By Nicole Laurier on Feb 2, 2015 9:32:00 AM
Even if we don’t consciously realize it, most of us are process orientated. From personal experience, I mentally run through the steps required to complete a task or process before ever starting it.
Most successful companies have standard processes for things like setting up new customers or purchasing inventory. But over time, companies evolve, processes change, and things like errors and inefficiency can creep in. This is a common challenge with business growth – manual processes that worked fine when the company was smaller take longer and cost more as the company grows.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are three tips for finding and fixing a failing process in your business.
1. Define the Process
It’s difficult to identify a problem when your process isn’t clearly defined. It’s a good idea to map out the steps in your current process, document the time it takes to complete each task, and look for areas of obvious inefficiency.
For example, your new customer on-boarding process might include closing out the opportunity in your CRM database, sending the new customer information to accounting, running a credit check and authorizing a credit limit, adding a new customer record to your ERP system, invoicing for goods, shipping the products, and informing the salesperson of completion and shipment date.
If you get 100 orders a day from new customers, there are lots of areas in this process where something can get skipped, missed, or overlooked … and your new customer quickly becomes an unhappy customer.
Identify and document the people involved, the approvals required, the tools you use (software or manual), and assign a time value to each task in the process so you have a tangible model and can more easily visualize potential problem areas.
2. Prioritize the Problem Areas
So you’ve documented your business process. Now what? The biggest challenge that we hear from customers is figuring out where to start. When one particular step/task is clearly broken, it’s an easy decision.
But often there are so many different tasks and dependencies, it’s hard to pinpoint which improvements hold the most immediate and potential benefit. Our recommendation is to try and single out steps that take the longest (i.e. almost anything manual) and/or cost you the most (in either labor or lost opportunity).
For example, most of the companies we work with focus on processes that are causing them to lose new sales opportunities or lose unhappy customers to competitors. In other cases, work is not getting done because employees are bogged down in manual and repetitive tasks. Shipments get delayed, details are overlooked, and labor costs climb.
At this point you probably want to consider some sort of automation technology. By that I mean a software tool like TaskCentre that allows you to configure a set of business rules that can automate manual tasks, prevent human error, and ensure your staff follows a consistent workflow process every single time.
More often than not, companies almost always benefit from using workflow automation technology to streamline common processes such as Purchase Order Approvals, Credit Control, Service Requests, sales and opportunity management, and New Customer set up.
3. Continually Measure and Refine
No matter how much planning you do, there’s almost always some task or step that (once it’s in production) doesn’t actually work out the way it was designed. Businesses are dynamic and processes change so it’s a good idea to continually measure efficiency and refine tasks/steps where needed. Unfortunately, you can’t just set it and forget it.
For example, let’s say you design an efficient POauthorization process. What happens when the authorizer is on vacation for two weeks and critical purchases are backlogged? Perhaps you modify your PO process to add a condition that if after two days a response is not given by the primary authorizer, the PO is escalated and sent to another manager for approval. Process automation technology like TaskCentre can easily handle dynamic processes and what-if scenarios just like this.
Process and Workflow Automation Technology
The other point I wanted to make was that as well as refining by starting down the path of automating these process clients often find so many more areas of the organization that can benefit and start using the solution there.
Time and again, we’ve seen first-hand how automation technology like TaskCentre totally transforms operational efficiency and profitability for our clients. And once they start down the path of automating manual processes, clients often find so many more areas of benefit to the organization leveraging the same technology.
Discover how Hatch works with Fisher Technology and TaskCentre to automate over 150 manual processes to eliminate administrative burden, improve employee productivity, and reduce labor costs.