Unless you are an artisan or craftsman, manual processes in your business are bad. Manual processes create inefficiencies, increased costs, and negative customer experiences.
Small and mid-sized companies don’t remove manual processes because they don’t know how and believe it will be too expensive. This doesn’t have to be the case.
In our experience, information is at the center of most manual processes. The good news is that information −for most small and mid-sized companies− is relatively easy and affordable to automate.
So what are some telltale signs of manual processes and the associated negative impact? Here are a couple of scenarios we see frequently:
Someone in a company starts tracking or reporting something in a small Excel spreadsheet. Pretty soon the spreadsheet has 12 tabs. Then derivatives of the spreadsheet get created so other people or departments can use it to be more in line with the information that is important to them. Now it becomes someone’s task to gather the various spreadsheets, summarize the information, and create a summary spreadsheet.
You would think it ends there, right? Of course not.
Not long after the summary spreadsheet gets created, other individual spreadsheets get created that the summary spreadsheet creator doesn’t know anything about. Now, the summary spreadsheet isn’t accurate. A decision gets made to abandon all the spreadsheets. It lasts about three months and then someone creates a spreadsheet for the whole cycle to begin again.
You get an order. Terrific. Oh, but wait. You just remembered you have to go into the accounting software to process the invoicing, then you have to go into the inventory system to remove the product from inventory, then you have to go into the scheduling system for delivery, and then you have to go into the customer management system to make sure you market to them in the future.
You look at your desk, and those of your team members, and you can’t see the desk. Your copy paper and copier service costs are your second biggest cost line after payroll. Your team can’t work on a project or engage with a customer without “The File.”
There are solutions for each of the above scenarios and others like them. The real question isn’t whether your manual processes can be overcome, but rather, “Are you ready to make the commitment to overcome them?”
You intuitively know manual processes aren’t good for your company, and in most cases (like the examples above) they are self-inflicted. The solution to most manual processes typically has two options:
1. Automate the processing of information with software applications.
2. Integrate the applications doing the processing.
Over the past few months alone, we have helped clients automate billing, commission, and inventory manual processes. These projects ranged from four to 12 weeks based on size and scope. The clients will be able to leverage the efficiencies for many years, and achieve a significant return on investment.
Don’t let manual processes continue to be a drag on your performance and service.