The overall performance and efficiency of your business can be adversely affected when your workflow suffers from a series of bottlenecks, hindering productivity levels in a number of different ways.
Your business can experience bottlenecks for a variety of reasons. It is essential that you identify and fix these issues so that your workflow levels improve.
One example of how to eliminate bottlenecks in your workflow would be to use data warehouse solutions to help organize and streamline your data using by using one central platform for greater efficiency.
Let’s take a look at some typical workflow bottlenecks and how to fix them.
Understanding What a Bottleneck is and What Type It is
Your first task is to identify what type of bottleneck your business is experiencing. It is imperative to pinpoint whether you have created a temporary issue that needs resolving or you have a more long-term systemic problem.
The best type of bottleneck, if there is one, is a short-term bottleneck. A temporary problem such as when a key team member becomes unavailable, for whatever reason, could create a backlog and delays because there is no one else available who has the same skills and knowledge to fill their role.
This short-term backlog is the easiest to fix as you can easily identify why you are experiencing delays and know that the problem will be resolved when the key worker returns to their desk.
Long-term bottlenecks are obviously much more of a problem. If you find the same delays to your process each month there is clearly an issue that needs to be fixed so that your workflow improves.
You should not accept these bottlenecks as something you simply have to contend with as part of your workflow. These inefficiencies can cause lost revenue, cause customer dissatisfaction, and unnecessary stress amongst your workforce.
Identifying a Bottleneck
Bottlenecks can occur across a range of different tasks and scenarios. A good example would be to look at what a performer-based bottleneck looks like.
It is relatively easy to spot if you have a problem with one of your processes.
If a task is taking much longer than anticipated every time you need to break down the process and try to identify what it is that is taking longer than it should.
Setting up a new customer on your database, for example, should take a limited amount of time to input their details and check all of the information is correct.
If you take the time to create a workflow document that shows each stage of the process you might be able to spot some points in the process that could be improved or eliminated altogether.
Cutting down the whole process from twenty minutes to ten minutes, for example, is a classic example of how easy it can be to fix a performer-based bottleneck and improve your workflow.
Trying to identify whether you are suffering from a system-based bottleneck requires you to check whether a process is being delayed as a result of a technology issue.
It could be an uploading error, or it may be possible that your system is slower than it should be in processing data.
A good way of spotting that you might have a system-based bottleneck that needs identifying is when the same complaints from users keep surfacing about either certain elements of the program, or the system itself.
Long wait times to get the information and reporting data you want are a surefire sign that your business is experiencing a system-based bottleneck.
There are also some other ways to find bottlenecks. A good way of achieving this aim would be to use process mapping.
Process mapping is a great way to analyze your entire workflow so that you can see if every aspect of the process is compliant and working in the right way. You will need to create a suitable flowchart and it may also be necessary to carry out a workflow audit.
By looking at the key steps in each workflow process you can quickly see which elements are not meeting the right standard and where bottlenecks are occurring.
By determining the key metrics for the results that you are expecting to achieve you can then compare this with the actual results and see where things are slowing down or backing up.
Fixing The Problems
Once you have identified where the bottleneck in your process is you will obviously want to apply a fix to get things running more smoothly and efficiently.
There are two fundamental ways to unblock the bottlenecks.
The first of those would be to find a way to increase the efficiency of the bottlenecked step that you identified. It depends on what the specific issue is as to what level and type of fix you apply.
A good example of a system-based fix would be to upgrade your software or consider whether using a data warehouse solution might give you a more streamlined and increased level of computing power.
Another way of approaching the problem could be to look at how you can decrease input to the bottlenecked step. You might be able to identify a way to reduce the volume of tasks that lead up to this point in the workflow or it might be feasible to find a way of eliminating the step in the process altogether.
If you are able to do this, it would obviously resolve the bottleneck and that should deliver an instant improvement in productivity and efficiency.
Another consideration would be to try and work out of your bottleneck is happening as a result of relying on manual input. It could be that you find a way to remove human intervention in a part of the process that is suffering blockages by finding a way to fix the problem with automation.
Eliminating bottlenecks in your workflow can sometimes be easy to identify and fix. Some challenges are more complex, but with the help of workflow audits and by mapping out your processes you should be able to identify and resolve any workflow bottlenecks in your business.
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