The pandemic has given many businesses a chance to focus on process improvements. Here’s why.
Most countries have imposed some form of social lockdown as a pandemic mitigation strategy. This had immediate repercussions for businesses and for the economy as a whole. But this is going to be a massive economic event and will continue for some time to come.
During the period we were in enforced isolation, many businesses used the opportunity to prioritise process improvement activities. A wise move and relevant for the following reasons:
- With cost reduction a focus whenever there is an economic downturn in the offing, process improvements are an effective way of reducing costs. This will continue as the global economy continues to slow and affect more and more businesses.
- A business slowdown typically reveals ineffective, inefficient and broken business processes. Businesses that appeared focused and agile during periods of strong demand typically become lethargic and stagnant as demand slows.
- If any business had not embraced the Digital Transformation, this pandemic will have forced the issue, bringing with it wholesale process revision and improvements, particularly automations.
Business processes represent and major portion of a business’s intellectual property. If you are seeking to build the value of your business, then your processes will be an important element of this undertaking.
All that said, what are the main areas of process improvement a typical agency should be focussing on?
1. Process documentation
It’s all good to improve processes, but without proper documentation, a lot of the expected gains are lost as staff members struggle to deal with changes. The more you are able to systemize, the more documentation you will generate. Not only that, but for best results in the long term, writing and using process documentation should be baked-in to your culture.
2. Sales processes
This list would be incomplete without talking about sales processes. The reality is that in most businesses there is such a focus on sales that sales processes are generally kept up-to-date at all times, or at least they should be. Perhaps your sales processes are not up to date?
3. Client processes
Client processes include everything that happens after the client buys.
Interactions and dealings with clients should be consistent and predictable (from the client’s point of view). Just like with every visit to a McDonalds, wherever it is in the world, the experience is consistent; and what’s more, it’s being delivered by kids who can’t keep their bedrooms tidy! That’s process! And that’s consistency bringing customers coming back again and again.
Also, as your team changes over time, you need to be able to ensure that client processes remain consistent, otherwise your team may repeat mistakes of the past.
4. Operational Processes
This is obviously where you will have the largest number of processes. The effort and disruption of changing a process is the principle reason old processes stick around long after they have reached their use-by date.What we are talking about here is putting additional margin on your bottom line if this is done well.
5. Customer service processes
Why is this not part of client processes? In my view this needs a slightly different approach than regular client processes. Client processes are usually about subtly selling add-on selling or working on existing projects. Customer service processes have to do with project progress, logistical arrangements, content delivery, problems etc. Is often prudent to separate customer service from client processes because of the different personnel that would do the work. It does not make sense to have an expensive and skilled account manager dealing with paperwork and process-related activities. Of course this may not apply to your business simply because you may not be big enough yet and do not have the personnel. But as you grow you will discover that it makes a lot more sense to split these tasks up.
6. Human resource processes
Somehow human resource processes are never quite what they should be.
In most businesses these are viewed as second class issues that have a lower priority. In fact, it does not take much to put together a robust set of human resource processes and once they are set up, there is not that much to maintain. A business without adequate human resource processes looks to the employees as if the business does not care about them or place enough importance on their well-being. This is not a position from which it is easy to extract productivity or loyalty.
7. Administration processes
Administration is often viewed as being of secondary importance and so it does not receive the same attention as the parts of the business that produce profit. unless you have a very switched-on administration manager the processes in this department are often forgotten about and remain at a low level of efficacy.
8. Business management processes
There is always room for improvement when it comes to business management processes. Things like reports, budgets, departmental objectives etc. all make running a business easier if they are properly implemented and add to the businesses longer term ability to generate value.
8. Business Leadership processes
Surprised to see this topic here? if you took a look inside the big agencies you would discover that they have processes revolving around leadership, teamwork, and other related issues. Why? because leadership is the single biggest differentiator and factor that creates success overtime. the reason that this needs processes is because leaders are typically quite busy and unless many aspects of leadership or process-driven, they tend to be neglected and so the whole business suffers as a result.
Leadership and teamwork are at the heart of progress in a business irrespective of circumstances. A good leader makes no claims to knowing everything about the business environment in which they operate. It’s their leadership that harnesses the power of the team around the challenges that they face and produces the action that generates results and profits. Leadership requires a steady cadence and rhythm. Processes make sure that that takes place.
There may be other areas of your business that could use some process improvement. Every business is different.
Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for reviewing processes and generating improvements, in fact this is something that should be undertaken periodically.