How to Identify Process Inefficiencies

Any organization has some process inefficiencies. There might be minor inefficiencies growing over time or major ones you haven’t discovered yet. Although they might not be affecting your business right now, eventually you will have to deal with them. Luckily, you can avoid the risks that they can pose if you identify them on time.

To quote Bill Gates, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

So, you may want to fix all the inefficient processes to make sure all your operations are running smoothly.

Looking for inefficiency requires proactively putting an effort in reviewing and analyzing many business activities. The work culture itself could be a primary reason for it. And if you have been running your business for a long time already, there might be hidden inefficiencies that turned into a work habit over time. Thus, you have to be flexible and accept the fact that optimizing your performance is in your favor. 

In this article, we will share with you the three main process inefficiencies you may find within your company and give some tips on how to identify them.

Most common process inefficiencies 

As a manager, you may want to be fully alert about what’s happening behind the scenes. Never underestimate the damages an inefficient process could cause to your company. However, the good news is that you can detect red flags by yourself to uncover an underlying inefficiency. 

Manual work is prevailing 

This can be related either to lack of automation and digitalization of your business processes or to reluctance of the staff to use digital tools that allow to reduce manual work.

Similarly, you might also be using too many digital tools in your business. Implementing multiple discontinued systems results in inevitable manual work. 

For instance, you get a customer review from one software. Then you copy it to another software that builds statistics for you. This simple copy-paste is manual work, and over time it becomes an inefficiency that costs you time and money. According to a study conducted by Kofax, “22% of an employee’s time is spent on repetitive tasks.”

Manual work is not only a waste of valuable resources (both human and time), but it can also lead to an increase in human errors and less productivity over time.

How to reduce manual work

Reducing manual work implies having to review your current business processes and the different software you’re using to complete tasks. The solution is embedded in automation and digitization but they both have to be smart. Otherwise, you’re running the risk of overwhelming your team with multiple tools.

If you have noticed that manual work is prevailing in your company (or team), here is what you can do to handle it:

  • Pinpoint areas where you notice a heavy load of manual work within each department and/or team – is it data entry? Too much documentation? Administrative work? Make a comprehensive list and start tackling them one by one.
  • Hold meetings with department heads and/or team leads to understand which of those tasks can be automated, digitized, completely eliminated or outsourced.
  • Consider introducing a unified solution to manage the collaboration and eliminate the manual work within your processes. You will need to prepare an adoption strategy to make sure you get everyone onboard.

If you opt for Microsoft Teams, you can learn how to build a successful Teams adoption strategy here.

Bureaucracy  

Although having rules to control the flows in your business is essential, in the long run, it may turn into a hierarchical structure with multiple layers of management and regulations. This may result in an unnecessary long approval process that involves multiple stakeholders. And ultimately, it means you are losing the benefits of agility in your business model. 

According to the study by Harvard Business Review, excess of bureaucracy costs the U.S. more than $3 trillion in lost economic output per year. To dismantle bureaucracy, the first step is to be honest about how much it costs your organization. 

Minimizing your employees’ freedom kills their innovation and sense of creativity. It also decreases the responsiveness of your team and limits their ability to act quickly in emergencies.

To eliminate bureaucracy, consider reducing paperwork and decreasing approval stages. You may also want to communicate more on each person’s responsibilities and their level of autonomy in taking decisions.

More ways you can eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic procedures

In one of her articles for Forbes, Dr. Ruth Gotian sums up Martin Lindstrom’s book “The Ministry of Common Sense: How to Eliminate Bureaucratic Red Tape, Bad Excuses, and Corporate BS.” The recommendations in the book are quite simple yet effective, so you can share the article and the book among your colleagues. He offers the following five steps:

  • Take photos – Lindstrom argues that photos are more powerful than words. So, every time you encounter a bureaucratic obstacle take a photo, which will remind you of it to later discuss with your teammate.
  • Go for a quick win – when trying to solve problems, opt for the small ones first.
  • Stop asking for permission – make sure you trust your team members enough to let them make decisions on their own.
  • Stick with it for 90 days – it’s worth giving the bureaucratic procedure 90 days before trying to eliminate it.
  • Give everyone a chance to come up with solutions – this goes along with trusting your teammates. Brainstorm all together and let everyone offer their solutions.

You can read more about Lindstrom’s book here.

Limited access to data

When your data is dispersed, you don’t have a single hub for your files, documents, archived projects, client records, and all other kinds of data. It means your employees can’t reach the information they need whenever they need it. This results in time loss, as well as loss of productivity that reflects on team efficiency at work.

Having centralized storage is an excellent solution for keeping everything in one place. It helps to prevent data loss and duplication, and provides access to all the necessary information for your team members. Furthermore, moving from centralized local storage to a cloud-based one will also give you additional advantages of online accessibility from distant locations, real-time co-editing, and premium sharing features with access privileges.

Plus, having a centralized working hub ensures that no tasks are “lost” along the way. Oftentimes, especially in larger companies, tasks are abandoned. Then it’s hard to back-track and understand who was responsible for it and why it wasn’t completed. 

Introducing a centralized working hub to your employees is a big step. It’s a new environment for them, so it will take some time for the whole team to get used to it. As a manager, you can help with this transition. Here are some tips from Forbes that you can use:

  • Explain why you’re introducing that particular tool.
  • Explain the advantages and how it will benefit them (the employees).
  • Offer training sessions and Q&As.
  • Assign “change champion” in every team/department/group and have them meet on a regular basis to discuss the adoption. 

You can find the full list of tips here.

How can you identify and combat these process inefficiencies? 

We covered some specific solutions for each of the three process inefficiencies identified in this article. Now, let us discuss some of the general things you can do as a manager to quickly identify and combat any other process inefficiencies:

Constantly monitor your processes 

Schedule business reviews and stay updated about the latest technologies in process management. Keep in mind that monitoring is not a one-time action. It’s a constant process you have to start and keep for as long as you are running the business. You might find some new ways of developing your processes with every review. You may also want to involve other stakeholders in the process review to get a broader perspective.

Integrate digital solutions 

Digital collaboration solutions provide a unified environment for all your business processes. They enable you to leverage technology and scale up your team’s performance to the maximum: 

  • Advanced communications, 
  • Cloud-based storage, 
  • Workflow management, etc. 

Microsoft Teams can be a great solution for your business if you seek to digitalize your business processes and reduce inefficiencies.  Besides all the standard features of a digital workspace, it offers a competitive set of services like 3rd party integration and tight connections with other Microsoft apps. For instance, you can integrate a task management tool which will help you make sure no task ever is left without an owner. 

And if you’re thinking about getting rid of redundant work, consider templatizing your workflows by integrating SalesTim with Microsoft Teams for a better experience and guaranteed results. With Collaboration Templates by SalesTim you can pre-build a workspace just once with all the necessary content, tools, and resources already in place and then replicate it as many times as you need. 

collaboration-templates-guide

Wondering how to templatize your business processes?

Download our step-by-step guide on how to create Collaboration Templates for Microsoft Teams

Ask and listen to feedback  

While you supervise your employees’ work or track their performance with KPIs, they are the ones doing the actual work on the ground. When it comes to business processes and optimization opportunities, you can always refer to them to better understand what to do next. Encourage your employees to make suggestions, think of new ways of doing their tasks, and contribute to their growth. They might be the ones pointing out some process inefficiencies.

You may want to encourage the culture of working in the open. It implies openly sharing the results of work and feedback with everyone in the organization. Not only will it foster collaboration, but it will also reduce micromanagement and inefficiencies that go with it. 

If you are concerned about the performance of your employees and think there might be any sort of inefficiencies, take a closer look at your business processes and look for the red flags we address above. Although no one likes to find a problem in their business approach, it would be better than having trouble and not knowing about it.

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