The 10 Best Business Optimization Tools to Get More Done
Whether it’s the workplace disruption brought on by hybrid and remote work arrangements, the stress of restricted operational budgets during economic uncertainty, or the often-debated “quiet quitting” and Great Resignation phenomenons, business leaders are very worried about employee productivity and company output. Leaders can put these worries to rest by leveraging business optimization tools available to make the most of their workforces and operations.
Why Businesses Need Optimization
According to Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Report, 87% of employees believe they are productive at work, while 85% of managers say they struggle to have confidence that workers are productive. The trend is so pronounced that Microsoft’s Satya Nadella declared that “productivity paranoid” is plaguing executives.
Managers may have some empirical evidence to support their concerns. Employee productivity soared during the pandemic before plummeting in 2022. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity declined at the sharpest rate in more than seven decades, reinforcing many leaders’ assumptions.
Meanwhile, many companies are missing the earnings or revenue targets, forcing them to make cuts at a critical time and requiring remaining employees to do more with less. When coupled with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), it’s clear that now is the right time to rethink how work gets done.
For companies looking to thrive in the year ahead, business process optimization is key to more impactful, profitable, and sustainable operations, including optimizing employee productivity and introducing new automation efficiencies into existing workflows.
Keep reading to learn more about business process optimization and the steps and solutions that can help your company do more in 2023 and beyond.
What is business optimization?
Business optimization is a systematic approach to enhancing the efficiency, effectiveness, and overall performance of business processes. The goal is to increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve customer satisfaction by identifying bottlenecks and inefficiencies, streamlining processes, automating tasks, and leveraging data and technology to make informed decisions. This can be applied to many business functions, including manufacturing, supply chain management, customer service, and human resources.
For example, facing a challenging economic environment, supply chain problems, and structural inefficiencies, Ford Motor Company announced plans to “simplify goals and performance metrics for employees” while enhancing its supply chain and mitigating factor floor inefficiencies.
Together, the company believes these changes can help it better compete with its competition, which it says is 25 percent less efficient than other industry players.
Ford’s experience is emblematic of the experience of companies of every size in every sector, and business process optimization can help meet those challenges.
An important aspect of business process optimization is that it optimizes the utilization of existing resources without the need for additional investment, training, or operational capacity, thereby improving the bottom line.
Simply put, business process optimization transforms existing processes and workflows, reducing waste and promoting excellence.
How To Optimize Your Business
Optimizing your business can feel daunting, but a strategic approach can help produce lasting results. In fact, we created a step-by-step guide to help you achieve just that!
To get started, consider the following steps as a general framework for optimizing your business, and then read our in-depth guide to help you make the most impact.
- Identify the process(es) to improve through a process audit, employee surveys, or critical process step evaluation.
- Collect data to support informed decision-making. This includes metrics such as process outcomes, operational functions, and financial performance. Collection methods can include behavior analysis, surveys, interviews, process mapping, and observation.
- Analyze data trends to streamline, enhance, or replace existing processes. Use software solutions to identify critical connections and eliminate redundancies, gaps, and cumbersome processes.
- Implement controls to ensure process efficiency after improvements are made. Regularly collect and analyze efficiency data for further opportunities to improve.
- Continually monitor, gather feedback, and make improvements as needed.
- Repeat the process optimization formula for other processes in the organization. Business process optimization should be a continuous effort to keep systems running efficiently.
What’s more, companies don’t have to navigate this process alone. There is a growing suite of business optimization tools that support this process, ensuring that leaders have the resources they need to enact the changes they want.
The Most Important Business Optimization Tools
Business process optimization is predicated on data collection, and companies will need copious amounts of structured and unstructured data that can identify potential bottlenecks, underperforming employees, or other productivity pitfalls.
Here are a few of the best business optimization tools available to help leaders collect this information and improve various business processes.
#1 Time Trackers
Time cards can be a thing of the past as time trackers allow employees to easily and digitally record their working hours. Not only does this information support necessary organizational processes, like payroll, but it provides insights into when and how much people work, which can inform everything from employee well-being to normative work schedules.
#2 Activity Monitoring
Understanding when people work is only one part of the employee analytics puzzle. Activity monitoring paints a more complete picture, generating real-time information on what people do with their time. Companies, including Microsoft, have leveraged this information to understand when people are at their best and organize their meetings and other activities accordingly.
#3 Project Management Systems
Efficient workflows are essential to business optimization, and project management systems offer data-driven insights into this essential business element. Project management systems allow managers to see which projects are being worked on and for how long.
#4 Customer Management Systems
Customer management systems provide valuable data for business process optimization by tracking customer behavior, incorporating feedback and surveys, collecting customer support data, and tracking sales data. By leveraging this data, businesses can make informed decisions and continuously improve their processes to stay ahead of the competition.
#5 Web Analytics
For many businesses, their online presence is critical to lead generation, sales conversion, and customer engagement. Google Analytics and other web metric software solutions can help companies remain agile and responsive to their online offerings.
#6 Payment Processing and Management Systems
Payment processing looks much different than it did a decade ago. Now, the best payment processing solutions enable everything from secure mobile payments to on-the-go point-of-sale products. They can also be an essential data source, offering insights into everything from buyer preferences to shopping trends.
#7 Collaboration Tools
The recent pandemic inspired a surge in collaboration tools. According to Gartner, 80 percent of workers used collaboration tools in 2021, a 44 percent increase since the beginning of the pandemic. Companies can leverage this technology to better understand employees’ responsibilities, workflow patterns, and project outcomes. Collaboration tools can be something as simple as a chat application for employees or more involved like an online whiteboard.
#8 Scheduling Applications
Employees are a company’s most valuable and often most expensive asset. Improving business processes often requires leveraging personnel appropriately, and scheduling apps can help optimize that process while providing helpful data for understanding personnel allocation.
#9 Automation and Machine Learning
2023 has been dubbed the year of AI. From the sudden launch and rapid popularity of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Dalle 2, it’s clear that AI will play an important role in business process optimization in the year ahead. However, it’s not just these novel technologies introducing new automation opportunities. AI is accelerating everything from R&D to customer service, presenting opportunities for companies to support and connect with their customers. Automation can be introduced to workflows as standalone optimization techniques, like using OCR for data entry and classification, or as a feature within other applications like security operations tools.
#10 Behavior Analytics
Behavior analytics software can accomplish many of these tasks, including time tracking, activity monitoring, process automation, and so much more. According to McKinsey & Co., 90 percent of companies believe that people analytics are critical to their HR strategy and business success, but less than half of leaders have a data-driven culture. Easily-accessible, actionable behavior analytics can change that dynamic, enhancing data-driven decision-making across organizations.
The Best Business Optimization Software
Companies have an expansive software ecosystem to help support their business process optimization efforts.
Teramind offers affordable, scalable, and intelligent business process optimization software that provides accurate and actionable user behavior analytics. Teramind boosts organizational efficiency by providing data-driven insights into employee work habits and processes, enabling optimization across a company or within a department.
Trello is a flexible and easy-to-use project management tool that allows teams to organize their work into boards and cards. Whether managing a startup or a Fortune 500 company, Trello provides a visual and collaborative project management experience that informs and helps implement business process optimization efforts.
The average company uses 77 apps to facilitate its day-to-day operations. Zapier helps connect those often-disparate ecosystems, allowing teams to work more efficiently and effectively across platforms. It also compasses with robust automation tools that simplify tasks and streamline workflows.
Qualtrics is a survey and data collection tool that provides a wide range of customization options for collecting and analyzing data. Whether soliciting customer input or looking for employee feedback, Qualtrics helps companies collect valuable data that inform data-driven decisions.
Especially for companies with remote or hybrid teams, organizing work, from documents and spreadsheets to manuals and directories, can be challenging. Notion makes this process simple, connecting teams, projects, and documents, so a single silo can serve many purposes.
To optimize your business, it’s important to identify processes to improve, collect data to support informed decision-making, analyze data trends, implement controls, and continually monitor and make improvement.
There is a growing suite of business optimization tools that can support this process, including time trackers, activity monitoring, project management tools, and more. With the right approach and tools, organizations can optimize their operations and achieve more impactful, profitable, and sustainable outcomes.