How many times have you checked your smartphone today? 25 times? 50 or more? Do you even notice you’re doing it anymore?
The proliferation of mobile devices has transformed us into an app-driven society. Not only individuals but also many South African businesses are firmly embracing this trend, with the average small business’s owner using 18 apps to run their company every single day.
Running a business means handling endless tasks. Staying organized, focused and sane through it all can be a challenge for any size business owner.
By using a variety of billing & invoicing, project management, CRM, marketing and productivity apps to improve your business processes, it's easy to create one centralized place where you and your team can get things done.
If you think that mobile apps are solely for big name brands like ABSA, Takealot and OUTsurance, you are wrong. More and more small and midsize businesses are following the mobile trend, understanding that an effective mobile strategy involves more than just a mobile-friendly website.
Businesses today want to provide their clients with a flawless experience – every time, and the only way to do this is to embrace technology and though mobile apps. Many companies are already leveraging the power of mobile apps to improve their business processes, making their operations convenient, efficient and profitable. Using mobile apps, these businesses are augmenting their capabilities, exploring novel possibilities and transforming everything about the way their businesses operate.
But still you may wonder - do business apps really deliver what they promise? Or are they just another expense that, in the end, can’t really be justified by their ROI or deliver on improving your business processes?
You probably use dozens of business processes every day, without even realising that it is a process.
For example, you may go through the same steps each time you order a part from your supplier, capture a new and prospective clients information, resolve a customer complaint or provide a quote to a client.
You've likely come across the results of inefficient processes, too. Dissatisfied customers, overworked colleagues, missed deadlines, and increased costs are just some of the problems that dysfunctional processes can create.
That's why it's so important to improve processes when they are not working well. In this article, we'll look at the benefits associated with improving your business processes through the use of business apps.
What is a Business Process?
A business process is a collection of linked or related, structured activities or tasks performed by people or equipment; which in a specific order produce a service or product for a particular customer or customers. A business process can also be defined as a set of activities and tasks that, once completed, will accomplish an organizational goal.
Business processes are mainly classified as two types:
- External process and
- Internal process,
Internal business processes occur at all organizational levels, and can generally be categorized into management processes, operational processes and supporting business processes.
Processes can also be formal or informal.
External Business Process
One of the best examples of how globalization, increased on the go connectivity and a mobile app can help you enhance business process is a banking app. There are many banking apps used extensively, no matter what part of the world you are in.
Using such apps, South African customers can purchase airtime, pay bills, order products online, check statements, make payments, and do a lot many banking activities by simply tapping on your smartphone or tablet using your fingertips.
If we talk about the business-specific impact of such banking apps, it’s remarkable. Consider SnapScan for example; a quick, easy payments app for you and your customers that allow customers to pay you wherever you are. With SnapScan, they can pay their bill from the table, at the coffee counter or at the usual point of sale.
The business benefits? Improved payment efficiency, which means you can serve more people in less time. Not only does it increasing your operational efficiency, but if your bank account is linked to Sageone accounting software for example, at the mere click of a button you can import all your sales into your accounts.
The more comfort and convenience you can offer to your customers and prospects by using external apps to compliment or augment your internal business processes, the more they will be attracted to your business. This also helps increasing retention value and find new customers. If not for sale, apps can also be used as a marketing and promotional tool.
For example, a restaurant owner can create an app that allows its customers order food via app through their smartphone or tablet. Similarly, those in the hotel industry can create an app and let their customers book accommodation using their handheld devices.
Internal Business Process
There are three types of internal business processes; they are:
- Management Processes: The processes that govern the operation of a system.
- Operational Processes: The processes that constitute the core business of the organization and create the primary value stream.
- Supporting Processes: The processes that support the core processes. Examples include accounting and technical support.
Examples of internal business processes include:
- Shipping products
- Receiving orders
- Updating personnel data
- Determining marketing and other budgets
Processes can be either formal or informal
- Formal processes – also known as procedures – are documented and have well-established steps. For example, you might have procedures for receiving and cataloguing goods to your store invoices, or for establishing relationships with new clients.
- Informal processes - are often ones that you have created yourself and have not written them down. For example, you might have your own set of questions when communicating with a prospective client or making notes.
The Importance of Efficient Processes
All business processes have one thing in common: they're all designed to streamline the way that you and your team work.
When everyone follows a well-tested set of steps, there are fewer errors and delays, there is less duplicated effort, and staff and customers feel more satisfied.
Processes that don't work can lead to numerous problems. For example:
- Customers may complain about poor product quality or bad service.
- Colleagues get frustrated.
- Work may be duplicated, or not done.
- Costs increase.
- Resources are wasted.
- Bottlenecks can develop, causing you to miss deadlines.
How does apps affect each of the 3 different levels of business processes?
As the name suggests, an operational process is a primary or basic process through which any company delivers services/ products to its clients. It is an integral part of any organization and need to be paid close attention to, as it directly affects the deliverables to the clients.It is a process that relies on efficiency and accuracy, and by improving this process it has a direct effect on the output of the enterprise.
By connecting your people to your operational systems, not only can you streamline tasks to Improve Efficiency, you can also make workflows more efficient, effective, and adaptable to changes in the business environment.
But how exactly are they able to accomplish this? We’ve compiled a list of several very concrete ways in which business mobile apps can improve your company’s operational efficiency.
A. Costly Errors
The use of mobile business apps prevents costly errors. How many times has a mistake or even just sloppy customer handwriting on a form forced your employees to return to a job site or make a phone call for clarification? How commonly do employees lose or forget forms?
And how much time gets eaten up resubmitting paperwork by printing forms, filling them out, scanning them, and then emailing them? Apps remove operational inefficiencies like these from the equation.
We humans are fundamentally flawed. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have our strengths and weaknesses.
Consider absent minded-ness; being preoccupied to the extent of being unaware of one’s immediate surroundings. Abstracted, daydreaming, inattentive, oblivious, forgetful. We are all guilty of this at human trait, especially when we are at work.
Mind-wandering is an under recognized influence on work performance, which can lead to mistakes and inefficiencies in any business process.
Efficiency in performing a process or a job function is dependent upon an individual’s ability to access and/or provide information timeously and accurately to management, co-workers or to clients to achieve and realise set company objectives. By using apps such as Evernote, Microsoft Office for Mobile, Hours, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Anylist and many more apps workers are able to Ensure Efficiency through the use of Productivity Apps.
By using apps, you can help reduce mistakes and miscommunication, a very common occurrence in many organizations, resulting in making an organization’s workflow more efficient, effective, and adaptable to changes in the business environment.
Not only can apps increase efficiency but also productivity.
Consider, for example, you’re on a sales call at a prospective client. If you have mobile apps to manage sales and inventory, you can close the sale right away. But if you have to check stocks, availability, pricing, etc back at the office before closing the sale, you could lose the sale altogether.
Customer information stored in filing cabinets can take too much valuable time to locate. Even saving it on a desktop requires that employees be at their desks in order to access it. Keeping all that information in the cloud, and instantly accessible from any location through an app, streamlines any task requiring customer data.
Enterprise mobility solutions also save time by making processes easier for employees. Rather than writing or even typing data onto a form, apps can provide drop down menus and check boxes to simplify the process. They can speed up the processes of sales prospecting, of providing job quotes, of crew deployment, of invoicing. And all that extra time can now be used for revenue-creating purposes, rather than administrative tasks.
Adaptability means as a business you are able manage situations outside of the ordinary, like custom orders and rush sales. The ability to do these things means you’re able to offer better service to customers. And when you offer better service to customers, you gain an advantage over your competitors.
But it’s not just the sales department that benefits from mobile business apps. Manufacturers, field service workers, quality assurance supervisors— can all benefit from mobility, especially in the form of mobile business processes. Having processes, forms and data on hand-held devices means data gets into your system faster, workers are more efficient, and tasks are more convenient. It’s a win-win-win.
Many workers — such as nurses, first responders, field service technicians, or delivery drivers — depend on reliable mobile access in real-time to critical information at the point of interaction.
When it comes to modern-day business, enterprise mobility is not a luxury anymore but a competitive advantage. Enterprise Mobility allows employees of any business organization to work remotely and to fulfil business tasks and activities using mobile devices, mobile applications, and cloud-based solutions.
Critical issues may crop up in a business environment anytime, without prior notices or hints. Enterprise mobile applications allow the employees to resolve such issues on an urgent basis irrespective of their presence and availability at the office location.
Real-time interactions are also made possible with the clients that result in better customer engagement and satisfaction.
E. Mobility solutions reduce overhead costs.
Paper is slow and expensive. Even just storing paper - printing and filing - is much slower than storing files digitally. Digital files are also more environmentally and health and safety friendly than paper, which is a growing concern, especially when you’re dealing with a lot of files which could be a fire hazard.
In addition, storing paper requires a lot of space, it can be lost or damaged. Storing data digitally is also much easier, and if you’re storing files on a cloud server (or your own server), the data is much more accessible than paper files.
Think about all the paper you’re still using in your business, especially paper forms – and the time it takes to fill them out before having to capture the details electronically again? Imagine if you could take all those paper forms and not just digitize them but think about all the paper you’re still using in your business, especially paper forms – and the time it takes to fill them out before having to capture the details electronically again? Imagine if you could take all those paper forms and not just digitize them but make them accessible on mobile devices. Imagine how much easier that would make things like quality assurance, inventory management and logistics.
f. More accurate data
Why do businesses have bad data? There are many reasons, but the biggest one is simply human error. Humans are fallible, after all: sometimes we don’t pay 100% attention, or we forget details before we have a chance to write them down.
Mobility can help reduce human error. Why? Because users can enter information right away, when it’s still fresh in their minds, right from a mobile device. This reduces the likelihood of human error, meaning your data will be cleaner and more reliable than it was before.
Why does good data matter?
When you have good, reliable data in your system, you’re equipped to make better decisions about your business and align processes to achieve desired goals. If the data is accurate, it will provide you honest insight into your business. If the data isn’t accurate, you’ll be basing your decisions on a shaky foundation.
Mobility might not take humans out of the data collection process altogether, but it can definitely reduce human-caused errors by streamlining business processes for better decisions.
By implementing the use of mobility solutions to streamline your processes, your business can realize a significant ROI in operational efficiency, cost reduction, and time savings.
Support processes are the processes which do not deliver the final product/ service to the client, but it creates an environment that is suitable for the primary processes to function smoothly.
These processes do not directly generate value to the customer. Having said that, the support processes are also vital for the enterprise. The processes like management processes, accounting processes, and human resource processes facilitate the working of an organization.
Enhancing these processes means making the fundamentally and strategically strong. Although the support processes, do not add value to the client directly, they help in developing a solid working environment.
Examples of such apps are:
- CRM apps such as Salesforce
- Accounting software such as Sageone
Similar to support processes, the Management processes do not add value to the end customer. These processes are more oriented to monitoring and analysing the business activities.
These processes deal in up scaling the business, introducing new verticals and bringing innovation to the firm. Management processes are goal oriented and aim at designing and achieving tangible as well as intangible targets. Management processes help in making the enterprise a brand and by standing out and providing its clients with value in intangible terms.
Once the understanding of processes is clear, identifying the process which is to be optimized to achieve the set target becomes very clear.
Examples of areas where mobile apps can support Management Processes include:
- On the go reporting
- Realtime reports
- Realtime data analysis
The rise in mobility coincides with the ability to use applications to streamline workflow processes.
By leveraging and deploying either custom or existing mobile applications that can be integrated into existing operational processes and systems, it offers organisations an opportunity to streamline this process and stay ahead of application demands.
Many organisations today are facing a battle to keep up with the demand for mobile applications in a timely and budget friendly manner. Mobile applications can take an average of five months to a year to develop and cost an average of between R50,000 and R250,000 per application.
Is it not time you talk to iSolve Mobility about your next Business Application?