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Are You Doing Everything You Can to Streamline Your Workflow?

Keeping any organization running at maximum efficiency can be a Herculean task for any manager or CEO.

And if you’re looking to expand your company in the future, you’re going to be adding more cogs to the machine – more specialized staff that has to integrate with other sections, more software that also has to be integrated, more services that have to be co-ordinated, and so on.

Here are 3 ideas we think will help you streamline your management efforts.

Informed Clients are Streamlined Clients

One major way you can keep everything running as smoothly as possible is to get your clients to help you. Specifically, you can coach them in how to be efficient in their transactions with you.

The problem-client is the one who passes over their information in a jumbled fashion – the dreaded “shoebox” client.

Worse still is the client who hands over the “shoebox” piecemeal, with chunks of file-changing information trickling in over time, right up to filing deadlines.

This results in staff having to work a portion of a file, then change gears to work a portion of a different file, then get back into the first one with new information, etc… Depending on your business’ workflow processes the transition times alone can be costing you time and money.

These clients aren’t malicious, just uninformed.

The best time to get clients up to speed is right from the first meeting. Tell them that it’s your firm’s practice to never commence work on any particular file until all the numbers are in.

You may be in for some grumbling; after all, it’s a bit more work for the clients to get all their ducks in a row before they turn them over.

But here’s your sales pitch – the policy has been implemented for their benefit because without it those transition times, and the time spent integrating late information into a file, can spike billable hours. Your policy keeps their costs down.

You can further sweeten the deal for them by providing them with some kind of schedule and an easy-to-understand “required information” list with boxes to be ticked off.

Integrate Your Processes

So you’ve promised your clients that they won’t have any nasty surprises in their billable hours – or you’re working on a flat rate. Either way, you’re watching the clock.

Here’s where your workflow may hit speedbumps:

  • Information lacking (hopefully dealt with in the above section).
  • Not enough personnel.
  • The wrong personnel working the wrong jobs (this includes talent that is not up-to-speed on certain services).
  • Various kinds of software being used where the output has to be translated before a file can move on to the next stage.

There’s all sorts of workflow software out there – try googling for “workflow software” or “team management software” or some combination thereof.

The more your business grows (both in services offered and in personnel) the more you’re going to want to have some kind of streamlined management system in place.

To make things easier on yourself you should look into outsourcing your services. Why? Because:

  • No training is necessary for the file work – all of your virtual employees are already up to speed on best work practices for any service you care to offer.
  • No in-house talent costs – furniture, rental space, benefits, headhunting costs, etc…
  • No staggered outputs from various sections. Once you’re set up, all you have to do is review the files at the end of the line.

Set Due Dates

There are 2 kinds of due dates you want to set.

The first kind of due date is for your talent, be they in-house or virtual.

This point may seem obvious to some, but there are some firms out there that have an “it’s done when it’s done” attitude.

The problem with this approach is that it makes it much harder for managers to see where workflow is getting slowed down. If you don’t have anything to measure a file’s progress against, how are you supposed to know if there’s a slowdown occurring?

Establish milestones throughout the process of a file moving right through from A to Z. At the beginning these milestones may be off by a significant amount – so the question becomes were you too ambitious or too generous with the deadline?

Keep adjusting these due dates until each section of the workflow is meeting them in the majority of cases.

Now, when you expand your services, you’ll be able to see which of the sections are getting hit the hardest.

As a manager, you’ll be educated as to where you should spend more effort and time improving your procedures, instead of just shot-gunning money at everything and hoping something works.

The other kind of due date you want to set is for your clients.

From our first point above about educating your clients, you’ve already informed them as to why you want to have all of their information in before you start on their file.

The other bit of information to give them is the date by which they should have that information in. This of course is for the obvious reason that files take time to process, but also that you may have follow-up questions that need to be answered before their file can be completed.

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