Our practices are a collection of highly sophisticated processes, each fitting in to a specific function / area / outcome. As the nature of professional and financial services changes, process improvement can present game-changing opportunities by freeing team members up to spend more time with clients, developing new services or products, or exploring new marketing initiatives.
Automating repetitive processes is one of the easiest ways to help free your team up to focus on those activities that are more engaging and that the clients value.
But what should you automate? How do you get your team on board? Is it worth it?
Automation doesn’t have to be hard – it could be as simple as implementing an excel report hooked up to your database, or using auto email alerts – two simple solutions that have huge time saving potential.
So if you’ve been thinking “there has to be a smarter way” – perhaps the answer lies in automation.
Here are our seven tips to get you started:
- Identify your biggest opportunities for improvement – List out the three most time consuming, repetitive processes in your business as a starting point on where to focus and what to hone in on. Get your team involved and even do this on an area or department basis.
- Nominate a champion – We’re all increasingly time poor – and we know that if it’s everyone’s responsibility, it’s no ones. So nominate a process improvement champion to lead the research, implementation, and execution of the project. In our experience it works best if this can be a person who will use the program in some capacity.
- Prioritize – Is now the right time for the project/s? You should direct your focus to the improvements that address your biggest workflow issues and impact your top strategic priorities first (eg if a major process bottleneck is delaying client turn-around time, you should prioritize that activity over something that adds improvements solely from a practice management point of view.
- Get your team on board – It’s natural for people to be skeptical of change – even when you’re trying to make life easier. Your process improvement champion needs the full support of your directors and/or practice managers to make sure fear and resistance to change is minimal, and act as early adopters so that people don’t back pedal to the outdated system.
- Integrate – To make the most of process automation, it’s important to consider how this process / project fits with the larger business process. Consider the triggers you might need to rely on and map out what needs to happen before and after the automation?
- Measure the Outcomes – Take down details of what the process looked like originally – recording time taken, dollars spent, team members involved etc. Once the process has been fully automated and implemented (and there are no bugs!) establish the real benefits, including what activities the resources have been diverted to; this is important not only from a project evaluation perspective, but to demonstrate to the team the value of automating business processes.
- Improve, then improve some more – Processes are constantly changing, so make sure to constantly revisit the process, understand the impact on your team, and look for new improvements and ideas to further automate or enhance the process and experience.