You probably use dozens of business processes every day.
You may go through the same steps each time you generate a report, resolve a customer complaint, contact a new client, or manufacture a new product.
You’ve also probably come across the results of inefficient processes. Unhappy customers, stressed colleagues, missed deadlines and increased costs are just some of the problems that dysfunctional processes can create.
That’s why it’s so important to periodically re-examine and improve processes when they are not working well.
Do you know which tasks really eat up most of your time? What makes you ‘busy’? Have you ever really examined what you spend your time doing, analysed it hour for hour?
Great reasons to embrace a little process refinement:
- What else could you be doing with the time that you save through increasing your efficiency?
- Increased efficiency will encourage better productivity – reduced effort and increased output leads to greater profit
- How do you think this would effect client acquisition, client retention and your effectiveness against your competitors?
Just because a process that you have been using in your business once worked wonderfully, it doesn’t mean that you’ll never need to think about it again. Processes can always be improved.
This is particularly true today, where cost effective technological advances are constant being developed and time-saving Apps and software are available to all small business owners. .
1. Automate Your Work
It is a necessity in the world of business today in order to remain competitive, and fortunately for all of us it has never been easier or more cost effective. If there’s a monotonous but frequent task or process to be done, chances are, there’s a programme for that!
A wide-variety of automation tools are available to enhance your small business’s digital presence and marketing campaigns. These business automation tools can make your business reach a success by leveraging email, social media and web services.
2. Consider Your Communication Channels
Skype is a brilliant and much under-valued resource … not only allowing you to save time and money on travelling/ phone bills by facilitating face to face meetings at a distance, but potentially allowing you to consider the many benefits of remote working staff. The instant messaging tool can also be invaluable in facilitating the exchange of information quickly and efficiently without clogging inboxes.
3. Embrace the Cloud
Chances are you’re already using the cloud but are you taking full advantage? On top of improved reliability and security of data, cloud based storage and computing offers anytime/anywhere access to files and data and reduces many of the issues that manual document processing can cause such as;
- Version Control
- Document Loss
- Disaster Recovery
- Distribution Bottlenecks.
There are many options for free and flexible cloud software available, and should the worst happen – fire, flood or a visit by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – your data will be safe in the Cloud.
4. Go ‘paper-light’
The concept of a ‘paperless office’ has been around for at least 35 years, since British-American information scientist, Frederick Wilfrid, first envisioned it in 1978 in his book ‘Towards Paperless Information Systems’.
The 1970’s prediction of the ‘The paperless office’ has still not fully materialised, with some reports suggesting the average business is actually increasing use of paper by 25%.
Signing documents is a primary reason businesses give for printing but e-signatures have been legal for a decade and apps like DocuSign allow you to upload, deliver and sign documents quickly whilst retaining audit trails. Old habits die hard, the challenge for many is to cut their dependency on legacy paper-based processes and deliver real business transformation.
6. Implement a Document Management System (DMS)
A lot of people think filing is a bore, and perhaps they are right! But, deciding to maximise the benefits of the cloud is not enough, you have to think about the system within whatever platform works best for your business.
The secret to great filing is having a system that allows you to spend the least amount of time using it, and the minimum amount of time finding things again when you need them. Creating a streamlined and intuitive system for paper and electronic files will help keep things organized in the future.
Juggling many documents can quickly become problematic. This is especially true for growing businesses. The larger a company gets, the more likely it is there will be more and more documents to organize. Organizational hierarchy is one of the most important features to take into consideration when choosing a document management system. Categorization, tagging, and rating will help you find the files you need as quickly as possible.
7. Map your processes
Do you think you have clearly defined processes? Are they being implemented consistently?
Mapping your processes can help to clarify and standardize what needs to be done, when, by whom and how. What you might think is a simple process may actually reveal complexities, bottlenecks, inconsistencies and inefficiencies for improvement. It also offers an effective ground up approach to identifying which technologies would best support your business.
Sometimes it can be difficult to take time out when you are busy to focus on streamlining for long term efficiencies and productivity, but in this case a little short term pain is definitely worth the long term gain.
And, if the areas above are not where your talents lie (and believe me, for most entrepreneurs is isn’t) you should consider using a talented virtual assistant who eats efficiencies and business processes for breakfast!
A pair of fresh eyes with the experience and skill to help you do what you do best by delegating the rest!