In conducting research at my company, which offers workflow management and process software, we found that many business owners and managers say they don’t have time to create automated processes and, even worse, aren’t taking steps to fix the problem.
Without effective processes, day-to-day operations will be tough and can become chaotic. In this article, I’ll jump straight to the point with seven key tips to start, optimize and supercharge your business processes.
1. Start with your most important process.
The great thing about processes is they can give you time savings while also improving your output. The more they recur, the better the returns. You can benefit from cumulative gains from any process, but you’ll get even more from certain ones. Key areas to assess when looking for areas of improvement are:
• Processes with high ROI.
• Processes that often have problems.
• Processes that recur most often.
The goal is to find a workflow where you can make the most improvements, which in turn creates the most value, and add that extra value as often as you can.
2. Create a basic checklist for that process.
Instead of spending hours trying to figure out the minutiae of the process, note the key steps. The important thing is to have a sequential list of tasks that outline how the process is meant to flow.
If your process happens on a computer, record your screen the next time you undertake the task. Then, you can send the video to someone and have them write out the checklist for you.
3. Ensure everyone can follow that process.
Once you have this basic structure together, go through the process a few times and make any necessary tweaks. Now that you’re happy with the process outline, create a digital copy that your team can follow.
Record your processes in a place where they can be edited by and assigned to different team members. You could do this via a Google Docs or Sheets outline of the checklist, or through the use of dedicated software.
4. Follow the process, or make sure your team follows it.
Get your team onboard with the idea as early as possible. Then, give them your basic structure or checklist to follow as they go through the process themselves. Explicitly ask them to follow the checklist closely and share their feedback.
Incorporate some of their feedback, too, so this doesn’t look like a cheap management trick. They do the job every day, after all, so they’ll have good input on how to do it well.
5. Talk to your team to improve the process.
Explain the purpose of the process and the general approach to process management. Ask what other processes they would like to see documented.
You can go a step further and delegate the process documentation to them so they can guide the creation process. If you give your team the freedom to create processes, with you approving or rejecting a process once it’s complete, then you’re achieving huge buy-in from the team while also rapidly increasing your documentation.
6. Add quick approval steps to avoid bottlenecks.
When a business isn’t systemized, bottlenecks can easily be overlooked. When you’re systemizing, on the other hand, you realize where the bottlenecks occur. This also puts you in a much better position to tackle them.
A common source of bottlenecks is when an approval of some form is needed. Without speedy approval from management, the process can be significantly delayed. Create a system of notifications for managers when approvals are needed. For example, provide the ability to approve items on the go to mitigate bottlenecks.
7. Automate key areas of your process.
Automation can provide huge efficiency savings while also reducing human error. When automations are built off of a defined process, you can ensure sequential flow and trigger automations from human work.
Say you have an interview with a prospective client. All the questions are outlined in one of your standard sales processes. You fill in the answers as you go. Once you’ve finished, the information is automatically entered in different places: your sales records in Salesforce, your customer support info, etc. Automation can create a report summary from a Google Docs template, save it as a PDF and move it to a specific folder in your company Drive.
The first thing you can look to automate is data entry. This is a great place to start because data entry is low skill but high effort — your employees will appreciate it being automated while you cheer about the added efficiencies.
Remember, if following the process makes an employee’s life easier, they’re going to follow it. Automation that saves your team legwork is the perfect tool to increase process adherence. You might look at using API access, webhooks, native integrations, or third-party automation tools to add these superpowers.
There’s a world of automation tech out there waiting for you, but you can’t dive in until you’ve written out that first process. So, what are you waiting for? Supercharge your processes today and reap the rewards.