10 typical reasons for business process failure

Having a bad process in your business is like trying to drive a car with a flat tyre — it slows everything down, makes things less stable, and costs more money further down the line.

Process failure causes a host of business issues. It impedes your automation efforts, demands extra time and resources to fix, and hobbles productivity.

So, what causes process failure? Here are ten of the most common reasons that processes fall short.

1.      The process has unclear value

When the value of a process isn’t clear to those that are part of it, it means that there’s a good chance it isn’t aligned with business strategy or goals.

If no one knows or understands why the process is important, then it’s not providing value to them.

Or, in other words, it has failed to be a useful, necessary process.

2.      No means of measurement

Another sure-fire way to end up with process failure is to have no metrics or measurements in place to track the process.

Without a way to measure how well a process is working, there’s no way to tell if it’s successful or failing. It also means that you can’t tell why, where, or even if process failure has hit the process in question.

3.      No evolution and no continuous improvement

Without any kind of evolution or continuous process improvement, processes become outdated. This means that they won’t be using newer programs that the business has adopted. In turn, they may be more convoluted, or in need of fixing before you can automate them.

No updates mean missing out on the new things you have in place to keep your business going smoothly. It means inefficiencies are going unnoticed, and vulnerabilities are left open for exploitation.

4.      No standardisation of process creation

Employees in your business will have good ideas, bad ideas, and everything in between. If there’s no standard way to enact them, this leads to a lot of misfiring processes being set up.

As such, a lack of a framework leads to process failure. The good ideas don’t get implemented properly, and bad ideas end up ruining other processes. The result is chaos and time spent reworking failed processes.

5.      Human error

A major cause of process failure is human error. This can come from things like an honest mistake, forgetfulness, a typo, and apathy towards the task(s) at hand.

Human error causes processes to be defective. They don’t point to the correct programs, they apply the wrong rules to data, they don’t get done at the right time, and so on.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to completely remove human error. Automation can help with running completed, well-created processes regularly and on time, and also with alerts. But there will always be some steps and processes that need to be taken by a human, and sometimes mistakes happen.

The way to guard against this cause of process failure, then, is regular monitoring and analysis to catch mistakes early and get the process(es) back on track.

6.      Too complex

The complexity of a process can also lend to the probability of process failure. Simple processes are easy to set up and prime for automation. (Meaning it’s easy to keep them from failing.) Complex processes, on the other hand, are a different story.

Maybe they involve multiple departments, files, databases, or steps. The more complex a process, the harder it is to view it all in one go — and the easier it is to forget or make a mistake during any part of it.

7.      No integration

Processes typically rely on integration. This spans integration between departments as well as systems — allowing teams and tools to be used together.

When there’s no integration, processes become laboured. It’s harder to get things done and work around integration issues. In turn, this leads to process failure.

8.      Reliance on other failed processes

Related to integration, some processes are reliant on others. So, if one process fails, it can cause others to suffer process failure too.

When this happens, it can be a headache to untangle. You must trace the error back to the initial failure to fix it all. The best way to deal with this cause of process failure, then, is prevention. This means keeping processes up to date and well-monitored, as well as guarding against other causes of process failure.

9.      Lack of accountability

Process failure can happen if there’s no one in charge of preventing it. If there’s no accountability for a given process, mistakes won’t get prioritised. So, failure becomes more likely.

10.  Lack of change management

When things change in a business, from tools to team members to processes, the people around must adapt.

Sometimes, change is disruptive. If this disruption isn’t well managed, people can struggle to get on board with it.

In terms of process failure, this inability to adapt to change can mean forgetting new steps or new processes entirely. It can mean a rejection of newer tools that means processes can’t be properly updated. And, in turn, it causes process failure.

The way to combat this cause of failing processes is by employing a change agent and supporting teams through disruptive changes and upgrades.

Process failure

Having working processes is a must for any efficient business. You don’t want to waste time putting out fires with your processes when you could be furthering the business and helping customers.

Simply, if you want a robust, efficient business, you need robust, efficient processes. And that means guarding against business process failure.

So, be vigilant for these 10 common causes and tackle the issue at the root.

Useful links

A guide to achieving continuous process improvement

A beginner’s guide to BPR

Automation will save you from death by admin

Automation mistakes: the tactical fix, rather than the transformation

ELI5: What is a change agent?