Strategies to Improve Business Efficiency in 2021

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    Written by Simon Porri

    2020 challenged businesses across the economy. With new ways of working and new consumer behaviour trends, adapting to change has become essential to the “new normal” we are all still working to define. 

    A study by the World Bank revealed that the global GDP is likely to contract by 5.2% in 2020. However, specific industries (like logistics services) have expanded, while others struggle. For example, the automotive industry faces significant and unique challenges. Fundamentally, the more efficient your operations are, the more effectively you will be able to respond to change and absorb market shocks while remaining profitable. Looking ahead to 2021, finding new ways to be efficient looks key to effective planning and commercial success. 

    Here, we are going to investigate three key strategies for getting ahead and building a more effective system that can use business insights to craft efficient ways to stay on top of change. 

    Strategy 1: Embrace remote working 

    In many businesses, remote working has been the big change of 2020. In April, the percentage of remote workers in the UK rose from just 6% of employees to 43% — and 90% of these people want to continue with more flexible work schedules.

    Finding ways to not just accommodate but embrace remote working is important to driving efficiency moving forward. But don’t look at this requirement as a burden. When done right, remote working has always brought the potential to: 

    To achieve these gains, you need to create a conducive digital environment that supports remote working and collaboration. Be sure to involve your HR team in planning the whole arrangement and get outside help if necessary. For example, you’ll need to:

    • Change your operational model to improve agility and flexibility.
    • Change your hiring practices to take a more global approach.
    • Digitise resources and provide remote access to business application and business data. 
    • Invest in cloud-based collaboration and productivity tools, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom and Trello.
    • Provide training for the new tools and communicate clear expectations for remote working and communication standards.

    Communication is critical 

    In both traditional and remote working environments, finding better ways to communicate is critical to efficiency — delivering better performance and more effective teams. Companies experience an average loss of $62.4 million (£46.8 million) every year due to poor communication.

    1. Developing communication culture: You must have an open culture in which communication can take place clearly. Employees need to feel free to ask questions, share opinions, and raise any concerns. Create communication channels at all levels for sharing feedback and always keep employees in the loop.

    Have regular one-on-one or team meetings to discuss ideas, provide feedback, or collaborate on a project. However, don’t bog employees with meetings without any purpose — this can hurt efficiency. One or two meetings a month is enough.

    1. Using the right communication tools: As we’ve addressed, you need tools that enable communication, especially with remote working. Business collaboration tools help with notifications, chat, video calls, file sharing, and presence status, supporting seamless and open communication for real-time collaboration. 
    1. Aligning communication with outcomes: Communication is most valuable when driving outcomes. Standard communication tools are great. But you also need tools that can place communication in the context of efficiency — communicating key KPIs and helping employees figure out ways to improve. That comes down to having digital access to core business data, and then channels of communication to help review and analyse those outputs. This will allow you to identify the weaknesses and loopholes within your systems and processes, enabling you to take action and find long-term solutions.

    Pro tip: Providing cloud-based access to business data, and then communicating actions based on key KPIs is an important part of effective remote working and general communication. As we will get back to, modern business intelligence tools can be an important part of executing this strategy.  

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    Long-term cultural realignment  

    Investing in remote-working will have far-reaching benefits to your organisation. But it effectively requires you to update your business culture to align with remote access and remote collaboration. Obviously, this is easier said than done, and requires rethinking large parts of how your business operates and shares information. Most of the strategies discussed here are about helping you overcome these challenges and harness agility to deliver more efficient outcomes. 

    Strategy 2: Make sure you have data visibility 

    Aligning communication with outcomes is vital in assessing the effectiveness of your systems, processes, and solutions. But the only way to do this is to make sure that you have visibility over your business data.

    Optimal data visibility allows you to understand your entire operations and the way resources are being utilised. Keep in mind that the true success of any team boils down to the decision-making capacity. So, data provides you with the information you need to make the best decisions at any moment.

    For that reason, strive to centralise the crucial things you need to know. That means digitising your data, processes, and operations. At a minimum, make sure that you have: 

    • A good CRM: You’ll need a CRM system to manage your interactions and relationships with your existing and potential customers. SalesForce is the most popular option. However, depending on your size and industry, there may be better alternatives
    • Effective cloud storage: In order to provide remote access, you need cloud storage for your data. Cloud storage systems allow you to access your data using any device, anytime and anywhere. Examples include Google Cloud, Dropbox, and MS OneDrive.
    • Processes that support access: You need to build processes around using digital tools and maintaining single-source-of-truth records. Without effective process management, no tool will be able to deliver effective access to data.  

    Invest in the right business intelligence tool

    Over time, the amount of data you collect can enable the development of insights about how your business operates. But businesses tend to collect lots of information that they never actually use. Good business intelligence ensures that your visibility over data is clear, and that it results in effective actions based on those insights.   

    Our advice is to invest in business intelligence that focuses on communication, and contextualising insights with the actions that need to be taken in order to create meaningful outcomes. For example, software that goes beyond standard reporting to provide: 

    • KPI dashboards: Clear ways to display all of the KPIs you’re tracking with visual representations of your performance. This can allow you to understand key trends and the actions you need to take.
    • Action planning: It’s vital to outline actions needed to achieve business goals. Look for tools that let you support action planning by creating actions and allocate them to the right teams, as well as monitoring them until completion.
    • Scorecards: A balanced scorecard keeps companies moving forward to achieve even more goals. Business intelligence tools should let you review the performance and rankings of your teams across the board. Plus, it shows areas that teams need to work on to improve their points and score.
    • Reporting: Reporting functions improve data recovery and searchability by sorting data into meaningful groups and providing actionable insights that make it easy for you to understand your data, take actions, and predict outcomes.

    Full disclosure: We aren’t exactly impartial to the importance of business intelligence, or differences between business intelligence software. We developed a business intelligence tool called Loop specifically to improve your ability to align data analysis with actions, and drive efficiencies with actionable insights. Get in touch if you want help harnessing analytics to plan a more efficient future.

    Suggested reading: What Are Actionable Insights? Buzzword or Important For Business?  

    Strategy 3: Automation, automation, automation 

    Taking manual tasks and automating them is the real holy grail of efficiency — regardless of whether or not this is done in a remote or traditional office context. The more you can remove manual tasks from staff, the more time they can spend focusing on adding real value to operations.

    What automation looks like will be largely impacted by your industry. However, in all cases, the more you are able to digitise records and processes, the more you will be able to apply digital tools to those operations in order to automate them. 

    Centralisation of data and analysis

    For example, centralising your records in the cloud using business intelligence tools creates a single system that you can link to critical business applications and automatically update data using APIs, or other integration technology. This removes the laboursome task of updating records, and creates a far more streamlined operation.  

    In a border sense, start by defining your processes, and then going through step-by-step and considering ways to automate tasks. Look at different parts of your organisation and see if similar tasks are undertaken in the same way. The more granular you can be with your analysis, the more places you will identify for improvement. Again, the right business intelligence tool can help you undertake this analysis and spot gaps within your existing system. 

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    Insights, communication and planning drive efficiency

    In a world defined by uncertainty, data helps you understand the health and reality of your business, and make the right decisions. This lets you use effective strategies to improve your processes and performance.

    However, data alone won’t deliver the outcomes you need. It’s important to contextualise data so that it can inform action, and then effectively communicate those goals across your organisation. The right business intelligence tools can help you get there. They collect and analyse your data to draw actionable insights that improve outcomes for optimal business efficiency in 2021. That’s exactly what Loop does, and you can get in touch with us if you have questions.

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