Organization is key to any business; without it, you risk wasting time and resources on trying to access information that should be readily available.
Lost paperwork, mixed up schedules, and unorganized files can have your team working inefficiently. But how far do you actually take it? Is it enough to go paperless and store all information digitally, or is something else needed to manage your team’s workflow and information?
As more and more businesses go digital, there’s been a need to organize information and document processes in a way that’s easily accessible. One of the top solutions has been the process library. Helping businesses document files digitally and organize information in a coherent way, process libraries offer a more effective way to manage your processes.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what a process library is, how to create one, and what it can do for your business.
So, what is a process library?
Simply put, a process library is a document management system that enables businesses to store information about their processes in the cloud, helping to keep them both organized and accessible.
It’s essentially a digital library of all the things you want your business to keep record of (think training resources and templates, onboarding information, and information on how tasks should be completed). Your business can use a process library to show present and future employees how work is done at your company, ensuring no past information and employee knowledge is lost in the process.
However, before you can create a library, you’ll need to figure out what all your key processes are and how you’ll organize them.
How do you organize business processes?
Process libraries are meant to save time and increase efficiency, so there’s no point implementing one if you don’t have your processes accurately documented. In addition, your employees need to be able to find information fast, so having a system in place for organization is vital.
Organization all comes down to categorizing your processes so they’re allocated in the right place for the right department. You’re essentially mapping out the architecture of your process library, creating folders to separate out your processes. Some ideas for categorization include:
- Functional area folders. These are simply common functions that your business performs (think finance, customer service, and HR) and can also be used to separate your processes into distinct categories.
- Department folders. Similar to functional areas, categorizing your process based on departments is an easy way of ensuring team members know exactly where to look for information based on their skill-set.
- Testing and live folders. If you’re serious about creating a culture of documentation and knowledge sharing, then it might be useful creating two folders (one for testing and one for live processes). All new processes that come through can be categorized into the testing folder, enabling employees to ‘sandbox’ them before they’re given the greenlight. Not only does this help create a culture of documentation, but it also allows employees the flexibility of staging and experimenting.
You can even include multiple layers of organization with sub-folders, helping you sort through core processes and local processes. When creating these folders, just make sure each is given an accurate name to avoid confusion.
Common business problems that process libraries can fix
Some common use cases that process libraries can fix include:
- Task management. Once employees have easy access to the methods and outputs expected, they’ll be able to perform tasks quickly and effectively. This makes managing tasks much easier.
- Silos and dependencies. If everyone is working via the same method, and has access to each department’s processes, employees will understand each other better. This reduces how frequently they’ll need to seek out information or reiterate how their specific department approaches tasks.
- Lost knowledge. Process libraries ensure knowledge isn’t lost when a team member leaves. Since you will have documented everything, their expertise will stay within the business for other employees to utilize.
- Inconsistency and errors. With everyone having easy access to expected processes, output should be consistent and errors substantially reduced.
- Time spent finding information. Having a centralized location for all relevant documentation means it’s easy to find any information a team might need. As you can see, nearly 20% of the work week is spent looking for information – that’s a huge amount of time:
What is a process catalog?
Your process library will only be effective if it’s organized properly; having multiple files and documents all over the place will only take away from the end goal. This is where a process catalog (also known as process directory) comes into play.
Simply put, a process catalog is an electronic or hardcopy collection of all your company’s processes sorted and organized into distinct categories and folders. It just makes sense; you wouldn’t store your onboarding information in the same folder as your HR processes, and this is what a process catalog solves.
Imagine you’re asked what your business’ cookies policy is – would you know where to find this? Having a well organized process catalog should make it easier to find, as it’ll be stored in a folder called ‘data policies’ or similar.
Why are process libraries important?
Having a solid process management system is key for any modern, forward-focused business and will help glue your business together. As we progress further into the digital age, relying on old physical methods of management will only slow you down and push you behind the companies that are utilizing digital methods of storing and collecting data.
Creating a process library is a key aspect of business process management, and will ensure you’re reaching your full potential. Below, we take an even deeper dive into the importance of process libraries, and how they could benefit your organization.
Saves time and increases efficiency
Time is at a premium for every business, and sifting through endless files to find or document a process doesn’t help. This is probably one of the most noticeable benefits of implementing a process library: it saves you a considerable amount of time.
Since everything is in the cloud and in one central location, you and your employees can easily access important information on processes fast. This will have a knock-on effect on your team’s productivity and overall business efficiency – if less time is spent hunting down files and processes, more time can be spent on important projects and tasks that help drive revenue.
We’ve all encountered this problem before: different employees approach a task with different working methods. The result? An unstructured and unorganized project that’s all over the place, having an impact on the quality of work delivered.A process library ensures all team members know the standard working procedures, and once everybody is working to the same method, it becomes easier to plan and track projects.
Stores information for future reference
One of the great things about process libraries is that information is securely stored for future reference. This means it doesn’t matter how much time passes, you’ll never lose hold of an important process or file over time.
Process documentation can also help in knowledge sharing, which is especially useful for times when an employee leaves or you change management; usually the knowledge and expertise leaves with them. Having a process library means that all their know-how and the processes they used will be kept stored, enabling future employees to look at that information and learn from it.
Improves future processes
A process library essentially stores all your documentation and important information, and this is key to process improvement. Once you’re able to dig into your process history and see how they were all managed, you’ll be able to easily spot any faults and work towards improving them.
You might find that an old method of sorting through invoices is outdated or that you need to find an alternative solution to the way your team member’s connect remotely – the point is, a process library gives you a birds-eye view of your entire business operation.
Breaks down silos
As we’ve touched on, process libraries store all your company’s core information in one place. This encourages all your employees to approach a project in the same way, rather than coming at it from different angles.
When we talk about angles, we’re not talking about approaching a project with a different mindset or creativity (those things are great). We’re talking about approaching a project with different working methods. A process library eliminates any confusion caused by this, and in turn brings your employees together.
This is especially important if you’re operating on a remote or hybrid basis; silos become even more pronounced when your employees are all working in different locations. Luckily, a process library has the added functionality of bringing together all your different processes and enabling each team member to access it. This way, your employees will be able to better understand each department, as they’ll all be using the same methods.
Compatible with remote work
Since a process library is digital, it’s easily accessible and can be used from any device. This makes it perfect if your business operates on a remote or hybrid basis. Having a digital process library rather than lots of paper documentation enables employees to work from anywhere while still having access to important information. It also makes the process of remote onboarding and training a lot easier for you to set up!
Easy to scale and tweak
As a digital medium, process libraries have lots of perks (as I’m sure you’ve been fully made aware of now!) Another added benefit is that it’s incredibly easy to scale and tweak – making process improvement a lot easier to bring into your culture.
As we’ve briefly touched on, process libraries make it easier to train your staff up on standard procedures and methods of working. What this also helps with is compliance; as everyone has access to the most up-to-date version of any regulations or certification you need to meet.
Speeds up development time of new processes
Once a process library is created, it gives your team a set way of approaching and creating processes. This makes it easier to set up new processes and get the ball rolling, as everyone will already be familiar with the existing workflows you have in place.
Lowers costs in the long run
Since process libraries help create a culture of improvement and lead to even better processes, you’ll find yourself saving money in the long run. A combination of speedy development and improved processes means you’ll spend less time correcting failed processes in the future.
How to build a process library
Building a process library requires an investment of time and effort on your part, but you’ll soon reap the rewards. Once it’s all set up and running, you’ll find it easier to drive business growth and create a culture of documentation that helps keep knowledge within the business.
Below, we’ve created a step-by-step tutorial so you can nail your process library the first time around:
1. Categorize business processes
Before you begin, it’s key you organize and sort out all your business processes. For each new process that rolls in, try to figure out its place in your business in the bigger scheme of things, what its purpose is, and what it actually means. It’s a good idea to do this with your employees, rather than making assumptions about who uses what. Starting off collaboratively means that your categories will be accurate, and your staff will be engaged from the start.
Once you’ve determined the definition and purpose of each process, it’s time to create new folders to categorize each process. Group processes that fall under the same umbrella in the same file; it’s really that simple. Not all process models will be the same so it’s really up to you how you categorize each process – whether that’s by department, purpose, or another system.
2. Determine who the key players are for each process
The next step is to determine who the key players are for each process task. It’s probably a good idea to sort this out via each employee’s job title rather than their name (after all, it’s what they do that will determine which process they’re assigned to). Make sure to use language that those specific employees would be able to understand. It’s fine to use jargon, just make sure it relates back to their job role and their expertise.
Set controls on your process library
Once you’ve picked out the key players, it’s important you establish controls over your library and decide which departments and employees can access certain processes. To create a culture of knowledge sharing, you’ll have to give universal permission to all employees but you might find it useful to set controls on who can make edits. If you use software to create your process library, you might be able to do this by enabling the permissions feature (more on this later).
3. Build a process management team
The last step is to set up a process management team. This team will become essential to the organization and management of your process library, as well as any process changes that take place. Their role is to essentially analyze and refine processes as they’re added to the library, modeling it and trying it out in various scenarios to help improve it over time.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to building a team though. We can lay out the basics but at the end of the day, you’ll have to analyze your own company’s structure and how best it would fit into your organization. We do recommend setting up a ‘master librarian’ whose sole job it is to manage the process library, though.
For starters, it’s best to approach building a team by looking at your size. This way you can scope out team composition and figure how you’ll roll training out to new team members and get everybody prepared.
Despite this, there does seem to be a pretty universal agreement about the numbers behind a team’s make-up. According to Hammer’s BPR theory, effective management teams should always be kept under ten people. The theory cites the fact that the larger a team gets, the more unorganized and unmanageable it becomes, resulting in a loss of efficiency.
Sticking to this ‘unwritten rule’ will help you and your team execute ideas better and focus on the main goal. However, depending on the size of your business, there’s a few other things to consider. Let’s take a look at the best way to build a process management team in more depth.
Building a process management team as a:
Small business – up to 25 employees
The great thing about being a small business is the close-knit relationships you can form with all your employees (and it’s definitely a perk when building a team too!) Since everyone generally knows each other quite well, it’s easier to jump onboard and delegate roles to various people. You’re also likely to have a better understanding of existing team dynamics and who works well with who.
Ideal approach: Make it as personal as possible. Once you’ve selected the team members who will run process management, get their input and get them involved. Work to strengthen already strong relationships with team-building exercises. You really can go all out if you’ve got a small business.
Medium business – up to 250 employees
This is where it starts to get slightly trickier. If you’re heading a company with more than 60 people, it’s unlikely you’ll forge super close relationships with them all. You’ll have to work harder to understand team dynamics so it’s important to sit back and take a look at it from a birds-eye view.
Ideal approach: Choose the best people for the job, and pick them based on skill and proof, rather than how long or well you’ve known them. Consider the work they’ve produced and the results they’ve helped drive. This will ensure you get the right people into the right roles.
Large business – 250+ employees
As a large business, you’re in similar territory to mid-sized organizations. The main thing you’re up against is the number of people you’ve got working for you. It’s pretty easy to get lost in that sea of people, so creating a team will need to be really well thought out.
Ideal approach: Do your research on employees and try to target those in more senior positions since they’re more likely to have a wealth of work/results to back up their experience. It might be a good idea to rotate the process management team every couple of years so you can see which employees are the best fit.
What are the key considerations when implementing a process library?
When creating a process library, you’ll have to consider how you’ll approach it and which model would work best for your organization, especially if you’re moving from having a hardcopy to a digital solution. It can be tempting to stick with a traditional approach – but let’s take a look at why this might not be as effective as you’d like.
The traditional approach
In our digital age, using paper as a form of process documentation is more than a little outdated. You’d actually be doing yourself a disservice; it’s easy to lose, difficult to locate and track every process, and personal data could very easily get in the wrong hands. It might be the cheapest option but it definitely isn’t foolproof. In fact, we say cut the cord and leave paper behind completely. You’re much better going digital.
A slightly more forgiving option than paper, Word is 100% digital. It’s great for creating policies, but it is difficult to track all the different processes once it’s completed. You also have to keep in mind that Word comes with a host of different layouts and fonts, so you risk having your process library spawn into a new design each time a different employee adds a process. You want your library to have consistency, so it’s better you leave Word for taking notes.
Visio may be great for process analysts and those directly on the process management team, but it can get a bit complicated for other employees. Remember that your library is going to be accessed by your entire team, so try to keep it on a platform that everyone will be able to understand and navigate.
PowerPoint gets some brownie points for its simple documentation, but just like these other approaches, it’s outdated. Like paper, it’s difficult to track and search for all your processes quickly. You can’t create folders and organize everything properly with both PowerPoint and Word, and it’s far too easy to end up with different teams using different versions of what once was the same document.
Using software: the most fool-proof approach
By far the most up-to-date approach to creating a process library, using software adds great functionality and ease of use to all your employees. Unlike the more traditional methods that lack good tracking and search methods, BPM software can be utilized to create a documentation system that all employees can navigate with ease. Some key benefits include:
1. Search abilities
Software makes it easy to search and find particular processes, as well as keep on track of new processes as they come in. It also means that you can see what’s missing, and what you still need to add.
2. Easy access
The great thing about software is that it’s versatile and universal; it can be accessed from any device and location. This is particularly important in our flexible working world (especially for businesses with remote or hybrid work conditions) as people expect to be able to find information quickly. Easy accessibility also makes for greater productivity and increased efficiency, enabling your team to crack on with the most important tasks.
3. Easy to use
Designed for ease-of-use, software means knowledge sharing and process management can be a collective effort. You won’t need to bring in specially trained resource managers to deal with company culture and processes, reducing your load and saving money in the long run.
Unlike some of the more traditional methods, software’s versatility means it can be used to host a range of multimedia from video and presentations to flowcharts and simple diagrams. This ensures all employees get access to information in a way that’s most suited to them.
5. Enables training and compliance
Process libraries are a great tool when it comes to enabling training and compliance. Since they contain all your company’s standard procedures, employees will be able to easily walk through them and better understand how they work.
They can also be used to track your team’s training and provide accurate metrics, meaning you’ll know if they have read and understood policies and processes correctly. Not only does this lead to more knowledge sharing, but it can also be used as a form of reference during compliance audits.
6. Feedback mechanisms
Most software comes equipped with a range of tools that can be used for collaboration, enabling employees to give their input on particular processes and ideas for improvement. This feedback leads to process improvement and ensures employees stay engaged and motivated.
7. Integrated workflow
Depending on which software platform you use, you might find that you’re able to manage tasks and workflows directly linked to a process. This means you can easily see which processes are being used and how, as well as how they could be improved. Not only does this further break down silos and create integrated workflows, but it also gives you a birds-eye view of all your business processes.
8. Permissions feature
With software, you can easily decide who sees what by enabling permissions to specific departments. This means draft documentation can only be seen by a select committee, or edits can only be made by approved personnel.
9. More organization
Unlike the other methods, software enables you to create many different folders all within one single location. This makes it easier for you to keep processes organized and make use of both testing ‘sandbox’ folders, and live folders.
A process library is a great way of organizing your business processes in a transparent and easy-to-understand format. It will take a little digging on your part and some effort to get it up and running, but once you do it will help your organization massively. By encouraging a people plus process approach, and with a process library helping to store information, preserve knowledge, and increase efficiency, you’ll soon start to reap the benefits.