As organisations come to terms with life in a post-pandemic world, many are taking time to review the way they function.
With remote working likely to be a feature for an extended period, the processes that underpin daily activity must be critically assessed to ensure they are still delivering what’s required. Any gaps need to be filled and inefficiencies removed.
While it may not be an approach familiar to all organisations, in an increasing number of cases these reviews are being undertaken in the form of a business process audit.
The process audit concept
Mention the term ‘audit’ and most business people will associate it with financial records. Others may think of data security or safety compliance, but relatively few will think of business processes.
In some countries, it’s a requirement for cars to undergo an annual safety inspection to ensure they meet the standards of roadworthiness. A business process audit can be thought of in the same way. It’s essentially a check to determine how efficiently and effectively your business is running.
Those who use the approach find it is the best way to discover whether there are any problems ‘under the hood’ of the business. The audit can determine whether factors or components need to be adjusted to ensure the process is as efficient as possible.
If the audit discovers that a particular business process is so inefficient or flawed that it is actually causing backlogs of work, a radical overhaul or even a replacement will be required as quickly as possible.
How to conduct a process audit
The first step in a successful audit is to obtain a complete picture of all the processes currently in place. This is achieved using a technique called process mapping.
As the name indicates, a process map shows all the processes in use, the purposes they serve, and how they fit together. This kind of bird’s-eye-view of your operations makes it far easier to tell where something’s not working.
Failures that might be identified include processes that are overcomplicated or contain needless steps that slow them down. Other problems include processes that are highly dependent on time-consuming, fatigue-inducing manual input or have a compliance or data-security risk due to poor handling of data.
Once the comprehensive process maps have been created, they can then be used by anyone who needs them throughout the organisation. That allows managers to standardise operations and provide easy, at-a-glance guidance materials for employees. This can also prove very valuable for new starters who need to get up to speed as quickly as possible.
For businesses, creating these reference resources is more important today than it has ever been. One of the central tenets of successful remote working is the thorough documentation of everything and making it available to all who require it. A truly effective distributed workforce depends on its access to business-critical information, and operating procedures are as critical as it gets.
For this reason, it’s vital to have a centralised repository of all core business processes. Each of them should have been audited and developed to be the best that it can be, and be easily available for those that need them.
Processes and workflows
Once the tasks of auditing business processes, mapping them, and optimising them has been completed, the next step involves looking for opportunities to digitise them.
Workflow automation through digitisation allows employees to click through each step of a process, with useful automatic prompts when it’s time for them to take a particular action. Existing business tools and data is also integrated at the relevant steps.
For example, if a staff member needs to communicate with a customer, the workflow platform can bring in that customer’s data from Salesforce and populate a pre-defined email or letter template.
This means the staff member doesn’t have to manually seek out the data from another app,
then copy and paste it into yet another. This saves time and ensures everything is accurate. Also, when it’s time for another staff member to play their part, they’ll receive a notification and can begin quickly and easily clicking their way through their task.
Having efficient digital workflows also fulfills another of the criteria of effective remote working: making it possible for processes to be carried out by employees wherever they are. When processes are streamlined, paperless, and expedited, they can work optimally.
The task of process auditing can deliver significant benefits across an organisation. The result is improved productivity, lower operational costs, and better levels of customer service. Begin your audit process today.