Efficiency is one of those buzzwords that is constantly swirling through the corridors of businesses. How can our business operate easier, cheaper and faster? In short – how can we be more efficient? There is a constant drive for success using less effort.
Employees are of course a vital cog in any business, but let’s look at the machine that is turning within in. Businesses are often incorporated by a series of processes that work together. If everything is running smoothly, the business succeeds. If one aspect breaks down, the whole system can quickly collapse. These processes can be broken down into departments quite easily – Finance, sales, marketing and of course, production. When these are clearly defined, a business is likely to run more smoothly.
There are times when the process needs to be improved. If you consider your customer base to be too small, you will likely seek improvements in sales and marketing. If you cannot keep up with demand, the production side of the business needs tweaking.
Roadblocks are the enemy
When businesses grow quickly it can put significant strain on key areas of the business. Weaknesses within the company already will be amplified and clear to see, as growing pains. One method to deal with growing pains is to document your business processes and standardise where possible.
By mapping your customer journey, from potential interest to paid client, this enables you to get a clearer indication of where the gaps might exists within your company and how they can be improved – or ideally, removed.
Automation saves time and money. It is something that should be considered throughout your business wherever possible. It’s important that the process works for your benefit, and not vice versa.
Growing in inefficient processes
At the start of business’ life, when it is a young upstart, it’s much easier to adapt and alter processes to find out what is most efficient. It isn’t necessary to document and standardise the important processes within the company, because you’re probably still experimenting to see what they are. However, what can work for a small start-up is likely to change as the company grows.
Employees come and go, so it is important to standardise processes as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you will forever be training and re-training employees. It also makes collaboration much easier when vital documents are ready and available for everybody.
Processes that may have worked in the past might find themselves outdated and redundant. Just because it worked when you started the company, doesn’t mean it will work now.
How can technology help?
A lot of processes can be simplified through technology, especially using automation. This reduces the time that employees need to spend on a certain task, while also reducing the likelihood of human error.
For example, the old method of handling HR issues with paper and spreadsheets has been replaced by hugely more efficient systems. Employees can easily see how many holiday days they have remaining, and can request leave at the click of a button rather than the tedious process of filling out a form. It can also flag up employees who have been using a significant number of sick days, a task that would previously have needed a human to scan through and check.
Companies can also improve their sales process by using a CRM system which allows for a greater degree of automation. Emails, tasks, and reminders can all be automated meaning the chance of missed clients due to human error falls dramatically.
Accounting software has drastically changed the way we do our book-keeping while integrating well with other departments such as sales and purchasing. Generating invoices automatically at a pre-designated date and being able to track expenditure speeds up a business’s efficiency no end, but sadly some as still stuck in the Excel age, and so will never truly be able to make their company as efficient as possible.
Using Autotask Workplace also greatly improves efficiency by creating a centralised document storage system which can be tailored to each employee. Meaning no more email attachments and multiple versions scattered across different areas.
Change the culture
Employee productivity is vital in any business and interruptions are the chief cause of wasted time. On average it takes 16 minutes to regain focus after an interruption.
Businesses should try to tackle this interruption culture wherever possible. Working remotely seems to be an option worth exploring, as evidence shows productivity is higher when out of the office.
Keep emails to a minimum and ideally set schedule for them if you can. Being cc’d into every email is only lowering your company’s efficiency
Some businesses to have a CIO or COO who oversees efficiency. In other cases, the role falls to the CEO or managing director. But it is worth considering using an outside expert. Sometimes it takes a truly independent, non-biased look at the company to find its weaknesses and address them.
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