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Critical Business Concepts

4 Easy Steps To Streamline Business Processes and Boost Collaboration

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Here are 4 easy to follow steps to streamline business processes, cut off time-wasters and encourage collaboration among team members.

Collaboration is very important for a business to grow and meet its objectives. When team members have a collaborative attitude, more things get done and productivity is therefore increased. On the contrary, poor collaboration can result in miscommunication, more mistakes, and even a waste of time and resources.

As a business owner or a department manager, there are methods that you can implement to support collaboration among your employees.

Here are some recommendations that would help you streamline business processes.

improve efficiency by streamlining project management processes - streamline your business processes

Use cloud solutions to share and create data

When you’re working on a document with colleagues, do you still use email to transfer files or maybe you still pass around a USB drive?

Do you still wait for email responses to input comments and revise the document, which you will send again and again until the final version is approved by everyone?

The common problem with this process is that it can be confusing to track who made which changes and which document version is the latest one. It can also be tiresome to track all the email responses to find which version of the document to save on your hard drive.

Well, if you’re still doing this process, then it’s time to embrace change. Instead of using emails and local drives to store and transfer files, a more convenient method is to use cloud solutions.

Cloud storage services allow you to save your data on an online server, which means your team can access the files anytime and anywhere as long as they have an internet connection. This will make it easier to share data without back and forth emails.

Cloud solutions are also very affordable compared to purchasing a local hard drive or maintaining your own server. If you are a small business, you’ll also be happy to know that most of the best cloud services have free options so you can test out which one will work best for your business.

Another advantage is that even the free services like Google Drive have collaboration features that allow you and your team members to make changes on documents in real-time. It also shows which person made the changes and allows you to revert to the original data.

Keep meetings concise and results-oriented

The common misconception is that the best way to support collaboration is to hold more meetings where everyone can share and discuss ideas. But while meetings are quite effective as a platform to brainstorm and plan actions, too many meetings can also hurt your organisation.

Do you know that in the United States, businesses lose $37 billion annually because of inefficient meetings?

Most meeting attendees are found to be either daydreaming, doing other work, and even sleeping during the time they were supposed to be participating in a meeting.

When this happens, meetings can cause confusion rather than collaboration. What can be done to avoid this?

Here are some steps to ensure that meetings are utilised as a collaborative opportunity rather than a waste of resources.

Distribute the meeting agenda beforehand

Whatever the purpose of the meeting is, it will help if attendees have a background of what’s going to be discussed. This way, team members will not come to the meeting clueless of what’s going to happen.

They will know what to expect and if they feel that they are not relevant to the meeting, they can inform the meeting host beforehand.

Only invite people who can directly contribute

If you are the one organising a meeting, make sure to only invite people who are relevant to the topic. It can be tempting to get everyone on board. As the cliché goes, more heads are better than one.

However, while there’s a possibility that your accountants can come up with out-of-the-box creative ideas for your marketing plan, their time will be more useful reviewing your financial records than having them in a meeting that’s not directly associated to their job description.

Ask people to come up with ideas prior to the meeting date

This is related to having the meeting agenda distributed prior to the meeting. If you are holding a planning or brainstorming session, do not use the meeting as a venue to think up ideas from scratch while staring at one another. Instead, require team members to have ideas prepared and use the meeting time to discuss and debate these ideas.

Set a schedule and stick to the agenda

Meetings should have a start and end time. If you cannot seem to complete what you’re supposed to do, better to end the meeting and regroup rather than wasting time getting nowhere.

Another important note is to avoid going off-topic and veering away from the agenda. If there is another topic worth discussing that is not on the agenda, schedule a different time for that rather than not being able to complete your original objectives.

Make sure there are action points at the end of the meeting

At the end of every meeting, always review the things that would need to be done. Assign a person and a deadline when these things should be completed.

Never go out of a meeting without resolving an issue or knowing what the next step should be. Within 24 hours from the end of the session, distribute minutes of the meeting to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Use a uniform messaging app for effective communication

In the traditional office setting, employees walk up to each other, use the office phone, or hold meetings to communicate and collaborate. But with today’s workforce becoming more mobile and with remote work becoming more popular, it is not unusual to have team members working on the same project while they are in different parts of the globe.

While this may seem like a challenge, there are now communication tools to ensure that all team members can collaborate efficiently. To facilitate communication and encourage collaboration, one good tip is to require everyone to use the same communication tool where messages can be tracked and everyone can be reached.

Having one preferred communication or messaging app is more practical. For example, if you prefer to use Skype for video calls, make sure everyone has access to Skype and inform everyone to use it instead of having some using Google Hangouts or FaceTime.

There are also messaging apps like Slack, Flock and Chanty that are built for collaborative work so that teams can easily communicate whether they are working in the same place or from different places. Depending on your needs, these messaging tools have various features that can help you streamline team communication.

Use project management tools to track tasks

project management workflow showing all the processes - streamline business processes

Project management tools ensure that team members are doing their tasks and that they are on schedule to do whatever is needed to be done. Apps such as Trello, Asana, and Monday are just some examples of online project tracking software that many organisations use.

These tools have different features but what’s common is that they allow you to input, assign, and track project tasks. Team members can also access these apps so that they are aware of the project progress.

If you can find project tracking tools with a built-in messaging function, then that will be much better than having a separate messaging app.

Encouraging collaboration at work

Having collaborative team members can significantly impact a business.

The above recommendations can help your business modify its processes to encourage a collaborative mindset and increase workforce productivity.

Nathan is a business advisor and business blogger at Biznas. He has helped many clients solve their business problems, and now imparts his advisory knowledge onto others to help them improve their businesses too.

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