You are probably wondering what is the difference between systems and processes, and why you should even bother to create systems and processes for your business.
The easiest way I’ve found to understand the difference and thus being able to explain it, is to think about the human body.
In our body there are 12 major organ systems, such as the respiratory, digestive, circulatory, etc. Now the digestive system does a lot of things that we are not aware of – unless you are a doctor – digestion could be considered as a process of the digestive system.
All the activities performed by our systems are crucial to our survival: respiration, digestion, etc. We can say that these activities are the processes that allow the system to function.
So in other words, a system is a group or combination of things, parts or activities, whereas a process refers to the activities inside the system that work together to make it function.
Why you need systems and processes in place from the very beginning
The truth is that if you want to scale, you have to delegate, and if you want to delegate you will have to create systems and processes that support your growth.
Organization sounds boring, I get you. Marketing is fun, fancy and sounds more creative than organization.
However, organization is the backbone of a business and you should not neglect it. When you start a business without processes and systems in place, you will run the risk of losing a great amount of time busy but not productive, engaged in routine tasks that devour your time.
The difference between busy and productive will have a huge impact on your business because you might very soon ask yourself “Where did all the time go?”. Probably all the time went on a routine process that you don’t treat as such and therefore becomes just a messy, confused jumble.
Processes in a business are the activities and tasks that you perform every day, even several times during the day, in a repetitive way.
It is important to consider that the fact that they are repetitive does not make them automatic for you. Riding can be automatic, because our body has its own intelligence and knows what to do. But if you have to perform a task that involves a mental activity, such as writing an email, setting up an email marketing campaign, talking over the phone, etc., you need to engage your brain.
If you are interrupted while performing one of these activities, you will need about a minute to refocus, and sometimes, depending on the activity you were performing, you might even need more time. If you have a documented process, you can just refer to that and pick up the process from the point you left it.
How to start creating processes
Document your workflow
Start by documenting all that you do every single day. You have several options on how to do it, really it’s just a matter of choosing your favorite way of doing it according to what you have at your disposal and what you feel as being more comfortable for you. It has to be something that helps you, not something that drives you crazy.
- Record your screen while you are doing the specific tasks you want to create a process for. You can talk while you are doing it, or just record the screen. Try to do something that is clear enough for you and for any person who might in the future take over that task. Think of a virtual assistant, a business partner, an employee. Ask yourself: will anybody be able to understand it with no effort?In Mac you can use the “command, shift, 5” sequence to easily record your screen, you can use Camtasia if you have it, or a free, web-based option like LOOM.
2. If you need to document something that it’s not precisely done on the pc, then you can record your voice while you give instructions on the specific activity.
For instance, if you are a coach or a consultant and do a lot of consulting over the phone, skype, or zoom, you could record use those sessions to extract your portion of the conversation and thus create instructions and processes for future collaborators.
It might come a time where you will be so busy with your clients that you might need to hire collaborators to support the clients with consulting services.
You will want to have processes in place by then, so that you can easily explain and share your standards, your way of doing the job, with your future collaborators.
You can record audios and use a piece of software to transcribe them.
Make it a process
The documentation step is crucial to understanding what you do and how you can improve it or optimize it, however documenting all that you do every single day is not enough if you don’t turn it into replicable processes.
Once you have gathered all the information, you have to decide where to store it, basically what to do with it, because it can happen that you start with the best intentions but then you give up before the systems and process can actually be put in place.
Once you see everything scrupulously written in front of you, you will easily transform it into tasks that you can even delegate.
My favorite way of creating processes is by creating a project in Asana – you can use any other project management tool – and adding a sequence of tasks.
Asana also has more than 50 templates that will be helpful at the beginning so that you don’t have to start from scratch (some are only for the premium version though)
Here is an example of a template for a product marketing launch.
Look at all the tasks, you will see that in a product launch these are all repetitive activities, so think of how much time you will save if you launch 4 times per year, by having it all documented.
What about systems?
What you see in the image above as a title, like PR, Web, etc. can be considered a system. I don’t think that there is only one way to do things, so you should figure out what is your way of considering systems.
For instance, I think Finances should be a system, and so should be Marketing. But you could choose to further simplify and create an Offline Marketing, a Digital Marketing and even a Social Media Marketing separate system.
You will find several ways of systemizing a business and I personally think that there’s not a one-size-fits-all, because we don’t all think in the same way. Some people are more creative, some are more organized by nature, some are very meticulous, some prefer an organization into larger systems. You could organize your systems according to the type of activity, such as: operations, marketing and sales, finances. I find this type of organization to be more similar to the corporate organization and I prefer to create something more personalized, that actually fits the person who is going to use.
The best way to understand what type of organization is better for you is to see the output of your documentation process. This will tell you how you want to organize your systems.
Something that you might want to add into all of your systems is the tools you are using. For instance, for your “Finances” system you might use an invoicing software like Freshbooks or Invoicely, you should add that and document everything about its use.
Another important addition should be the people involved in the processes and systems. Even if you are a solopreneur, you should consider adding roles such as “Social Media Manager”, “Assistant”, “Copywriter”, “Web Developer”, so that once you are able to delegate and hire collaborators, the processes related to that specific role, are clearly documented as well.
In conclusion, organization might sound boring, but it can actually be fun and it will give you the freedom and the opportunity to scale because if you spend less time with routine tasks, you will have more time to devote to create strategies that will support your business growth.
Start creating your systems and processes and let me know how it’s going!
Digital Entrepreneur and Business Mentor for Location Independent Wannabes. I founded my virtual assistance and digital marketing agency in 2009 and I’ve helped over 300 individuals to become virtual assistants and location independent.
I can help you no matter at what stage of your business you are and if I cannot, someone of my team can.