7 Ways for Businesses to Reduce Wasted Time

 |  By: Steve Johnson In: Agency management

McKinsey, the management consultantcy, has estimated that the average worker spends nearly 20 percent of their time looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. What is the percentage in your office? And what’s it costing you?

Every business wants to save time. Saved time improves profitability in three ways:

  • It directly reduces costs
  • It speeds up project completion which pleases clients
  • Each individual’s time saved can be used more productively – for example for more client work

It therefore has a multiplier effect, making its importance hard to over-estimate. But try as you will, there are some types of time waste that no amount of sheer effort will turn around. Here are seven of the most challenging examples.

1. Think scalability

Processes that work fine for a tiny business can quickly become unmanageable with increases in people, projects and job complexity. Beyond a certain tipping point (often around 15 people) you will find time running away from you. You can only push spreadsheets so far. It's time to get a proper project management system.

The Synergist effect: The Managing Director of Electrical Safety UK, Rebecca Frain, told us of the difference that switching to Synergist made to them.

“We used to run our business on lots of spreadsheets. It was time consuming, error-prone and the spreadsheets were created by different people, not all of whom were always in the office."

“We've dumped so many spreadsheets! We used to focus on trying to make spreadsheets work. Now we focus on making the business work."

2. Visibility of information

If you give employees the right information, they feel part of a well-managed team, understand where the interdependencies are, and realise more clearly the effect of a missed deadline on projects and colleagues.

The Synergist effect: Steven Clark, Financial and Commercial Manager of Branding and Design Agency, Tayburn, was interested to note how Synergist educated his non-finance staff simply by using it.

"It’s been an education for the team. It’s given them more of a sense of responsibility, more discipline.”

3. Take a fresh look at your processes

Are you still using methods that you inherited years ago? The chances are that your team is wasting time and it’s not even their fault. So, how lean is your business?

The Synergist effect: The Synergist implementation process will help you see exactly how your current processes operate and the most obvious areas for improvement. Plus the new tools can make it easier for more people to do tasks that were originally done by someone else, thus removing a bottleneck. Take estimating, for example. David Ladds, Partner at Bladonmore explained how Synergist helped.

"We don't need an estimating department. We need everyone to be given the tools and the data to estimate their projects accurately."

Managing Director or Brand and Digital Agency, Clevercherry, Nigel Wilson, said this after implementing Synergist:

“People are more empowered now. Decisions that used to drop relentlessly into my lap every day are now taking place with no fuss. That’s a payoff that keeps on paying.”

4. Time spent searching

You don’t need McKinsey to tell you that your team is frustrated when searching for internal information. Do they always know what they should be working on tomorrow? Has the client signed off on the work to date? Is the project slipping? Is the project stuck because of one person’s single task? Are we over budget? Have we done a similar job in the past that can shed light on the costs? What was included in the last two invoices to the client?

The Synergist effect: All the above is at your fingertips in one unified system. When one person updates a project, it immediately ripples across to everyone’s screen, even those accessing remotely via their phone.

5. Scheduling and Utilisation

A good scheduling and utilisation system should be able to handle a great deal: Links between timing plans / estimates to scheduling, avoiding re-keying. Account handlers being able to directly submit work requests. Instant visibility of current and planned loading on all resources and teams. Easy drag-and-drop process of tasks onto resources. When a timing plan changes, scheduling issues to be automatically highlighted. Under- or over-loading being highlighted with clear colour coding. Option of read-only visibility of planned schedules for account managers. Email alerts of new tasks allocated.

The Synergist effect: All the above is standard in Synergist. Simon Butler, co-founder of London digital marketing agency Purestone, told us:

"Accessing information, such as staff utilisation, is now done at the push of a button. It’s powerful.”

6. Invoicing speed

Invoicing manually is a famously time-consuming and error-prone task. It's a stressful time for those involved every month because there's so much detail to work through and so much at stake.

The Synergist effect: Andy Wainwright of Fifth Ring told us:

"Invoicing has become much slicker, and being able to properly manage purchase invoices against purchase orders for the first time completes the financial picture."

Rebecca Frain:

"The 2-3 week delay in invoicing has disappeared. It’s so much easier to get the data so we can bill it. Before, cash flow could be horrendous. After only one month of using Synergist this has been greatly helped.”

7. Reducing repetitive tasks

Is there anything more soul-destroying than having to do a tiresome thing again and again?

It would be bad enough if undermined morale was the worst of it. But there's additional danger here too. Doing dull things, and having to enter numbers more than once, are bound to create errors. Those sorts of errors are hard to spot. So you can't ever quite trust the outcome, which means that costings, invoices and reports are suspect.

The Synergist effect: Andy Wainwright told us:

"The biggest impact has been the huge reduction in tiresome and repetitive administration tasks, which has resulted in a considerable time and cost saving for the agency.”

And Rebecca Frain said: “We only have to enter information once now, and the information is prompted and logic-checked where possible, so it’s far more accurate. With Synergist we’ve cut out the equivalent of two administrative jobs right away.”