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5 Lessons We’ve Learnt That Will Rapidly Improve Your Business This Year

With inflation rising and interest rates heading in the same direction, organisations of all types and sizes are under pressure to keep costs down and productivity up. Furthermore, organisations that aren’t leading innovation in their market and making themselves indispensable to their customers are placing themselves at risk.

To help you start the new financial year on the right foot, we’ve mined two decades of experience helping clients become more productive and effective to bring you five lessons that will rapidly improve your business and help you ride through the current economic climate.

You can improve the ROI on staff salaries by investing in better digital infrastructure.

Imagine that you’re paying someone a $100k annual salary and spending $1k on digital tools for them (this includes the software, implementation and support ) – that’s a 1% investment in tools for them. What would happen if you increased your investment to $4k (5%) for better tools and support? By enabling them to do more work, more quickly and of higher quality, you could see a 20% productivity gain and a much better ROI on their salary. And this should scale.

The lesson is, if you’re paying people, invest in the best possible tools to do their jobs and they’ll deliver you greater profits in return. Think of it this way: you’re buying capability and capacity, not just a piece of code. The longer you leave it to equip your team, the more profits, productivity and innovation you are missing out on.

But what about investing in digital tools for new starters or those who are on probation? You might think it’s best to wait until they prove themselves and demonstrate that they are going to stay. However, you won’t get the full picture of what these new team members are capable of unless you equip them correctly. In fact, digital tooling should be a key part of your business strategy and be connected to your talent acquisition and retention strategies.

Invest your time nurturing people and culture to get better ideas in return.

According to McKinsey (in this Forbes article), when people feel confident and comfortable sharing their ideas with each other and their managers, or challenging the status quo, companies are more likely to adapt to change better, innovate faster and unlock the benefits of diversity in their teams.

Creating a culture of trust and collaboration requires managers to: set ground rules for offering up ideas; giving and receiving feedback in an encouraging, constructive (not destructive) way; providing digital infrastructure that allows for regular and uninhibited sharing of knowledge; and providing reassurance that failures are an acceptable and expected part of creating a successful product and service.

If your organisation has a culture that makes people feel uncomfortable, or even fearful, of suggesting a new idea or a change to an existing process, you could be missing out on something that could drastically increase your productivity and profits. With a potential Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Elon Musk in your midst, it’s well worth putting time and energy into nurturing the right culture.

This leads us to our next lesson…

Put a continual improvement process in place now.

A culture of idea sharing and feedback makes it possible to create and implement a continual improvement process. Why is this important? Because doing things “the way they’ve always been done” means we miss out on incremental improvements that could have big results. Yes, we are all busy, and it’s easy to get complacent, sticking with processes we know, even if they are inefficient. However, if we have a formal continual improvement process and listen to others’ ideas (and we’re sure they have plenty of them!) we can make our “busy time” more effective.

That said, it’s worth acknowledging which processes are set in stone and why. At DI there’s a reason for the way we do certain things – we can tell you why we do something one way instead of another. But, we are always open to improvement because things can and do change. If a team member thinks a process isn’t working, they are encouraged to pose a solution.

It’s not just greater productivity at stake. Making continual improvements allows you to keep up with your competitors and meet your customer’s expectations. Furthermore, your employer brand may suffer a) if candidates find that you aren’t as innovative as you say you are on the job ad, or b) if team members leave because they aren’t able to work to the best of their abilities and see growth in their role

Implement Agile now across ALL of your teams.

We’re now beyond viewing Agile as a new or innovative concept purely for software development teams – it’s now a valid and mainstream way of working for all teams. And if you’re not on board now, get going.

In our experience, all teams, regardless of function, generally do the same things:

  • small, medium and large projects;
  • business as usual (BAU) activities; and
  • servicing enquiries, whether from internal or external customers.

All of these tasks require structured workflows, collaboration, information sharing and project/task management.

With Agile, the idea is that you’ve got all tasks on a digital “board” so everyone knows what the priorities are and what needs to change for deadlines to be met. Instead of everyone working independently, implementing Agile methodology and tools like Jira, Trello and Confluence organisation-wide get everyone on the same digital page so cross-functional collaboration and problem-solving can happen naturally.

It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to start using Agile either. Get everything up on the board, then ask the team:

  • What did we do last week?
  • What worked, and what didn’t? (Make sure you celebrate those successes!)
  • What are we doing this week?
  • Who needs help?

So what’s good for the dev team, is just as good for finance. Your teams will deliver value faster with less friction and can make continual improvements (see the point above) with ease.

Be a stickler about data integty and process adherence.

When things get busy, taking the time to ensure data is complete, or cleaning existing data, gets bumped way down the list of priorities. But, when you and your team let data integrity and adherence to your processes slide, it can really trip you up. Dirty or incomplete data can make it hard to progress on important projects and makes gleaning useful and correct insights difficult.

If you personally don’t use data all the time it can be tempting to ignore it, but that doesn’t mean that someone else isn’t using it.  That’s why it’s important to ensure everyone is clear on why certain data fields or processes are filled in a certain way and to schedule regular data reviews to make sure it’s all up to date.

There’s so much opportunity out there, but you’ll make faster progress by taking heed of the lessons above. They’ll make such a difference in productivity it will be like going from moving sand with a teaspoon to using a full-scale excavator.

Blog post by Design Industries published on 24th of Aug 2022

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