A couple of months ago, our MD Claire Moyne asked Mike Dunn and I to review our internal process with the aim of streamlining them to increase efficiency and productivity. You might think that sounds boring, but I was thrilled! I’ve been itching to get my teeth stuck into this and was excited to get started.
First things first, we named the project: “Lean Edo”.
The purpose of the project was: to improve our reporting and reduce the amount of manual tasks.
We started off by interviewing key people within the organisations and ask them simple questions:
- What data do you need?
- Why and what is it used for?
Notice that we didn’t ask about existing systems/spreadsheets or the challenges they create. We purposely left the way things are are out of the equation so we could understand the need.
To illustrate existing inefficiencies, we mapped out current internal processes and the results were more shocking than I expected. We’d been using great products - Salesforce, Harvest, Basecamp - paying good money for them but not utilising their full potential. This resulted in us creating alternative manual documents (namely spreadsheets!) to cover the reporting that we didn’t know how to do automatically. We were also creating processes for the sake of it and doing nothing with the data.
For example, we uncovered that we’d been exporting all our new project details from Salesforce into a spreadsheet. Yes you read that right. We had automated data in a lovely CRM and we had been exporting it into a spreadsheet, involving manual work and the added risk this unnecessary step entails for years. And no, it was not an automated export either. Do you think that is crazy? Me too, but I really encourage you to think about some of the tasks that you do every day and you take for granted, and I bet that you can find a similar story to tell. If you don’t let’s go for a coffee, I want to talk to you!
Having created a clear map of the way things were, all we needed to do was unpick things one by one and identify recommendations. To give you a flavour, here are some actions that we identified:
- Bring work successfully won into Salesforce and ditch the spreadsheet
- Agree all tasks for people to log their timesheets consistently
- Look at integrations between Salesforce and Xero to automate the creation of invoices
- Create a Salesforce account for every consultant and ensure they are trained and confident in how to use it.
However the key recommendation was a shift in culture to ensure that we don’t end up in this mess all over again.
Processes should be evolutionary but we had failed in taking the time to review them to ensure they are always as efficient and streamlined as possible, and instead accepted them as they were. For years we had been creating a multitude of spreadsheets rather than stopping and thinking about the best way to save, report on and use the data.
This approach meant that we ended up with the need to dedicate a chunk of time and energy to reviewing years of this tangled mess, instead of having people organising, reviewing and reiterating small parts of each process regularly over time.
We also noticed there was a sense of fear around our systems with an attitude of “I-am-not-technical-enough” holding people back. All the systems we use have pretty straight forward UIs and are built for people like you and me. What was highlighted was that dedicated time was needed during the onboarding process to get new starters confident and adept at using these systems instead of finding their own way, or creating their own anthology of spreadsheets.
Of course cultural change takes time, but already we’ve started to observe people around the whole organisation saying to each other “Do we really need that spreadsheet?!” or “Could it not be done in Salesforce?” which is a huge step forward.
So, do you want to be more lean in your way working? Here is my suggested approach:
- Start by asking what reporting you need
- Map out your current ways of working and show the hours spent on this
- Identify pain points, time wasters and added risks
- Make a list of recommendations to address those pain points
- Train your organisation on how to avoid being in the same mess in the future
If you’re interested in exploring in more depth ways in which organisations work, I encourage you to join me and Mike for the monthly Reinventing Work meetup held at Edo’s office in central Bristol.