In last week’s post we looked at how a software development house recorded all the steps to its sales process and worked out how it could split tasks between different employees. By creating a more efficient and more effective sales machine the business boosted revenue for the year by 350 percent.
It’s a great example of how a multi-step activity can be redistributed among different people for a much improved outcome.
Sometimes there’s a better way to improve a process or workflow than redirecting staff. You might be able to remove human interaction altogether by replacing a step with a program. In the past this might have required some sophisticated programming or expensive IT consulting, but cloud software has made it much easier.
Using a program has several advantages.
A computer program can
- repeat a task or series of tasks in exactly the same way every time. As long as the program has been set up correctly it will remove the prospect of user error.
- carry out a task instantly, as soon as it receives an input such as an invoice or a set of contact details.
- work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If a task has to be carried out at 4am on a Sunday, no problem.
- send data to multiple programs instantly.
The last point is the most important. Making one program talk to another has been extremely difficult in the past. So difficult, in fact, that it gave birth to a whole industry of dedicated programming specialists (system integrators).
The enormous expense and often complexity involved in making one program talk to another meant that it was mostly carried out by mid-size or large enterprises. Often at considerable risk – many projects foundered due to cost blow-outs or technology brick walls.
The move to internet-based software has made it much easier to connect two programs. They are commonly built with connectors designed to talk to other programs (application programming interfaces, or APIs); they are already on the same network (i.e. the internet) so there are no more challenges connecting one server to another; many software companies are connecting their programs (or apps) to others for free.
Cloud software integrators have emerged such as OneSaas.com which connect a long list of programs together.
Now that programs are so easy to connect together, a business can draw up a workflow, find apps that will complete different tasks, and make the apps swap the information between them without human involvement.
A business moving its workflows to a series of connected apps can experience huge gains in efficiency and productivity. Next week we will look at an example of a cloud software-based workflow.