Improve Operational Efficiency with Better Information Flow

As we step into the new year, it’s a crucial time for team leaders and supervisors to assess operational efficiency. Optimizing information flow is an important step to improve team effectiveness and business efficiency. To pinpoint what you can do in your business to improve its productivity, think about how information is collected and shared in the daily work. When you find missing connections or bottlenecks, you’ve found opportunities to improve operational efficiency.

Key areas to improve business efficiency

Depending on how the business is structured, some changes will have more of an impact than others. You know your team best: what changes would most improve information flow and, subsequently, boost team productivity and operational efficiency? Consider the following areas and questions:

Address information bottlenecks

    1. How well does information flow at every step of business operations?
    2. Where are the bottlenecks that prevent communication and hinder productivity?
    3. Do you frequently have to repeat or re-share information or send individual updates regarding a task, project, job, etc.?

Optimize team and resource visibility

    1. Do you have clear insight into team members’ availability?
    2. How easy (or difficult) it is to do efficient task delegation?
    3. Is there a streamlined system for resource allocation?
    4. Are there disruptions due to double-booking or confusion over availability (of team members, shared spaces, or shared resources)?

Consolidate and collaborate

    1. Are there frequent miscommunications due to separate scheduling or communication systems?
    2. How easy (or difficult) is it for team members to collaborate?
    3. How easy (or difficult) is it for people to collaborate across departments?
    4. Is your team able to benefit from information or work done by other teams (and vice versa)?

The common factor is the need for information visibility. When all the members of a team can work easily with shared information, team productivity improves. And when teams are able to collaborate across departments, share knowledge, and seamlessly share resources, operational efficiency is better across the business.

The impact of information bottlenecks

Keep remote workers and field crews updated and set up secure, fast on-the-job documentation.

Healthy information flow is vital for business success. For team effectiveness, you need to eradicate information bottlenecks within the team. It’s also important to streamline and automate manual processes your team depends on when working with information (e.g. updating a schedule, sharing status changes on a task, adjusting a project timeline).

Consider, too, the impact of information silos on overall business efficiency: segregated data repositories hinders the flow of information across teams and departments. The result is redundancy and delayed or poor decision-making:

  • The marketing team has valuable insights into customer preferences, but the product development team doesn’t see it until months later. There’s a lot of wasted work on products that don’t align with what customers actually prioritize.
  • The office staff keeps customers informed of delivery times and scheduled service calls, but they don’t have real-time status updates from drivers or crew members. They often have to call customers back to correct their estimated delivery or service calls once they do get an update from the crew.
  • The finance team holds critical budgetary information that they release only in quarterly reports; meanwhile, other departments struggle to make informed decisions without accurate, up-to-date financial analysis.
  • The support team has all sorts of valuable customer feedback that could improve product strategy, inform the marketing team, and make customer education much more effective. When it’s siloed within the support system, it goes to waste.

None of these scenarios are good for operational efficiency. One of the key things a business can do to improve its productivity is to break down artificial, unhelpful barriers that keep information siloed.

How to address information bottlenecks

Look at your team, and the whole business, from a few steps back.  What are the key pieces of information that get captured, shared, and accessed? How does information flow from one step in a process to another? How does information flow from one team member to another, or from one team to another?

When you start to track the flow of information, you’ll spot the information bottlenecks. These are often created as people just “do what they have to do” when there’s no system in place. Over time, the bottlenecks seem to be cemented in place even when they’re ineffective and frustrating. But they don’t have to be there. You can put new systems in place to enable streamlined, secure information sharing:

  • Set up system for capturing job information and getting crew to document services, all in one place.
  • Use custom fields to ensure that specific details are always added to jobs, events, or tasks.
  • Create a centralized hub to serve all stakeholders as the single source for updated documents, links, files, and notes.
  • Get your creative team on the same page with an organized production calendar that brings all the pieces and stages together.

How poor visibility affects operational efficiency

Get scheduling for shifts, crews, jobs, etc., out of a spreadsheet and into a visual format that’s easy to use.

For businesses with scheduled work like shifts or field services, everything hinges on clear, visible team availability. You can’t expect team effectiveness if schedules are unknown and crucial updates don’t get shared with everyone impacted. Imagine a dispatcher needing real-time information on team members’ availability for emergency rerouting or an HR department juggling scattered PTO requests. You might not have to imagine it: you might be watching it happen every day. It’s frustrating for your team and terrible for business efficiency.

The same is true with shared resources, whether that’s fleet vehicles, equipment, lab space, or meeting rooms. Resource availability can make or break project timelines. Double-booking not only creates tension between individuals and teams, it also causes delays.

How to create transparency for teams and resources

Team availability is a form of information. So, solving the problem is about making the information visible. That’s the solution for efficient resource allocation, too. Transparent systems help solve problems by making it easier for everyone to find the most effective ways to work together.

  • Get team schedules in one place and make availability visible to everyone on the team who needs to know. For example, dispatch needs to know if any crew member has a sick day or schedules vacation; set up a shared calendar for crew schedules and PTO, and give dispatchers secure access to view it.
  • Merge scheduling silos for transparent availability and better operational decision-making.
  • Add a public holiday calendar (or feed) to make sure that public holidays can be easily taken into consideration when scheduling work.
  • Enable self-booking for shared resources with a secure, transparent system that fosters autonomy and requires less oversight from supervisors.

With clear visibility into team members’ schedules, businesses can delegate tasks efficiently and reduce communication hassles. With transparent resource sharing, teams can work together for better operational efficiency and a lot less hassle.

Consolidate and collaborate for business efficiency

A supervisor’s view of multi-team scheduling with folders on a single Teamup calendar.

When you’re setting up separate teams or projects, it might seem best to have separate scheduling systems. But when you need to compare schedules so you can allocate resources, avoid conflicts, and set budget priorities, you need to see everything in one place. Additionally, when teams operate in scheduling silos, they’re unaware of major projects or initiatives in other departments. Not only are there missed opportunities for collaboration, there’s often a lot of wasted effort and time when teams can’t benefit from each other’s work.

Even a few small changes, over an entire organization and the course of a year, can make a huge difference in operational efficiency. Start by identifying the greatest needs and frustrations. Ask your team for ideas on how to improve productivity and effectiveness. Then prioritize and implement one step at a time. Imagine how much better overall business efficiency could be with visible information connecting separate pieces into a cohesive whole.

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