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Five common workflow problems and how to solve them

Be more productive by resolving these common problems with our top tips.
close up of hands using a smartphone

Do you feel hindered at work? Are inefficient processes and procedures slowing you down?

You’re not alone. As workplace demands escalate, many of us feel like Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen, running as fast as we can just to stay where we are.

Much of the hustle is unnecessary, caused by burdensome procedures and outdated office technology. While upgrading has a cost, so does not doing it. Businesses lose 20 to 30 percent of revenue a year because of inefficiencies, IDC research found.

Employees who feel stifled often deviate from standard processes, according to Deloitte studies. Sometimes their workarounds are successful, but the results may not meet enterprise security standards. Besides, reconfiguring systems takes time and energy that could be better spent on solving business problems.

Fortunately, some of the most common workflow problems have simple solutions. Here are five you can address right away:

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1. Systems that don’t “talk to” one another

More than 80 percent of business leaders have systems and applications that don’t coordinate with other internal systems or those of outside partners, an IDC study found. As a result, document tracking becomes impossible, version control is a nightmare, and employees waste time copying and pasting or retyping information.

Solution: Create a document management system with standardized processes. Make sure it incorporates software that lets you track documents. Companies that addressed their “document disconnect” problem increased revenue 36 percent and reduced costs 30 percent, the IDC study said.

2. Remote teams and collaboration difficulties

The average worker now telecommutes two days a month, according to Gallup. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, many business leaders had predicted that half their workforce would be remote by 2020. This number has since increased drastically. Hiring far-flung employees and contractors gives your business access to talent, but it also makes sharing information difficult.

Solution: Hold remote meetings through videoconferencing. Use collaborative software that allows teams to work on documents simultaneously, both during the videoconference and after. Use your multifunctional printer (MFP) to upload documents, spreadsheets and graphics to online folders where teams can access them at any time.

3. Endless meetings

About half of meetings are considered a waste of time, and employees spend 31 unproductive hours a month attending them, an Atlassian study found. Forty-five percent of employees feel overwhelmed by the meetings they’re required to attend, and nearly half say they’re the biggest office time waster. Unnecessary meetings set U.S. businesses back $37 billion a year in salary costs, the study shows.

Solution: Take a page from the intelligence community, which classifies information on a “need-to-know” basis. Limit attendees to those for whom the subject matter is crucial. Talk to key decision-makers in advance to save time, and consider stand-up meetings or meeting-free days.

You can also save time and money on meeting preparation by streamlining time-consuming document packets. If your office has a modern multifunctional printer, chances are you can press a button to connect with cloud-based storage systems such as Google Drive or Evernote. Send documents and spreadsheets to attendees in advance. That allows them to come better prepared and may shorten the meeting or make it more productive — or both.

4. Lengthy invoice processes

Invoices require layers of approval, and paper-based systems bog you down. Employees lose time searching for documents, and no one knows what stage of the process they’re in, frustrating suppliers.

Solution: Scan invoices into your multifunctional printer with the press of a button, sending them directly to the finance department for review and approval through a digitized system.

Not sure how to do that? Contact the manufacturer or authorized reseller from which you leased or purchased the multifunctional printer. Their representatives can show you how to use this and other advanced features that will make you more efficient.

By using the digitized system, you can track progress and keep accountants from wasting time on forms. You’ll also eliminate errors that occur with manual processing. Over time, a digitized system can reveal spending trends and inefficiencies, giving you insights on how to improve your business processes.

5. Being unable to locate information when you need it

You know that statistic you need for your PowerPoint presentation is somewhere in your email, or maybe it’s in a shared folder — but which one? You need it now, so you call IT for help, but they’re too busy to respond.

Solution: To avoid this problem, create personalized scanning destinations on your multifunctional printer. You can do it without IT help. Have materials sent where you need them — maybe to your smartphone, where you can access them anywhere. You can also use your phone to take pictures or scan barcodes and transfer the files to shared storage so that others can see them.

Time is too precious to waste on disorganized office workflows. Make sure your office systems are up to date and instruct workers on using them — and remember that any good office technology company will have representatives on hand to offer assistance and training as needed to optimize your efficiency.

When you’re aware of the resources available to you, it’s surprisingly easy to make changes that will increase your productivity and improve your bottom line.

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