Say your business is booming and your team are struggling to keep up with the volume of work. Most business owners would hang out the ‘Help Wanted’ sign and hire another pair of hands to lighten the load – and in doing so jack up the monthly wages bill.
Before you start the next round of interviews, consider whether your next hire should be a system that eliminates manual tasks and makes your existing team more efficient.
As businesses grow so do the number of processes relating to customers, employees, finances or inventory. The usual approach is to quickly create a new spreadsheet or a simple database to manage each new process. This works to a point but doesn’t scale as the business grows without a lot of manual effort.
Try to estimate the time you and your team spend updating spreadsheets, copy and pasting data between documents, emailing document versions, consolidating responses, printing, scanning and emailing, plus making sure documents are current, secure and backed up.
The time spent will no doubt surprise you. Most businesses waste a significant proportion of their potential.
- Wouldn’t this time spent be better used working on your business’s core competence?
- Would it be better to have a central system of record that can be extended for each new business process?
- Or do you keep adding more people to manage your manual processes?
Rather than make that next hire, consider an investment in a cloud platform that can consolidate business processes; a central and secure database that efficiently stores all your data and is available from any device.
The more popular cloud platforms are Force.com (operated by salesforce.com), Google App Engine, Windows Azure, Heroku and Cloud Foundry. Cloud services brokers can build software models that mimic the processes in your business, automate them and run them from your phone or tablet.
A 15-person sales team in one financial services business in Sydney were each spending up to eight hours a week on administrative tasks such as copying customer details from shared spreadsheets into documents for signature, updating customer details in one document and copying/pasting/printing/emailing and scanning to other documents. They then had to check with their colleagues that they were using the correct versions.
The cloud services broker then built a business application on Force.com that generated documents at the click of a button and enabled the team to collaborate and share information wherever they were. Wasted time was reduced to a minimum and the improved efficiency was equivalent to recruiting three more salespeople.
But isn’t this expensive? Isn’t it out of reach of small businesses?
The example above took approximately four weeks to design, develop and deploy, it cost less than a year’s salary for a mid-level employee and yet it delivered the equivalent of three additional people. That business now has a platform for growth which it can continually build on. A platform that scales, operates 24×7 and is seamlessly upgraded three times a year.
So instead of making your next hire another person to manage your manually processes, take a step back, have a think about where your team are spending their time and consider a different approach.