What are operational processes?
Operational processes are the basic activities of every business that the team members perform to ensure that the company meets its goals.
For example, an HR department hires people and makes sure that the employees are satisfied and happy. The operational process for hiring will look like this: post a vacancy, gather and review resumes, conduct interviews, etc.
When it comes to running a business, especially in the early stages, operational processes don't get as much attention as business processes. In general, the business processes are more critical, while operational processes support and enable business growth.
So it's no wonder that in those companies, employees are doing almost everything manually. It's okay if they don't get overwhelmed, but the CEO might feel like they need more workforce as the company grows. The other solution to this is automation.
People often think that automation is intricate and requires in-depth coding knowledge. It's true in some cases, mainly when massive data flows from various sources are involved. But most operational processes in hiring, marketing, and sales could be automated with no-code tools and solutions.
Here are eight benefits for operational processes automation relevant for almost every type of business.
The benefits of operational processes automation
1. Automation saves time (and money)
The most important and obvious one. Instead of spending time on tedious manual tasks, employees could instead focus on high-level assignments, while automation will do its job in the background. In the long run, automation can win you hundreds of hours just from a couple of tasks you used to do manually.
2. It enables scalability
Some businesses are growing so fast that they need to improve processes to keep up with the pace. Growth is associated with the increasing number of customers, employees, departments, and certainly operational processes. At some point, these processes need to be either automated, eliminated, or standardized.
According to Forbes, 70% of startups fail as they grow. To be in the other 30%, you probably want to be prepared to scale, and automation will help you with that.
3. It makes remote work more effective
Remote work is the new standard today, and it's here to stay even after the pandemic is over. It's a win-win situation for every party involved. Companies don't need to rent expensive offices; employees don't need to spend hours in traffic. The only downside to this is that there is no face-to-face communication, so everyone spends a lot of time on video calls. With automation, you can streamline some processes so the drawbacks of remote work won't impact your business that much.
4. Less painful staff turnover (reducing the Bus factor)
Imagine your key employee leaving the company. The more processes they were involved in are automated and documented, the less chance this will mess things up. On top of that, you can lower your hiring standards: with better processes, you can hire less experienced people to do the job at the same quality level.
5. Human error prevention and reducing the cognitive load
The more steps you take, the bigger the error chance is. By providing clear instructions, you reduce the cognitive load. It's one of the best error prevention methods out there.
When you set up your processes right, the people involved won't use a lot of cognitive efforts, and useless information stays at the 'Sensory memory' level of the Information Processing Model:
6. Get more clarity and predictability
When you have robust, documented, and streamlined processes, you can instantly get any data to know what's happening with your business, quickly draw conclusions and make the right decisions.
7. Get compliance records
With business process automation, every detail of a particular process gets recorded. You can use this information to demonstrate compliance during audits. In other words, a startup with automated and documented operational processes will more likely raise another investment round than the one without them. (Investments, M&A?)
8. Employee retention
With well-organized processes, your staff will perform better, feeling less frustrated and more comfortable.
1. Document the processes
📖 No need to build own solution — docs and tutorials is a good start
It is a long-established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout.
Today there's no need to invest a fortune in the process improvement. It doesn't have to be a full-scale solution to the problem at the very beginning. Start small: try to document the processes — it will show you where to cut some edges and enhance some of the steps. My preferred method is writing the tutorials. Go through the process, take a few screenshots and describe the steps you take. You'll be surprised how much you will learn from this. You can also check my other blog post on how to manage educational expenses, it showcases my approach to making things work.
2. Mock and try to automate
🛴 Use free and low price tools (Google Sheets is a surprisingly good one), don't be afraid to include manual steps
When you know what's happening, take your next step and try to optimize and automate. Do this carefully; try not to push your employees too hard: they need to be proactive in the change. Gather the feedback at each step. It is one of the crucial keys to the success of the whole process.
3. Adopt specialized SaaS
☝️For some processes you may jump straight into this step, which mostly works for least custom ones, such as time-tracking or eSignatures.
You may jump straight into this step — SaaS solutions for automation work well for most generic processes, such as time-tracking or eSignatures. Once you're sure that a SaaS solves your problem, feel free to try it out. Even if it's expensive, it may save you more than you spend — but double-check and do this with caution. To save money, you can start with the less-featured SaaS or a lower-priced subscription plan, adding some no-code integrations using Zapier, Integromat, or Autocode.
Automation is not a panacea and won't solve all your problems. But neglecting operational processes will only hurt your business in the long run. Consider some suggestions from this post and try pinpointing the issues. If you need help highlighting the problems or automating operational processes – schedule a free consultation with me, I'll gladly help you.