Reducing Costs Through Process-Driven Workflows

Aaron Solomon

A common issue for small businesses is that operational processes are not often revisited frequently enough to match up with the current state of the business. Small business owners like to be very hands-on, and as the business grows, this can take too much of their time. Process-driven workflows help ensure consistency in your operations and that all needed tasks are performed. Using these workflows can help you reduce costs and improve operations by:

  • Reducing labor time by high-value employees
  • Lowering total labor wasted on unnecessary follows-ups or searches
  • Decreasing customer frustration caused by issues falling through the cracks
  • Increasing customer satisfaction by quicker, more accurate responses to inquiries
  • Strengthening accountability

Delegate routine duties

Delegation is one of the simplest process types to implement. They key benefit to delegation is being able to reduce the time you or your managers spend on routine tasks that do not require your personal attention. Effective delegation involves reviewing a process and determining the cutoff point between a routine task and an operational decision that requires the specific attention of higher value employees.

For example, do you review purchasing needs against set criteria before issuing a purchase order to your vendors? If so, provide those criteria to a trusted subordinate to review. This way you’ll only have to spend time on issues that require your personal intervention versus what you review based off a checklist. Even if there are tasks you can’t delegate completely, assign the portions you can (research, data verification, etc.) before the issue reaches you for a final decision.

Automate your workflows

When a workflow involves multiple people, there’s always the issue of handing off the process between staff. Manual methods like emails not only require effort to notice but can easily get lost in the shuffle. Many ERP and CRM solutions provide automatic notification to users when workflow steps have been completed and the workflow is to be handed off to a new user. Leveraging these options not only reduces the cost of time spent on checking other systems but provides more accountability.

Centralize your information

Keeping information related to your processes in a central, accessible location empowers your staff to get the information they need without time-intensive searches or having to contact others to get the information they need. A common example already in use by most businesses is inventory levels, but there’s far more that can be done. Using tools such as Slack or Trello as part of your workflow allows staff to update progress notes on their tasks on a platform where other involved staff members can view the current status without having to spend time asking for status updates.

Implementation and expectations

Once you have developed your workflows, clearly document these steps so that your staff clearly understands the nature of the workflows and the expectations for their duties. Without this key step, staff may continue to operate as they have in the past, negating any expected benefits. In the beginning, spot check your staff’s performance to ensure that they are not only following the workflows as expected, but that they are understanding their role in the overall process.

Next steps

Consider your existing processes and determine the following:

  • What can be delegated and to whom?
  • When in a process should a task be handed off between staff members?
  • What will require the personal attention of you or your management team?
  • What automation tools will improve your efficiency?

Once you have begun to create newly optimized workflows, take a few of your front-line staff that will be using these workflows and get their opinions. Getting this input before implementation can help ensure that your ideas are in touch with their day-to-day duties and their experiences and reduce the need for subsequent, confusing changes.

Finally, develop your implementation plan for the new workflows. Process transitions can be challenging for some organizations, so the key to a successful change is ensuring that all staff fully understand the changes before any changes take effect.

Traditional change management won’t work in the era of digital transformation. In the New DNA of Change, organizations need to learn how to change constantly and cope with the pain that it causes.

This blog was originally posted on the SAP Anywhere Knowledge Center.

About Aaron Solomon

Aaron Solomon is the head of Training and Content Development for SAP Anywhere. With a dedicated history in knowledge management and consulting, he is driven to provide quality information to customers and help them understand how best to grow their businesses. His areas of expertise include e-commerce management, data analysis, and leveraging technology to improve efficiency.