Carefully planning, designing, and formalizing business processes is crucial to maintaining and scaling operations in an organization.
However, things are not always predictable. External conditions can change; clients might bring up unplanned requirements and updates, core team members may leave, or new ones might join — not to mention the plethora of new technology and constantly shifting economic cycles. There is no limit to possible unforeseen events and circumstances.
All this is to say that most businesses will face the challenge of quickly adapting to changes while experiencing minimal disruption to their projects and performance.
This is where the concept of agile work can enable businesses to navigate and promptly deal with the unexpected without losing momentum. Agile business processes can effectively replace traditional processes, offering a more advanced yet more flexible approach.
Organizations across all industries and sectors need to prioritize business process design and management. While it is possible to operate with informal processes, making an effort to document and follow proper workflows can help companies adjust to the market, scale operations, and be as efficient as possible.
Business processes are repeatable procedures or workflows that serve a certain purpose in company operations. So, business process management (BPM) refers to the practices that organizations undertake to control and monitor all their processes. This can consist of various stages, from designing and building processes to analyzing and optimizing them.
The goal of BPM is to try to automate workflows and make them more structured, which can save businesses significant time and ensure everything is running smoothly. Having well-structured, repetitive workflows can also simplify employees' jobs and increase productivity.
In business process design, a crucial early stage of crafting a great process is to map it out.
Business process mapping involves listing all the steps of the workflow and outlining required tasks and their timelines, as well as resources, roles, and responsibilities. Typically, the best way to map out a process is through a flowchart (usually with an additional written portion). This should not be skipped: documentation is essential to be able to keep track of all processes later on.
Agile business process mapping can take a slightly different form — user story mapping. So instead of listing the steps of the business process, agile teams might begin by outlining the steps of the customer journey first and then building their workflow based on that. This puts the focus on the user rather than the organization. At this stage, it’s also important to involve the relevant stakeholders, especially people with on-the-ground experience who can provide valuable input. While optional, user story mapping can help add clarity and structure to complex processes.
BPM can be tricky to handle, especially as multiple teams across different departments can be involved in shared processes. Software solutions, such as project management platforms, can help companies manage business processes while improving communication, efficiency, and productivity in the organization as a whole.
The necessity for agile BPM emerges when organizations begin dealing with business conditions that are not anticipated.
How can a company navigate uncertainty without pausing or hindering its operations?
Traditional BPM is catered to predictable situations and repetitive tasks, so teams following such firmly set processes are usually not prepared to deal with surprises or unexpected situations. But in the modern business landscape, where digitization and an agile approach live side by side, client requirements and project deliverables can change from day to day — and business processes need to keep up. Teams and their projects simply need to embrace agile process management.
The approach to process management also comes down to the department within the company and what kind of projects it works with. For example, marketing and sales are notorious for constantly having to deal with the unexpected. Rigid processes have no place in an area of business that is often dependent on impermanent market trends and evolving customer demands.
On the other hand, departments like finance, operations, and manufacturing rely on formalized, stable processes. These units of a company require consistency because they work with exact data and predictions. Accountants and finance managers must know exactly how much money has been earned and spent and how much budget has been assigned for each project — there is no room for uncertainty! So traditional business process design and BPM are excellent in this context.
Of course, sales is also seemingly predictable: sales processes in most companies are designed to be structured and straightforward. But sales deals predominantly with people, not numbers — and people are rarely predictable. Customers’ decision-making can affect both the processes and the results, so when things deviate from the norm, both team members and their processes need agility.
While agile BPM still depends on repeatable workflows, they can be refined more regularly within short cycles — agile iterations. This approach allows teams to respond to changes immediately, adapting processes in real-time.
At Mäd, for instance, we need agile BPM when we enter the discovery phase with a new client or conduct a design sprint. At this stage, it’s common for clients to change their mind about the methods they want to follow to achieve their goal, and even request additional services. If the project involves product development, stakeholders’ vision of the design and features of the product can also shift away from what was originally planned. So the design and development teams must be able to quickly adjust their processes, modify the steps, and sometimes even add a new team member if there’s extra workload!
In a dynamic, evolving business environment, the need for responsive and equally dynamic business processes cannot be overstated.
By prioritizing business process management (BPM), companies can be confident that their workflows are designed to work: structured, efficient, and easy to follow for the relevant teams. But no matter how well-planned the business processes are, there should always be a margin for unforeseen events. Often, traditional BPM can be insufficient in such situations.
To navigate uncertainty and tackle the unexpected, organizations can adopt agile principles. Agile BPM ensures that existing processes are well-prepared and also flexible enough to adapt when circumstances shift. As an added benefit, it can help avoid unnecessarily lengthy approvals, decision-making, and restructuring, all of which are common in formally organized businesses (and usually rigid).
So, if your business process analysis (BPA) has indicated that the ROI of your company’s current processes isn’t reaching your goals, go ahead and enhance (or even redesign) these processes by embracing agile.
Feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to understand more about how you can implement agile principles in managing your business processes and helping your team to navigate the unexpected — without losing momentum.