One of the main challenges we face is the influx of numerous small projects, which can hurt our bottom line. Every small request becomes a project in its own right. They each have a start date and a relatively short delivery date. Each has to be assigned, billed, accounted for, etc. The cost of handling them often does not reflect their size or value.
There is probably no one-size-fits-all solution to deal with them. So for the sake of brevity, I will not mention the retail side of the business. I will rather focus on the small projects themselves. To be part of the supply chain, a healthy translation agency has to fulfil two requirements. One is the huge numbers of relatively small projects from a client. The other is the short turnaround time.
Meeting both these requirements while maintaining control and efficiency is no small feat. My solution is the introduction of automation to your project management processes. The immediate advantages are:
- Minimized costs due to the reduction of manual operations as well as a reduction in errors and inefficiency.
- Replacement of many tedious tasks, such as, cost calculations, project related accountancy, vendor assignment based on pre-defined criteria, purchase order creation and even project delivery.
- Developing a useful insight into your business processes.
- Transparent and measurable processes. In-depth reporting helps you make informed decisions based on real data.
- Increased customer satisfaction. Turnaround times are brought to a minimum due to the immediate automatic work dispatch between project stages.
- Time saving on small projects. Customers choose project flow templates through an online collaboration tool.
All of the above result in reducing project management costs to a minimum. But make no mistake. I have yet to see an easy and painless introduction of automated processes in a more traditional business. The end results are absolutely worth the pain, but come at the cost of a major paradigm shift. These four guidelines are key to a successful transition from manual processes to an automated environment:
- Be prepared for big changes. In order to automate processes, you must first clearly document the current ones. This will immediately reveal all unwritten rules and common shortcuts. These are steps that you were not even aware of and are detrimental to your results. Automation will enforce strict rules and accountability, especially in the areas where you were lax.
- Be bold. Leverage technology by planning to automate as much as possible. Reshaping your processes into rigid templates takes effort. For best results, do not limit yourself to just a small part of your work. This approach will help you to use a big-picture strategy for your process restructuring. It will allow for much higher overall savings than would have been achieved with an isolated case-by-case approach.
- Follow a plan. Without losing focus of the final big picture, do not try to introduce too many changes at the same time. Prepare a plan for changes that are delivered in stages. Introduce new processes gradually.
- Remember that you are not alone. Automation should also be facing outward to your customers. Your clients will be thrilled at the possibility of submitting their requests to you 24/7 through an online tool. Customers also usually use their own suite of automated tools. Integrating them in your flow via APIs will help both sides to get the most benefits from the technical investment.
There is some reluctance to automation. It comes from the outdated perception that canned responses and automatic job dispatching seem to lose the human factor, which is so important in our work.
Nowadays however, the level of process customization is such, that there is always room to add your personal touch. Even a slight modification of a few messages can make a great difference in the way your communication is perceived.
You should also consider the fact that if you won’t automate a significant part of your processes, some of your competitors will. That will allow them to keep their rates low while maintaining a healthy margin and providing short turnaround times.
This should motivate you to consider using process automation as part of your day-to-day toolkit if you have not already done so. It will take a lot of repetitive, manual work off your hands, giving you more time for the things you do best.