Let me preface this blog by saying I HATE inefficiencies. Whether it’s a coffee shop that makes grabbing an iced coffee utterly painful (quick rant on that here) or a death-by-spreadsheet environment in the business world, inefficient workflows, processes and systems drive me nuts. I see them, I can’t un-see them, I fixate on them, and I desperately set out to fix them.
But sometimes I don’t or can’t.
Like all business leaders, sometimes—despite my very best intentions—I let madness persist. As a business owner for well over two decades, I have seen my share of inefficiencies, whether in the four walls of my own companies or in my clients’ environments. These bottlenecks, errors, and missteps bleed passion, productivity and profitability right out of the organization. Moreover, we all know that in today’s economic environment, the difference between success and failure is razor thin.
There are problems that I let lie because the whirlwind and competing priorities were a bit more critical. Consequently, we experienced the same inefficiencies over and over again. Like all great leaders, I believed we would get to the problem later, but later never arrived.
On the contrary, when I was successful in tackling a problem area —a triumphant moment for sure – my organization gained a considerable competitive advantage, and more profit fell to the bottom line.
You probably know what I am talking about. You can likely think of the 1-2 inefficiencies in your department or organization that if you fixed would make you a superhero. Alternatively, if you can’t, perhaps there are hidden areas of pain. I’ve always felt that the only thing that is worse than not fixing a challenge at hand is not recognizing the areas in which you are bleeding money. (Those moments still haunt me.)
Though as leaders we could easily define hundreds of inefficiencies, let’s pull back the curtain on 5 top workplace pains that—for lack of a better phrase—cause organizations to bleed money
1. Old Databases and Siloed Data
Right now, ask yourself one simple question: is your company depending on an old Access or FoxPro database to manage critical company information? If your answer is “yes,” you have stumbled upon one of the fastest killers to corporate profitability and productivity.
At one point in time, these databases were viable solutions for centralizing company information. Today, however, they pose a significant risk to the business. Access and FoxPro are rife with challenges including the fact that many employees do not possess the skill set to manage databases created decades ago. What’s more, Microsoft no longer supports FoxPro, and both databases present scalability and mobility issues, among other hurdles. Also, because the database often resides on one person’s computer, the information is gravely siloed often causing the organization to rely on aged or incorrect data.
Critical company information should be maintained in a backed-up system with screens that enable multiple users to modify the data and a database that is extensible and supportable. An Access or FoxPro database can be migrated to a SQL database with some simple user screens and forms to enable more comprehensive usage of company data with less risk.
2. Manual Processes
Manual processes are plentiful—from teams relying on Excel spreadsheets to manage budgets to creating file folders to house pertinent client data. A recent study found that 84% of small businesses still rely on manual processes daily.
Despite the world of automation at our fingertips, too many companies bleed money in time wasted shuffling paper, managing exhaustive spreadsheets and duplicating efforts. The cost to the business? Disengaged, disempowered and unproductive employees.
In a previous blog post (click here), I talk about the impact of not tackling manual processes. Sometimes it means we hire an FTE solely to manage a manual workflow. Other times, we create system workarounds because we don’t feel like using the technology the way it was intended. However, every time we allow the manual process to remain when there is a better, more efficient way to achieve the business outcome, no matter how we slice it, we lose.
3. Technology Misuse
As leaders, typically we are big fans of technology—particularly when it comes to driving efficiency into our organization. All too often, however, technology is the cause of inefficiency and steep financial impact. Technology misuse can run rampant.
As an example, in the late 1990s, a CEO of a large IT company and friend spent $7 million on a new CRM. After two years of trying to deploy the new system, they decided to scrap the project altogether because it was failing to meet their business needs. Their lack of understanding of their business requirements, their inability to evolve their processes and the lack of end-user adoption led to the ultimate demise of the project, the firing of the CIO and a lack of return on their investments.
At Trilix, we don’t believe technology can be haphazardly applied to business challenges. Instead, we think technology should be used as an accelerator to workplace excellence—only to be implemented against a deep understanding of your business requirements.
When technology is introduced for technology’s sake, businesses inadvertently suffer. Conversely, when technology is integrated strategically into a business environment, leaders can create momentum to reduce expenses, avoid costs, increase productivity, improve customer service, strengthen employee morale and grow revenues.
4. Legacy Technology
It’s well-researched fact, humans can be reluctant to change, lulled into a sense of complacency. One of the primary ways I see businesses bleed money is by refusing to admit that old, outdated technology is no longer serving their organization.
For example, I recently worked with a company that installed their central workflow system in 1999 when they were a $5 million a year business. Today, they are approaching a billion dollar a year business with thousands of employees, and they are still on the same system. And they have not upgraded the system in a decade. Think of the organizational inefficiency that is running rampant.
Take a quick inventory of your existing technologies. Do you have anything so old and outdated that you spend more time creating system workarounds than leveraging the technology for its intended purpose? Do you have employees who spend far too much time complaining about the limitations caused by the technology?
The perceived magnitude of migrating to something new can be enough to keep us holding on tight to what we already have. However, as business leaders, our responsibility is to be the change champion who knows there is a smarter, more efficient solution.
5. Limited Visibility into Company Data
How easy it for your team members to access critical corporate data? How seamless is it for that information to now be shared and accessed across departments?
Too often our employees lack access to pertinent data. What’s worse… sometimes they push the responsibility of providing information onto the client. Just think of how many times you fill out the same set of in-take forms every time you go to an urgent care facility. Alternatively, how many times customer service reps ask for necessary client information because their CRM and office phone systems don’t share data automatically (click here for more on that). The impact on a business is steep when it experiences poor client service, team miscommunication and duplicate data lookups.
Fortunately, there are ways to provide greater transparency and visibility across departments to your critical company data. Dashboards, portals and systems integration are just a few of the ways pertinent company information can more readily and effectively be presented to your team members.
The Pursuit of Excellence
In business, numbers can be deceiving. A company can experience 20-percent year-over-year growth, a 10-percent employee attrition rate, a Net Promoter Score of 75, but all these numbers indicate that you are doing good as a business leader. They do not mean you are excelling.
Business leaders who chase the notion of workplace excellence believe those numbers can always be improved upon and are fastidious about finding the areas in which their company is hemorrhaging money—particularly the areas that are under their control. They automate manual processes, replace dying technology, and keep an eye towards the future, among other things. They believe they can be better. They believe greater efficiency and profitability is achievable. And because of it, they are excellent.
Are you ready to be more excellent in the workplace when it comes to how you leverage technology, systems, and processes? We want to talk with you. Click here, let’s schedule coffee and let’s embark on the pursuit of excellence together.