Many business owners brag about how many hours they put in each week to expand their business.
Even though there isn’t anything bad about working hard for moving a brand forward, there are ways in which they can digitize tasks, reduce workload, and improve the overall efficiency and productivity, such as streamlining business operations.
If you’re looking for ways to streamline your business operations, you probably want to make your workflow more efficient. As with many other tech-driven solutions, if you do it right, you’ll be able to save time and money in the long term.
According to Frevvo:
- 51% of automation initiatives are aimed at boosting efficiency.
- Over half of all organizations agree that automation and business process automation (BPA) minimizes human error in workflow operations.
- 85% of business leaders believe that automating their workload will give them and their employees more time to focus on goals that truly matter to the company.
Do it wrong, however, and you’ll end up defeating the reason you started streamlining your operations in the first place.
Or you might be wondering what are some practical tasks or operational processes that you could be automating.
By the end of this guide, you’ll have a better idea of proven tactics you could implement starting today.
Here’s what we’ll cover to help streamline your business operations and boost your operations workflow.
- What Is Streamlining a Business Operation Process? Automation Overview and Examples
- How to Streamline Your Business Workflow Operations: 10 Steps To Consider
- 5 Practical Automation Tactics to Implement To Streamline Your Business Operations
What Is Streamlining a Business Operation Process? Automation Overview and Examples
So, what is streamlining exactly and how does it work?
Streamlining is the process of finding ways to eliminate inefficiencies in work-related tasks and day-to-day business activities. Then, you enhance the productivity of the employees by taking advantage of creative thinking, technological advancements, and modern business management techniques.
Workflow processes and checklists are there in most businesses for a reason.
The purpose of any workflow is to describe steps to execute a certain task.
This is also known as standard operating procedures (SOP).
When you streamline your business operation, you remove any unnecessary steps or manual work in the process, which leads to improved efficiency and reduced time consumption by mundane tasks.
For instance, in today’s digital world, marketing operations have transformed. Previously, we used to put billboards and newspaper ads, but now, most of such marketing efforts don’t produce results as social media marketing does.
However, if social media marketing is not streamlined properly, it could take hours for a single day’s campaign. These processes are streamlined by software that allows you to create campaigns for a whole week, or sometimes, a whole month, in just an hour or two. Once all the posts are set, the software publishes them on its own as per the date and time set by the user.
Streamlined processes are a blessing as they save hours’ worth of work weekly, improve efficiency, and increase productivity, leading to better control over the business.
Major advantages of streamlining business operations also include:
- Cutting down significantly on inefficiencies and missed deadlines through streamlined processes. This also simplifies the work, enabling employees to deliver work with improved productivity, on time, and of superior quality.
- Removing bottlenecks, which results in better time control and management.
- Digital processes assist in cutting down costs as you no longer require paper, postal services, travel for meetings, and much more. Even though they do cost a bit but it’s lower in the long term than conventional practices. Imagine how much you could save by eliminating air travel by conducting online meetings. For more info on this, see our full guide on why go paperless.
- Streamlined processes improve communication by keeping all the team members, management, and stakeholders on the same page. Automated notifications, reminders, and updates to tasks and documents reduce the chances of a team member being out of the loop of what’s happening. Chat systems allow communication without moving from the workstation.
- Streamlined processes increase transparency, resulting in reduced errors, improved missed deadlines, redundant work, and improved accountability.
Now, let’s take a more practical approach to streamlining business operations to see what this might look like in reality.
How to Streamline Your Business Workflow Operations: 10 Steps To Consider
Looking for ways to streamline your business workflow operations?
Here’s how you might want to approach this procedure:
- Step 1: Analyse your current workflow
- Step 2: Identify the main areas that can be automated
- Step 3: Break down the work processes
- Step 4: Set priorities
- Step 5: Document everything
- Step 6: Look into the right automation tools
- Step 7: Test the new workflow
- Step 8: Adjust the new workflow
- Step 9: Implement the new workflow
- Step 10: Refine the workflow over time and optimize where needed
Now, let’s take a look at each step in detail.
Step 1: Analyze your current workflow
First, list all the processes in every division and department of your business.
You can gather this information by communicating with different teams and employees in the various departments.
Once you are clear on the processes, analyze them thoroughly. Take input from your employees and document everything along the way.
Step 2: Identify the main areas that can be automated
After analyzing your current workflow, look for the areas that have the highest impact on your business activities and the ones that are the least efficient or productive.
Look at operational processes like:
- Tasks that are manual and repetitive.
- Tasks that can be outsourced.
- Processes or operations that can be simplified into easier steps.
- What your employees are spending too much time on that could be spent on more productive tasks.
Step 3: Break down the work processes
After you are familiar with all the processes, break them into small and more manageable steps.
Keep them short and simple and target the desired output.
Are there certain steps of a longer task that can be simplified or automated?
For example, can you automatically convert HTML files to PDF? Do you know what your document management lifecycle looks like? Are there any smaller parts of a larger task that can be automated?
Even if you’re automating small tasks of your overall business operations, the saved time will add up over time.
Step 4: Set priorities
Different types of business operations have different priorities, so rank all the processes as per their importance to eliminate future revisions.
As an example, you can use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize your tasks and to-do processes.
The matrix categorizes tasks into what's important and urgent, important but not urgent, not important but urgent, not important and not urgent.
Step 5: Document everything
Ensure that you are creating a document with all the information that you’re gathering. Layout every step in the process with complete details. A central workplace does wonders in this regard as all the team members can stay updated and put their input.
To do that, you can use project management software for your workflow and day-to-day processes or a document record management system for your document generation and management needs.
Step 6: Look into the right automation tools
Once you’ve compiled your previous workflow and decided on how you want to improve it, choose a work management software to automate your future workflow. You can also opt for multiple software options for different workflow tasks.
For example, there are a lot of marketing automation tools you can use and we’ll cover tactics to automate document management below too.
Step 7: Test the new workflow
After getting the work management software, implement it on an upcoming project in a specific department to identify its effectiveness.
Take your employee's input to analyze its effectiveness.
Step 8: Adjust the new workflow
After testing, you might identify the areas that need adjustments in the new workflow.
Analyze the effectiveness of the work management software to identify the areas of improvement.
Step 9: Implement the new workflow
After the testing and relevant improvement of the new and automated workflow, implement it throughout your business.
Ensure that you provide necessary training to your employees about every aspect of the new workflow.
Step 10: Refine the workflow over time and optimize where needed
As you’ll move forward with the daily activities of your business, you’ll notice areas in the new workflow requiring refinement.
Stay on top of them to eliminate ineffectiveness.
Now, let’s cover some automation tactics to consider more practically.
5 Practical Automation Tactics to Implement To Streamline Your Business Operations
If you are starting the journey of streamlining your business operations, then ensure that you keep the following tactics in mind as they’ll significantly simplify the process and remove future hurdles.
The tactics we’ll be analyzing below include:
- Analyze your current workflow processes
- Switch from manual to automatic workflows
- Introduce new processes to your team and train them
- Use hiring as a starting point
- Start with well-defined projects and operations steps that can be automated
Here’s what you need to know.
Analyze your current workflow processes
You can’t streamline your business operations unless you understand your company’s current workflow processes.
In order to ensure that you reach the most efficient workflow solution, you need to understand how your business is functioning right now, and how all the tasks and activities are being carried out.
This includes workflow processes and areas like:
- Daily operational tasks.
- Standard operating procedures.
- Project steps.
- Document lifecycle steps, and more
Then, you have to list all the processes in every division and department of your company.
You can do this by communicating with the employees within each department or division. Ensure that you are taking input from people with various levels of technical understanding, so you have a varied opinion.
After understanding the processes and listing them down, conduct a survey to figure out which processes are working for your employees, and which aren’t.
Once again, make sure that you are surveying employees with varying levels of technical information.
Such a survey will help you in understanding which processes are efficient and which require modification. Remember, you can’t completely overhaul the work process as it might put your employees under pressure due to extreme change.
Switch from manual to automatic workflows
Once you have a thorough idea of your current workflow processes, look into how they could be potentially automated.
Research shows that at least 45% of the workflow tasks have the potential to be automated.
You’ll get the following benefits by automating your workflow process:
- It saves time as most of the mundane tasks are automated and don’t require constant attention.
- It improves accuracy.
- Automation allows employees to switch their attention from simpler processes to more important tasks, leading to improved productivity and efficiency.
- It will save your company money, for instance, your employees won’t require postal service or papers for tasks that have been digitized.
Introduce new processes to your team and train them
Don’t superimpose new and automated workflow processes on your employees, because instead of streamlining your business, it might end up overcomplicating everything.
As we mentioned earlier, different employees have different levels of technical awareness, and throwing automated processes on them without prior training might jeopardize the purpose.
Many people aren’t comfortable with change and require time to adjust to new processes.
Ensure that you are open and encouraging and provide them with the necessary training to improve their technical knowledge and make the transition smooth.
Use hiring as a starting point
Implement an employee onboarding program, i.e., a short course for the new employees with thorough information and training on how your company’s workflow functions.
You can create this program by taking input from your existing employees on what training they believe is essential to transition smoothly into the role.
The onboarding program doesn’t necessarily have to be the same for all. You can divide it into tiers based on the technical knowledge of the new employees.
This will not only save your and the employee’s time, but it will also save your company a substantial amount of money by reducing costly repetitive training of an employee who is already familiar with the technical aspects of certain elements of the streamlined business process.
Start with well-defined projects and operations steps that can be automated
As an example for this step, let’s take document generation.
Automated document generation is a process in which critical documents, such as invoices, contracts, proposals, work orders, and, in a few cases, designs are created automatically.
Automated document generation accommodates both static information and dynamic information documents.
What’s the difference?
- Static information is the information that doesn’t change, for instance, your company’s name and address in the header.
- Dynamic information is the data that keeps changing on the document templates, for instance, your customers’ names and addresses.
You do need specific software, as mentioned above, to automate this though.
Most of automated document generation is done through template-based document generation, which is a process in which a tool inputs information into template document fields.
This is usually done by gathering information from a connected database, for instance, a CRM, and then is automatically entered, and a word or PDF document is generated.
Even though Microsoft Word format is used widely, the most efficient file format is PDF for automated document generation. With it, you can automatically generate documents such as:
- Invoices and bills.
- Cash receipts.
- Financial statements.
- Medical test results and reports for healthcare document management.
- Confirmation letters.
- Request forms.
- And more.
To understand this, consider a bank’s loan contract generation process. Each loan requires a contract that has customized customer information.
This is done by inputting information into a template from the CRM. Imagine the extent of time consumption and human errors if it was done manually!
Here’s an invoice receipt example document by HubSpot.
Inkit Render for Template-Based Document Generation
If you are looking to streamline your business operations, then these are a few operational tactics that can simplify the process.
You can start the process by automating your document generation.
Render is a REST API template-based document generation tool that lets you process, manage, and generate documents automatically, as needed. Whether you need to process 10 confidential reports or 100,000 customer statements, Render makes it possible with a simple API request.
Ready to start streamlining your document generation and operation processes?
Learn more about how document generation API works and how you can start automatically creating documents on demand!