Automating your office’s procedures comes with numerous invaluable benefits: you boost your productivity, improve accuracy, and best of all – you save time and money (read more about the benefits in The Benefits of Implementing Processes in Your Business). The ultimate goal is to move things from being manually executed to discovering and implementing improvements that streamline the firm’s activities. These small, time-saving ideas add up over time. Every bit of energy you can save will allow space for growth and improved development.
So how exactly do you get started? First, study what you are already doing on a daily basis. Try to change only one thing at a time. As you start analyzing how your business runs, you may discover some easy fixes:
1. Group tasks and utilize the OHIO principle
When grouping tasks, the Only Handle It Once concept (the OHIO principle) is very useful. The key is to make sure that responsibilities are clustered together to be more efficient. Then, as the principle asserts, you only work on it at that point and continue at it until it is complete. With this practice, you will not have to stop and then start again a few hours later.
The idea is to group related tasks, schedule a recurrent time on your agenda or calendar, and only work on them at that allotted time. For example, the OHIO principle applies to a business owner’s weekly accounting review. Instead of cycling through different reports at different times throughout the week, you can make a list of all the important metrics/reports such as accounts receivable, accounts payable and cash flow, and then review them in one sitting. By setting aside a space to analyze accounting in depth on a recurrent basis, it will always be done right and efficiently.
2. Create time-savers
Look for ways to save time by eliminating duplicate steps so you may perform tasks more efficiently. This will allow you to save time as you go. Creating templates and lists for documents that are reused continually are also great ways to streamline timelines. Some examples are:
Client proposal templates by product.
Saved email drafts that can be reused to communicate with clients in the future.
List of interview questions that are used with each new candidate.
3. Assign complete responsibilities
Sometimes tasks within a process are assigned in piecemeal. This fragmenting happens when one person, instead of being responsible for the entire flow, takes care of one piece of the project while the next person takes care of the next. As an alternative, try assigning one person to complete the entire process and another to review it. The bonus is that responsibilities are then entirely clear and there is now an additional level of review.
4. Document everything
Leave yourself a trail: document everything you do the first time you do it, as activities may be repeated in the future. It can be as simple as saving the contact information you researched and jotting down the steps you took to execute the process. The next time you do it, you will have already saved yourself much time and duplicated energy.
5. Diagram it
Diagramming is a great way to visualize and plan out your process automation. You will want to do this for every area of your business. Include details such as who is responsible for the task and what other departments it goes through for approval. There are great resources online to help you diagram, and you can also check out my post How to Use Diagrams to Implement Processes in Your Business for more information.
6. Implement efficient software
Use relevant and up-to-date software to assist in driving automation. If you use software that is easily customized, design it so that it saves steps. Our Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) automatically sends an email to inform our team every time there is a sale. This simple change has saved us considerable time because now everybody on the team is on the same page. We all know what is available, the minute something changes, with less time spent digging around for information or acting on the wrong data. As the company grows, I recommend investing in more complex software to automate workflows further. Each second that is saved per transaction adds up to minutes and ultimately hours in the long run.
Constant Small Improvements Make Great Impact Over Time
The idea is to continue simplifying and automating. Keep looking, fixing, and streamlining, and the improvements will add up over time–the opportunities are endless. As technology progresses, there are always going to be ways to upgrade the way you do things. These may range from simple time management enhancements to updating your software to one that better integrates all the different departments in the business. In time, your processes will become as flawless as your products.