Increase productivity by overhauling inefficient business systems

Business experts share simple steps and tools for transforming processes in the workplace

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Many tasks need to be accomplished every day for an organization to function. And for an organization to thrive, those tasks need to be completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

One of the best ways to maximize efficiency within your organization is by recalibrating the business systems and processes that keep it running, which is why so many organizations make it a priority. According to a 2018 State of Business Process Management report, 93% of the organizations surveyed were engaged in multiple process-improvement projects.

Let’s take a deeper look at business systems—what they are, why they’re important and how to evaluate your own, so that every system you have in place is supporting an increase in productivity while creating a positive impact.

What are business systems and why are they important?

A business system is a defined set of steps designed to achieve a specific result within your organization. What’s more, systematizing tasks helps to increase efficiency and ensure that each process within your organization is in line with your strategic goals. Business systems are important because they give your organization a framework within which to operate, and that can have a dramatic effect on efficiency and productivity.

“People need structure,” says Jeff Skipper, a strategic consultant who works with Fortune 500 companies. “If we don’t have structures, you’ve got folks singing from different song sheets and you get inefficiencies all over the place.”

But not all business systems are created equal. In order to increase productivity, business systems should meet the following criteria.

1. Be measurable

In order for a business system to be successful, you need tangible metrics in place to measure success. “That doesn’t mean measuring every single possible thing about it,” says Will Bachman, managing partner of Umbrex, a global community of management consultants. “But thinking about what are the most important things to measure, and then tracking them.”

2. Clearly outline responsibilities

Business systems are only successful if there is a clear outline of responsibility. Therefore, every person and team within your organization needs to understand who is responsible for what.

Otherwise, Bachman says, “Things can be done in silos and sort of handed off from one silo to another. You might have a manager responsible for one silo, but often no one individual is responsible for the end-to-end business system.”

3. Add value

Systematizing for the sake of systematizing doesn’t increase efficiency. In order to have a positive impact on your organization, business systems need to provide clear value, either internally (to your team) or externally (to your customers).

“Understand what the customer of that business system actually values—because the worst thing is to be very efficient at delivering something that someone doesn’t actually want,” Bachman says.

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How to overhaul your business systems and increase productivity

Now that you understand the what and the why behind business systems, let’s look at how to evaluate and overhaul your business systems and ramp up productivity in the process.

1. Understand your starting point

Before you attempt to overhaul a business system, it’s important to understand where the business system currently stands. That way, you know how you should proceed with changes.

“Make sure you map out and understand the current state—that’s step one,” Bachman says. “Don’t try to transform [a business system] until you … really understand how things are being done today.”

2. Determine how changing the system will benefit your organization

Once you have a clear picture of how your business systems are currently functioning, the next step is to determine exactly how changing the system will benefit your organization. Again, changing a business system simply to change things up isn’t going to drive results.

“You only want to transform one of these processes if it’s going to give you a significant strategic advantage,” Bachman says.

As you’re evaluating your business systems, ask yourself:

  • Will changing the business system improve quality?
  • Will it reduce costs?
  • Will it reduce delivery time?
  • Will it make things easier and more efficient for my team?
  • Will it provide a direct value to our customers?

“If you aren’t going to hit one of those things, then you should probably just let it be and focus your attention elsewhere,” Bachman says.

3. Get feedback—and buy-in—from your team

Once you decide that a business system within your organization is a good candidate for an overhaul, it’s time to figure out how to change it in order to increase productivity. And the best way to gather that information is by reaching out to your team for feedback.

The people actually using your business systems are the people on your team. They have the best understanding of what’s working, what’s not working and how the system could stand to be improved. Touching base with your team during this step of the process also generates a sense of buy-in on any changes to your business systems.

“For any change that involves people … I need some level of buy-in,” Skipper says. “There’s a huge difference between compliance … and commitment. Under compliance, I get just enough effort to get it done. Under commitment, people are willing to commit extra energy, effort, persist work longer to ensure that you get a win.”

Involving your team members gives them a sense of ownership in how business systems within your organization are changing. That can increase their level of commitment—and ensure that implementation is as smooth and efficient as possible.

4. Get an outside opinion

Sometimes, feedback from outside of your organization can be just as helpful.

“Bring in an outsider … who would have a different perspective or doesn’t have a vested interest to look at a process and say, ‘Where do you see issues? What might you suggest for us?’ ” Skipper says. “Leaders [can] get way too insular, and we have to do things to inject new thinking or different points of view into the organization regularly.”

5. Roll out new business systems—and continue to evolve and adapt

As you roll out your new business system, it’s important to make sure everyone within your organization is on the same page—and that they stay there.

“Make sure people understand what the future state is,” Bachman says. “Develop standard operating procedures. And then you need to constantly communicate during that transition period.”

Once you implement a new business system, schedule periodic check-ins with your team to evaluate how the new system is performing. Keeping the lines of communication open allows you to continue to evolve and adapt your business systems—and maximize efficiency and productivity in the process.

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