When you think about how many tech tools are available now: CRM, email, text messaging, social media, project management, virtual meetings… the list seems endless. And there are also technological solutions that have become an integral part of improving business operations. Have you ever wondered how you can use business process improvement tools to streamline your processes, improve your service, and increase your profitability?
For small business owners, investing in such solutions is not just about keeping up with or staying ahead of your competitors—it’s about unlocking the power and efficiency of business process improvement tools.
Identify the Processes in Your Business That Need Improvement
The first step in implementing a technology solution is to identify the areas of your business that could benefit from it. You’ll want to review your operations and processes for ones that are time-consuming, seem to generate mistakes or issues, or just seem generally inefficient.
Think about all your processes: marketing, sales, service, HR, accounting, finance, etc.. Which of these areas seem to demand your time? Which ones cause you to groan when you think about them?
Once you’ve identified some areas, prioritize them and then see if you can figure out what’s causing the problems.
- Are there some things you do manually now that could be automated?
- Do some repetitive tasks take up too much time?
- Are there communication issues between departments or specific people?
Figuring out these problems will begin to point you toward the right technology solution.
Here’s a list of some of the tools available to help you assess and improve your operations.
Tools for Reviewing Operations
How do you define, measure, analyze, and improve your business processes? There are highly-rated tools that can help a small business review operations and identify inefficient processes. Here are a few:
- Monday.com: This is a “Work OS” where organizations of any size can create the tools and processes they need to manage every aspect of your work. You can manage projects, collaborate with employees and clients, set up automations, keep track of important tasks, and much more. When you use a tool like Monday.com to manage your work you can see patterns develop. Monday.com can help you identify tasks that are taking longer than expected, which may be indicative of inefficient processes.
- Miro: This tool is designed specifically to help businesses create, manage, and optimize their workflows. With Miro, you can create process maps, visualize your workflows, and much more. This can help you identify steps in your processes that are completely unnecessary, or prone to error or inefficiency.
- Toggl: This is a time-tracking tool that provides detailed insights into how you and your team spend your working hours. Identifying tasks or activities that seem to consume a disproportionate amount of time can be very helpful, and you can take steps to streamline these processes.
- Zapier: This tool allows you to automate tasks between different online apps. If you find that your team is spending a lot of time on repetitive tasks, such as transferring data between different platforms, Zapier can automate this for you. Read our article on Zapier: Integrate Systems & Automate Tasks With Zapier
- Slack: Communication inefficiencies can be a significant source of wasted time and errors. Slack is a communication tool that allows for direct messaging, group chats, and integration with other tools, helping to ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Calendly: Calendly is an online scheduling tool that makes it easy for people to book a convenient time on your calendar without going back and forth to pick a time. Read our article on Calendly: Calendly Online Appointment Scheduling
Remember, the best tool for your business will depend on your specific needs and challenges. You can sometimes take advantage of free trials to test different options and find one that fits your business best.
It might be possible to handle this evaluation on your own, but the time investment and learning curve can be significant. Even just figuring out which tool to try can be time-consuming. You also run the risk of being too close to it all, a kind of “can’t see the forest for the trees” scenario.
Hiring a professional expert in process improvement can save you time and significantly increase your chances of success. These unbiased professionals have deep expertise in identifying inefficiencies, understanding which tools can best address them, and effectively implementing these solutions into your existing workflow.
Understand Which Technology Solutions Can Help You Achieve Faster and Better Outcomes
After you’ve done the initial analysis, you’re ready to look into business process improvement tools. These tools are designed to streamline processes and improve productivity, so it’s crucial to find the ones that fit your specific needs. We listed a few of them above.
If your business struggles with manual data entry, a solution might be software that automates this task. If communication is an issue, you may want to consider a collaboration tool that keeps everyone in the loop. And if you’re struggling with inventory management, there’s software that can help you track inventory in real-time.
Remember, the goal is to find a technology solution that addresses your specific needs and leads to faster, better outcomes.
And the trick is finding the one that’s the best fit for your specific requirements.
Create a Plan for Implementing Technology Solutions into Your Existing Workflow
Once you’ve chosen your technology solution, the next step is implementation. This should not be a hasty process. Instead, it should be carefully planned to ensure smooth integration with your existing workflow. The last thing you need is to slow things down or confuse people with a poor implementation process. It’s too easy for the old process and the new process to “bump into each other,” causing grief for employees as well as customers.
Begin by mapping out your current processes, and identifying the areas where the new tool will be used. From there, create a step-by-step plan for introducing the technology into these processes. This might involve setting up the software, migrating data, and configuring settings.
Be sure to include every department involved, and be sure you have the opinion of a stakeholder from every area. You really don’t want to get 90% of the way into an implementation just to find out some un-thought-of situation didn’t get included.
Another great way to fail at this is to set unrealistic or unreachable goals. Or not set any at all, so your plan should also include a timeline for the transition, with clear milestones and deadlines. This will help keep the process on track and ensure that the technology is implemented successfully.
Successful Planning with SMART Goals
Here’s another area where a professional can help: setting relevant, achievable goals.
S.M.A.R.T is a popular goal-setting tool that can greatly aid in creating a plan for implementing technology solutions in your existing workflow. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, and here’s how you can use it:
Specific: The first step is to define what you hope to achieve by implementing the new technology. For example, your goal could be to “reduce the time spent on data entry tasks by implementing automation software.”
Measurable: Next, quantify your goal. How will you know when you’ve achieved it? For instance, you might aim to “reduce data entry tasks by 50%.”
Achievable: Your goal needs to be realistic. It’s important to ensure that the technology you’re implementing can realistically help you achieve your aim. If your research shows that the software can indeed cut data entry tasks by 50%, then your goal is achievable.
Relevant: The goal should align with your broader business objectives. If reducing time spent on data entry aligns with your larger goal of increasing operational efficiency and freeing up resources for customer service, then your goal is relevant.
Time-bound: Finally, assign a timeline to your goal. When do you expect to see results? You might aim to “reduce data entry tasks by 50% within three months of implementing the automation software.”
Using the S.M.A.R.T framework, your implementation plan could be:
“Our goal is to reduce the time our team spends on data entry tasks by 50% within three months of implementing the new automation software, in order to increase our operational efficiency and provide better customer service.”
This goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, and will go a long way toward setting you up for a successful technology implementation.
Develop a Strategy for Training Employees on New Technology Systems
High-quality training is essential It’s simple… your employees need to understand how to use the new tools effectively if you’re going to reap the full benefits.
It’s not uncommon to see lots of time and money spent on purchasing a solution, just to be followed by a poor implementation that frustrates everyone involved. Take the time to plan training time. Be sure to include periodic (maybe even frequent) reviews of how the process is going.
Consider offering hands-on training sessions and creating user guides or manuals that employees can refer to. You may also want to designate a “technology champion” – someone who understands the new system, explains things well, and is happy to help others.
Remember, everyone learns at a different pace, so be patient and provide support where needed. The goal is to ensure all employees feel confident using the new technology.
Outline the Projects and Tasks Associated with the Transition to New Tech Systems
To stay organized, consider using a project management tool. These can help you assign tasks, track progress, and ensure that everything is completed on time. Remember to be realistic about timelines and workloads.
The transition to a new technology system will involve a series of tasks. These might include installing software, migrating data, and setting up security protocols. By outlining these tasks in advance, you’ll have a clear roadmap for the transition.
Monitor Progress and Measure the Performance of the Technology Solution to Ensure Successful Implementation
Once your new technology solution is up and running, it’s really important to monitor performance. Be sure you regularly check on key performance indicators (KPIs) related to the processes the technology was meant to improve.
- Did the technology reduce the time spent on a specific task?
- Did it improve the accuracy of your data?
- Did it increase customer satisfaction?
- Are there any unintended consequences?
By paying attention to these KPIs, you can gauge the success of the technology and make necessary adjustments.
Implementing technology solutions in your business is not just about buying and installing new software. It’s a process that involves identifying areas of improvement, understanding the right solutions, creating an implementation plan, training employees, managing the transition, and monitoring progress.
You can use business process improvement tools for significant gains in efficiency and profitability. By embracing technology, you’re not just evolving with the times—you’re setting your business up for sustained success in the digital age. If you need a helping hand, our team of process improvement experts is ready to help. We can work with you to develop your process improvement plan and support you every step of the way. Schedule a free consultation with the Key Performance Integrators team today. Together, we can streamline your company’s workflows and set it on a path to long-term success.