5 signs that your business processes need an overhaul

Untitled design

I was doing some work in an office recently and in the space of a few hours witnessed a number of things that left me speechless. These are things that were once the norm in all businesses but have become all but obsolete in the last few years.

Some of these things are not only dated, out-moded ways of working, but they can also be inefficient (poor use of resources) and could also pose data security risks.

This is my top five:

You use a fax machine

I’m always amused when I see a van with the fax number plastered on the side, or forms with a field for a fax number, and wonder who actually uses these anymore. Well now I know (name withheld to protect the innocent). And I’m really struggling to think of situation were sending a fax would be the most suitable method for sharing a document.

I’ve been in business on my own for 8 years. In that time I’ve been asked to send a fax once – that was at least 6 years ago. I’ve never been asked for my fax number – it’s never a required field on a form.

So what’s wrong with using a fax machine? Firstly, you need to maintain a business machine that isn’t necessary. You may also have a dedicated fax telephone line, which could be put to better use, or disconnected altogether. If your fax is sharing a line with your main phone you could be clogging up the line and preventing customers from contacting you.

There’s also the environment to think about. A fax machine creates more paper; that paper needs to be filed and stored – more unnecessary costs.

Fax machines aren’t very good for sending confidential documents. Unless only the intended recipient has access to the machine on the other end, anyone in the organisation you are sending to could come along and pick up a document on a fax machine, read it or worse lose it.

I describe a more secure, and cost effective, system for document sharing below.

You send cheques

When I first qualified as a chartered accountant (more than 10 years ago) the writing was supposedly on the wall for cheques. The word was that they would be eliminated within a few years.

More than 10 years on we (as a society) still haven’t been able to shake the shackles of the humble cheque. Some people use them out of habit, others think it’s more secure. Cheque fraud has been around for a long time. I remember watching a programme about 20 years ago about how simple it was to change the payee name on a cheque. It didn’t actually show you how, but did say that a printed cheque was easier to change than a hand-written one.

Some people have reservations about using online banking. It is healthy to have some reservations rather than relying on blind faith and hope that your online banking is secure. Provided you have good password protocols (change regularly, mix of numbers, letters and characters etc) online banking shouldn’t be any less secure than sending cheques.

For those who don’t like giving out their sort code and account number – have a look at the bottom of your cheques!

USB keys for sharing/transferring files and documents

One of the main difficulties I have is security. Unless the USB key is encrypted, if you lose it whoever finds it has access to your data.

Document version control is near to impossible if files are being transferred and copied between computers: which is the current version, the copy on PC1, Laptop2 or one of several USB keys?

The solution is a proper document management system such as Microsoft Office 365. Documents can be shared securely between internal users, and dedicated links can be used to share with external users. It’s better than attaching files to emails because unless you password protect the document it can be opened by anyone who receives it. Using document management only specified people can open and/or edit the document. Protecting you against inadvertently sending a file to the wrong person.

Users can work on a document simultaneously and a new version can be created every time a change is made.

Printing hard copies of electronic documents

Why oh why!! If you receive a document electronically or need to create a document from screen there’s no need to print a hard copy and put it on file. Save the electronic copy to your document management system. It saves paper, ink and time filing and retrieving. It also makes it easier to share securely as described above.

Using dictaphones

Here’s how it works. You speak in to a handheld recorder, stop listen, check, re-record and repeat; remove the tape(!) and pass it to your secretary. The secretary listens to the tape and types the document, prints when completed and passes the draft document for review and approval. You read the document mark-up changes and pass it back (it’s tiring me out just thinking about it). The secretary makes the changes and passes the new draft back to you to check. Hopefully all is good and the final document can be printed (on expensive headed paper) and sent wherever it needs to go.

Not very efficient, right? There are several aspects of this process to examine: the use of tapes; printing drafts; marking up hard copies etc. It doesn’t seem to be the most effective use of resources.

If you must use a dictaphone consider an electronic one that feeds in to your computer and produces a document. Otherwise, type the document yourself – after all you probably type all your own emails – give to the secretary to format, and think twice about printing it. Is a letter really needed or can email be sent?

What next

The crux of all the points above is a modern way of working. While you may be able to eliminate some of these things in isolation, but to get full benefit a total overhaul is probably needed:

  • How you deal with documents that come in to your company – hard and soft
  • How you create and process internal documents
  • How you send and share internal documents
  • How you send and share external documents

If you’re guilty of one of these 5 signs it’s likely you’re guilty of them all. It’s also a sign that your complete business admin (and perhaps operational) systems and processes need reviewed and updated. You may be incurring higher costs than necessary and thus reducing profitability. It profitability is under pressure there are only 2 things you can do: cut costs or increase prices. What happens if you increase your prices and your competitors modernise their back-office functions? You become uncompetitive.

Stay ahead, remain competitve  – see how automating book-keeping can get you started.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field