Business Process Standardization: Benefits and a How-To Guide

Business process standardization can help reduce waste, increase efficiency, boost output, and more.

Since inefficient processes can waste countless hours and resources every year, standardization can offer significant bottom-line benefits to the organization. 

On top of that, standardized processes can streamline workflows and make work life much easier for employees.

To achieve these benefits, however, it is necessary to understand why standardization is beneficial.

The Benefits of Business Process Standardization

Business process standardization can offer a number of advantages for the organization:

  • Faster, more efficient processes
  • Simpler workflows, which can improve the employee experience
  • Clear guidelines and process steps
  • Easier onboarding and training
  • Boosted output and productivity

In contrast, a business process that lacks standards can present serious problems, both for employees and for organizations.

Since non-standardized processes can change arbitrarily…

  • Business processes will be slower and less efficient
  • Expectations can change from day to day, increasing miscommunications and frustration
  • Arbitrary workflows will produce inconsistent results
  • Training will be far more difficult

Standardization, in short, can significantly streamline workflows and improve organizational performance at multiple levels. 

Let’s find out exactly how business processes should best be standardized:

How to Standardize a Business Process

Here are a few key steps to follow when standardizing the business process:

Understand the Goals

It is useful to understand the benefits of standardization, as well as exactly why a particular business process is being standardized.

Goals can be built upon the advantages covered above, such as:

Establishing these goals will make it easier to obtain buy-in, if necessary, while also providing a direction for the process redesign.

Process Mapping and Analysis

Business process maps can be detailed, simple, or anywhere in between. 

A detailed process map would cover components such as:

  • The overall workflow. A workflow consists of a series of steps aimed at completing a specific goal or objective. The business process map will cover the entire workflow, dividing it up into these steps, or tasks.
  • Individual tasks. An individual task will be a single action or step in the workflow, such as submitting a form or sending an email. 
  • Criteria. In some workflows, as mentioned, employees will have to make a choice that will affect the path of the workflow. When relevant, these criteria should be included at the proper junctions.
  • Expected outcomes. Each step in the workflow – and the workflow as a whole – should have a desired outcome. Identifying this outcome will help to clarify expectations and the process steps.
  • Resources required. The “resources” required at each step may be as simple as a particular document, or there may be no resources at all if, for instance, the process map is documenting a digital workflow.

Given all of the above information, it may seem that business process maps must be complex, detailed documents – but this isn’t the case. 

A flowchart or task list can be useful for mapping out processes, and each step does not necessarily need to be highly detailed. In some cases, a single sentence will suffice for a task or step.

However, since the entire purpose of business process standards is to clarify the tasks involved in a process, it is useful to be as clear as possible. The information covered above can serve as a good set of guidelines for articulating those tasks.

Implementation

Once the updated business process has been standardized, it should be implemented and monitored.

Useful business process metrics to track include:

It is also useful to engage directly with employees and request feedback, since their input and suggestions can often prove useful for the further improvement of the process.

Improvement

Finally, any data collected during the implementation of the standardized process can be used to make further improvements.

Though it may be tempting to make a single round of adjustments and then leave the process as-is, continuous process improvement can result in continuous performance improvements.

Not surprisingly, the practice of enhancing business processes is known as business process improvement (BPI) or business process optimization (BPO).

Though the standardization process covered here can result in significant improvements over non-standardized processes, it is worth noting that standardization technically differs from optimization. 

Final Thoughts: Standardization, Optimization, Management

Business process improvement is a key component within the management discipline of business process management (BPM), which is dedicated to the long-term analysis, improvement, and design of business processes.

Business management, however, is not solely dedicated to improving existing business processes. 

It is also useful for designing brand new business processes, which can be useful during organizational change programs, business projects, the formation of new companies, and so forth.

Any organization truly interested in increasing efficiency and profits should research this topic more thoroughly – or even consider hiring a business process manager.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.