Time, we don’t have enough, we trade our time for money and yet we waste it all the time in our own businesses. How do we make the best use of it?
Are you up till 4am working on your invoices? Are you tossing and turning in bed because you cannot remember if you included all the information in your annual report? Are you up early because you know you have a lot of work to do today? Are you stuck working IN the business rather than ON it because only you can do it? Are you sending out reports then resending them again and again because someone noticed an error in your calculations?
Did someone break your excel spreadsheet so it doesn’t calculate any more? Or worst someone replaced your information with their own and now you have to redo many hours work.
Did you miss your son/daughter’s sporting event because you were tied to the computer on the weekend trying to get that job done by Monday? Is your business growth stunted because you are so focused on processing the data you are too tired to do anything else afterwards?
The good news is you are not alone. Many business owners feel the same way. The problem is not how to do it all but knowing what you can do to eliminate these issues.
The right information at the right Time
How can you make important decisions if you don’t have the right information? How can you make the right decision if the information is stale? A lot of time can be wasted generating the same information over and over again especially when the process is a manual process. Are your reports taking hours to run?
Being embedded in the system too much
Many managers are inadvertently embedded in the process. For example there are business owners staying up till 4am collating Job information to create Invoices for their clients. They know if they don’t create the invoices then they cannot get any money in. They know that if the invoices are wrong the clients will complain or even not pay. They are embedded in the process. Without them the whole cash flow system of their business fails. They go broke and the business goes under.
Getting it wrong… Sometimes.
Mistakes are a great time waster. This is why computers became popular. Back in the 1980’s the IBM PC became a must have business tool because it could accurately calculate numbers and provide consistent results. Now people expect to share that information instantly.
Fixing other peoples mistakes
People make mistakes, sorry but it’s true. We all know it because we have all made a mistake once. Time can quickly be consumed trying to track down incorrect information and chasing down the source of the mistake. The problem is multiplied when the volume of data is huge. Our brain can hold seven pieces of information at once. Computers can hold billions times more information and process it a lot quicker. The problem is one wrong piece of information can really upset everything.
Data entry can be problematic because there is a possibility of entering too many zeros, or maybe the original paper form was too hard to read. Or the zero was a 6 or an 8.
Queen wrote “too much love will kill you”, Too much data can do the same, probably a little quicker. Data overload is a problem of the 21st century. There is too much data and it can lead to information blindness, when people cannot see all the data in front of them.
To make important informed decisions you need Information not data. Information is a summary of the data which supports your decision making. For example a list of all the invoices for the last financial year is data. A summary of the total amount outstanding on invoices last financial quarter is information.
In the real world information goes missing. The problem with one real piece of paper is it can only be in one place at a time. Lucky James Watt invented the photocopier so we can now have two or more copies. However sometimes that one and only copy is missing, miss placed or simply in the hands of someone on the other side of town. We can always get the customer to fill out the order again or wait till the order is mailed to the head office. Until then the order cannot be processed as we don’t have all the information.
What can you do now?
Talk to any respected business coach and they will tell you systemize, systemize and then systemize. Ask Emyth’s Michael Gerber and he will tell you that systemisation will help you work on the business not in it. With a system you can delegate to another person. However how can you be sure they are doing it right? The answer is to use a computer system.
OPD – Other People’s Data
In finance they talk about Other Peoples Money for Leverage. Using other peoples data can also provide leverage. Make it some one else’s responsibility to fill in the information so you don’t have to. Save your self time and money by getting other people (your employees for example) to enter the information in for you. Even better with a smart form, your customers can enter the information for you and you can be confident that it’s right because the form is smart enough to only let correct information through.
With Electronic Online forms you can collect the information from the employee directly responsible for the task. Then when you need to you can collect the information instantly and process it.
Collecting the information as early as you can in the process ensures that it is less likely to get lost. The information loss can come from forgetting the information not on the paper (ie implicit knowledge) or simply loss of the original document.
Validate the Data
The computer system can ensure that the information is correct. Electronic forms can validate the information so that it’s right. For example when asked a clients age the system can ensure that they are 18+ and not over 100 years old (unless of cause that’s a possibility in your business)
Validating the data when it’s first entered means that the end results are more reliable. By controlling how the information is entered we can be more confident in the end results.
Many errors in data occur because of input errors. Sometimes the error is from fatigue when entering large volumes of data or misunderstanding the written data. Electronic forms ensure the information is entered clearly without the ambiguity that written forms can have.
The aim is to collect the information as soon as you can in the process. The longer the information is outside of the computer system the more likely it is to be lost. If the information on the form is incorrect or illegible then the collection process becomes more costly as time is wasted re-collecting the information again.
Dead Wood Storage Devices
We all know how much cutting trees costs the environment. Keeping the forms electric is less of a burden on the earth.
Keep it all in the one place.
When information is stored on paper it can only be in one place at one time. Unless of cause it’s copied using a photocopier or using carbon copy to create triplicates. However the information is store in the real world there are only limited “versions” of the information. One version may have notes or more information that the other copies don’t contain.
Using a cloud solution the same version of the information can be accessed and updated in multiple locations at the same time instantaneously.
When the information is to be shared outside of the organisation or even if the information is only used internally for decision making it’s very important that the information is compliant.
Compliance can be achieved by ensuring the software validates the data at entry and the process developed by the system only allows the right actions to be taken on the information. For example only a senior manager can approve a leave application.
Making sure that all the information is included in reporting, means there are not errors from omissions. Electronic forms can keep all the information together and aggregate it very quickly.
Sharing the information input relieves the burden of creating the information from one person; they are no longer the bottleneck in the system. Computer systems also help a business create a process around the task so there is a consistent flow of information through the business.
The manager is no longer a key part of the process; they can now use the system to get the results at the end of the process. They are not responsible for entering in all the information, nor are they responsible for consolidating the information manually.
Having the information online means it’s available when needed where ever it’s needed. Rather than carry numerous pieces of paper home so you can work on the invoicing on the weekend, have all the information on a system so you can access it while you’re at home or in the office and it’s all the same information.
With the advent of portable computer and tablets such as the IPad the information can be accessed everywhere you have the internet. Rather than have the clients fill in a piece of paper with the order then the sales manager enter the details again, why not have the order taken on the IPad by the sales manager. The information is entered consistently once!
When all the information is entered into the system and it’s time to report on the information, the information is available 24-7 from anywhere. Imagine being able to pull up the current status of sales on you IPad or laptop at the meeting?
Just like Goldilocks and the three beds, information can be too much, too little and just right. It’s important when you collect the information that you collect just enough information. Some time we tend to get greedy and try and collect everything. This makes data aggregation harder and also makes the data entry process more time consuming.
It is very important that you get all the information in an efficient manner. Efficiency includes making sure the information is valid as soon as you can. Ensuring the required information is obtained and that entry of information doesn’t take waste more time.
Ocom Software can help you design the forms to collect information in the most effective way possible.
The light at the end is not another train coming.
We are in the information age. The most powerful thing your business can have is information. Make sure you are managing the information you have in the most effective way possible.
Now you can get more sleep knowing that the information you need is being collected for you and that it’s right. You can also rest assured that the information is available when you need to run the report or invoice the customer.
No more sleepless nights worrying about wether you have all the information or not. No more getting up early to complete your work.
No more missing your son’s sporting match because you have to have the report ready by Monday.
Contact us now to find out how we can help you save time and money with Smart Electronic forms.