Tuesday 29th Sep 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has had dramatically different impacts across business types. Some have faced serious hardship, others have seen surprising levels of revenue, and others have simply traversed things roughly as normal. If your business is one of the ones that’s been given additional time and capacity through lower demand, whether for goods or services, then it’s important to see the positive in this, and give yourself the time to review processes, improve them, and hit the ground running when the business environment becomes clearer.
Identifying key processes
The first step in improving your processes is in identifying exactly which ones to focus on, and which ones are truly key. This will vary hugely for different businesses – it could be extremely clear in the case of you having just a few processes, and deeply complex if there are many. Let’s look at a couple of examples. If you’re a retailer, then it’s likely that your supply chain and inventory process would be incredibly important. If you’re selling a service, then your sales and on-boarding process might be critical. If you’re in support (whether IT, engineering or anything else), then you need a process that very effectively channels issues to the right person, and gets them resolved as quickly and effectively as possible.
Appraising current processes
The process of determining which processes are working, which aren’t, and which require just a little modification, is not always easy. And perhaps the best thing you can do in this regard is to listen directly to the people that are involved in those processes. While you might oversee them, it’s those that use them day-to-day that will be able to shed light on where things work and where they don’t. Do they know about a step in the process where things often go wrong, or where things take too long? It’s very unlikely that a roundtable discussion won’t produce suggestions as to where your processes are succeeding and where they’re not.
It’s not always easy to find solutions to identified issues, but again, consulting with your colleagues is the best plan. One of the most powerful tools in the improvement of processes is automation. While the idea has been around since the industrial revolution, it’s never been as possible as it is now to truly free up valuable time by reducing drudgery and leaving the work to software, SaaS and even AI applications. This doesn’t mean you need to replace staff either – automation can be a powerful complimentary tool that works with individuals to allow them to spend more time on more difficult or creative tasks. Your accounts team for example might better spend their time finding great insights into financial data, rather than processing invoices.