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16-Step Business Process Design for Virtual Teams

This is a guest post by Eric Bloom, Executive Director of IT Management and Leadership Institute.

Strong business processes are the key to organizational productivity and efficiency. They, however, can take months or even years to create, streamline, perfect and become part of a department’s or company’s culture and internal fabric.

These types of quality processes can be even more elusive if the employees being organized are in multiple physical locations because:

  • Communication between employees performing the process is reduced.

  • The full process must be conceptualized, rather than observed.

  • Processes cannot naturally form because physical distance reduces informal interpersonal communication and thus, impromptu brainstorming.

  • Process improvements cannot be spontaneous because the various process steps must be coordinated, and formal function interfaces must be maintained.

16 Steps to Design Efficient Processes

There are, however, a number of things management can do to help facilitate the creation and institutionalization of efficient processes over distance, across organizational divides, and local departmental idiosyncrasies.

These include:

1. Define the business vision and purpose

Clearly define the business vision and purpose as to why the process is being created. This is required for two purposes. First, to personally conceptualize the importance of the process being created. Second, it will assist you in articulating the process’s importance to others.

2. Create a list of needed physical locations

This is so you will know who must be involved in the process.

3. Define the tasks

For each physical location, define the needed tasks to be performed, estimated required resources, and the level of required management oversight.

4. Identify management stakeholders

Identify the management stakeholders at each physical location.

5. Discover the benefits for each stakeholder

Discover the organizational and personal process benefits for each identified management stakeholder.

6. Tailor the communication to each stakeholder

Customize the communication of the process’s vision and purpose to each stakeholder in a way that includes their organizational and personal benefits of participation. This helps assure stakeholder buy-in and the local prioritization required to obtain the needed resources.

7. Establish a team with a point person at each physical location

This should be done for communication, coordination, and teambuilding purposes.

8. Define overall process design

Define the overall process design, with emphasis placed on the interfaces between physical locations.

9. Each physical location to define internal process 

Allow each physical location to define its own internal process to perform the task, based on the needed input and output requirements as defined in the physical location interfaces.

10. Facilitate communication between locations

Facilitate formal and informal lines of communication between the physical locations with process interfaces to help assure that working interfaces are designed, implemented, and monitored on an ongoing basis.

11. Perform a dry run

Once each location has built their internal processes, perform and closely monitor a dry run of the process from beginning to end.

12. Have a "lessons learned" meeting

Have a “lessons learned” meeting/brainstorm of what needs to be corrected, enhanced, documented, and/or replaced.

13. Make the needed process adjustments

14. Repeat steps 11 through 13 until process flows smoothly

15. Document the process

Fully document the process, including all interfaces, physical location responsibilities, and ongoing monitoring process.

16. Monitor continuously

Continually monitor ongoing process with a watchful eye for process bottlenecks, potential process improvements, and organizational/political changes at all locations that could affect ongoing operations.

4 Primary Themes: Communication, Coordination, Stakeholder Buy-in, and Teambuilding

When reviewing this sixteen-step process, you will see four primary themes running through it.  They are communication, coordination, stakeholder buy-in, and teambuilding.

Communication

Communication is essential and must be overemphasized and over orchestrated, because without it, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to coordinate the efforts of various physical locations into a coherent and workable overall process.

Additionally, once the process is put in place, inter-location communication will be needed to assure smooth ongoing operations and process improvement.

Coordination

Coordination is essential to ensure consistent and efficient interfaces are created between locations.

Stakeholder buy-in

Upfront stakeholder buy-in is required because they control the resources needed to perform the required tasks. These resources may include people, technology, equipment, physical space, and other related items.

Teambuilding

The reason that teambuilding is required, is without it, the various physical locations may not feel ownership of the overall process, which can result in process inefficiencies, infighting, finger-pointing, loss of stakeholder support, and the eventual breakdown of the process altogether.

Until next time, lead well, innovate, and continue to grow.

Author Bio

Eric Bloom

Eric Bloom is the Executive Director of the IT Management and Leadership Institute, Founder of OfficeInfluence.com, author of the book “Office Influence: Get What You Want from The Mailroom to the Boardroom”, an Amazon bestselling author, speaker, trainer and executive coach.

Eric is also a former nationally syndicated columnist, TEDx speaker, and recognized thought leader on the use of influence in the workplace. 

He is also a Past President of National Speakers Association New England, a Certified Professional Speaker (CSP), and the author of various other books, including “Productivity Driven Success” and “The CIO’s Guide to Staff Needs, Growth, and Productivity”. Prior to his current role, Eric was a senior IT executive at various firms including Fidelity Investments, Monster.com and Independence Investments.

Contact him at eric.bloom@ITMLinstitute.org, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom, or visit www.ITMLinstitute.org and www.OfficeInfluence.com.

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Last updated: 01 Mar 2021

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