Every business involves people and processes. Processes shouldn’t be designed and then left untouched. That’s because the inner workings of your business are being affected by multiple variables each day. New technologies are introduced to streamline work processes, such as automation, for example. Additionally, updates to regulations and consumer demands are constantly fluctuating.
As such, defining and monitoring your work processes takes commitment, patience, and effort. Here’s a look at what work processes are, as well as the ways in which you can streamline work processes to operate efficiently.
Simply stated, work processes are the steps involved to move a team and business towards its goals. A work process consists of related and structured tasks. These tasks operate in a sequence to create an output - either a service or product.
Work processes involve most of your business’ team to produce value for customers, stockholder value and stakeholders. Processes are important because they keep operations flowing and are the lifeforce of a business.
It is especially pertinent that everyone on the team is aware of their responsibilities and communicate their tasks and respective completion to keep the sequence flowing. However, with the amount of work that teams face, something can easily be missed. For example, employees often have to track paper trails, emails and tasks on project management systems. This can cause delays in work processes if just one person overlooks a piece of the process. There is a surefire way to easily avoid such delays and key-person dependencies, and that’s by implementing automation into your work processes.
The goal of all work processes should be efficiency and consistency. This means you can minimise time and cost and maximise output and value creation. The importance of efficient work processes leads to:
The benefits are clear for why streamlining work processes should be prioritised. Follow this step-by-step guide that explains how you can make it work within your organisation.
To start streamlining work processes, you must first understand what processes occur on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. To accomplish this, you’ll want to:
a. Enlist your team: Get your employees involved. After all, these are the people executing the tasks. Gather your team and set up a meeting to have them help outline their process.
b. Build a flow chart: Visualize your processes with a flowchart, or process map. By being able to see what happens in any given sequence of events, you can communicate responsibilities clearly.
c. Pinpoint concerns: If something isn’t flowing smoothly, allow your team to speak up. These are the places in which process improvement will prove beneficial. Additionally, if bottlenecks and approval times are slow, consider implementing a software automation solution to manage these types of repetitive and tedious tasks.
Once you have all your processes mapped out, you’ll want to analyse whether or not they are working for or against you and your team.
a. Data: You can use data to measure KPIs and see that work is actually being done the way it should be. Consider using data analytics like prescriptive analytics. This way you can estimate what effect a process change may have before implementing it across the organisation.
b. Analysis: Work with your team to pinpoint where issues arise. You can use models like The 5 Whys or Cause and Effect analysis to analyse.
Continue to work with those involved in the process to redesign its structure for best results.
a. Outline key areas of focus: Define the goals of the process first. Then, list any issues you face in the current work process.
b. Prioritise work: Work with your team to prioritise which issues need to be faced first. When working to find solutions for them, highlight if it’s an issue of communication, resources, or tools.
c. Document everything: When you and your team have selected how to move forward and make changes to the process, be sure to write everything down. Keeping documentation will allow you to remember how things were before you implemented a change. That way, if the change isn’t as effective as you had hoped for, you can revert back easily. Having documentation and measurements from an as-is process can help you compare the to-be process to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.
Making any change to a work process involves time, management, a cost and effort. Be sure you list out the resources you need. It may involve hiring more employees or communicating changes with customers. No matter what you need, list everything out and try to plan a budget. You should consider the types of technological resources that could also help cut costs and maximise output in this step.
Once you have buy-in, you’ll have to work on implementing the change. Whether you have a big or small team, you’ll want everyone to be on board and understand their new or updated roles and responsibilities. If you’ve introduced new technology to the team, then you should consider training or demo sessions.
a. Automate Processes: A surefire way to see success with streamlining work processes is through automation. Here’s a quick look at how automation can fit in your business.
a. Test the new workflow: If possible, test the new workflow before implementation to debug. If you must implement a test, be sure to remain vigilant and notate what you are measuring as success before you get started. This may involve measuring KPIs and testing them against your old work process to ensure things are getting better.
b. Refine: Process improvement takes time and can involve mistakes. Don’t be afraid to try again. Making work processes better is not a “one and done” deal.
You’ll find that when you want to streamline work processes, one of the best ways to do so will involve automation tools.
Automation tools take over the repetitive tasks so that your team can spend less time performing manual work. Instead, it alleviates that burden and allows them to spend more time on high-level tasks such as: analysis and communication, both internally and externally.
Automation tools also help to enhance data security and lessen human data-entry errors. They’re set up to also decrease compliance risk by providing audit trails. When a process is automated, it’s automatically streamlined because it’s set up within the system to avoid bottlenecks.
Automation tools can benefit your business by:
While every business has its own set ways of performing work processes, it’s true that every leader is always looking for ways to improve. Streamlining work processes can greatly impact your bottom line for the better. Not only will efficient work processes boost your profit, but having them can also increase customer satisfaction and promote employee retention.