How to identify (and fix) business processes that no longer work
The events of the last few years have motivated many business leaders to bring their organizations up to speed through digital transformation initiatives. However, a number of companies are still struggling to keep up. Whether you’re scrambling to streamline operations or seeking reassurance that your current systems are working efficiently and effectively, there are some initial steps you can take to help identify and fix any shortcomings and improve your business processes.
Before you get started…
Before diving in, make sure you’ve defined the problem(s) you want to address first. This might mean focusing on one specific area of the business or addressing multiple issues collectively. As a team, determine where to prioritize efforts based on those with the highest impact, such as customer satisfaction, waste reduction, profit improvement, and increased response time. It may also be a good time to simply ask your customers what’s working, what’s not, and what they wish they had in your product/services. Create a report detailing how the problem impacts the business and determine which area will benefit most from immediate action.
Start with an audit
If it’s been a while since you’ve performed a comprehensive audit on your business operations, it might be time to take an in-depth look at where things stand. That said, an audit doesn’t necessarily have to be a massive research project. If you’re not ready to work with an unbiased strategic partner for such an endeavor, you can start small by taking the DIY approach and prioritizing one or two key areas of the business that you know could use some extra attention.
To do this, you’ll need to set aside some uninterrupted time to collect and comb through any existing data to look for items that could negatively affect your business or are already doing so. Create a document to catalog the relevant information and log your findings. Then, you can look at things like goals, objectives, and customer feedback, and assess how they stack up against competitors and current industry trends.
Revisit your KPIs
Sometimes, it may appear that things aren’t working because your attention is focused on the wrong metrics. Measuring progress on all critical business activities is a must, but avoid homing in on a singular area or casting too wide of a net across too many areas at once — this is a surefire way to lose focus on what matters most. Ask your employees how they know if they are winning or losing — involve them in the process to help establish helpful KPIs and then determine which metrics will really help move the needle forward and build internal awareness around these items. You can continue measuring the less essential KPIs; just ensure that these smaller wins aren’t holding your business back from your larger, more important goals.
Assess your technology tool stack
In the rush to stay ahead of digital transformation trends, business leaders may adopt technologies they don’t actually need. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone — but it’s time to get real about what your business can and can’t live without. Have you invested in tools that are useful but going unused by your teams? Find out why and move forward with a purpose. It could be a matter of providing additional training sessions or simply reminding employees that these things exist. If tools aren’t being used because they’re overly complex and/or creating additional steps in your processes, it may be time to kick them to the curb.
Get your operations up to speed
While you’re assessing your current tools, you should also be looking for gaps and optimization opportunities. Are employees still wasting time on repetitive admin tasks that could easily be automated? To help spot automation opportunities, ask your staff to log their activity for one week and look for patterns. Involve your teams in this step through internal surveys or workshopping sessions to better understand where you can save time and help create a seamless and more positive employee experience.
Spotting problems within your business processes is only the first step; understanding how to prioritize your needs and deciding which will have the greatest impact is where the real challenge lies. Remain focused on the most critical areas of the organization and work with your teams to create lasting solutions that work. If you’re unsure where to start, you can also work with a strategic partner who has experience with other businesses in the same (and other) industries. A partner with this vast level of insight can provide an unbiased view of your current systems and help identify and prioritize areas for growth, employee engagement, and improvement.