During the Coronavirus pandemic, businesses have been forced to quickly adapt change faster than they would ever have done if it was “business as usual”. This forced agility should not be seen in such a negative light, though as we are now ushering in what could be considered as a “new normal”. The idea that businesses would now prefer to move back to a less flexible, more rigid state of working comes with it’s caveats – the changes made now have presented new opportunities and better work-life balance for employees; and additionally, opened up a world of cloud computing and technology for organisations. So with this in mind, is that really something that you want to miss out on by going back to “the way things were”?
Of course not! But the chaos of the methods that have brought us to where we are today came through pure survival motives – “Necessity is the mother of invention” but now we have the chance to take those evolutions and tidy them into a clear roadmap for what businesses can now expect of themselves moving forward. So with this in mind, we have adapted some previous advice to help you piece together this plan for building for the future.
1 – Map it out
You can chase data around different systems, trying to understand which elements are going to be most important to improve – marginal gains are extremely important in a situation like this: moving one metric a percentage point either way could potentially save, or earn your business; millions in the long run. Now that we appear to cautiously be moving toward the latter stages of this pandemic, your decisions previously have most likely been purely to ensure business continuity and the protection of your staff. However, you can now take this opportunity to see what worked well, what didn’t and what could be improved in order to make positive strides forward. The biggest issue is understanding where to start? By fully understanding the data behind what it is you are doing, or trying to do; it enables you to get a massive head start on tackling improvements across a range of different business issues.
Our tip here? Map out your processes. Grab that whiteboard pen, take a big piece of A3 and get to work. No level of detail is too small here – it’s imperative to map out all of your business processes because this will provide you with an extremely detailed map of the core skeleton of your business. In this situation, we would also recommend that you map out your pre and post covid-19 processes to understand where exactly you have made the most changes. Have you moved that majority of business meetings online? What challenges have been presented to you? Do you now need ways of collaborating with colleagues remotely on projects? Until you do this, you won’t truly be able to see where there may be any potential bottlenecks, gaps in knowledge or most importantly; opportunities to improve processes that may previously have been rushed in.
This plan also allows you to spot resource gaps. Are you seeing a huge turnover of clients following an implementation phase? Is this because the customers just don’t “get” what you’re trying to do or is it that you have now identified that, at that point in the customer journey, the new client hasn’t actually received a phone call since they signed the deal? While this sounds quite trivial, you will be blown away by parts of the cycle that; until physically written down, could contain massive issues. The coronavirus crisis has also meant that we now have multiple ways of working and people have mapped out their own routines and processes – it should be encouraged to share these processes with everyone and gain ideas from it. You may discover that this situation has pushed certain employees critical thinking to new levels which opens up future possibilities for you in terms of taking advantage of internal skillsets.
So, map out what you think the typical customer journey looks like and then hand it to another member of staff from a different department to add in their ideas and thoughts. A multi-dimensional approach is extremely important.
2 – Using your discoveries to plan out incremental changes
The next step is beginning to spot the areas where marginal gains are possible (and, due to this situation can be extremely beneficial to your business at this time). To quote a much overused business term: this is where you can spot “low-hanging fruit” in which the “quick wins” can be taken advantage of. In the aforementioned point it was spotting any potential reasons why customers may leave or abandon the onboarding process and then from there, you can implement a quick fix. Other extremely important parts to notice are if there are any aspects that involve a comparatively high amount of manual processing or bureaucracy. With cloud technology that has been built specifically for your business based on factors that you’ve implemented thanks to lockdown, you could quickly and efficiently have something built and implemented that satisfies multiple needs in one go, encouraging those quick wins relatively quickly.
But why is spotting this so important? It worked the way it was previously before the pandemic, it’s easier to go back to that right? This takes us back to the initial sentiments of this article: improving efficiency. Especially when it comes to spotting areas of manual processing and high amounts of data; potentially duplication into multiple systems – this is because this is where human error can potentially come into play and affect the accuracy of information. Especially if this occurs early on in the process map. Additionally let’s not forget that employees have now been exposed to a new flexible and collaborative way of working – and for the better, too.
When you identify the over reliance on manual processing and data entry into systems, you can start to build up question boards around whether this is both necessary or whether there is any potential integration and automation that can be implemented in order to remove the human element (massively increasing accuracy and efficiency) and also speeding up the process without the need for duplication of data. Throw all of this together and push it through cloud systems bespoke to your business and you are now building an incredibly agile, fluid business that operates with minimal disruption and maximum availability no matter the location of employees; suppliers or customers.
3 – The overlooked benefit of automation with bespoke software development in the cloud
So now that we have looked into the different aspects of the process map that has been put together; one thing that a lot of people seem to overlook more than just the amount of time that has been saved; is what is then done with this time. For example, if you identified in step 2 above, that your staff are spending a total of approximately 2 hours per week purely on manual processes and inputting data into different systems; where could this time be spent if you were use bespoke software development to integrate and automate these processes? Enrichment of staff? New initiatives or reallocation of time to new projects? With flexible working also comes a reduction of travel time and an increase in worklife balance – this indirect benefit will also lead to happier workers, who are therefore more productive with more drive and commitment.
The biggest benefit here is in the realisation that ROI doesn’t just stop at directly related figures. Whilst admittedly, it’s only really those directly related aspects of ROI that have major bearing on selling in transformational projects like this to the board (more on that later); the knock on effects that this has can be massive. However it is only until you start to look into the process map and then build upon that by identifying opportunities that you will then start to see wasted resources across the entire business. Of course, for many – the changes forced by the lockdown measures it wasn’t about ROI either but purely survival. Now, we can learn from this situation and push for a more calculated move into cloud technology and software to help your business with future continuity.
Focusing more on the custom aspect of having cloud software development specifically for your business; this is where it gets even more useful. Imagine going out to a specific vendor to purchase an off-the-shelf piece of software that will ultimately help with the processing of information. On the surface of it; you will be getting a ready-made piece of software that will help you with these time saving benefits implemented to help with your cloud needs. Employees will no longer have to spend as long on inputting data or searching their desktops for files that would now become readily available in the cloud. It will definitely speed up certain aspects of your process map. But after all of that, you will look at realise that “well, this still needs configuring” and “the outputs here need to be manipulated into specific reports to show the information that we want it” – you eventually start to understand that this one-size-fits all isn’t quite Cinderella’s glass slipper for your business. Every business is entirely unique and so should the cloud solutions be.
When cloud software has been developed specifically for your business, it can be shaped and moulded into a perfect fit; almost working backwards from the above analogy. You pose the questions about configuration, output reporting plus the vast other requirements you have and the end product is exactly what you have learned it should be. You realise the efficiency in the extra 2 hours per week that you have now gained and as your business grows, those two hours could eventually equate to one less need to hire; among a variety of different positive outcomes that don’t initially show themselves on an ROI projection.
4 – Ensure well organised workflows for better productivity
One of the major knock-on effects of the process up until this point is that it allows you a greater transparency and overview of all of your existing processes. With this in mind, a well organised workflow supported by powerful, customised software for your business will ensure that efficiency will be found in multiple areas through pure organisation. With all of the information gained previously, you can then start to understand where the workflows themselves can be made more efficient, and if there needs to be technology implemented to help you with this.
5 – Future-proof expansion plans for the business
The most important changes during the pandemic were to ensure that you were helping to prolong the future of the business through the implementation of the correct technology at the right time. One of the biggest things that is heard across boardrooms up and down the country; is “just think where we would be if we had started this process 1 year, 2 year, 5 years ago.” In this situation, its actually amplified through the fact that all of the changes that have been forced upon businesses were most likely discussed in meetings multiple times in the past but other projects took priority. It is also a major cliché that taking the first step is always the hardest; but now, that first step has essentially been taken for you. The drive to kick start this process of discovery and change will eventually in the long run be increasingly beneficial: you can only learn moving forward; so even at a bare minimum you will learn some vital information about the way your processes drive your business forward.
In the previous article on this subject, we wrote back in August 2019:
“But that’s not all; changing the perception to “I am so glad we started this process 1 year, 2 year, 5 years ago” will ensure that you are much more prepared for any future changes, shifts and potential hazards that may lie in wait. Economic, Political, Social and Technology (the typical PEST analysis) factors are always going to directly affect any internal plans and having software that is bespoke to you and your business is extremely important in ensuring flexibility with both internal and external pressures.”
This pandemic has shown that its important to be as prepared as possible; and making sure that your business can cope and survive. No one could have expected what this pandemic was going to mean for businesses, let alone foresee its impact; but it goes as a stark reminder that anything really can happen and its so important to be prepared.
Selling it into the board; allowing budgets to recover
Now that you have the five steps, the final and most crucial part is getting the say-so from the board. This is always the key element of any project of this scale but the issue currently is the reluctance to spend due to various staff still being furloughed, business as usual still feels a long way off. But that is why now is a perfect time to start planning. Get your processes mapped out and start to learn the intricacies of how your business has reacted to this situation. How can you now take advantage of cloud software and bespoke builds for your business to come out of this stronger than before?
If you can start to show and prove the different elements here then you will be well on your way to learning much more about your business and processes. The most important aspect of this entire process is to ensure that you are undertaking this project with clear, understandable goals and then consistently referring back to those objectives to stay focused on the task.
If you would like to talk to us to understand how we can potentially help you with this process then give us a call here.