Monday, 17 February 2020

Reviewing business tasks, processes and plant

While any time is a good time to review what we do, sometimes it is easier to think about those things at the start of a new year, and the start of a new decade. With that in mind, recently I read an article on the Houzz website (Revell, 26 January 2020), which suggested that we ask six questions of ourselves about our belongings. In reading the article, I could see how the six questions could relate to any aspect of business: but particularly tasks, processes and plant.

Those questions are (with a list items to consider that I propose alongside each one):
  1. Can the business do without this? Review communications; such as fax numbers (NZ Pharmacies have been told at long, long last that they have to ditch fax machines in 2020); landlines, 0800 numbers, etc. Do we have IT systems, furniture or cabinetry which is no longer fit for purpose? Do we have equipment for areas which the business has now moved away from? Are we renting more space than we need? Could we lease out part of our building? Could we share car parks and reduce the number we have? Does that review mean we could convert a car park to a bike park instead? Does the business pay for web statistics which are never used? Are reports written which are no longer read?
  2. Has this task or process been replaced by new methods? Do we have plant which has been superceded? Is any of it likely to be back in service - and - if it may be - will it still be fit for purpose? Do we have equipment, software, or space that was used for stepped tasks which has now been automated, with the intermediary steps now being redundant? Do we have loads of old copies of software which could be passed on? Do we still have machinery - such as binder coil machines, laminators, large staplers - which we no longer (or hardly ever) use? Do we have duplicates of now rarely used equipment, so could get rid of at least one?
  3. If this item broke down, would it be replaced? This is an excellent question to ask about plant, equipment and software that is currently in service. This can also be applied to regular training or suppliers: for example, if a small supplier closed, would we seek another? Does the business see a benefit in the regular, scheduled training? 
  4. Does this particular item or process simplify doing business? What a superb question! We can all do with reviewing our processes to see if there is an easier - and less costly - way of doing business. If we still have a manual book keeping processes, we could move to Xero, reducing both our internal administration time and cost, reducing financial accounting costs, and simplifying our tax regime. Review backup procedures (can we cloud-automate it?). Review how and where important company documents are kept. Review legal providers, requirements and signatories.
  5. Could items, processes or services be hired in? We don't necessarily need to own everything ourselves. If we use something once or twice a year, it might be worth booking and hiring it when we need it, rather than owning it and leaving it unused for 95% of the year. Hiring in also removes the tasks of maintenance and updating, reducing complexity. 
  6. Could we outsource? Sometimes we are so used to doing things ourselves to ensure that it meets our quality standards, or our particular customisation, that we don't stop to think about whether we could contract out to an expert in the area and outsource an entire task or process. This is a long list, but we can think through elements such as design, technical drawing, cost surveying, HR tasks, advisory boards, marketing, distribution, websites, social media management, technical writing, pool cars, premises, maintenance, secretarial services, book keeping services, archival and digitisation.
The list above contains a lot of elements we need to consider. But in reviewing each of the six items above, all of these are an opportunity for us to (a) re-clarify to ourselves just what our core business is, (b) focus on what we need to do, (c) hive off distractions, and (d) reducing unnecessary costs. 

All good business practice.


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