Your business is made up of a series of processes and workflows. The more productive and streamlined your workflow, the more profitable you’ll become. Having these systems in place and optimized allows everyone on your team to complete more work in a shorter period of time.
However, streamlining business workflows is a process in and of itself. Here are some helpful tips for navigating these changes and making your business more streamlined.
Audit Your Current Workflow
Before you start making changes, it’s essential to understand your current workflow. Take time to go through the steps and record everything in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. Time the various stages over a few days to get the average time required for each. Make a note of any challenges or barriers that cause delays as you work through the process.
After you have the various processes within your business outlined, highlight the bottlenecks and potential areas of improvement.
Set Strategic Goals
After you’ve audited your current processes, you can start to set strategic goals for improvement. Prioritize your items from the highest value to least and outline how you can improve upon your current processes. Your improvements could range from restructuring who handles what within your organization, to upgrading or implementing new tools.
It’s also important to consider the costs and timelines associated with each improvement so that you can plan accordingly. When you set improvement goals, identify individuals who will be engaged in the improvement process.
One core area of improvement for modern business workflows is to incorporate centralization. Centralization allows everyone access to the information they need at any given time. Modern centralization takes this to the next level by ensuring access from any location as well.
Generally, the centralization goal entails the implementation of new tools. This might look like giving your team access to a cloud-based shared drive or teaching them how to fax from Outlook while working from home. Create a list of necessities as well as things that would be nice to have to start breaking down what tools will make it possible.
Automation is another core part of improving modern business workflows. There’s a lot of controversy and stigma about the use of automation, due to fear that it will replace human jobs. In some cases, that may be true. Generally speaking, it frees up time spent on low-value tasks so that resources can be allocated to high-value, revenue-generating tasks.
Look at how you can incorporate automation into your current processes to streamline your workflow. Things like social media scheduling and posting or pre-screening job applicants are a few examples of automation making a significant impact.
You may find that incorporating automation within individual workflows improves productivity with others, as your team has more bandwidth.
Put Everything in Writing
Once you start implementing improvements and get comfortable with the new workflow, conduct another mini audit to record the new steps of the process. This is an integral aspect of workflow improvement, as it provides a reference point during the transition. Furthermore, it gives you a framework to refer to for job descriptions, outsourcing, and revisiting the workflow as new opportunities emerge.
Creating a book of standard operating procedures (SOPs) is one of the most valuable exercises your business can complete. If you’re a solo entrepreneur who works alone, your SOP book can save your business if you are injured or unable to work.
Analyze and Adapt
Know that your SOP isn’t set in stone. It takes time to get comfortable with a process. Once a specific task becomes a routine, you might identify further improvement areas to make your workflow even better. Alternatively, you might recognize some challenges and barriers that didn’t make themselves apparent until your new process became a part of the overall business workflow.
Set milestones and timelines for check-ins to determine if the new processes are working. These should be spaced out to allow for seasonal fluctuations as well. For example, you might schedule check-ins after one month, three months, six months, and one year. From there, adapt and tweak your approach as needed.
Use Time Tracking
Implementing time tracking is another way to enhance productivity and streamline business workflows going forward. Many employees and business owners alike aren’t aware of the time they waste throughout the day. While taking breaks is essential for morale and self-care, small, imperceptible blocks of time have a way of adding up.
Use a time tracking application to report upon how much time is spent in various programs or on different tasks. You can get apps that run in the background for cleaner data. Sometimes it’s not the workflow itself, but other distractions that derail the process. Email is a common offender when it comes to wasting time, with employees spending an average of 28% of their week answering correspondence.
With these strategies, you can streamline your business workflows to increase productivity, accountability, and profitability.
Nikita Ross is a professional content marketer and business developer. With a strong educational background and ten years of practical marketing experience, Nikita knows that the key to business success is continuous learning and adaptation.