, there is such a thing as too much. Avoid adding unnecessary or burdensome steps. Always keep in mind the initial problem you are trying to solve- is this step a critical piece of solving your problem? If not, perhaps this step would work better in another process or simply as an assigned task.
Remember, good processes are the ones that are actually used.
Processes at the end of the day are supposed to make everyones life easier by reducing confusion, making things more efficient, and keeping things consistent for everyone. If your process is tedious, makes your team have to work more (not less), or serves no real purpose, chances are you will have a hard time getting your team to use it. Keep the people you are creating processes for in mind, and remember to keep the problem you are trying to solve in mind!