Planning Your Workflows
Measure Twice Cut Once
Cut The Fat! Before You Automate, Find Efficiencies.
Failing to do this is perhaps the #1 mistake that businesses make when implementing CRM workflows. Automation will make you more efficient, but to also be effective, you have to take a good honest look at everything you’re doing and measure them against the results you are receiving in return. Workflows can reduce the number of resources going towards a process, but only you can determine if it’s worth it.
How to do this?
Treat resources that go into every process as investments. Think about what type of return you need, and when you need to get it by. Setting benchmarks along the way, and then do an audit of all your processes to see which ones meet your standards. Doing this allows you to follow the money and figure out what processes are delivering on your benchmarks. While ruthlessly cutting anything that isn’t.
Find the Gems
Make Everyone a High Performer
Before McDonald's bought any machines or hired any staff, there was a period of trial and error where they established best practices. In their case, many recipes and processes were attempted before they found the optimal ones in which they invested. Likewise, before any businesses grow explosively, there is a period of discovery to identify “the formula” that they use to replicate success.
What should your formula be?
In most businesses, there is some natural selection that occurs when staff performs the same task in parallel. Productive staff ascends the ranks where they spread their good habits to the rest of the team. While other businesses use A/B testing to pit 2 versions of the same process against each other to see which wins.
At the bare minimum, try and isolate the things that productive staff believe make them successful and ingrain that into your workflows, for everyone to take advantage of.
Embed Your Thought Process Into Everything
Some processes are more complex. They might fork into different paths to accommodate common scenarios that the business faces. For your workflows to be successful, you’ll need to identify the most common paths, and build-in the decisions that determine the paths into your workflows.
There are several benefits to doing this. One, of course, is that you’ll reduce the number of people required to be involved in any given process. The logic is built into the process so even if its architect is long gone, it can continue to deliver results. Another benefit is that this will speed everything up. The fewer checks and balances there are, the quicker everything can move forward.
Enforce Optimal Order
Save Time & Energy with Logical Sequences
Within a process, tasks have an optimal - if not necessary - order in which they should be completed. Homebuilders understand this as well as anyone. It makes absolutely no sense for a painter to start painting before the foundation is laid. To keep your workflows logical, break them into multiple, simpler, steps.
Also consider that some processes don’t always make it to the end …
The sales cycle is a good example. You don’t close a deal with every lead. So if your process has a task that is performed when you close a lead, it shouldn’t show up in your to-do list until the lead is actually closed. These are called “task dependencies”. Find out which ones exist in your processes and be sure that dependent tasks don’t show up in your priorities until prerequisite tasks are complete.
Recognize What Should & Shouldn’t Be Automated
Just like earlier, where we limited what we should put into workflows, here we are limiting which of these workflows should be automated. Filter out processes that, although may effectively be producing a result, are impractical, undesirable or expensive to automate.
For instance …
If you spend a lot of energy sending large quantities of lead generation emails to low-quality prospects, this might be an interesting workflow to automate. It uses up lots of resources and because leads aren’t too valuable, mistakes are tolerable. In contrast, it would be riskier to automate a later stage of the pipeline, where a lot has been invested in each prospect. You can still use CRM workflows to standardize this stage, but you should think twice before automating it.
Remember automation can be as much about improving the quality of work, as about efficiency.
Workflows assist or amplify efforts, not replace staff members.
People often assume workflows replace humans. However, that line of thinking will cause more problems than they solve. Avoid the idea that workflow automation will replace your staff.This is rarely the case. Think of workflows as a tool that gives your staff superhuman powers and the consistency of a machine. Not a robot you can build to do things instead of people.
Know exactly what aspects of your business you want to improve
As the old adage goes “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” If you’re setting up workflows, there’s a good chance that you hope to improve some aspect of your business, so you’ll want to keep a gauge on related metrics.
Here’s the good news:
By standardizing your processes with workflows, measuring progress will become easier. The challenge will be deciding which KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you plan to track and setting up a system that will track them.
Work backwards from your highest objectives. Identify them, get a baseline, and set goals. Then do the same for the lower level actions that staff will take to achieve those objectives. This way, when results come in, you can confirm the correlation between staff actions and high-level goals and plan accordingly.
Ba careful not to go overboard though. Not letting perfection be the enemy of good enough.
Only track bare essential staff actions, particularly if tracking them is not automated. The act of measuring is not without cost and as always, annoying staff with bureaucracy will be counterproductive.
When planning your CRM workflows, you’ll be taking a critical look at your processes. This is an opportune time to look at the bigger picture and correct any imbalances and try to predict any future ones.
Ask yourself some questions:
- Are people's days currently lopsided or unbalanced?
- Will anyone potentially become a bottleneck at some point?
- Will someone’s job be too repetitive?
- Will fun/difficult tasks be spread fairly to everyone?
Perhaps you are implementing workflows specifically because you answered “Yes” to one of these questions. Either way, you have an opportunity to be effective here. Think closely about each task. Consider the consequences of each person’s schedule and before moving to the next stage, run the plans past a few colleagues for idea and approval.
Interchangeability Leads to Versatility
One of the benefits of standardizing your processes for workflows, is it will become easier for staff to jump in and cover for each other. During the planning phase of your workflows, it’s important to recognize this and to take it into consideration as you architect your solution. The advice here is to break the process down in a foolproof step-by-step manner.
Ideally it should work like this …
Anyone in the business should be able to look at a process in motion, know what the next steps are, and jump in if necessary. While not all members of your team will be equally versatile, the most universal the workflows are, the more versatile your team will be as a whole.
Plan To 10X
Typically the ultimate goal of implementing workflows is growth. As such, when planning your workflows, you need to think about how they would hold up if the growth were to actually materialize.
- Will you need to hire an infeasible number of employees?
- Will quality be spread too thin?
- Will machines need to be replaced?
Growing pains are a great problem to have, but they are ones that can be easily avoided, or at least mitigated if you plan for them in advance. Identify potential resource or money bottlenecks and plan your workflows to accommodate growth in these areas in advance.
Make a Blueprint of Your Plans
You may know your workflows like the back of your hand, and you may be the one implementing them. In other cases, you might have some very complex processes whose details would be easy to forget. Or perhaps you are proposing workflows to someone else who will need to approve of them. In any case, it's best to document your plans so everyone is on the same page.
How to do it?
There are several standards for documenting workflows that you can use to make sure everyone is speaking the same language, such as UML. You can also find lots of tools, such as Lucid Charts to that let you create standardized workflow diagrams in sharable format.
Establishing standardized CRM Workflows can absolutely transform your business. Dramatically reduce the load on your staff without compromising and in many cases, even improving your customer experience. The time and resources you free up give you room to breathe, experiment and ultimately grow your business.