Office Automation System

One of the biggest problems we see at many companies we visit are overworked staff in the back office.  We see many of them are just trying to survive, getting their work done with the tools given to them with no understanding or knowledge how to make work more enjoyable or free up time for customer service, innovation or taking on more work. With the rapid expansion of the internet, the increased digitization of data and rapid decrease in technology costs, employees and companies can now put in a office automation system that will reduce overtime, processing times and improve morale. To begin building your office automation system, I recommend you ask three questions: What process or tasks causes me the most stress or anxiety that I would like to have an office automation system take over? If there is one task that I would like an office automation system to take over, what would it be? What would be the benefits to me and our company be by putting in this office automation system? The benefits of asking these three questions is it will begin to activate your creativity and allow to begin to see that cost effective solutions to automate your problems are now available to you.  It will allow you to ‘connect the dots’ by seeing how leveraging a bit of technology at the right task or step in the process will generate huge returns. In conclusion, identifying opportunities for a office automation system is not hard.  It just takes effort to slow down and pay attention to what is going on around you.  You will...

Key Performance Indicators and Causal Relationships

This past week, we met with a client to help them determine what their key performance indicators are in order for them to drive profitable growth. While some think this process is quite straight forward, we still continue to find individuals who do not understand the importance of causality and processes when developing the right KPI’s for their business. Don’t get us wrong. We still insist that our clients (many who have finance and accounting backgrounds), to continue to read their monthly financial statements, including the traditional Income Statement, balance sheet and cash flows and to continue to compare those monthly results to the plan and/or to the previous year’s results. We also continue to encourage them to run the traditional ratios as a way to check the health of their business. What we are recommending is that they create a new section within this review that includes more significant key performance indicators as part of their management process to track and predict their business success. This section must, however, be carefully crafted to ensure that the ‘right indicators’ are included that properly measure the processes the business engages in every day. Let us explain. While we won’t get into the academic discussions pertaining to Causality (you can google Causality or go to Wikipedia to get into the details of the subject from multiple disciplines), the key idea is that with any business process, there are certain ‘laws’ governing that process. While everyone may not totally understand the ‘laws’ governing that process, those ‘laws’ still ‘govern’ that process. Those laws must be followed in some order to get the...

Creating Business Value

One of the biggest problems we see are people that are not focussed on activities or tasks that continue to add value to their business or their clients. We have seen a lot of folks stay in their comfort zone doing the ‘routine’ without realizing that by doing this, their value and the value of their  business is decaying. To help create business value, we recommend three steps: Automate routine tasks With our society now digitally based, there are a lot of software and tools to automate routine tasks like data entry from one system to another or to automatically calculate material to make decisions upon.  While everyone is good at creating material in spreadsheets, they don’t take it to the next level of automating the upload of that data into the system that needs that data to do the next step.   If your time is worth than $15 per hour, you need to hire a programmer to help automate the data transfer from one system to another.  You will be able to get a payback in less than a month. Learn to listen Quieting your mind and actively listening to what your client is saying is crucial.  so many people are thinking about how to reply without really taking the time to pay attention and understand what their client is saying.  If you focus to much on your thoughts or focus on how you are going to reply, you are not going to get the ‘secrets’ to truly create business value. Constantly ask questions for confirmation People are sometimes afraid to go back and ask for confirmation of what...

The Art and Science of Better

With the current economic climate hitting companies and industries quite hard, a number are now asking not only how to survive but also how to thrive.  Based on our work in transforming various back offices, here are a few pointers: Find and take care of your people, especially your stars.  People are the only ‘systems’ in the world that can sense and respond to rapid changes. Focus on speeding up your cycle times.  Measure your key processes in terms length of time to complete and then figure out how to cut them by 50%.  Repeat this again and again. Ensure everyone has a stake in the game.  If some people feel they are just ‘spectators’, you will not be able to survive the competition where their people have something at stake (i.e. job, reputation, pension, etc.) Don’t lean on technology to fix the problem.  To many executives believe that buying the next system will solve all their problems.  Unfortunately, they don’t spend the time to understand their problems before choosing the technology.  Simplify the number of steps or number of processes you need to do the work.  When we study our clients processes, the first thing we count is the number of processes and steps within each process.  We then look for ways to cut this by 50%.  This basic premise generates not only a lot of savings but reduces a lot of stress within the business. These are a few ideas you may want to consider when you are tasked with changing things in your business to survive today’s economy.  They may sound simple but we have found...
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