SOPs

8 Ways to Streamline Processes & Improve Workflows Across Your Organization

Explore the benefits of streamlining business processes, ways to improve workflow, including tools that help you streamline processes.

Introduction

Asana's  2022 Anatomy of Work survey discovered that of 10,000 workers surveyed, respondents spend 58 percent of their days doing busy work – what they called “work about work.” 

This could only mean that these employees' times focused on asking other colleagues for information, constantly following up/chasing them for status updates, and switching between apps numerous times, amongst other irrelevant tasks that could have been avoided if there was an efficient internal process. 

Streamlining business processes happen for one major reason: to improve your organization’s daily operational process and make them more efficient. However, if unsuccessful, it could defeat the very reason you streamlined business processes in the first place.

If you're an Ops leader looking to streamline, automate, communicate, and prioritize your processes to improve process standardization and process transformation across your organization, you're just in luck. Sit tight!

What does it mean to streamline a process?

A business process is a series of repeatable activities that are carried out in specific order to achieve a goal. Each activity constitutes a task. A task, on the other hand, may be a part of a process, or it may be a one-off event.

For example, in the process of assessing risk management, you liaise with the company's legal counsel to work on issues like partnerships with third parties, copyright matters and licensing, etc. In this case, one of your tasks is to create a step-by-step guide template on how to handle copyright issues.

Streamlining means optimization. Streamlining processes refers to the improvement of the efficiency of a certain process within an organization. It can be done by automation, simplification of tasks, or elimination of unnecessary steps using modern techniques and technology.

Workflow processes and checklists exist 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 process documentation, aka, creating 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.

By taking the time to streamline processes automatically, businesses can handle large quantities of information consistently. That improves operational efficiency and ensures workers spend as little time handling tedious manual work as possible.

What are the benefits of streamlining workflows?

Companies are losing 20-30 percent of their revenue yearly thanks to inefficient processes. Additionally, a Gallup poll revealed that only 32 percent of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2015.

Therefore, streamlining business processes not only reduces errors and speed progress but also helps to clarify job duties and enforce accountability. Think of it as a how-to guide to achieving optimization.

Here are five main benefits of streamlining workflow, especially when you use workflow automation software like Scribe.

Increased productivity

Thanks to a digital process, repetitive laborious tasks can be automated. These tasks are mostly data entry, manual calculations, routing requests based on rules, etc. Any step that operates based on rules can be automated. With repetitive tasks automated, you can spend time on tasks that need actual human attention and decisions.

Cost efficiency

Imagine how much you could save by eliminating air travel by conducting online meetings. The same principle applies to workflow automation. Long gone are the days when you have to print loads of paper and assign a clerk to transfer it to the next department.

Everything is digital these days, and workflow automation software helps to get work done with a minimal workforce. Digital processes are cost-efficient as it reduces paperwork, and the investment made in expanding the workforce, and ensures there are no errors as all documents are processed digitally with maximum accuracy.

Better planning

One of the biggest advantages of streamlining business processes is data. You get detailed information about how your processes occur throughout each stage, the amount of time spent on tasks, where the most errors happen, and the percentage or frequency of requests, amongst others. With this kind of data, it's easier to predict, plan, and allocate resources better for the future.

Improved communication

With a centralized workflow automation software program connecting your team, it is easier than ever to communicate with one another. Your employees no longer have to physically ask each other for information or constantly chase their co-workers for status updates till they want to tear their hair out in frustration. Additionally, streamlined communication saves time, avoids hassles, and ensures every member in different teams can seamlessly stay connected with one another.

Improves transparency & data security

When a process is automated, all the activities happen in the open. Everyone understands the process better than before. Automation also gives the ability to control access to data. You can choose to show or hide specific information to assigned users or user groups. This increases transparency and provides more control over data access.

Other benefits include:

  • Simplifying employee training.
  • Boosting efficiency, agility, and productivity across the organization
  • Helping businesses comply with industry standards
  • Outlining the hierarchy of who holds responsibility for different tasks within a workflow.
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Version control maintained.

Methodologies to streamline business processes

Business process management (BPM) is similar to other business improvement methodologies such as Total Quality Management (TQM), Six Sigma, Continuous Improvement, and Lean management processes. Below are a few process management technologies to consider:

Business process management (BPM)

BPM's aim is to ensure the efficient management of business processes to achieve maximum value from them.

BPM enables businesses to streamline and automate key business processes by automating repetitive tasks. Adopting BPM techniques streamlines operational procedures and increases business productivity and revenues. BPM software like Scribe enables businesses to streamline the process and improve internal business procedures.

Customer relationship management (CRM)

Businesses’ interaction with customers and prospects can be greatly improved with CRM software. Establishing strong customer relationships can be effectively done through CRM solutions.

Enterprise content management (ECM)

These systems are responsible for the storage, management, and delivery of content to various processes across the organization. Fortunately, ECM can be integrated with BPM and CRM solutions.

HR & marketing software

HR tools like Scribe can be used to simplify the hiring process, seamlessly onboard new employees, timesheet approvals, customer engagement, and employee scheduling.

Legal, Accounting & Finance Tools

Legal processes like document tracking and signing; accounting processes like invoicing, and expense approval; and financial processes like payroll, bookkeeping, and reporting can be automated through software.

8 Steps to streamline work process & improve workflow

Automating key business processes enables businesses to save cost and time, but it also reinforces process adherence and improves business efficiency and productivity. Here are guaranteed steps to help businesses streamline work processes and improve workflow.

1. Process mapping

The first step to streamlining the work process is to map out the process visually and tackle redundancies and inefficient steps. For example, if your team tends to work harder on a specific day of the month, they may be following a dated procedure that can be improved through automation.

The key to streamlining business processes effectively is to map them first before you automate them using software tools.

2. Analyze your current workflow

List all the processes in every division and department of your business.  Collect 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.

Ask yourself the following questions in this stage:

  • Are there any steps in the process that are too time-consuming? Are they taking more time that you’d consider to be reasonable?
  • Does the process often result in missed deadlines or delays? What could possibly be the reason?
  • Are certain processes or process steps more expensive than what would be reasonable? What could be driving the price up?
  • In every process, there are key steps that determine the output. Is there any way to make such steps faster or more efficient?
Scribe top tip: Use some of the business process improvement tools, such as the 5 Whys Analysis (asking “why” 5 times until you find the root cause of any problem) or the Fishbone Diagram (a  visualization tool for identifying a problem's root causes and effects).

3. Identify the areas that should be automated 

The next thing to do is identify areas that have the highest impact on your business activities and the ones that are the least efficient or productive. Create a ranking procedure that works for you.

For example, you can rate each business process on a scale of 1 to 10, with items labeled as one having the highest priority and 10 with the least priority. This helps to maintain your workflow and consistently achieve ideal outcomes after each completion.

Examine operational processes like:

  • Processes or operations that can be simplified into easier steps.
  • Tasks that are manual and repetitive.
  • Tasks that can be outsourced.
  • Tasks/activities employees are spending too much time on that could be spent on other productive areas.

4. Simplify the work processes

Break down your internal process into small and more manageable steps by keeping them short and simple and targeting the desired output.

Ask yourself, "Are there certain steps that can be simplified or automated?" 

5. Document everything

Ensure that you are creating a document with all the information that you’re gathering.

Regardless of their experience or understanding, no one can remember the steps or procedures of every process workflow. That's why it’s essential to lay out every step needed (with complete details) to carry out the work in each step effectively.

Ensure you capture what's happening and provide evidence of what's occurring.

That way, you can ensure streamlined workflows function as they should without unexpected issues cropping up. A central workplace does wonders in this regard as all the team members can stay updated and put their input. To achieve this, use project management software like Scribe for your workflow and day-to-day processes.

6. Automate workflows

Once you've accurately captured all the steps necessary to carry out a business process and decided on how you want to improve it, choose a work management software to automate your future workflow.

An effective workflow automation software makes it easy for you and your team to turn your research into automated workflows that carry out essential business functions.

7. Test the new workflow

Once you've turned your documentation into an automated workflow, implement it and evaluate the effectiveness of your improvements.

Watch how it functions in a live business environment. Make improvements as needed to ensure that it works properly.

Once you're satisfied with how your workflow functions, start rolling it out across relevant business areas.

During the implementation phase, it’s a better idea to start small & scale up from there. Rather than implement the solution company-wide, do it site-wide and see how the new process measures up to the old one.

Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Is everything going as it should be? Are there any details within the process that weren’t accounted for during planning?
  • Is the solution as effective as it was meant to be? Why or why not?
  • Does it come with any problems or defects? Is there a chance that there might be some long-term?
Scribe top tip: Ensure that workers understand the changes underway to understand how it benefits their role in the company.

8. Refine the workflow over time & 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.

Scribe top tip: With every alteration, the workflow should be re-evaluated to ensure it does not create a new problem for sequential steps or processes.

Bonus: Enable flexibility

You might be working on a process that doesn’t stress role flexibility as an optimal part of the team dynamic. Still, the ability to shift roles and share knowledge is extremely valuable when streamlining processes.

Cutting busy work doesn’t always mean asking one person to do the entirety of an undesirable task to free up bandwidth for the rest of the team – sometimes, everyone’s got to work together to complete a process faster so that you can all move forward as one unit.

Pssst! Looking for more info? Here's how to use Scribe to automate process documentation.

3 Common problems faced while streamlining operations

Irrespective of an organization's size, there are expected challenges you'll face when streamlining processes, especially for the first time. Here are three common problems to watch out for:

Lack of process automation

In every organization, there is a likelihood that there are several activities that are repetitive and tedious, leading to weariness and loss of time. Unless these tasks are identified and a way is found to automate these tasks and processes, there could be a lot of skill and time being wasted.

Language barriers

Some businesses have not only different offices in the same region but also in different countries altogether. In such scenarios, the language and means of communication can be a barrier to streamlining operations when there is a need to disseminate information across teams globally or when teams/members need to understand their roles and responsibilities.

Therefore, you need a unified approach that enables you to publish the content in multiple languages can be a big asset to cater to geographically distributed teams.

Access to best practices

Today the world of technology has evolved so much that we are fortunate enough to have access to the best information. However, on the flip side, we also have too much information, which makes it difficult to access the appropriate best practices that will work for your company.

Sharing best practices can help organizations up their performance and productivity by closing the knowledge gaps, empowering employees, and enhancing efficiency. Continuous process improvement ensures that the best practices that work for your industry are used to enable the streamlining of processes.

How do you overcome these challenges?

Embracing a dedicated business process management solution can add tremendous value by optimizing business outcomes.

Driven by result-oriented objectives, an all-inclusive BPM methodology can support automating and streamlining processes, besides facilitating change smoothly. It is a great way for organizations to get things done the way they want, aligned with their overall goals. 

An integrated approach gives you visibility over how processes work in the organization, provides access to information, and improves operations overall. As the world moves towards digital transformation, it becomes imperative for companies to find the right workflow automation vendor who can create incredible synergies toward business process management.

Software for streamlining business processes

Scribe is a workflow automation software designed to help organizations and Ops leaders in streamlining processes & bring their tasks into a centralized management system and experience its benefits. With our process documentation feature, you can capture, create and share your process documents fast!

Additionally, streamlining business processes is comfortable with Scribe as it has pre-built templates you can choose from for various requirements and ensure your workforce operates efficiently.

Ready to streamline workflow automatically? Get Scribe for free!