by Chris Byers, CEO of Formstack
Success in the IT department depends on a number of factors — with process efficiency near the top of the list. If your workflows are disorganized and congested, you are going to struggle. Process bottlenecks can result in stressed employees, wasted time, unhappy clients or customers, and lost revenue due to low-quality outputs.
To turn it all around, you must identify the bottlenecks in your business processes and work to rectify them. These bottlenecks may stem from flawed equipment, practices, or people. And they often occur at the administrative level—where tasks like scheduling, project management, company communications, and documentation fall.
If you’re looking to eliminate administrative bottlenecks and return focus to more high-value work, you can get started today. Simple process automation can do wonders for your business. Here are three bottlenecks you can tackle through automation:
#1: Too Many Paper Forms.
Administrators are typically tasked with gathering information from or for employees, customers, clients, patients, or the like. From registration paperwork to contracts to inventory information to invoices, there is a lot of information to track. And if it isn’t collected efficiently (i.e., it’s collected through heaps of paper forms), bottlenecks are bound to form.
To reduce your business paperwork bottlenecks, first consider whether the information you are collecting is essential to business operations. Perhaps you’re asking employees to complete more surveys than you have time to analyze or you’re requesting irrelevant information. Eliminate forms that are unnecessarily bogging you down.
Then, make sure you aren’t duplicating your data collection efforts. Is your data collection system disorganized and causing you to send out the same form multiple times? Or are you collecting the same information on multiple forms? Try to consolidate a few scattered forms into one organized, useful form.
Once you’ve reviewed your data collection efforts and worked to reduce general inefficiencies, implement process automation via an online form building tool. Taking your paper forms online saves time and effort and allows you to keep your data more secure and organized. You can also take advantage of helpful features, such as form hubs that group related forms together and track user completion.
#2: Communication Barriers.
Some of the biggest roadblocks to organizational efficiency result from communication barriers. Whether a prominent person in the business is unresponsive due to a busy schedule or inaccessibility, or there is no precedent for effective communication across departments, communication barriers can surely lead to process bottlenecks.
To tackle communication barriers at your organization, first consider which communication channels are most appropriate. Does the information you need to convey require a voice-to-voice meeting? Or is it best to have a written record of the communication via email or another messaging system?
Then, make sure everyone involved understands his or her role in the communication process. Does the manager of one department need to follow up with a manager in another department before the project can move forward?
Once you’ve answered the necessary questions, set up some process automation to streamline tasks. If it makes sense to have a weekly meeting, use a responsive online calendar (such as Google Calendar) to set up an auto-recurring meeting invite for all involved parties. If important emails get buried in your flooded inbox, set up filters so you can easily find and address prominent messages. If you have a process that could benefit from an automated flow from stakeholder to stakeholder, use an online workflow management tool.
#3: Lengthy Approval Processes.
In most businesses, there are processes that require some sort of manager or executive sign-off before they can be completed. For example, a hiring request might require approval from the CEO, HR, and finance before a job can be posted. And a piece of marketing content might require approval from a copy manager, a design manager, and a marketing VP before it can be published. If anyone involved in these approval processes falls behind, bottlenecks occur.
To combat approval bottlenecks at your company, first consider who absolutely needs to be involved. The more people involved, the higher the chances of process delays. Pair down the list of approvers as much as possible to boost efficiency.
Then consider how approvers are notified and how they indicate their approval. Do you let people know their approval is needed by word of mouth, email, or instant message? Do you keep good record of who has approved?
Once you’ve considered the pros and cons of your process, implement process automation to improve and streamline approvals. If it would help to have a more standardized system that sends automatic email notifications and documents approval progress, use a data management tool with approval functionality.
Chris Byers is the CEO of Formstack, an Indianapolis-based company offering an online form and data-collection platform. Prior to Formstack, Byers co-founded an international nonprofit that was built via remote relationships among partners in Europe, Africa, and the United States.