By: Gerhard Hartman, Regional Director Mid-Market: Africa & Middle East at Sage
As a startup, you can get away with undocumented, informal business processes while you figure things out. But, as your business grows, it’s a matter of time before ambiguity slows you down and creates internal inefficiencies.
The problem is, these [informal] processes have likely become so ingrained in your business that it’s hard to identify the problem areas. Unhappy customers, under-performing teams, dwindling revenue, and frustratingly slow workflows are all signs you need better processes.
If your business is bigger today than it was when you started out, there are likely some processes that could do with an overhaul. If any of the following sound familiar, it may be time for change.
1. You’ve reached a ‘tipping point’
If you have more than 50 employees and your revenue is around R5 million, you’ve reached a ‘tipping point’. This means you’re no longer exempt from external audits, as per the Public Interest Score in the Companies Act.
As your business grows, so do your legal and regulatory compliance requirements, as well as your responsibilities to external stakeholders. With formal systems and processes in place, you’re more likely to pass an external audit. It’s easier to prove compliance with laws like the Employment Equity Act and the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Act.
Also, the more staff you hire and the higher your revenue, the more admin you’ll have. Spreadsheets and receipt shoeboxes aren’t good enough. You’ll need standardised, documented processes to process data, handle performance reviews, and manage accounting functions, which will give you a better overview of your finances and operations.
Ambiguity increases risk, stifles productivity and causes frustration within the business
2. ‘Shadow IT’ is creeping into your business
Technology used to be complicated and clunky, but it’s now designed with the end-user in mind to make our personal or working lives easier. If your team constantly need training on your systems, you need something simpler and more user-friendly to free up their time to focus on strategic tasks.
This is especially important if you have younger people – like Millennials and Gen Z – entering your workforce. These generations grew up using technology and are accustomed to instant access to information, flexible schedules, and app-like experiences. They have little patience for mundane, routine tasks, and will find workarounds to get tasks done faster.
Ideally, your systems should be simple enough that people can figure most of it out themselves. If not, they’ll use personal technology to get the job done, which brings unnecessary security risks into your organisation because you lose control over where your data is stored.
3. You make decisions based on historic data
These days, even information that’s one week old is considered historic. Making decisions based on older data increases the risk of error and inaccuracy. Having the ability to access your information in real-time – that means seeing the changes in your data as they happen – speeds up decision-making and lets you effectively tackle issues as they arise.
When you make decisions based on your most up-to-date business data, you can be confident those decisions reflect the current state of your business – not the state you were in one day ago. Businesses and markets change quickly and often. Don’t get held back by inefficient data processes.
4. Your business processes are manually intensive
Do you still have a lot of paperwork floating around the office and filed away? Is your data stored across multiple spreadsheets, but you aren’t sure which version is true? Do you still manually capture data? Is e-mail your default workflow application? These are all signs you need better processes.
The biggest problem with manual business processes is that each person likely has a different way of doing things to achieve the same result. This is because there are no common, agreed-upon and documented processes. Left to their own devices, people will come up with their own ways of doing things. This ambiguity increases risk, stifles productivity and causes frustration within the business.
5. Your business is more complicated than when you started
If you have multiple offices or remote workers but still run your operations the way you did when you only had one office and a handful of staff, it’s time for change. This may be uncomfortable for any business, but it’s necessary in a world that evolves all the time. Never again will it be business as usual.
No matter how fast – or slowly – your business grows, you need scalable systems and processes that keep up with your (business’) changing needs. Choose flexible systems, with customisable processes from the start so you don’t have to worry about integration or switching to a new system when you outgrow your current one. Cloud-based solutions offers many benefits to small and medium businesses, including instant upgrades, automatic compliance with relevant legislation, scalability, technical support and data security – all for an affordable monthly fee.
Don’t be afraid of change. Start small, with a single process, and analyse the value and impact before moving to the next. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at the positive impact on your efficiency and productivity.