One thing that we can all agree on is that we are striving to produce, to create, to deliver the best product that we can. Whether that is service or goods based; the same can be said of all businesses – efficiency; or lack of it, can be a killer when it comes to affecting the bottom line. So, it is not beyond the realms of possibility to speculate that most businesses would like to try and improve the efficiency of their business processes to make sure that they are stretching every aspect of ROI on every product.
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 you; millions in the long run. 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. 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.
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.
Also; do not keep this to yourself. 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. 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.
But why is spotting this so important? It works the way it is currently formed already, 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.
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.
3 – The overlooked benefit of automation with bespoke software development
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?
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.
Focusing more on the custom aspect of having 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. Employees will no longer have to spend as long on inputting data and 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.
When 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 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 aspect of going through this process is ensuring that you are 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.” It is also a major cliché that taking the first step is always the hardest; but when you have taken that step the ball is then rolling. 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.
But that’s not all; changing the perception of “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.
Selling it into the board; ROI, Foot In The Door and Setting Expectations
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 and the key components in doing this are:
Return on investment (ROI)
Arguably the most important element of briefing in projects like this is showing that it can make a tangible, positive impact on the business in terms of the bottom line. If you’re spending north of £100k on software that you know “anecdotally” will deliver huge efficiencies from saving manual processing right the way through to reporting; you need to show the board how you can go about affecting deliverables. Leave no stone unturned, If you can put a cost on a particular member of staff’s output; do it – this will not only show the willingness to go into granular detail but will showcase your belief in the project. It’s also important, if possible; to start off with a few key headline figures: “this new software will help us see a reduction in customer churn by 3%, equating to a saving in revenue of £75,000 per year” or “the new processes will show that we will need to hire 4 less staff in the next 2 years at a saving of £120,000”.
Foot in the door techniques
The typical psychological trick of building up to a big request by using smaller, subsequent requests. If you go and start to try and build a case for a large investment, the likelihood of buy-in is much lower. If you can brief in smaller projects to show that you have a track record of delivering, you can then use those successes as collateral when it comes to briefing in the new, larger software project.
This builds upon the previous two aspects but it is as important because it ensures that you are setting out realistic timeframes, outcomes and objectives. When you go down this route, it is extremely important to let the board understand what it is you are trying to achieve, why you’re trying to achieve and the support you will need from them going forward.
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.