How to automate your Small Business Processes Efficiently and Scalable
Author: Martin Capeletto
Hello again! In this blog post, we will be talking about how to Automate your Business Processes efficiently. I know talking about Business Processes might sound boring, but believe me, it's even worse if you don't automate it.
Business Processes, or workflows, or flows, or whatever you want to call them, are defined as those important processes in your company that need to be properly defined and executed. It could be an Onboarding Flow, where you'll define exactly what steps are followed every time someone joins your company. Another example is the Offboarding Flow, which is similar but for when someone quit or is fired.
Other examples could be related to Security flows, for example, doing a Quarterly Review on permissions, or doing an annual review of the Code of Conducts, doing a review every 6 months on what SaaS applications your company is paying, etc., etc.
For the rest of the blog, I'll be calling this Flows. Basically, a flow has a title (Onboarding Flows), an owner, who is not necessarily the person doing it, but the one making sure the flow will be done on time. And steps. Each step should have a title, assignee, and description.
We believe the steps' description is super important, as they will describe to the assignee what needs to be done in this step. Be as specific as you can, remember that the person doing that step might know how to do it today, but at some point, he will be on vacation, or he will quit the company, and you'll need to replace that person. This is the moment when most companies start losing all that invaluable know-how. Again, go into a lot of detail here, and try to write everything as you were talking to someone who doesn't know how to do it. You'll thank me later.
So... how do you get started and get this done? First, we recommend a small brainstorming exercise. Try to think of 10 possible flows for your company. Again, not everything should be a flow, your day-to-day activities and small tasks might be overkill, but of course, it is up to you. We recommend finding the first 10 flows. You might need to include people from HR, IT, your CTO, or maybe you know every
hing about your company, and it will be much easier to start.
So after you choose your top 10 flows, let's start working on the top 3. For each of those, choose an owner. Remember that you will be the person making sure this gets done properly. Then, start writing all steps of this flow in order. First, write the titles, and then try to start writing the descriptions. This part is not as easy as it looks, except if you're great at writing, it doesn't have to be perfect. Just try to think of all the steps involved in that.
One important thing to remember is that a Flow is like a Cooking Recipe, you have all the steps, and you can do it many times. Each of the times you start a flow, we will call it an "instance" of the flow. For example, if you define the Onboarding Employees flows, each time someone joins your company, you'll create a new instance of this flow for that person and start putting all the steps as done or blocked as you execute them. When another person joins, you start a new one and so on.
Above is an example of how a Flow looks in MyLenio. You can think of the flow as a Recipe. After it's defined, you can instantiate that flow many times. In this case, we see that 4 instances of that flow are open for this Onboarding Employees Flow. You can also see the progress, what steps are not done, and click for more details.
Above, we can see the detail of an instance of a flow, where you have all those steps with the assignee, the status which can be changed to Done, Pending, or Blocked, the possibility to add attachments and comments to each step.
There is another important thing that probably most flows would get started in one of 2 ways. First, you will manually start a flow, for example, when someone new joins your company. Or, you want the flow to start and create a new instance automatically every certain time.
For the second example, MyLenio allows you to set a recurrence for each flow. So you can configure, for example, the security review to start automatically every 6 months. Or something to start every Wednesday, etc., you can set almost any type of recurrence. When the time comes, MyLenio will automatically start this flow, notify the owner to check the assignees, and then this new instance can start.
So, after you did this exercise with the top 3 flows, it's time to communicate this to your team. You'll probably find some friction with some people not wanting to change how things are being done. It can go from it works right now, but the most common would be it would create "overhead." Others might include people feeling worried about having more oversight, or they might even be feeling bad because they think you don't trust them to implement these changes.
This worry about generating overhead is real and has to be taking into consideration. With tools like MyLenio, you can reduce the overhead of having these processes to a minimum. Of course, there will be some because people will need to mark those steps as done, and sometimes (depending on your definitions) add some comments or attachments. But it's something really easy to do, and the gains for your company would be huge.
If you're doing any compliance, you can't get away without having properly defined processes, so it might even be something that you must do. But even if you're not currently aiming at any certification, over time, everyone would be much happier to follow some process that's easy to understand. Another big advantage is that you will know exactly what steps are pending on each of your flows instances. For example, instead of asking everyone how the onboarding is doing, you can check on the site and see the 80% has been done is only missing Step 1,2,5.
But because of all this, we also recommended doing this in phases and integrating your team as earlier as possible. You won't define any flow perfectly from day 1. It's an iterative approach. You need the people involved in updating it to make it better, update it when something changes, or remove unnecessary steps if those are not needed anymore. So, our recommendation is to grab those top 3 and go through the whole experience with your team. Ideally, you can have some "practice" runs where you simulate running those and find problems.
The best thing about this is that after your process is solid, you can "forget" about it, MyLenio will automatically start those for you, or you'll manually start a new instance. The system will notify everyone and will send reminders to make sure things are getting done. You can relax knowing that things are getting done in the company and always have a clear photo of where those things are at, so you only get involved when there are blockers or problems.
After all this, we recommend to keep grabbing things from your list until everything is implemented over the next weeks, and again, be careful not to go into "everything" is a flow, which will lead to overhead in simple things, but to model all the key processes in your company.
One last thing, we also believe that it's essential to keep this "simple," there are a lot of tools where you'll be able to define triggers, actions, phone calls, emails, flow builders, etc., etc. that require a ton of time even to start understanding how to use them, and what happens is that at the end, no one uses them because no one has time to become an expert and certified on that. You won't believe how far you can get with some simple flows in your company.