Are inefficient processes and workflows ruining your dreams of effectiveness and productivity at work? You're not imagining it. In fact, a study has found that companies lose 20 to 30 percent in revenue every single year due to inefficiencies. So while a lot of 'busy' work may be taking place in your organisation, so much of this could be made more efficient with 5 simple workflow improvements.
Let's delve into some of the most common areas in your business processes where productivity can get bogged down:
- Invoices take forever and a day to process. Did you know only about 5 invoices an hour can be processed manually, whereas 60 can be processed electronically? Manual invoicing processes, powered by paper and employee-time, are usually time-consuming and repetitive, and often get caught in bottlenecks. But whatever your system, there are still layers upon layers of approvals, and whether you've digitised or not, documents can easily go missing, making them hard to find.
- Your systems aren't on speaking terms. A study conducted by Osterman research has found that most SMBs are drowning in a sea of applications, with the average user interacting with at least five. Add to this the reality that most of these applications aren't integrated and you've located a major cause of inefficiency.
- Working remotely is becoming a challenge. According to research by Indeed, 68% of Australian employers are now allowing their employees to work remotely. With the many advantages of remote working, also come the challenges of working and collaborating across the distance and workflow can be hampered.
- Information is hard to find. In a global survey of information workers and IT professionals, IDC found workers were spending an average of 4.5 hours a week looking for documents. It doesn’t take a data scientist to tell you that’s unproductive.
5 simple workflow improvements for your business
Now that we're clear on the business process challenges that you may commonly come up against, let's discuss 5 workflow improvements you can implement to better your organisation's productivity and efficiency.
1. Audit your current systems
To quote Lewis Carroll, "begin at the beginning," as improving your business’s workflow needs to start with an audit of the current state. Spend some time listing your business processes, the purpose of the process, who is in charge of the process and who else is involved in it. Also, figure out the priority of each process - remember that 'important' is different than 'urgent' - important processes are a higher priority. Why? These are the processes that save the most time and money, or have the greatest impact on output quantity and quality, and so are the ones worth streamlining first!
An audit shouldn't be done on assumptions, so spend time reaching out to key stakeholders and seeking advice from the people involved in the processes. Ask them what's not working and how these processes can be improved. Your audit is also a good time to look out for redundant steps that are no longer required.
With a lot of data now at your fingertips, perhaps some areas for improvement are becoming more obvious? E.g. single-sided printing where double-sided makes more sense.
2. Decide where to focus
Prioritising important processes is key to getting results swiftly and proving your business workflow improvement project's worth to key stakeholders in your business. Once you've completed your audit, look carefully at your results and rank the processes in order of importance. There is an opportunity here to select some 'quick wins', processes that are relatively easy and simple to improve but will make an obvious impact on efficiency. E.g. automate the information collection for common forms like leave requests or purchase orders.
3. Reduce paper
Ditching the paperwork is an excellent way to improve business workflow efficiency, for starters, double-handling will be reduced significantly. Some common ways you can minimise paper use at your organisation:
- Electronic invoice processing
- Online forms
- Electronic signatures
- Effective document sharing
- Secure job-release
4. Enhance and improve communication and collaboration
While inefficient communication can be detrimental to business workflow, the right type of communication can greatly enhance productivity. Think about setting up systems like Basecamp or Asana for project management, or Slack or Microsoft Teams for keeping in touch with remote workers throughout the day. Moving your documents from being stored locally (whether paper-based or on a local computer network) and having them available on the cloud (like on Google Drive, document management software or in an ECM solution) will also help.
Remember, too many systems and applications will overwhelm so put some serious thought into the business case for each and also look into how applications can integrate with one another to make processes seamless.
5. Adjust and iterate
It's no good making improvements to your business workflows and then stepping away. The nature of business and technology means that things are always changing, meaning your business workflow should also be constantly evolving. Once your changes and improvements have been implemented, track their progress. What's working well? What's not? Make sure to check back in regularly and rigorously, take your learnings and continue to improve your company's business workflow.
Are you ready to start improving your business workflows? Document management software is the place to start. Download our buyer's guide to learn the key features you need to look for to choose the best Document Management System for your business.