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How to Use Process Documentation

November 4, 2014

In my last post I described how to document a business process. If you need help with understanding what to document, and why, visit this post and you will be ready to use the information you have captured.

So what now?

Documenting a process is the first step towards taking control of how things are done. By creating the document, you are creating transparency. That means that you have captured the best way to perform a series of activities, including how to do it, who performs it, etc. Implementing the process then generates consistency, meaning every time the process is performed, it is always executed in that way.

Here are a few ways to ensure your process documents add real business value:

  1. Transparency ensures that there is no hiding place! We can all see who is involved and how things are done. Use the documents to improve communication and eliminate the possibilities of people not knowing who/how.
  2. Manage risk. Risk is everywhere. We can’t eliminate it, but we can manage it. Your process documents highlight business risks, so implement solutions to mitigate them and prevent problem further down the line.
  3. Identify improvements. Now you know what’s involved in a process, identify what is taking the most time/where the bottlenecks are, what causes the stress and frustration felt by staff, what we can do more efficiently (making better use of IT for instance), and what activities we can stop doing.
  4. Train staff. Use the documents to train employees effectively. Being able to see how processes operate provides the basis for first class training.
  5. Challenge people to change/improve/re-design their processes.
  6. Build a library – a business management system, consisting of every process in the business, and measure performance.
  7. Use the documentation as the foundation for business standards, such as achieving certification to ISO 9001.
  8. Audit the processes. Follow them in real-time and see how they are performing. Bring a fresh pair of eyes to each process and identify better ways to work.

Are you using your process documents effectively? How are your processes adding value?

How to Document a Business Process

October 15, 2014

If you have never documented a process before, it can be quite daunting. However, it really isn’t (or shouldn’t!) be too challenging.

Firstly, be clear on the level of process that you wish to define. A process might be top-level, or it could be operational.

Then, just follow my simple steps below.

  1. Describe the purpose of the process. Why does it exist? What is it supposed to achieve?
  2. What are the triggers? What has to happen for the process to begin?
  3. What are the outputs? What is the end-point? (you have now created the boundaries for the process you are documenting)
  4. Who are the ‘actors’? Process actors are the people who are involved in the execution of the process. Don’t forget that actors can be both internal and external (such as suppliers, subcontractors, etc.)
  5. Responsibilities and authority. Who makes the decisions and who performs the key tasks?
  6. The process. Create a diagram that represents the process flow and key tasks and decisions involved. There are 2 ways to do this – (1) the standard flowchart approach or (2) using ‘swimlanes’ to depict the actors and their contribution.
  7. Measures. How would you know if the process was (a) a success, or (b) a failure? What indicators can you monitor?
  8. Known Issues. What are the problems associated with this process, that you are currently aware of?
  9. Risks. What can potentially cause an issue and compromise the success of process but hasn’t happened yet?

That’s it!

But, it’s what you do with a process document that makes it so powerful. I’ll cover that in another post…

Client Testimonial – NIHP (Northern Integrative Health Practice)

September 29, 2014

logoI have recently finished a piece of work for the Northern Integrative Health Practice, (NIHP) based in Durham. Working with the Managing Director, Paula Esson, I helped to define and shape the key processes that deliver value to their clients, both private and NHS. This enabled the business to create better structure, implement best practice standards and develop improved systems, and finally close in on certification to ISO 9001.

Paula said:

We respect Alistair immensely. If you are considering certification to ISO9001, ADM Solutions are the only company I would invite through the door to ensure you hit all the targets and gain the clever insight into the breadth of achievement that can be accomplished with the right people alongside.’

For the full testimonial, click here.

ISO 9001: 2015 FAQ

August 6, 2014

I’m regularly asked about the forthcoming changes to ISO 9001, and so I will post answers to some of the more popular questions as they arise, here on my blog.

  1. When is the new version of ISO 9001 going to be published? – It is planned for publication in September 2015.
  2. Does my organisation need to re-certify as soon as it’s published? – No, all organisations will have 3 years to make the transition to from ISO 9001: 2008 to ISO 9001: 2015.
  3. Will it be difficult to implement ISO 9001: 2015? Generally, it shouldn’t be too difficult. It depends on the current ISO 9001: 2008 system and how it has been implemented (if it enables a ‘tick in a box’, then there will obviously be more work to do). Firstly, consider the context – how big is the company? What is it’s core business? How complex are it’s operations? What risks does it face? The new standard recognises that organisations (e.g. multi-nationals vs. small service businesses) have different needs and requirements.
  4. Should we scrap our current management system? No. I would recommend that organisations currently certified to ISO 9001: 2008 will meet many of the requirements of ISO 9001: 2015 and should keep these in place.

Do you have any questions regarding ISO 9001 2015? If so, feel free to get in touch and I will answer them for you.

5 Reasons to Review Your Business Standards

August 1, 2014
  1. The world in which we are doing business in is changing rapidly. There is always someone looking to do it better, faster, smarter. How are you keeping ahead of the competition?
  2. What is your USP? Your standards should drive the implementation of your USP.
  3. Your business is recognised by its standards. Your customers and other stakeholders talk about you. Make sure it’s a positive conversation.
  4. Internal standards and policies align your vision (and brand) with reality. They create the culture and performance of your business.
  5. Standards provide confidence in the abilities of your business. They open doors to new business, maintain current business, and allow you to lead a market.

Which standards matter to your business?

  • answering the phone within 5 rings?
  • meeting client deadlines?
  • winning business awards?
  • achieving certification (ISO 9001, Achilles, etc.)?
  • product standards and conformity?
  • company dress-code?

I’m working with different clients on each of these standards. They are all relevant to the success of the business and need to be:

  1. understood
  2. communicated
  3. implemented
  4. measured
  5. improved

How are standards contributing to your success? 

What are the standards that you will need to meet in the next 12 months?

My Guide to Business Process Management

July 2, 2014

Business Process Management (BPM) is a management methodology, used to define how an organisation will achieve efficient, effective and sustainable results.

The main difference between BPM and traditional management approaches is the adoption of Process Thinking and the development of an organisational culture that is Process Centric.

Process Thinking: All organisations have processes that represent the steps undertaken to deliver a service or manufacture a product. Often these processes are not well documented or even well understood; they just happen. Often organisations will have well documented and followed procedures. However these alone do not represent a well-managed, business process.

Process thinking seeks to:

  • Deliver value to Customers and Stakeholders as the key measures of process success
  • Manage processes as end-to-end activity streams that cross organisational functional boundaries
  • Align all processes with the organisation’s strategic directions

For most organisations it is easy to find stories about customers that have poor experiences or employees that can see obvious areas of dysfunction. Unfortunately, these occurrences are not rare, especially in large organisations where complexity often gets in the way of effective process. A culture of achieving process excellence is required to combat these issues.

A process centric culture seeks to:

  • Assign accountability to Process Owners who are responsible for achieving results for their end-to-end process, regardless of the organisational structure that is undertaking the work of the process.
  • Create a transparent view of the organisation’s processes and performance measures, ensuring that all activities undertaken are aligned to the organisation’s processes and all performance reporting is traceable back to the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) of Business Processes.
  • Adopt a Process Management Framework that details the processes that the organisation will follow to manage and improve all of it’s business processes.

That’s all well and good, but the question I’m asked most of all is, ‘what are the real business benefits of process management’? Well, the key benefits, in my opinion, are:

  • Focus. All levels of an organisation are focused on activities that deliver the right results for customers and stakeholders.
  • Clarification. Defining how work is done, when, and by whom, provides opportunities to question ‘why?’ and generate major business improvement initiatives.
  • Efficiency. The visibility of business processes allows concentration on inefficiencies as well as the opportunity to “re-use” common activities across the organisation.
  • Sustainability. Business processes can be continually improved to adapt to changing organisation environments and continue to deliver results.
  • Measurable. All processes can be measured end-to-end and compared to expected results.

For more information, visit my website.

Annex SL in Brief – Standardising Management System Standards

June 3, 2014

Many organisations seek to implement and certify multiple management system standards. This has led to the need to easily combine or integrate them in an effective and efficient manner. To date subtle and not so subtle differences in requirements and terminology across Management system standards have made such integration difficult.

However, have no fear – Annex SL is now here! With the objective of delivering consistent and compatible management system standards Annex SL will attempt to make this process easier.

The major clause numbers and titles of all management system standards will be identical. They are:


1. Scope

2. Normative references

3. Terms and definitions

4. Context of the organisation

5. Leadership

6. Planning

7. Support

8. Operation

9. Performance evaluation

10. Improvement.

The Introduction, Scope and Normative references will have content that are specific to each discipline and each standard can have its own bibliography.

Annex SL describes the framework for a generic management system, so when you see the framework in actual standards, there will be the addition of discipline-specific requirements to make a fully functional management system standard.

In future all new management system standards will have the same overall ‘look and feel’. Current management system standards will migrate during their next revision which should be completed within the next few years. ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 are currently undergoing this transition.


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