6 steps to fine-tuning your business workflows and processes
Workflows exist in every business — including accounting firms. Some are tremendously complex and intertwined, while others are simple and direct. For most firms and their clients, there are workflows, and business processes, that can be improved. In many cases, improving workflows starts with examining the business processes that underlay them.
oftentimes, processes are designed and implemented haphazardly over the years to meet needs as they occur. And in many cases, business practices have been created based on expediency, not efficiency or productivity.
Improving workflows, and the business processes that are embedded in them, is not an impossible task, but it does require an analytical approach to examining the way things are done and how well or poorly they work in your practice or your client’s business.
Before processes can be improved, they need to be identified and evaluated. Practitioners can use techniques such as flowcharting, The 5 Whys, and Swim Diagrams to map out the way a process currently operates; and with this information in hand, determine if and how it can be improved.
It’s not magic, and it can be labor-intensive, but it can also teach you a lot about the way your business operates, where it shines, and where it can be improved. What’s great about learning process improvement techniques is that they can be the foundation for providing a similar process to audit and improvement service to your clients and additional revenue to your bank account. Keep in mind, though, it’s not an instant process. You need to become familiar with the methodology and analytical tools used in process improvement, work closely with the people who actually perform the processes, tasks, and workflows, and perform periodic reviews and tune the processes as may be necessary.
There’s a method to the madness
Unfortunately, there currently isn’t an overall technique for improving every process and workflow in a business. You have to examine and analyze each process stream and workflow separately, which is often a daunting task, and in some cases, impossible due to budget, lack of manpower, and other reasons. In this type of situation, start with what you know is broken or functioning poorly. These workflows and processes are often fairly easy to identify. If there’s a process or procedure that’s garnering complaints from staff and clients, or where the workflow just seems to bog down, that’s a good place to start.
Here’s a six-step process to get you started: