How would you like to walk into your boss’s office today and say, “I know a way to improve productivity by 50%.” Of course you would! Who wouldn’t?
Of course, that only works if you actually know a way to improve productivity by 50%. Sound impossible? It’s not that hard…you just have to know where to look.
So, where do you look? For starters, let me share one prime area that’s ripe for productivity improvements: In many businesses, productivity bottlenecks revolve around data. Even in the year 2013, we’re just not that efficient with our data. Every day, businesses waste time entering, collecting, sorting, filtering, combining, and manipulating data. The fact is, many businesses could vastly improve productivity if they only addressed some of these data inefficiencies.
If you want to dramatically improve productivity in your company, here’s a good place to start: I’ve listed 4 of the most common productivity bottlenecks caused by data. How many of these do you see in your company?
1. Manual data entry
This problem pops up in many companies, taking on many different forms. For instance, some companies make their customers complete forms by hand, and then have employees input that data into their system. Why not give customers a web application and let them enter data directly into the system?
Or, here’s another common example. This company received customers orders through a 14-person call center. Once they received the order over the phone, the call center rep then manually entered the order into their system. Fortunately, they recognized this productivity bottleneck and fixed the problem. How? They built a customer extranet that let customers place their own orders online. The result: Customers actually placed more orders, and their call center switched their focus towards sales…driving revenue up even further.
2. Manual data re-entry
No, this isn’t a repeat of the first problem. Manual data re-entry is a result of multiple systems that don’t communicate with each other. As a result, data entered into one system must then be re-entered into other systems…which is an unnecessarily time-consuming process.
The answer: Connect your systems. Of course, if this was simple, you probably would’ve done it already. If you need help making your disparate systems talk to each other, let us know. We’ve helped many companies fix this same problem, and would love to help you.
3. Data gathering/sorting/filtering
I once knew someone who spent half of his time at work gathering, sorting, and filtering data in Excel. I’m sure he’s not alone. This common problem wastes countless hours every day and is usually caused by a couple of problems:
- Disparate systems: Manual data re-entry isn’t the only problem caused by disparate systems. It also complicates reporting, as data must be exported from each system and manually combined in a spreadsheet.
- Poor reporting options: Many companies run on old systems with outdated or insufficient reporting options. As a result, they must export their data to a spreadsheet, and manually create their own reports.
If your company deals with these problems, here’s a story you’ll want to read. This company needed to pull data from 9 different plants on 9 different databases and combine that data into a simple dashboard for their executives. To find out what they did, you can read their whole story right here.
4. Building/running reports
Even if you do have all of your data in a central location, building reports over that data is often far more time consuming than it should be. Why? This problem boils down to your reporting tool. A bad reporting tool is a major productivity bottleneck, often wasting hours of time with each report. So, what makes a good reporting tool? Besides building useful and informative reports, a good reporting tool must…
- Build reports quickly: In most instances, building a web report shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. If report-building typically takes longer than that, perhaps it’s time to replace your reporting software.
- Enable self-service reporting: A good reporting tool will solve the end-user reporting problem. Rather than rely on the IT department for reports, end users can either create their own reports, or use a variety of pre-built, canned reports. In case you’re unaware, canned reports are pre-built reports that let users choose their reporting options at run-time. For example, this ad-hoc report lets users select from a number of run-time options, and this web pivot table lets users manipulate and filter data however they wish. For more information on canned reports, check out this article entitled, “6 canned reports that take the reporting burden off of IT.”
If building reports is a difficult process, or if your current report software doesn’t allow for self service reporting, then a new reporting tool could dramatically improve productivity.
If you’re looking for ways to improve productivity at your company, start with your data. Chances are, you’ll find one or more productivity bottlenecks that will save all sorts of time for your company if removed. Of course, if you can think of any other ways that data causes productivity bottlenecks, I’d love to hear them in the comments!
If you need help solving any of the data inefficiencies listed above, just fill out this short form and let us know what’s on your plate. We have the software needed to manage your data, the training needed to start you off on the right foot, and the consultants to help you when time is short.