As every successful entrepreneur knows, the efficiency of the processes in a business can mean the difference between a smooth-running, profitable organisation and an unpredictable and cash-hungry monster that eats money and time and still leaves the customer unsatisfied.
If you want to improve your business processes, you need to start by identifying problem processes. The key symptoms to look for are processes that:
– Take a long time even when done correctly
– Are prone to interruption, failures and delays
– Have multiple complex steps that often have to be repeated
– Have a negative impact on the quality of your product or service
– Are resource-intensive
– Need special expertise or highly trained staff to carry out
Don’t make the classic mistake of looking at a manual process and simply automating it by buying in some technology. You may be building inefficiency and unnecessary work into your new system. Instead, try to be your own business process analyst. Look at the workflow involved in the process, and draw a rough flowchart. Where does this process start? What’s the end result meant to be? Why do we do it this way? How can I get from the starting point to the result in the smallest number of steps, using the fewest resources, while maintaining quality and reducing risks and reworks?
Design the new process with these results in mind. Don’t be afraid to get radical. The internet allows customers to “self-serve” in all kinds of ways – and they actually seem to prefer it. Try to pare down your processes so that there’s a seamless flow from the first customer interaction to the final transaction. The fewer, and simpler, your business processes, the more robust and profitable your business will become. If you can cut down the amount you do, you’ll be able to improve the quality of what remains – leading to more satisfied customers.
Be aware, too, that you need to look at the “real-world” process, not the ideal. You may have documentation showing that a process works a certain way. Staff may even assure you that it works that way. But when you examine the reality, you may find that, for all sorts of reasons, the process is different from the one everyone thinks is in use.
If your preliminary analysis shows that you have complex processes in your business, the scope for cutting costs and improving performance is all the greater. You may want to take a look at a process improvement toolset such as Six Sigma or LEAN, perhaps by attending a course on it – this will allow you to evaluate whether it’s right for your business. Or there is the option of hiring a consultant who can model your processes and make suggestions for improvements.
However you approach the problem, improving your processes will almost certainly produce a positive effect on performance.
Allsquare are professional accountants in Edinburgh offering financial and business services to help small to medium companies with business growth strategies. For more information, call Allsquare today on 0131 343 1510.