How to Define a Business Process


Here’s a situation I have witnessed before: management decides they want to train employees on an important topic, such as web security. They ask an Instructional Designer (ID) to put together a course that includes important security information. One of the topics they want the training to cover is how to report a security breach. When you ask your security Subject Matter Expert (SME): What are the steps to report a security breach? You get a lot of head-scratching and confused looks. No one has ever defined that process. How should the breach be reported… should it be an email? A phone call? Who should receive that email or call? What if the breach happens during a holiday? Your SME isn’t really sure of the answer because it’s never been formally defined or documented. But if the organization wants to train employees how to report a security breach, the business first needs to answer those questions and properly define the business process.

The above-mentioned scenario is a common one, as many businesses (especially start-ups and smaller sized organizations) don’t have a great deal, if any, of their processes documented. Employees are all getting things done their own way, which works… until it doesn’t.

This illustrates why training and business processes go hand-in-hand. When you’re training employees, you’re teaching them how to carry out business processes. If there is no documented business process or no defined way of doing things, how can you teach employees how it’s done? This is why sometimes, as an ID or training designer, you might need to be able to define business processes as a part of your job.

Here are the high-level steps you can follow to document your business processes.

Choose the starting point

The first step is to identify the starting point for your business process. A business process typically involves many steps and covers many sub-processes. Some of the steps that occur earlier in the process may affect what happens further down the line. But your process could cover too much and be too far-reaching if you don’t select the right start and end point. Another helpful tip is to start by covering the most common scenario, to avoid covering too much.

Let’s look at an example. Say you’re defining the business process for how to onboard a new employee. A logical starting point for this process could be when the new hire accepts the job offer. The onboarding process might be different for a full-time employee vs. an intern, but if 80% of the new hires are full-time employees, it’s probably a good idea to start with that. 

Identify all the roles involved

Business processes often involve multiple roles and span across multiple departments. The first part of the process might be carried out by one role, then passed along to someone in a different department, then it goes to another person, and so on. You’ll want to identify and include all of the job titles and departments that need to provide approvals, make decisions, or be notified as a part of the process.

The onboarding process involves people across multiple departments. It might involve a Recruiter who sends the final job offer, a Human Resources Administrator who creates an employee profile for the new hire, an IT Specialist who sets up the computer, a Finance team member to add the new hire to payroll, and others. 

Interview people

Asking questions and interviewing the people who carry out the business processes is integral to understanding exactly how the processes are done. You’ll need to sit down with each person involved, one at a time, and have them explain, step-by-step, how they do their job. You’ll ask questions like:

  • What is the trigger that kicks off this process?
  • Why do you do it this way?
  • How do you get this piece of information?
  • What is the next thing you do immediately after this step?
  • What happens if this step goes wrong?

You will continue this line of questioning until you reach the end of their part of the process.

For example, to understand the onboarding process you would start by sitting down with the Recruiter and asking them to walk through their portion of the process, step by step. You might start by asking “What is the first thing you do when an offer is accepted by a new hire?”. Say they respond: “Once the offer is accepted, I communicate this to the rest of the team.” your follow-up questions might then be “How do you communicate this? Who do you communicate it with? Why do those specific people need to know? What would happen if they didn’t?” and so on. 

Document each step

As you’re interviewing the people involved in the process you’re defining, you want to properly document each step in the appropriate order. It’s also a good idea to include relevant notes or tidbits of information that could affect the outcome or that might impact that step.

For the Recruiter involved in the onboarding process, the steps might look like: 

  1. Email the final offer to the candidate with instructions and a deadline for acceptance
  2. Receive the email from the candidate accepting the new offer
  3. Email the candidate to welcome them to the team and provide instructions for the next step which is completing a background check (notes here could include exactly what is needed from the candidate to submit the background check in terms of ID, etc.)
  4. Send an email to HR, IT, Finance, and the new hires boss to communicate the offer acceptance and the start date (notes here could include the text from an example email and disclaimer that start date is pending successful background check)
  5. Receive email with information for the background check 
  6. Initiate the background check process (this step could have further sub-steps that explains exactly how to do this)

Specify time frames

One of the crucial things you’ll want to identify is the time frame when each step happens. Identifying the time frames is key to making sure that things happen in a timely fashion and in an order that makes sense.

For example, if the background check takes 10 business days to process, you’ll want to document that in your steps. The timing of steps will impact subsequent steps and processes. For example, the new hire can’t start until the background check is complete. This means they can’t join the team until a  minimum of 10 business days after the background check process has been initiated. The timing of when that process is kicked off will affect when they come on board. 

Create a flow chart

A picture is worth a thousand words. This is why it’s a good idea to create a visual flow chart of all the steps, roles, and the time frames involved in the process. The flow chart allows you to conceptualize the steps in the process and see how they flow across the different departments. It also makes it easier to pinpoint problems or disconnects in the process.

Here’s an example flow chart for the onboarding process:


Defining business processes is an involved task, but it’s a necessary part of creating effective training. Keep in mind that business processes are ever-evolving; you’ll need to make updates and changes to the process over time.

Following the steps outlined above will help you define and document your processes. Having properly documented processes will help the business run more smoothly and will allow you to build more effective employee training.

Do you have any tips of your own for defining and documenting business processes? Let me know in the comments, and follow me on Twitter for more training tips and tricks.

Tips for Successful Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Training


Imagine this scenario: a company decides they’ve had enough of using systems that are outdated, slow, and inefficient. They embark on a project to implement a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to replace their legacy tools. The company spends months, maybe even years, working with consultants and employees to define new processes and customize the systems. Come launch time, they don’t provide adequate training and the employees don’t know how to use the new systems effectively. This leads to costly mistakes, wasted time, lost revenue, and many stressed out employees.

ERP implementations are typically large-scale projects with many stakeholders and moving parts; creating training for these projects comes with their own set of unique challenges. Planning for these challenges up front can help ensure you have a successful training program that plays a crucial role in the smooth rollout of a new system. Here are some important things to consider before you embark on your next ERP implementation training project.

Plan and prioritize training

Implementing and customizing an ERP system tends to be a huge financial investment, and as such, detailed proposals and plans are created to cover all aspects of the project. However, training for the new system is often listed as a vague deliverable that provides no specifics about how training will be designed or delivered. Not planning for training from the get-go is a costly mistake because the investment in a new system is wasted if the employees can’t properly use it. Include the training team in the project planning phase and allocate the appropriate budget, resources, and timelines for end-user training.

Identify training methods

You’re going to want to think about training methods up-front, during the planning phase. One of the most effective way to give learners a real world experience without risking costly mistakes in a real ERP system is through software simulations. They give employees the power to explore and use all the features of the ERP software they’ll use in the workplace. You’re probably going to want to consider at least some software simulations for ERP systems training. You might mix this with some instructor led training and live Q&A sessions to create a blended learning program.

Create curriculum by role

You’re not going to dump all the lessons on every employee; the employees who work in Engineering don’t need to take Accounting lessons on how to process an invoice. Instead, you’re going to tailor the curriculum by user roles. While you may have some core basic lessons that apply to everyone (logging in and out of the system, setting up your user profile, etc.), there should also be user-specific lessons that are pertinent to each role.

Work with the business

Training teams working on ERP implementations often find they have to work alongside the implementation team. You might find it useful to work with the business process analysts, as they create and test the new system processes (these are often called Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs). Consider using test scripts as a starting point for training development.  

Designate power users

For each role you identify, consider having one or two power users. These are (hopefully) helpful, quality employees who can help with the training and answer employee questions on-the-job. If there are employees who are already involved in the implementation, for example working as subject matter experts, these are great candidates for power users.

Incorporate real-life scenarios

Integrating real world examples and stories into your processes will make the training more practical and relevant. Instead of jumping into a step-by-step process without providing any context, introduce the process with a scenario that has realistic background information and details. Training that incorporates realistic scenarios helps learners know when and how to apply the tasks covered in the training in the real world.

Use change management techniques

  • Incorporating some basic change management techniques will go a long way to getting your learners on board. Be clear in explaining the benefits of the training, why it’s happening, and the impact of not completing it. Don’t assume end users will move seamlessly from one system to another, without detailing the specific reasons and benefits. Learn more about specific change management techniques for instructional designers here.
  • Following these tips will help ensure you have a successful ERP training program in place. Do you have any tips of your own for designing or developing training for ERP implementations? Let me know in the comments, and follow me on Twitter for more training tips and tricks.


    How to Organize, Analyze, and Prioritize Tasks for E-Learning


    The One Thing You Need To Do To Organize Training Content: Task Analysis

    Are you dealing with a huge pile of raw materials that need to be converted into an e-learning course or training programme? If so, you’re likely wondering how best to organize the content and filter out the need-to-know from the nice-to-know. If this sounds familiar to you, you need to acquaint yourself with the process of task analysis. Discover how a proper task analysis can organize your content so it focuses on what learners need to know on-the-job.

    Read full article.

    How to do a Task Analysis Like a Pro

    As I explain in this article, task analysis is one of the cornerstones of instructional design. Why is task analysis so important? The purpose of training is to teach learners how TO DO something; they should walk away from the training with new knowledge and skills they can apply on-the-job. When you focus on tasks, you’re more likely to accomplish this goal, as you’re focusing on the actual processes the learners will do on the job.  A task analysis is the process of systematically breaking down a task into a documented step-by-step process. This article explains how to first identify tasks, then break them down into sub-tasks, and finally, parse them into steps. It also contains some helpful task analysis dos and don’ts.

    Read full article.

    Instructional Designers: Remember These Factors When Prioritizing Tasks

    Once you’ve completed your task analysis, you’re going to need to organize and prioritize all the tasks you’ve analyzed. How should you order your tasks? This depends on a variety of factors: task importance, task frequency, task difficulty, and learner experience. Learn about these four factors and what you need to know to ensure your content focuses on the right tasks.

    Read full article.

    Have you ever done a task analysis before? If so, how did it go? Do you have any tips or tricks to share with others? If so, please leave me a comment below, I love to hear feedback.


    Infographic: The Presentation, Application, Feedback (PAF) Model

    This colourful infographic illustrates the Presentation, Application, and Feedback (PAF) Model for training and instructional design. It’s important to keep the PAF Model in mind when developing training to ensure we’re not overloading our learners with too much presentation of content. It’s crucial to include lots of opportunities for application of knowledge and to then provide the appropriate feedback.

    Instructional Design Infographic

    Infographic: Gagné’s 9 Events of Instruction

    This simple infographic explains Robert Gagné’s 9 Events of Instructions, which is an important instructional design model.

    Gagne Nine Events of Instruction

    The Ultimate E-Learning Design and Development Checklist


    I have compiled several e-learning, instructional design, and web design checklists to create the ultimate e-learning design and development checklist. This list is thorough and covers a broad range of items. Keep in mind not every item will apply to every project.


    • Training needs analysis is complete
    • Project constraints have been identified
    • Project plan is complete
    • Audience analysis is complete
    • Task analysis is complete
    • Various instructional methods are used
    • Objectives are clearly stated
    • Objectives include measurable criteria
    • Instructional content relates directly to learning objectives
    • Course objectives are met
    • Content is segmented in small chunks
    • Information is grouped logically
    • Major headings are clear and descriptive
    • One-third of the content is presentation
    • Two-thirds of the content is application and feedback
    • There is a summary for every piece of  content
    • Glossary is used to define key concepts  and terms


    • All assessments are relevant and complete
    • Assessments are challenging and realistic
    • Various quiz methods and types are used
    • Assessments are used throughout
    • Final assessment at the end
    • Pass and fail marks are appropriate
    • Feedback is provided for questions   answered
    • Feedback is adequate
    • Feedback presented within reasonable time
    • Post course assessment/evaluation is included
    • New content is not presented in assessments or in assessment feedback


    • Total design is uniform in appearance
    • Branding guidelines have been   followed
    • Use of logos is appropriate
    • Colors used are consistent and suitable
    • High visibility and contrast
    • Navigation is consistent throughout
    • There is a generous amount of white space
    • Graphics and icons are used to signify important concepts
    • Patterns and textured backgrounds do not interfere with legibility


    • Maximum of three fonts used throughout
    • Decorative fonts are only used for headings
    • Body text uses sans serif fonts
    • Appropriate line spacing is used
    • Paragraph length is appropriate
    • Font sizes are appropriate and easily readable
    • Font colors visible against background color
    • Styles and colors are consistent throughout
    • Emphasis (bold, italics) is used sparingly
    • Body text is left justified


    • E-learning has been tested in multiple browsers
    • E-learning has been tested on multiple devices
    • E-learning has been tested in the Learning Management System (LMS)
    • E-learning has been tested in various resolutions
    • All links and buttons have been tested
    • Accessibility features have been tested
    • Course has been tested with a screen reader
    • All audio has been tested
    • All videos have been tested

    • Project load time is reasonable
    • Shortcut keys have been defined
    • FAQ document has been created
    • Hardware requirements have been   identified
    • Software requirements have been   identified
    • Dimensions are optimized for target audience
    • Pages can be printed
    • Total time to complete has been timed
    • Contact information available for   questions or problems


    • Course can be navigated with keyboard
    • All ALT tags are used
    • Text is provided for non-text   elements
    • Videos have script or dialogue
    • Captions provided for audio
    • No flashes faster than 3 times per second
    • No colors used to convey information
    • Use text with appropriate contrast ratio
    • No fine motor skills required
    • No timed activities
    • No use of hover states to display important information


    • Main navigation is easily identifiable
    • All navigation is correct sequence
    • Hyperlinks are clearly identified
    • All hyperlinks work
    • Minimum use of external links
    • Backward links to navigate to previous   screens
    • Number of navigation icons is reasonable
    • Table of contents used to lay out the   content
    • E-learning has guided tour and/or map for   further explanations


    • Use of animation and videos is appropriate
    • Files are compressed/optimized
    • Videos and animations are consistent in quality, size and type
    • Videos are legally   owned


    • Narration is not exact text on the screen
    • Narration is clear and concise
    • Audio quality is high (not fuzzy or   scrambled)
    • Narrator sounds confident and knowledgeable
    • Audio synced to the content
    • Audio can be paused
    • Volume can be muted
    • Volume can be controlled by user


    • Language is clear and concise
    • Spelling has been checked
    • Grammar has been checked
    • Language is culturally appropriate
    • Humor is used with care
    • Tone is consistent and appropriate
    • Text is gender neutral
    • Content is not plagiarized
    • Date formats, measurements, are consistent
    • SME has verified text content
    • Facts, statistics, data are accurate
    • Facts, statistics, data sources are   identified
    • Correct capitalization applies to units and acronyms
    • Correct capitalization is used
    • Punctuation is appropriate
    • Complex sentences are avoided
    • Content has been localized for all required languages


    • Images are meaningful and have a purpose
    • Images use appropriate file type
    • Photos are consistent in quality and style
    • Images are legally owned
    • System screen captures are up-to-date
    • Screen captures do not contain personal information

    Since you’ve made it all the way to the end of the checklist, maybe you should subscribe to my blog!

    20+ Questions To Include in an Audience Analysis


    An audience analysis is a task that instructional designers and training developers perform in the initial phases of planning a training project. Completing an audience analysis is critical because in order to communicate information effectively, you need to understand who your learners are. Depending on the project, you might have more than once audience.

    To complete your audience analysis, you will need to interview and observe the employees and management to gather information about your learners. Once you have identified your specific audiences, you can tailor your courses so they are pertinent to the different background, education levels, etc.

    Here’s an example of how audiences can vary widely, even within one organization:

    You are developing software training for a large organization with a manufacturing facility.

    Some of your learners are engineers who work in software development. They are technically savvy, work at a computer all day and are already familiar with the software you are training them on.

    Meanwhile, your second audience is the workers from manufacturing facility. They work with machinery all day and barely use the computer. This will be their first time ever seeing this software.

    You can already see that, even though these two audiences may need to be trained on the same software, very different approaches will be required for different audiences.

    Here’s a list of 20 audience analysis questions to get you started.


    • Who is your primary audience?
    • Are there potential secondary audiences?


    • What is the average age of the learner?
    • Are the learners mostly men, women, or an equal mix?
    • What is the educational background (high school diploma, PhD)?
    • What is their cultural background, race, ethnicity?

    Knowledge & Experience

    • What is their level of work experience?
    • What is the reading level of the audience?
    • How much do they already know about the subject at hand?
    • What tone or attitude is appropriate for your audience?
    • How motivated are the learners?


    • What hardware and software do the the learners have?
    • How technically savvy are the learners?
    • What resources do the learners have at their disposal?


    • What level of participation can you expect?
    • What kind of syntax or writing style are your learners comfortable with?
    • Why are the learners taking the training?
    • What will the audience expect to learn?
    • What amount of time do learners have available to devote to training?
    • Do any of the learners have special needs or accessibility requirements?

    If you know of any other audience analysis questions that I’ve missed, please leave a comment.