5 Things Disruptive Startups Must Consider When Setting Up Business Processes
Disruptive companies are shaping the future of our innovation landscape with cutting-edge technology offerings, customer-centric design and innovative solutions to modern-day problems. What distinguishes a good startup from a great one however, is not the idea behind the business but the way it’s executed.
For many disruptors, finding the right time to transition into the next period of growth while keeping up with - and scaling - their offering is a significant challenge. This is where business process management (BPM) comes in, as it allows companies - both agile up-and-comers and established organisations alike - to not only maintain, but optimise their processes in order to scale sustainably.
While there’s no such thing as ‘starting too early’ with a strong management framework, BPM is not a quick fix, and there’s no ‘set and forget’ solution either. Here are five things every startup should consider when scaling their business with process management:
When launching a startup, process management will likely be the last thing on your mind - as you can’t automate processes that don’t exist yet. Your priorities will be more aligned with ensuring your product is effective; growing your customer base; making sure those clients are satisfied; and balancing the books. A lot of process solutions will come about through trial by error - discovering what works and what doesn’t will test your creative problem solving - but it should be all part of the fun of figuring out the best way to operate your business.
A key factor of a startup’s success is growth - new economies of scale, markets, opportunities and customers are all exciting prospects for a new company. On a global scale, both businesses and consumers are becoming increasingly attuned to the effects of unlimited or unsustainable growth on both the environment and living standards. Emerging disruptors have the opportunity to shape the future of growth in a sustainable way by omitting these insupportable practices, creating a new generation of conscious companies.
In process management speak, ‘scalability’ goes hand-in-hand with growth. It means your productivity levels remain the same, even as you grow your organisation. Essentially, scalability means that you can grow without drowning in increased complexity.
Through scalable processes, your business will find its groove as operations and tasks are repeated ten, fifty, and eventually hundreds of times. It’s important to analyse any mistakes in these operations in order to understand what went wrong, and most importantly avoid repeating the same blunder - in BPM language, this is called ‘repeatability’.
Repeatability means delivering the same dependable, high-standard of product, service or experience every time, without fault. When a common procedure that can be repeated over and over again is paired with scalability, it means the input capacity can increase over time without threatening the satisfaction of your customers. This is the sweet spot for developing a process, and growing your startup in the most efficient, and sustainable way with process management.
When you start repeating a procedure often enough, you will naturally develop guidelines or rules on how to follow it. Initially, structured notes, flowcharts, written instructions or checklists might be shared around your team so everyone is aware of how to best manage a task, but as more people need to know this information, the more translatable these guidelines must become. This consolidation of best practices is also known as ‘standardisation.’
When information needs to be distributed far and wide, the most productive option is ‘process modelling’. This allows you to capture, connect and communicate any knowledge of a process across an entire team.
As an example, if you were to scale your startup’s sales team from five persons to fifteen, the knowledge of how to qualify opportunities or advance a deal must be standardised into a single process in order to be followed by any sales employee. As the team scales, each new staff member will benefit from the existing knowledge, ensuring everyone has the resources to work on their opportunities effectively and allowing for professional sales pipeline management.
It’s a common misconception that BPM is rigid and inflexible, yet this framework only applies to repeatable tasks that excel when standardised. BPM can be a creative process too - finding innovative solutions to a problem is often why disruptive organisations are created in the first place, so consider BPM an opportunity to harness that creative thinking on a micro-scale when dealing with many operations, not just monotonous ones.
Modelling is an example of how creativity can be applied to processes - the model allows you the freedom to continually seek ways to optimise a process, inspiring fresh ideas to help your business handle typical scenarios quicker and more effectively.
It’s dangerous thinking for any business - be it a startup or otherwise - to carry on operating in the same way, simply because that’s how it’s always been done. Rather, BPM is a critical and reflective exercise that challenges your business to engage in a constant cycle of improvement, refinement and creativity as you work towards increasing efficiency throughout all business processes.
Finding the best way to manage a business process requires diverse, collaborative thinking. It’s key for each team member to share their unique experience of a process in order to help optimise it.
A process model should be accessible to all team members working within its function, allowing them to capture, communicate and track progress to find optimal solutions. BPM requires education and collaborative feedback to not only ensure buy-in from team members, but also get the most out of your management framework. Discovering and sharing what works and what doesn’t is all part of the BPM journey, so enjoy the collaborative process and don’t be afraid to experiment.