When you work in operations at a startup, you are usually building a ton of processes. You need to build a process for:
- Sales: from sourcing leads to scheduling a discovery call to onboarding
- Billing: from reconciling service records to creating an invoice to following up on late payments
- Recruiting: from sourcing candidates to interviewing to onboarding a new team member
- And many more functions like supply ops (in a two- or three-sided marketplace business), finance (fundraising, bookkeeping, etc.), and so on
As you pump out a process after a process, you quickly run into a maintainability issue. What happens when a tool you use for a key step in a process goes down due to a server outage? What about when an employee who owns a process from end to end rage quits?
Without proper documentation detailing every step of the process, triaging a process issue or refining and optimizing a process becomes challenging. The process you're trying to fix or improve might be spread across multiple teams and tools. Perhaps you don't have a good grasp of the entire process and what you fix might have downstream consequences on another part of the process.
This is where a flowchart comes in handy.
What is a flowchart?
A flowchart is a type of diagram that represents a workflow or process. A flowchart can also be defined as a diagrammatic representation of an algorithm, a step-by-step approach to solving a task.
- Source: Wikipedia
A flowchart, sometimes called a process diagram, usually has shapes representing different steps in a process with arrows showing the direction and order of those steps. If you've been in ops, you've probably made some version of a flowchart in Google Slides or Lucidchart.
Here is a flowchart I created for Ops Hacks:
I created this flowchart for two primary reasons.
The first was to visualize the entirety of the user onboarding process, from sign-up to joining the community. Outlining the key steps in the process in a visual way helps strengthen the mental model I have of the current process.
The second reason was to document and keep track of all the different no-code tools I am using to build Ops Hacks. As you can see in the legend of the flowchart, the user onboarding process spans across 6 different tools. With automations happening to connect those tools, sometimes natively in the tools themselves (like Slack Workflow Builder) and sometimes via Integromat (my favourite no-code tool), I was starting to feel like the process was becoming a bit too complex to hold all the information in my head. With links to the automations and relevant tool pages included in the flowchart, it's much easier to stay on top of the process and quickly make any changes as needed.
What are key components of a startup ops flowchart?
While everyone's situation and use case is different, there are some best practices to follow when creating a flowchart in the context of startup operations...
Click the button below to get access to the flowchart + read more about components every ops flowchart should include and best practices...