What Is Process Management? Importance, Examples, and Lifecycle

Julia Lopes
Two female-appearing people dressed in office clothes look at a whiteboard on which a diagram is drawn. The person on the left has a marker on her hand, while the person on the right gestures with both hands, as if trying to convey her impressions about the diagram.

Processes are the building blocks of every business. They organize work and help teams convert inputs and effort into predictable outcomes that meet business goals. That’s why it’s critical for teams to have a process management strategy in place.  

In this post, we’ll cover all the basics of process management, including some definitions, examples, and best practices. Our goal is to help you better understand this procedure, its importance to your business, and the cycles involved.

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What is a business process?

A business process is an organized set of activities, tasks, and workflows that allow a business to achieve its goals. There are many different types of business processes, including core, support, and long-tail processes. All processes belong to one of these types, and all processes can be defined as either structured or unstructured

Regardless of the type, business processes need to be defined before they can be managed. Some of the key benefits of defining a process include: 

  • Better visibility
  • More control
  • Improved accountability
  • Increased efficiency
  • Higher productivity
  • Easier enforcement of security and compliance requirements

What is process management? 

Process management is a systematic procedure that ensures effective and efficient business processes are in place. It is a set of activities that align business processes with strategic goals. A well-defined process plays a crucial role in a business’s positive growth. For this reason, it is vital to implement a process management strategy regardless of the size of your company.

In contrast to project management — which organizes and oversees the group of processes that make up a project — process management focuses on recurring activities and workflows. It considers individual processes as well as all of the processes taking place within an organization.

Why is process management important?

The common wisdom is that process management is essential for establishing and maintaining business efficiency. It’s also necessary to ensure that processes are meeting their goals. 

But there are other reasons why process management is important. Processes must evolve to stay aligned with changes in business needs. This management strategy provides the insight and control needed to modify processes when needed.

Furthermore, it helps identify bottlenecks, data and collaboration silos, and faulty handoffs. It can also help create workflows that lead to better experiences for customers and employees. 

We can’t forget it keeps teams decision-ready as well. By monitoring and evaluating process effectiveness, teams have access to data that can drive informed decisions. 

What is the process management lifecycle?

Effective process management requires a defined set of steps or phases. This is called the process management lifecycle. This lifecycle can be divided into five stages: 

  1. Analysis
  2. Modeling
  3. Execution
  4. Monitoring
  5. Optimization

1. Analysis

The analysis stage involves a thorough review and assessment of the current (or as-is) version of the process. This involves identifying and reviewing each of the workflow components including:

  • Inputs
  • Outputs
  • Tasks
  • Documents
  • Data
  • Handoffs
  • Systems
  • Apps 

To complete a thorough analysis, it may be helpful to create a process map using standard flowchart symbols

2. Modeling

Once the current or as-is process has been analyzed, the next step of the process management lifecycle is to model the improved (or to-be) version of the process. 

This new version of the process should resolve any problems found in the existing process such as bottlenecks, silos, repetitive tasks, issues with speed, or frequent errors. If the analysis revealed any problems with security, compliance, or data integrity, this is the time to address them. 

Process modeling is done by illustrating the to-be version of the process using a whiteboard, pen and paper, or a process modeling tool. 

3. Execution

Once the new version of the process has been modeled, it’s time to put it into action. This stage of process management — also known as implementation — can be complicated. In addition to making changes to systems, workflows, and even personnel, successful implementation will depend on how well people are trained on how to use the new process, and on how well the technologies involved in the process work together. 

4. Monitoring

Once the new process has been put into place, the next phase of project management is to monitor the process. Process managers will want to look at high-level or qualitative aspects of the process, such as how well team members are adjusting to the process and whether or not the process “flows” correctly. But monitoring also means tracking productivity, output, and other KPIs, such as speed, error rates, and time-to-resolution. 

5. Optimizing

Optimization is an ongoing and never-ending effort, and every process will require revision at some point. Once a new process has been put into place and monitoring has begun, performance data may reveal opportunities to further optimize the process. Some of these opportunities can’t be anticipated and will only come into focus once the process is up and running.

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5 process management examples

Process management can be a difficult concept to visualize. That’s because it’s a complex undertaking that may look different depending on the organization and the particular process. To help give you an idea of what it entails, here are a few examples. 

Employee onboarding

The processes that take place in the HR department are some of the most complex in any business. They’re also some of the most important. That’s because HR processes play a critical role in creating a positive employee experience and may impact a company’s ability to hire and retain talent. 

Because HR processes and workflows are complex support processes, they often cross department and team boundaries. For example, the employee onboarding process may require input or action from the following teams or departments: 

  • Recruiting (to alert HR when a new hire is finalized)
  • Payroll (to set up direct deposit and complete tax forms)
  • Education (to train new hires on company policies)
  • Facilities (to ensure new hires have a functional workspace)
  • IT (to provide login credentials and equipment to new employees)

A typical onboarding process consists of many tasks, activities, and workflows. Managing this process requires insight into all the working parts, an accurate understanding of how data and documents move through the workflow, and the relationships between each trigger, outcome, and handoff. 

Process management in this scenario means making sure that the end result includes: 

  1. An employee who is enthusiastic about their new role;
  2. An employee who is prepared to be a productive team member;
  3. An efficient process in which repetitive tasks are eliminated or minimized;
  4. A process in which data and documents are easily managed and shared.

Employee requests

Like the onboarding process, employee request management can be complicated. Depending on the request type, it may require action or input from various teams. For example, an employee request may be related to operations, facilities, IT, finance, payroll, benefits, or security. Each type of request is managed with a unique workflow. 

The key to managing the employee request process is to realize that it’s not a single process, but many. Still, HR teams will want to have oversight of all the different request types, as well as their outcomes and the employee’s satisfaction. The solution for many teams is to use a low-code automation platform to manage employee requests. 

The advantage of a low-code solution is that HR teams can use an IT-approved set of building blocks to create and modify each unique request workflow. At the same time, low-code tools integrate with the existing HRIS and other apps to create a unified employee request management system

Procurement

Processes that take place in the finance department are the lifeblood of an organization. While not all finance processes are core business processes, they still play a critical role in making sure that the organization’s revenues and expenses are managed soundly. Finance processes impact a company’s credit worthiness, vendor relationships, and available cash flow.

One process that’s particularly complex is procurement. It requires input and action from a range of stakeholders including purchasing teams, managers, accounts payable teams, and vendors.

Process management for procurement has to take into account a wide range of factors including the movement of data and documents, approval workflows, and supplier relationship management. Process managers will need total visibility into how well teams are meeting deadlines, how effective the team is at securing discounts, and whether or not the supply chain is meeting the company’s needs. Other factors that determine the health of a procurement process include:

  • Alignment with the overall procurement strategy
  • Error rates resulting from duplicate data entry or missing information
  • Management of supplier contracts
  • Effectiveness of cross-team collaboration
  • Capacity of the current tech stack for moving data seamlessly between apps and systems

Reimbursement

The reimbursement process isn’t usually as complicated as something like procurement, but it’s still important to build and maintain a structured process to ensure that people receive their funds in a timely manner. It’s equally important to make sure the process is accurate and accountable since it has a direct impact on cash flow. 

To manage the reimbursement process, start by looking at the way these requests are being received by the finance team. Do users have to complete an online form, or can they send copies of their receipts? 

If requests for reimbursement arrive from multiple channels, you’ll want to use a tool that converts all incoming requests into a consistent type of data and then consolidates those requests in a single system. For example, a workflow automation solution that’s integrated with the apps, email, spreadsheets, and systems of the current tech stack. 

Sales

The sales process is a core business process, which means it has a direct impact on company revenue. The sales process generates value for customers and plays an important role in developing the brand and establishing trust with prospects and potential clients. As a result, managing the sales process is a priority for every business. 

Sales process management is primarily focused on the sales pipeline stages and how well its structure converts prospects into customers. But the sales process also requires a lot of back and forth between sales teams and prospects. 

Managing a sales process well means ensuring that workflows are predictable and effective, that tasks like follow-ups and scheduling meetings are happening in a timely manner, and that data is being collected at every step of the way to learn more about the process and the leads and customers it produces. 

Process managers who are tasked with overseeing the sales process will need total visibility. This will help them inform sales teams and managers about performance and improvement opportunities, as well as keep business leaders decision-ready. Areas of focus for process management in sales include: 

  • Availability of key metrics (conversion rates, time-to-close, average deal size)
  • Lead capture capabilities
  • Lead assignment workflows
  • Data consistency between apps and systems
  • Criteria for determining qualified leads
  • Document generation and management
  • Ability to schedule meetings with prospects in a timely manner
  • Consistent (and persistent) follow-ups
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Benefits of process management

The temptation to try and solve every business problem by adding new apps or systems to the tech stack has led to new challenges and complexities. As tech stacks become more complicated, more manual work is required to fill process gaps. 

And often, the initial problem the new technology was meant to solve remains untouched. In short, adding new tech to try and fix processes can sometimes be a counterproductive endeavor. As a result, IT teams have more components to secure and manage. 

This approach remains popular, however, because it’s sometimes seen as a shortcut to process optimization. The truth is that new technologies can deliver enormous benefits for businesses. But they should usually not be implemented unless the current process is understood and documented. That’s where process management comes in. 

The benefits of process management are based on the deep knowledge and insights that come from getting in the weeds with a particular process. It starts with X-ray insights into how a process works and how it can be improved. Other benefits include: 

Reduced risk

The work of process management requires a thorough and honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a given process. As a result, process management initiatives can identify and address areas of risk, like: 

  • Data leaks
  • Error rates
  • Shadow IT
  • Security vulnerabilities
  • Compliance issues

Strategic alignment

One of the most important benefits of process management is that it helps teams ensure that their processes are aligned with the goals of the business. If a given process isn’t clearly tied to a specific objective or isn’t helping the company achieve a target, then it needs to be evaluated and modified.

It is an ongoing initiative that keeps all processes and workflows in step with the business goals, even as they evolve. 

Increased productivity

Processes are complex arrangements of activity and information, and this complexity can make it difficult to identify inefficiencies that diminish productivity. Problems with the pace, quality, and ease of work can easily hide within processes, causing friction that produces suboptimal results. 

Process management forces teams to seek and remedy these inefficiencies on an ongoing basis. That’s important because the sources of inefficiency shift as processes evolve and new technologies are introduced. 

Less repetition

Repetition in a process drags down productivity and reduces efficiency. It also introduces more opportunities for errors, especially when the redundancy is related to manual data entry. Process management can help teams spot duplicative work and either minimize or eliminate them altogether. 

Tips to optimize your process management

  • Focus on one process at a time.
  • Determine how the process is tied to business strategy.
  • Decide how you want to measure the success of your process.
  • Define the start and end points of the process.
  • Create a process map for the current version of the process. 
  • Look for opportunities to automate tasks and activities.  
  • Assess all the apps, systems, and people that impact the process. 
  • Implement a low-code tool that maximizes stack extensibility.
  • Enable a system of engagement to orchestrate multiple processes.

Tools to improve your process management

Kanban

Kanban is a process visualization method that makes it easier for teams to understand and monitor their work. Kanban was developed within the lean manufacturing movement by Toyota. Software that includes a Kanban view can support process management initiatives by helping teams more quickly assess the effectiveness of the overall process, as well as the status of individual work items in that process. 

Customizable, ready-to-use templates

One of the challenges teams face when it comes to process management is figuring out how to build a new process quickly. A customizable template can be a good option. Templates provide a flexible foundation that’s based on the most common process structures and components. Low-code automation tools make it easy to customize templates using a visual editor. 

Automation

One of the most common ways to optimize a process is through the use of automation. By automating the workflows, tasks, and activities that make up the process, repetitive work is eliminated and opportunities for errors are reduced. Process automation software also provides data that helps teams keep track of item statuses and process KPIs. 

Collaboration tools

Communication and collaboration are key components of any process management initiative. Process managers depend on insight and action from a range of stakeholders, and collaboration tools can make communication easier and follow-ups more dependable.

Look for collaboration tools that integrate with the components of the existing stack and dissolve silos between teams and departments. In some cases, low-code automation software can provide this functionality by unifying multiple systems and apps. 

RPA orchestration

Many teams today rely on robotic process automation (RPA) to complete some of their repetitive tasks. When there are several different bots at work with a process, it’s important that they work together to achieve a common goal. 

That’s what RPA orchestration is all about. While sometimes thought of in terms of a hyperautomation strategy, RPA orchestration can be achieved with low-code process automation which provides a coordination layer between various systems and automation components. 

Integrations

Finally, almost every process today depends on a tech stack that includes a variety of apps, systems, databases, and legacy components. For example, a typical stack may include an ERP, CRM, HRIS, collaboration tools, email, and a number of point solutions that have accumulated over time. 

In order for process management initiatives to succeed, any new technologies must be able to integrate seamlessly with existing or legacy components, as well as future technologies that may be added. Integrations should prevent or eliminate data and collaboration silos, and enable teams to support both systems of record and systems of engagement. 

How Pipefy can improve your business process management

Pipefy fuses a robust process management toolbox with a low-code development framework to support process management initiatives. This unique set of features puts business and IT teams in co-creative roles. This not only allows teams to better understand their current processes, but also empowers them to quickly adapt processes as business needs evolve.

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Written by
Julia Lopes
Senior Marketing Analyst @ Pipefy. Passionate about sharing valuable and informative content. Currently writing about the unique ways teams and businesses can use low-code process automation to optimize processes and adapt to digital change.

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