How refining day-to-day processes can make a big difference
Every business has its way of doing things, from how you open the office in the morning to onboarding new staff or clients. What are the steps for taking an order or sending out an invoice? What’s the protocol for responding to a customer complaint? How do you manage staff absences?
Each separate task is a business process, and together they make up the bulk of what you and your team do each day. Processes are so embedded in your business that you follow most of them without thinking about it – and that’s where problems can emerge. If your business processes are inefficient or poorly designed, with double-handling, too many steps and bottlenecks at certain points, your people will be wasting time and energy – and your business won’t be working to its full potential.
That’s where process management comes in. It defines every process used in your business, clearly maps the key steps and looks for weak points. It’s a tool designed for continual improvement and sustainable business success.
Here’s how it works:
1. Define, refine, improve
Process management starts with a deep dive into your existing processes. After all, you can’t improve what you don’t understand. You and your team spend time examining the way you do things and recording step-by-step instructions using process management software or another system. Refining and tightening processes happen alongside mapping – as you clarify how each core task works, you’ll naturally spot inefficiencies and start moving toward a cleaner, clearer process.
When all your processes are clearly mapped, they can be accessed by staff, sent to new team members during the onboarding process, and adjusted as your business needs change.
2. Small changes, huge flow-on effects
Changing minor day-to-day processes can seem like a waste of time and energy – what difference can it make in the scheme of things? But small process changes can add up to major improvements over time.
If your accounts people are always chasing staff for invoices, changing the process so invoices are completed online and uploaded automatically could save hours of work every week, which adds up to thousands of hours over a year. Adding a final check to your dispatch process could reduce the number of errors and returns significantly – meaning less wasted time and money, and happier customers.
3. Pave the way for growth
When you first start, it’s easy to get things done. If you’re working alone or with a small team, you just work things out as you go along, and adjust your workflow as business needs change. But this way of working isn’t always compatible with growth. As you expand into different teams or departments, miscommunications and mismatched processes can lead to delays and frustration. It can also be a precarious way of storing critical business knowledge – if long-time team members leave, they may take their process information with them, leaving remaining staff to relearn or rework key processes.
Process management sets you up for business growth by making sure all your people are working from the same book. The tasks of each person or team line up with the next, with no bottlenecks. Everyone has access to accurate process information, so there’s no room for error and no way for key knowledge to walk out the door.
4. Faster staff onboarding
Hiring new people is one of the most expensive, time-consuming parts of running a business. Some studies suggest it can take as long as two years before new employees are fully productive. That means anything you can do to help get them up to speed faster will pay dividends.
That’s where process management comes in. Clearly defined and accessible processes are a dream come true for onboarding. Rather than spending weeks in one-on-one training followed by months of practice and clarification, new team members are simply given access to the processes they need to do their jobs. If they need help recalling a specific process, they can find it in your process management system. It’s a simpler, less time-intensive way to bring new people on board.
5. Better service, satisfied customers
Process management is at the heart of excellent customer service, making it possible to offer a consistent experience across all touch points, regardless of the team member in charge. And since your processes will be constantly refined, your service will only get faster, more cost-effective and consistently positive for the customer.
Building a reputation for consistency and a high standard of service means you’re more likely to win new business and keep your current customer’s around long term.
The result: A happier, more productive team
Poorly designed processes can be incredibly frustrating for your people. Constantly waiting for others to follow through, fixing errors, apologising to unhappy customers and double-handling tasks will leave even the most enthusiastic employee disheartened and unmotivated.
Process management takes much of that frustration off the table. Making processes clear and accessible, streamlining workflows and aligning tasks between departments reduces the potential for errors and minimises frustrating admin tasks. That means less time spent on disgruntled customers and tedious paperwork, and more time to focus on satisfying, business-building work.
Profit-boosting process improvement
It’s a simple equation: better processes mean less wasted time and money, which leads to increased profits. By improving processes in small ways across the business, you save little bits of time and money in multiple areas. These incremental savings can add up to serious improvements in your margins.
It’s not a glamourous project or a multi-million-dollar contract, but it’s a sure-fire way to set your business up for sustainable growth and profitability.