A Company’s ability to scale is directly related to how well they can identify and eliminate potential bottlenecks. Although some companies have the luxury of throwing money at the issue, not many small businesses are in a position to do this. Most of us have to plan scaling efforts based on the resources available at a given time. So for the majority of us, scalability relates to process simplification, elimination and automation. In part one we explored how to build a CRM system on top of process and in this post we’ll explore how to take advantage of that structure to amplify scaling efforts.
What should be optimized
It’s true that to create scalability we need to optimize and automate process. But not all processes should be treated the same. For one thing, not every process can be automated. There are a number of things that can only be completed by skilled employees. Identifying these job functions ahead of time is necessary so you know when to hire additional resources vs. implementing new technology or automation. Below is a step by step guide to help you create an actionable list for your scalability initiatives.
- Identify the process you need to scale. Systematically go through your processes and determine which ones should be considered. For example, you may be able to successfully grow at the pace you want by doing three or four sales proposals a year. In that case sales and marketing initiatives may not need to be automated to meet your objectives. Your product and service delivery teams, on the other hand, may need to double or triple, in which case they’ll definitely be on the list. Work through all of your business processes and make note of the ones that will need to be enhanced when your business grows.
- Filter out non-CRM processes. As this post is related to CRM you could decide to filter out all of the processes that are not related to CRM interaction. I would suggest that instead, you should evaluate all of your tools during this process. Just make a clear note of which processes are related to which tools (some will most likely overlap tools). It is well worth the effort, as CRM alone does not cover all functions of the business.
- Filter out the items in the process that can only be done by employees. Remember, this is a very important step. The processes you identify in this step will not only tell you where you’ll need to add staff as you expand, but will also help to identify the additional processes they are responsible for that may need to be automated. For example, if you have an employee that is responsible for 7 functions within the company, yet 4 of the 7 can be automated; you’ll want to automate the 4 items before your employee reaches full capacity. You can then delay bringing on additional employees in the same area until your current team is at their true capacity. This will allow you to continue to reduce costs as you grow.
- Prioritize the process list based on strategic objectives and available budget. Undoubtedly at this point you’ll have a large number of items that could be automated. It’s time now to prioritize. Not all of the efforts can be done at once. You need to make sure you are taking care of the pain points first, then look at how these items relate to your strategic objectives for the year. Sort the list based on the amount of effort you think the initiatives will take, and by the order necessary to achieve your goals for the year. This will be your roadmap for moving forward.
- Determine what steps in the process can be adjusted, eliminated, or automated. Not every item in your list should be automated. Review each item individually and ask yourself, “why is this step necessary”? Sometimes simplification, or even elimination of a particular part of the process is best. Make sure you perform this step prior to any work being completed. There is no point spending time and money automating something that is not necessary for the business. Once you have completed this review, you will have a final list of items to focus on.
- Build out workflows and automations. Now is where the fun starts. Each item you check off the list will translate directly into time savings. If you have a CRM that allows for easy creation of workflows and automations, you may decide to do this in house. But even if you bring in a consultant to help, the initiative is well worth the investment as the end result is a framework that grows with your business.
Whether you are automating marketing communications, your sales process, or the way you track, report, and invoice time, automation allows you to scale while increasing profit margin. By identifying parts of the process up front, and sorting them based on your strategic initiatives, you will be able to make rapid progress rolling out changes. If the list is overwhelming, start small. Do one item at a time, and work closely with the team members the change will effect. Before long you will have made a very visible positive impact on the business.