Author: Arah Perrett, Business Consultant 
I have spent more than 30 years working within financial services. My career started as a cashier and since then has spanned many roles including Telemarketing Manager, Financial Adviser, Bank Manager and Development Consultant. During that time, I have worked with owners of financial planning practices who typically have many concerns that they must address. Some are out of their control; the Covid 19 virus is certainly an example of that. However, one problem that is very common is also eminently fixable - the lack of a clear and defined work flow process within the business. 
The lack of replicable processes creates a whole range of issues within businesses. It: 
 
Adversely impacts on efficiency 
Increases the administrative workload 
Steals time away from being with clients 
Makes training new staff more difficult 
Increases costs 
Contributes to burnout. 
 
It is almost always linked to having back office systems that are no longer fit for purpose. 
The Fidelity Fund Network point out that 'back office administration and business efficiency are an expressed top business challenge for one third (32%) of advisers'. 
 
Businesses tend to grow organically from inception and bits of process are bolted on along the way. Process drift is almost inevitable unless this area is reviewed on a wholesale basis at regular intervals. Many businesses don’t do that, which is why this issue is so prevalent. 
What are the benefits of effective work flow processes? 
 
There are huge benefits for firms in defining, documenting and enhancing work flow processes. Here are just a few examples:  
 
Better client service - identified systems are predictable and so will provide more consistent service to clients 
Better productivity - once systems bed in and the team are trained, the business can do more in less time, possibly with fewer people 
Better audit trails - evidencing that regulatory requirements are being met is much more straightforward 
Better morale – is there anything more enervating than constantly fire-fighting in a barely in control working environment? 
 
Peace of mind can't be overstated. Working with antiquated systems that don't deliver is a major source of stress in some businesses. 
Ideas for better work flow 
 
Here are some things that firms can do to improve efficiency within their business. 
 
Start by asking questions: 
 
What do we do? Why do we do it? How do we do it How do we improve? 
 
It is not unusual to find that firms have fallen into the habit of doing things that add virtually no value to the business. 
Design a complete end to end work flow chart of what the firm does including all tasks that contribute to the desired outcomes of business. This can be done on a whiteboard or you may prefer to use work flow diagram software. 
Involve all members of the team – this helps to overcome the issue of some parts of the process living in the heads of individuals and not being easily available to the business at large. 
Develop a process manual that documents how to complete all steps included in your work flow. This then becomes the go to way that ‘things are done around here’ and is especially useful for onboarding new team members. 
Review your IT software – systems that don’t talk to each is often a major contributor to business inefficiency. 
Reward positive behaviour – ideally a prerequisite to any bonus or incentive scheme is that individuals are supporting the processes that exist within the business. 
 
 
Conclusion 
Having an efficient and repeatable workflow increases the flexibility of the business and puts it in the best place to deal with external turbulence. It can also be a daunting task. Getting help from an external consultant can be a cost and time effective way forward as it adds objectivity, perspective and expertise. Like it or not, many businesses have been forced to pause. While the business environment at the moment is really challenging, it is also an opportunity for re–invention. 
 
Thank you for reading this! I hope you have found it helpful. Please get in touch on 01452 489 942 if you would like any other information. 
 
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