A Pagos Guide to Process Building
A Pagos Guide to Process Building
For any tech startup, efficiently built internal and external processes are essential to business growth and scalability. Process building has many layers, and each team, department, and company is different in what they need at any given stage of business growth. That being said, we’ve identified a six step process to designing and implementing the ideal processes and procedures for any business. (Yes. We have a process for process building…)
You may be wondering why Pagos—a payments optimization platform—is now coming at you with business growth how-to’s. Trust us when we say we’ve come by this expertise honestly and through months of hard work designing our own internal processes. We have to stay at the top of our game in the realm of payments; if we’re going to help others optimize payments processes, we need to optimize all of our internal processes and monitor them closely so they can grow and change with our business. Throughout this post, we’ll share what we’ve learned along the way and demonstrate why process building is so vital to early-stage growth companies.
The Importance of Process
Before we dive into building out processes in a fast-growing startup, let's review why process and structure matter. Simply put, process is what keeps teams and departments aligned. Process allows communication in multiple forms (e.g. written, verbal, and audio), and it ensures projects move smoothly from ideation to launch. Even more, a good process accounts for changes in capacity and facilitates business growth, so you can better serve your customer base. This becomes even more important if you’re growing quickly and you operate in a remote first and global environment like Pagos does.
When building out operational processes, we are anticipating the needs of the business. As a startup is scaling, the needs for the business will be changing quickly. If there is no process in place, then teams will not be able to proactively address shifts in the trajectory of the company. Instead, teams across your organization, from sales and account management to product managers and engineers, need open lines of communication to determine where there are growing pains. Well-built operational processes are therefore pivotal to a young company’s success, as they allow you to be proactive rather than reactive.
The Building Process
Step 1: Identify Where Process is Needed
There are many teams and departments that form a startup, so the first step to building out quality processes is identifying and prioritizing what each business sector needs. This takes a greater understanding of the nature of your business, clear cross-functional company goals, and open communication. These components will help guide you to the area(s) of your business that would benefit the most from process alignment.
Here are some examples of the types of issues you may see and the way process could help:
Your business is pushing for an increase in new product launches, but all the ideas get lost in translation and leave the stakeholders with no direction. This clearly indicates a need for you to prioritize building out processes surrounding product development.
Your engineering team continuously identifies additional enhancements they can make to a project prior to completion, but they’re unsure of customer need. Building a process around hosting demo’s and Q&A sessions with commercial, product, and customer success teams can lead to releasing a more complete project.
Your business has had trouble analyzing how customers responded to your first set of new releases. The teams who built the products aren’t even sure how customers are using them. Creating a process surrounding a feedback loop can lead to more calculated feature enhancements and future product releases.
Step 2: Verify What the Current Process Is
In most startups, the early hires and founders might have a great deal of experience and knowledge pertaining to the nature of the business. Given their experience, these individuals generally bring with them operational processes typical to their verticals. This can range from weekly standups with cross-functional teams to having a product manager run sprint cycles. While most of these organically-implemented processes come from a place of experience and positive intent, startup growth requires more intentional process development. As such, we recommend never skipping this important step; take the time to vet all existing processes for healthy and unhealthy practices, and carefully consider if a specific process makes sense right now or not.
We choose to first identify what we already have in place for three reasons:
“If It Isn’t Broken, Don’t Fix It” - Building on top of something that is working instead of trying to reinvent the wheel saves time and resources. This leads to the innovation and optimization we are aiming for!
Eliminate Redundancy - Oftentimes, multiple teams in the same company have similar processes in place but lack the communication cross functionally to realize it. Save your company time and resources by ensuring the process you want to build doesn’t already exist or aligning two similar processes already in existence.
Ground Yourself in the Now - It’s possible your team started putting processes in place for your company as if it was already a massive, global enterprise. This is especially likely if that’s where everyone came from. Take the time to address what processes might not be appropriate at this stage and save them for the future. Alternatively, assess what processes you’ve outgrown since their inception and don’t hesitate to call out the need for a change.
Once all of these processes are identified, document them and communicate them out to the necessary stakeholders.
Step 3: Analyze Data
Now that we have identified what operational processes we have in place, we want to analyze how they’re doing. This is when we can verify the redundancies and identify operational inefficiencies. Examples are, getting rid of manual tasks, fast tracking some processes, eliminating certain procedures all together, and more.
This data is collected through a multitude of ways. One of the most efficient ways is interviewing different team members on their experiences. Getting team members to break down in detail what their process is when approaching certain tasks provides a clear view of areas with inefficiencies. Interviewing can be conducted in the form of a co-working session, where one simply watches the workflow of a team member. You can also interview an entire team at the same time, getting a brain dump of everyone’s workflows so you can compare them in real time.
As we did with Step 2, you’ll then want to communicate the findings to the relevant stakeholders.
Step 4: Create Standardized Process
At this point, the pre-work for building out the process is now complete. You’ve identified all the areas that have operational inefficiencies and are ready to start building. With all the necessary data and documentation available, you can start creating resources such as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Product Requirement Documents (PRDs), Cross functional planning guides, and more.
The most common process building tools we use across our entire organization—and benefit greatly from—are SOPs. Standard Operating Procedures are a written set of step-by-step instructions used to create a standardized or routine way of performing certain business actions. We create SOPs on how to set up channels of communication, take lead on a project, train new hires, set up a Jira board, onboard a new client, and much more. The use of this format is limitless in what it can do to give a company structure. Most importantly, SOPs can be extremely malleable for what direction the company is going in.
Aside from providing steps and documentation for new processes, we will also deliver comprehensive trainings. These can consist of live demos, co-working sessions, recordings, and time-stamped updates. A new process is not helpful if it is not clear and understood when implemented. The goal is to ultimately become much more efficient and continuously optimize the work you’re doing.
Step 5: Review Process Performance
There are many different ways to test and review a new process that has just been implemented. One example is developing Key Performance indicators (KPIs). These are customized, quantifiable measures of performance over time used to track progress towards a pre-defined goal. In other words, they allow you to identify if what you have asked everyone to start doing is actually working.
For example, if your startup implements a new daily stand-up process for the product team to improve communication and speed up development work, you’ll want to see how it has helped. As such, you may set a KPI of 10 more tickets completed each sprint than the prior average. If the product team is now more informed but the engineers are closing 10 less tickets per week, you’ll have to address this issue by implementing a change.
The best thing about building out a new process, is that it can always be improved if you’re tracking the process surrounding it.
Step 6: Communicate and Document
Maybe the most important part of building out processes in any company is communication! Communication does not mean messaging one teammate you believe that can benefit from a new SOP. Communication is documenting the new SOP, announcing this new process in various channels (e.g. team messaging, internal team workplace, in meetings), training team members, and announcing changes to the new process.
Efficient communication of data-backed operational processes leads to efficient collaboration, thus putting your company on track for success.
Get Out There and Build!
Just like any good process, even these six steps are subject to change and improve over time. Building operational processes in a startup is not a one-size-fits-all situation. But while the process may be arbitrary, once it becomes part of the essential flow of a company's growth, it can lead to longevity of that business.
Now get out there and build your startup! And if your startup accepts payments, check out the Pagos suite of products to see how we can help you optimize your payments processes.