Business Process Standardization for those who are not in the Fortune 500 … yet

It’s always easier to start working with new clients when the interaction stages are unified and regulated. Check our an alternative view on the business processes standardization/reglamentation in small and middle-sized advertising agencies.

A light version of the process-driven approach to management

Any digital agency seeking to attract new customers should allocate enough resources to complete the taken orders, and a scalable business model helps to match the amount of the resource to the volume of the task.

If you focus on the mass market and want to get diverse orders, an important step in the business model development will be the processes regulation.

Quite a touch of theory to start with

A process-driven approach to company management is authority and responsibility delegation through BP. A business process is a sustainable (repetitive) activity that converts resources (so-called inputs) into results (so-called outputs).

Everything that happens in the business — selling goods, hiring new employees, preparing quarterly reports — is considered as a BP that has an owner and participants. The owner is responsible for the result, and the participants perform a sequence of regulated actions — the process stages. Special methodologies and standards (e.g. UML, BPMN) are used to identify and describe these steps.

Ideally, the reglamentation should cover all BPs in the Agency, and each process should have a regulation drawn up according to all the rules. This will save a lot of problems when replacing staff and improve the services cost and price calculation. But in reality, full reglamentation requires a huge amount of time and labor of competent professionals, backbreaking on the early stages of the company’s life. 

Therefore, it’s better not to pursue the ideal, but to act within your capabilities.

Process standardization plan

Traditionally, the BP description begins with marking its boundaries and defining stages (operations or subprocesses). Then appointing members and defining their roles. We propose to do the opposite.

Step 1. Defining roles

In a growing Agency, the employees’ roles and responsibilities overlap nearly always. It’s interfering the BP standardization. For example, if the strategy approval for the client is done by all three of a marketer, a visual artist, and a web designer, it is not clear whose work to take as the process basis.

Therefore, you should start by clarifying the duties of each position. Three main points to keep in mind:

  1. Every BP needs an owner. The one who sets deadlines, approves campaign settings, presents results to the client, that is, takes responsibility for the result of a particular work.
  2. Roles do not intersect. The contextual advertising specialist does only his job, the same with the copywriter, etc.
  3. Roles cover all processes. There are no tasks with undefined executor.
  4. The last two items conform to the MECE (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive) principle, developed by McKinsey & Company consulting firm.

Step 2. Defining processes

A big mistake in the BP reglamentation is trying to model them in the desired, standard form, forgetting about you operate in the conditions of limited resources. Instead, it is necessary to study the real sequence of actions of employees and capture it.

It is convenient to represent such sequences in the form of block schemas. For example, let’s take the “targeted advertising setup” process and present it schematically:

Blocks represent individual actions or sub-processes. The main thing is that each of them has an executor, and the whole BP ends with a specific result. If you find that a process contains too many feedback loops, or if two artists frequently replace each other, it’s probably best to get rid of a few steps.

Describing BPs, it is not necessary to structure all the agency’s activities. Prioritize and act consistently. It makes sense to start with tasks that:

  1. relate to core business activities and directly affect income
  2. are based on customer interaction
  3. include more routine than creative operations

Thus, if you are initially a contextual ads agency, priority will be given to such business processes as “developing a strategy for search engines”, “setting up contextual advertising”. It’s great if over time you standardize some other BPs too, but even this small step will help to reach a new level of company development.

Step 3. Documenting processes

We have reached the heart of standardization — the BPs formalization in the form of documents. At this stage, it is important to strike a balance between technical accuracy and simplicity for those who will use them in their work.

You can consolidate the processes in the form of:

  • diagrams
  • working regulations
  • software templates

It is better to have all three types of documents, as they are used for different purposes.


The block-schema in only a draft to visualize the BPs. To make a graphic representation comprehensive, simple and understandable to any user it’s better to use the standard notations.

For example, IDEF3 process documentation standard. External diagrams created with IDEF3 may look like this:

They are composed of the following elements:

  • Unit of Behavior (UOB) boxes
  • Arrows/links between them
  • Intersections (merging/branching boxes)
  • Reference objects
And other elements, more details you can find here. As an alternative, it is convenient to use the BPMN 2.0 notation standard.

Diagrams will be useful for you to quickly introduce the general structure of work in the agency to employees and managers. Also, visual representation helps to find opportunities for optimization.

Working regulations

It’s useful to put complex BPs in the form of separate implementation schedules and to include simple processes in the unit provisions or individual job descriptions. Diagrams will serve as a good application here.

In these documents, the elements of visual models are verbally described in detail. This formalization helps in resolving disputes and is used to control the employees’ work. A fragment of the regulation may look like this:

The BPs document template is available here.

Software templates

The process-driven approach involves the use of project management software. The things as, Jira, Asana, Trello allows you creating tasks, assign workers and deadlines in a single workspace. All BPs participants see the project status, responsible persons of each step, how much is done at the moment.

In these services, you don’t have to create new projects from scratch. It’s enough to prepare a task tree template once and adjust terms and descriptions. For example, templates in Trello look like this.
Such samples are another way to formalize business-processes. The purpose of using templates is extremely practical: they save time on preparation for work with a new client. For us, at Proofy, Trello is a kind of classy tool whether we perform contact validation or arrange a party for our employees.

What next

BPs reglamentation simplifies the employees work at all levels — from specialists to managers. Knowing what operations the process consists of, how much time they require for implementation, it is easy to calculate the cost of its accomplishment. For an Agency that focuses on the mass market, it is the basis for pricing. Clients come from different industries and with different goals, but if the work plan is broken down into a series of clear formalized steps with a known price, the risk of disputes is minimal.

Established BPs should follow the rules, but they should not be applied with no thinking. Regular monitoring of both individual operations and processes will help to find the optimization points and opportunities for further development of the entire business model.

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Author Roman Onischuk – Digital marketer with 3+ years experience, email marketer,  content marketer, marketing manager at

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