Whether or not we’ve labeled it as such, most every business strives to achieve operational excellence. Operational excellence can be defined as a philosophy held by an organization that focuses on using problem-solving skills, teamwork, and leadership in order to continually improve how it operates.
In the past, achieving operational excellence was solely up the staff of a given organization to figure out. Thanks to technology, however, you and your employees no longer have to be left to your own devices to achieve excellence. With the help of operational software, you and your team can increase your chances of reaching success through optimized operations.
Keeping the principles of operational excellence in mind, we’ll breakdown how to achieve operational excellence with software in five different ways.
1. Develop standard processes.
In many cases, a business’s potential for operational excellence breaks down with its processes or lack thereof. Most businesses need an overarching business process, as well as several secondary business processes within that, in order to be effective and reach their business goals.
A business’s processes have the potential to make or break it. Ben Mulholland of Process.st uses Taco Bell to illustrate this. In 1983, the Mexican food chain had an annual return of -16%. However, after Taco Bell revitalized its processes through business process re-engineering, the company took off and is now worth an estimated $10 billion.
To avoid making the same mistake as Taco Bell, focus on the processes of your business as soon as possible. One great way to do this is with workflow management software. By establishing processes within this, you can help existing employees to become more efficient, as well as help new employees quickly adapt to existing workflows.
2. Turn those processes into visuals.
There’s a reason why people still resort to using whiteboards, PowerPoints, and other visual tools to develop plans or guide discussions in meetings: Visuals help us to process concepts, timelines, and more. In the same way, your business can take its processes and simplify them with visuals.
Lauren Gantner of XPlane explains that visuals are particularly effective in communicating with employees for five reasons: Visuals help to improve one’s ability to remember key ideas, quickly internalize those ideas, acquire valuable context, achieve understanding, and take action.
Rather than breaking out the whiteboard, you and your employees can create visuals of their workflows with software. From flow charts for standard processes to timeline progress charts for projects, these visuals can easily be created with workflow or project management tools.
3. Create a back-up plan.
To ensure that you’re striving for excellence at all times, it’s valuable to have processes in place for times when there’s an abnormal workflow. An abnormal workflow includes, but is not limited to, when an employee takes a vacation to emergency situations.
According to a 2014 GlassDoor survey, only around half (51%) of employees use their paid time off, and 3 out of 5 (61%) do some work while on vacation. In fact, the top reason people worked during their vacation time was “No one else at my company can do the work.” In other words, many organizations lack a back-up plan for when an employee is out, reducing their chances of maintaining effective operations at all times.
Operational software can simplify establishing processes for an abnormal workflow. For instance, you can establish a workflow for when an employee is on vacation, along with visuals for that process, within a workflow management tool. That way, while that employee is gone, operations will carry on per usual.
4. Regularly identify areas to improve.
In addition to having processes in place, achieving operational excellence requires you to continually improve the processes you’ve chosen to implement. That means, if you find that a process is working, continue using it, but if not, consider trying something new.
The primary reason to continually reevaluate your processes is to ensure that your business isn’t wasting time with processes that simply aren’t working. Some of the benefits of measuring the performance of your processes include uncovering problems with those processes to changing those processes based on feedback, notes Roger Tregear of Leonardo.
The great thing about software is that you’ll have to do very little to evaluate the processes you’ve put into place. For instance, if your employees use workflow management tools, their workflow is most likely being recorded within that system. With that data, reports and insights can easily be generated, giving you a basis for what to improve.
5. Streamline processes with automation.
Not only can software be used to automatically generate reports and insights on your processes, but operational software with AI-components can automate a variety of other tasks as well. Simply ask yourself: What work are my employees doing that software could be doing instead?
To be clear, it’s not just about what the software can do, but how your software can maximize your employees’ time. In fact, automation can free up between 20 to 30% of an employee’s time per workday, notes Pavel Naidenov of Technology Advice. By giving your employees more time to perform the tasks machines can’t, you can take your business’s processes up a notch and move one step closer to achieving excellence.
Business process automation is often integrated with other tools, from workflow or project management software to inventory and warehouse management systems. Where your company can best use automation will vary, but commonly automated activities include data entry, analytics and reporting, and customer support.
These are just four ways you can use software to achieve operational excellence. While there are many off-the-shelf software systems available to help your business improve its operations, none present the limitless opportunities that custom operational software can.
Building custom software requires a custom software development team, and we could be a great fit for your project. For over a decade, ClikFocus has been building operational software, from business process automation software to inventory and management tools, and we’d love to help you build yours!