Optimizing operational efficiency in times of the COVID pandemic

A year of COVID has created difficulties for the operational excellence at many companies. What is going wrong? Does decentralized homeworking cause slower running processes? Does pessimism in our society, as a result of the restrictions on freedom of movement, possibly cause less productive employees who have lost their drive?

Adapting to a remote workforce and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic has created different digital and operational challenges for organizations. While many economic factors are beyond the control of managers and entrepreneurs, productivity doesn’t necessarily need to be something that declines too. During a crisis like this it’s crucial to invest time and resources into efforts that drive continuous improvement in your business.

Because of the pandemic, many organizations have embraced technology and data, reinventing core processes and adopting new collaboration tools. A robust remote work strategy is now more important than ever. Technology and people are interacting in new ways and this seems to be key in the new operating models for businesses. It has become necessary in creating a well-oiled team with good communication during and after this pandemic. COVID clearly has accelerated digital transformation. At the heart of each of these transformations is operational efficiency: getting things done fast, and well.

Companies have to streamline their core processes and optimize business performance to preserve resiliency and think about rebuilding the business to emerge stronger in 2021. An organization with processes in place that are designed for operational efficiency will harvest the benefits, including better customer responsiveness, user performance, cost efficiency, revenues, and return on capital. Efficient companies generally also have a higher sense of purpose and improved employee wellbeing which is more important than ever before. This way employees will go the extra mile for the company and its customers. These benefits are easily possible for most organizations, but only when processes are optimized adequately. Effective organizational changes created during the crisis need to be embedded into the new operational model. Business leaders are required to ensure their organizations don’t revert to old behaviors and processes. This implies making permanent structural changes that can sustain process efficiency in ways that will engage employees.

The coronavirus pandemic is clearly one of the big challenges of our times. The time for organizations to build efficient processes is now. This will be an important transformation and leaders must be confident they can implement it right. But they also need to recognize and accept that a lot of their recognizable process models need to be redesigned.

Many companies, at least initially, thought of the end of the pandemic as an event that would be over soon. Employees would go back to work just as they had done before. But it became clear that for many, returning to work is a process that takes longer than expected, and that some people cannot go back to the way they were operating before the crisis.

Instead, companies need to seize the moment to reimagine and reinvent the future by building new strengths and capabilities to drive value. Even well-oiled companies may find that they need to reinvent themselves and improve on their operational efficiency.

Here are 3 tips for improving operational efficiency at your company in times of COVID:

Adapt to sudden changes quickly by making data-driven decisions

It is important to realize that the crisis and recovery isn’t static, it won’t occur or finish on a specific date. Governmental measures to control the virus can change from week to week. This has a big influence on management accounting. With centralized information, strong process guidelines and business intelligence in place, organizations are set up to effectively adapt to unexpected challenges and ensure a better level of productivity and planning during a crisis.

If business information is still scattered across several different platforms that don’t communicate and aren’t accessible online, the COVID-19 pandemic has probably forced the company to reconsider. Using central databases and portals that hold all your information in one place is a huge benefit to every business. ERPs, CRMs and business management applications are designed to help businesses break down silos between departments, share information, and track their progress and relationships. Data insights are no longer limited to single departments in ‘silos’. They are shared throughout the organization to work objectively and to come up with high impact solutions. To become truly data-driven, mindset, attitudes and habits must change, and data should be part of the whole organization’s identity. People need to use the available data to improve the functioning of the company and encourage others to do so.

Accurate information from the front line and showing humility

Most of the front-line problems are known by the front-line employees, but only a fraction is known by team leaders, middle management and top management. In good times, this ignorance might not lead to notable problems. But in a crisis, leaders need accurate information from the front-line. Knowing what the problems are is the first step to solve them as management. Company leadership needs to be aware of the real issues the organization faces, unbiased and without assumptions. Data creates possibilities to reveal these issues, more than ever. But is the data really used? Does the available data impact decision making? How much of the management teams rely already on data? Not the technology, but the human aspect seems to be blocking.

Obviously, it is impossible for even the most innovative and heroic leadership team to solve all the problems of the organization, especially if they are only aware of a small part of the problems. Leaders who show humility by mixing with the front-line, gain more status and influence than their peers who prefer to stay in their offices. Humility is having the self-awareness to know what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. Studies show that when you have humility in your team, people are more likely to play to their strengths. Furthermore humble leaders increase the ownership, autonomy, and responsibility of employees to encourage them to think for themselves and try out their own ideas.

Establish clear, consistent business processes

Having consistent business processes in place ensures that remote teams are aligned and collaborating well together. Processes that can withstand the pressure of a crisis empower teams to make precise, informed and rapid decisions. Closing the gaps between these processes with the technology, applications and infrastructure is crucial. This way employees can adapt to challenges effectively. Process efficiency is a measure of how smooth a process is executed factoring-in the time and resources spent. It either has a direct or indirect impact on profitability. Therefor it is necessary to have a clear overview of all the processes, resources and time spend with quick and actionable insights to plan and adjust. With modern BI technologies like Process Mining, we can review complex processes in an instant in a visual and functional way. The software is supported with the power of AI for root cause analysis to identify bottlenecks and enhance performance of the processes. This enables management to establish total visibility and control over what happens on every level of the company.

At OptiMinds we ensure our customers are focusing on core processes and work with consistent best practices and state of the art applications to ensure maximum effectiveness and efficiency. Measure, manage and reduce your organization’s administrative tasks and bottlenecks to work faster, more conveniently and at lower cost. We want people to truly become an expert in processes, not processing.