You might not be familiar with the word ‘bottleneck’ in an entrepreneurial context, but there’s every chance your business will experience one sooner or later. It’s a term originating in manufacturing plants, where delays at a particular stage of assembly caused disruption and inefficiencies further down the production line. However, bottlenecks occur in service industries, too. Examples of this include delayed deliveries preventing order dispatch, or prospective customers going elsewhere because sales staff don’t respond promptly to inquiries.
While technology can often cause bottlenecks in digital or web-based enterprises, it also provides solutions. Below we have outlined tools to help prevent or resolve some of the most common bottlenecks in modern enterprise, stopping the weakest link from determining overall efficiency…
Problem: Lack of communication.
Emails aren’t responded to, deadlines are missed, customers grow impatient and business is lost.
Solution: Use team-based tools like Trello and Slack, which display last-online dates while supporting collaborative working. If manager A leaves a query unresolved, manager B can step in, as it’s easy to see what stage a project is at, and steps are required to complete it.
Problem: Project delays.
New projects are laborious to execute, with lengthy pauses between stages and a lack of collaboration among departments.
Solution: Map the process using diagrammatic software such as Visio or Lucidchart. Identify key deadlines, who’s responsible, and what happens next. Appoint one person to generate and distribute weekly progress reports to everyone involved, so they all understand the process.
Problem: Data silos.
Information might be stored on one employee’s C drive, or not communicated with other departments. This causes bad decision making and frustration.
Solution: Host data in the cloud where it can be accessed by anyone with clearance. Use Google Docs/Sheets, so people without Microsoft Office get to view and edit it. Publish brief summaries of team activities on Trello/Slack, updating everyone about available information.
Staff on holiday/sick leave might cause deadlines to slip, while commuting is a daily challenge. Parents often struggle to balance work and family commitments.
Solution: Permit home working, so illness or family emergencies don’t prevent work going ahead. This removes the traffic and travel problems too. Cloud-hosted software, push email and VoIP calls maintain channels of communication for remote-working employees.
Problem: Inefficient customer relations.
A backlog of existing orders prevents new ones being serviced promptly. Customer service staff get overloaded, and social media is ignored.
Solution: Preload social accounts with content using Buffer or Zoho, so weekday activities can focus on new messages. Upload a detailed FAQs page to the company website which answer common queries, thereby freeing CS teams to focus on more unusual or pressing issues.
Problem: Slow website.
Inefficient coding or inept hosting strangles site traffic. This is detrimental to SEO, as customers will quickly migrate to rival websites.
Solution: Employ a hosting company with multiple data centers and high-performance servers. Ensure the website is streamlined as far as possible, with no unnecessary plugins or CSS. Use image compression tools to minify visuals, and host video clips via YouTube.