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5 TIPS | How to beat the competition with process management

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Working with process management frees up resources for innovation and development. According to researchers at Linköping University, they offer tips on how small businesses can get started.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are considered the backbone of the global economy. But as the demand for environmental sustainability from customers and society at large grows, many smaller companies face major challenges.

– “To survive, smaller companies need to be able to handle such demands, and process management is a way forward,” says Priscilla Navarro of Linköping University, who describes process management as a way to create clear work processes within the company.

Strategic advantage

In her doctoral thesis, she describes process management as a way to create clear working methods within the company, and argues that SMEs can use the method as a strategic advantage. The research is based on companies in the rapidly growing freight transport industry.

– It is an industry made up of many small businesses where individuals have specific knowledge in a particular area. This makes the company vulnerable if the person is absent.

Priscilla Navarro at Linköping University researches process management in small businesses.
Priscilla Navarro. Photo: Teiksma Buseva.

Individuals’ knowledge becomes the organization’s knowledge

– Process management includes transferring individuals’ knowledge to the rest of the organization and finding standardized ways of working. It does not have to be more difficult than having a meeting where the person shares their knowledge and decides how a specific situation that arises should always be handled.

Priscilla Navarro says that many smaller companies spend a lot of time putting out fires, precisely because they have not standardized their operations.

– For example, if different drivers experience similar challenges over and over again, standardized ways of dealing with the situation should be found. Not reinventing the wheel every time. It eats up far too many resources.

Focus on the right activities

The first thing companies should do before embarking on standardized approaches is to look at their resources, strengths and competitive advantages.

– SMEs face the same challenges as large companies. They also have to adapt to market demands but with fewer resources. My research shows that process management can help in a smart way. But companies should manage their resources and focus on those activities that give them an advantage over their competitors.

More time for innovation

Clear working methods free up resources, i.e. time and people, which can be used to develop the business and work more with innovation.

– In smaller companies, parts that require more attention are often de-prioritized. The focus is on getting the day-to-day operations together. But with simple process management, daily work can be more efficient and staff can spend more time on innovation,” says Priscilla Navarro.

Contact priscilla.navarro@liu.se

5 tips for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who want to do more with process management

  • Identify activities that set you apart from the competition and are difficult to copy.
  • Choose activities that are easy to implement and have the courage to invest in them.
  • Allocate resources to the work based on the resources and skills you have.
  • Make the work easy. For example, regular weekly meetings involving different competences to find robust solutions can make a big difference.
  • Set objectives and metrics for the activities.


More about the thesis
Priscilla Navarro recently defended her thesis The Strategic Role of Process Management in SMEs at Linköping University, Department of Economic and Industrial Development.

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