Improved processes won't just save your company money, they'll also save you time – and who couldn't use more time?
It's the second week of the new year and you're already as busy as ever. Most of you reading this are responsible for keeping your office running – making decisions and researching technology improvements and “simply” ensuring everyone is working together smoothly.
Process improvements (such as automated workflows and using digital copiers to scan paper to digital for easy retrieval) will of course make the business more efficient and effective, but what about you? I'm going to write about more of the dollars and cents return on investment value of business process improvement in a future post. I've already touched on some of the pro arguments in these posts (Throw Your Law Firm a Productivity Lifeline – 5 Reasons to Automate Your Workflows; Using Your Copier to Streamline Your Legal Workflow; and 10 Questions to Ask About Your Document Workflow). For this post, I'm going to focus on a few ways improving business processes will make YOUR life easier – you deserve it.
A quick word about process improvement – a quick search on “workflow” or “process improvement” can be confusing. There's a long history, various methodologies (Six Sigma is one) and a LOT of jargon that can be intimidating. Keep in mind that business process improvement boils down to this – how do I get from start to finish in a business task as quickly and effectively as possible.
Time equals money, so the saying goes. In my mind, “enough” time equals sanity too! The nagging feeling of being constantly rushed and behind is not pleasant.
Many workflows and business processes are done the way they are because that's the way they've always been done. Even without automation with workflow software, taking a step back and thinking through the best way to accomplish tasks (a business process) is a good idea.
Process improvements give you back time in your day because you'll eliminate useless steps. When you use software to automate processes, you save time because you no longer have to physically move work from person to person – work arrives on your computer. Depending on the type of process and software, you can also check the status of a workflow to plan your day better.
When you digitize paper, you save time by being able to find the documents and information you want by a simple search on your computer. No more looking through a file cabinet for the right folder (only to not find the folder because it's been misplaced or someone else has it).
I'm talking about both co-workers and your real customers (the folks that pay you). Co-workers are also happier because they spend less time wondering “who has the document” or “where's that invoice I need to process”.
Your customers are happier because you can answer their questions quickly. No one likes to call a company and then have to either wait or be called back because the customer's information is in a folder on someone's desk. Digital documents are available to everyone (with permission, of course) so that customer questions can be answered in a single call without a paper shuffle.
Of course, even with streamlined and automated processes you're going to be busy. Who isn't these days? But you might be able to carve enough extra time from your day to get out of the office earlier and spend that extra time with your family – cooking a relaxed meal, playing a game, or just relaxing. To me, that's a real return on investment!