Processes and WorkflowsMar 05, 2021
Welcome to the Sphynx automation blog post series. As mentioned in our first post, we will cover small business automation tools, tips and tricks using simple web-based applications. Whether you’ve heard of automation before or have just discovered you need to implement it for your practice, this series will get you started from square one. We will get into automation several posts from now as there are a few key foundation items that we need to cover. Namely, processes and workflows. Having established, documented processes and workflows are a best practice, though they are not always necessary. For example, automating segmented emails is significantly different from automating your Onboarding Process. Don’t worry, we will cover high-level ideas that will enable you to get started.
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Processes are a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. As such, processes are built from repeated (or one-time) tasks. For example, when you brush your teeth, you likely follow this series of tasks or something similar:
- Get toothpaste
- Get toothbrush
- Put toothpaste on toothbrush
- Wet paste on toothbrush
- Brush the outside of teeth and gum line, spit
- Brush the tops of teeth, spit
- Brush the back of teeth and inner gum line, spit
- Rinse mouth
- Rinse toothbrush
- Press toothbrush bristles dry
- Store toothbrush
- Store toothpaste
The steps all create the toothbrushing process. The process is independent of any particular routine, for now, but let's take it a step further. Suppose you have a “Wake up Routine” and “Bedtime Routine” that both include the tooth-brushing process. Those routines always occur in a specific order, regardless of what the day brings. These routines could be considered workflows.
Merriam-Webster defines workflows as the sequence of steps involved in moving from the beginning to the end of a working process. This is very similar to a process, and in some cases they can be used interchangeably; however, for the purposes of this blog (and for clarity) let’s assume the following:
Multiple Tasks = Process
Multiple Processes = Workflow
A workflow is essentially a larger process built from multiple smaller processes.
- Send Proposal to client
- Fill proposal
- Review with team
- Determine sequence of services / Engagement Plan
- Send proposal for signature (or feedback)
- Client Agrees to Plan and Proposal
- Send Onboarding Paperwork
- Send Onboarding Questionnaire
- Client Submits Onboarding Paperwork
- Create Contact in CRM
- Send Contract and Invoice
- Client Signs and Submits Contract
- Schedule Major Meeting Dates and Service Milestones
- Complete Onboarding Workflow and Move to “(Insert Name) Workflow”
The above is an example of a common workflow we, and our process expert colleagues, see from our clients. Each item on the list can be a standalone process, but these processes sequentially follow one another, thus building a workflow. That said, you can have a 1-step process and 1-process (or 1-step) workflow.
Processes and workflows are important for a variety of reasons, but their biggest value is that that they add:
- Organization - Workflows organize and streamline your business operations
- Efficiency - Organized and streamlined operations lead to more productivity
- Consistency - Clearly defined and easy-to-follow workflows ensure a consistent client experience
- Easier automation
How processes and workflows fit into the automation process
The automation process (i.e. setting up your automation) is best built on a foundation of documented, previously-established business processes. You may have a great business that’s been thriving for 10 years or more, but you keep track of tasks on sticky notes or handle things on the fly as they come up. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, there’s no foundation for automation to be implemented. That would be like running a coffee pot at a specific time each morning, but adding the grounds or the water at random times. Sure, your coffee pot will run the sequence, but it won’t automatically brew your coffee.
Using the Onboarding example in the previous section, the ideal scenario would be to develop a consistent workflow. The processes typically need to occur in the same order each time the workflow is being followed. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for customization, but the more standardized you can make things, and the more closely you can follow the process, the less stress and energy you will have to expend, the more likely your client is to have a great experience and the more you will be able to outsource or automate. Later in the series, we will touch on making flexible automations, but at this point, the key thing to know is that automation cannot exist without consistent processes and / or workflows.
This post provided a very high level overview of processes and workflows, while touching on how they fit into the automation process. Some of the process and workflow management concepts can get very dense very quickly. The goal of this post was to get our toes in the pool before taking a dip. In our next post, Brooklyn H. Brock, CFP®, CEPA®, ChFC®, CKA® of Ellevate Advisors, LLC will explore the process management process and how to get started. We will also provide resources and contact information for experts in the process building/ management space. See you next time!
Each of our forms includes a comprehensive video series on how to edit and use the form. For now, our forms are primarily used by Financial Advisors / Planners, Consultants and Attorneys. Purchasing the form will enable you to book a discounted Coaching Session with us to help you edit/modify the form for your specific needs if you need additional assistance.
This blog is written by the Sphynx Automation team to help DIYers use web-based apps.
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