Business process mapping in startups
When should a startup start mapping and standardizing its business processes?
The lack of mapping and standardization of any company's processes means that the startup in a certain direction lays uncertain foundations for its future development. The more the newly founded company grows, the gaps and shortcomings of the processes increase, which in the medium and long term horizon can lead to the disruption of the functioning of key areas, while there is a risk of the collapse of the entire company. We can avoid critical situations associated with the absence of process management thanks to proactive steps that we start taking at the same time as we begin with any business activities. In this way, we will prevent the potential risks of process errors or at least reduce their impact and at the same time minimize other subsequent risks.
In the startup world it is well known that 9 out of 10 companies "will not make it". One would think that such a huge failure rate would discourage founders. However, the opposite is true - many of them perceive it as a motivation - to hire the right people, to differentiate themselves from the competition by spending more on marketing, or to rush even more with all the new activities of the company. But is it possible that insufficiently defined processes are to be blamed for the failures ?
Startups are able to attract talent, they have enough originality, they know how to impress investors. However, they often do not manage their processes correctly. Sometimes they are able to completely ignore the process as such at the expense of dynamic product or service development, aggressive expansion or too much attention paid to advertising, branding and communication on social networks.
Imagine a creator of new software with one founder, who is the bearer of the idea and vision of where to take your product and has 5 developers in the team. From the beginning, extra tasks and activities that are not directly related to coding can be divided among themselves and partially covered. One can act as an architect, the other as a tester, the third person will fix bugs, the fourth will translate the owner's visions into IT language for colleagues, and the fifth will focus on user design or bring the requirements of potential future customers. However, as the software will grow, functionalities will be packaged or a demo version will be tested or a version with basic functionality will be released to customers. The absence of process mapping can cause a slowdown, stop or complete collapse of development at a certain moment. When the mentioned additional functions and activities excluding IT development will need 100% of the time of new colleagues in the team, the developers will not have time to hand over the experience and knowledge they have acquired so far, as they will be maximally absorbed in development.
The situation we have outlined is not unusual at all. According to a study by Forbes magazine (2019), solving problems with technology is among the most dysfunctional processes in "corporate America". This is often a sign that business growth or investment pressure and preparation of financing are ahead of process management. However, there are many other business processes that are not working normally - not only in startups - from which it can be deduced that their management is not given due attention.
Advantages of process mapping:
- providing process documentation
- a visual representation of the process from start to finish - if we use a flowchart
- visual representation of details that management can immediately understand
- highlighting unknown factors, complications or futility
- division of processes into individual steps using understandable symbols,
- showing the interconnectedness of team members or departments
- providing a frame of reference
- highlighting potential problems and solutions
- strengthening the position of the team, department or management in making more informed decisions
- creating a library of flowcharts and other materials that can be used repeatedly and purposefully changed according to the needs of new processes and projects
- asking more strategic questions and getting better answers
- delivering better products and services to the client
- ensuring compliance of documentation with regulations and during audit
- setting up quality management systems
Startup leaders who leave process management on its own, without intervention and supervision, might not - although unintentionally - count on the longevity of their company. With such an approach, they will almost certainly guarantee bigger or smaller problems creation for their company. It is necessary to allow the employees to manage the processes under their supervision, thus avoiding unnecessarily complicated, non-scalable processes, the implementation of which requires external experts. Sharing knowledge among employees is also vital. Running a process is often tied to an individual or an external partner, however that is not a good recipe for scalability. Instead of tying processes to individuals or the external environment, startup management should ensure the highest possible transparency of the workflow in the organization. The greater the visibility of the workflow in the company, the more understandable and therefore scalable its processes are.
So when should a startup start mapping and standardizing its business processes? Ideally from the very first day of its existence.
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