In the coming weeks and months, maintaining business continuity is going to be essential to staying in business, preserving jobs, and maintaining the wider economy.
Many businesses still carry out a lot of their core activities in manual, paper-based, ways. It will be a struggle to maintain business as usual when people are, inevitably, forced to work from home, or are not available to work at all for periods of time.
With that in mind, here are five steps which you could consider taking, almost immediately and at low cost, to help address weaknesses in your business processes.
1 Office 365
If your organisation is already using office 365, you should make sure you understand all of the functionality that you already have available and how you could use it. In particular, look at how you can use SharePoint, Teams, Power Automate and the various other solutions that integrate into Office 365.
There is so much functionality in the system, that you may already be paying for, so it would be the first place I would look. For an example of what can be put together within only a few days, you can see this webinar I did recently with Hayden Sinclair of The SharePoint Agency.
There is also a huge amount of online training available. For example, LinkedIn Learning has 155 Office 365 courses.
2 Video Call Software
As an online business where we work remotely, we’ve always been heavy users of video call software. There are many excellent options available, and it is just a case of choosing one that will work well for you.
If you are using Office 365, then consider Microsoft Teams as you’re already paying for it. Otherwise, the system that I see seems to be being used most widely, and which is easiest to use, is Zoom.
Think about it not only for calls, but collaboration. Understand how the screen sharing works. You’ll be surprised how people could work together on the same process just by sharing a screen.
3 Digital Signing
I use digital signing wherever I can for signing contracts.
However, when I look at larger organisations, and how they currently manage approval processes, I think that digital signing has a lot to offer there too.
If your approval process currently relies on sending physical paper and attachments around a number of signatories, one after the other, or just using Outlook and then collating a lot of separate emailed approvals, look at digital signing. Some of the key features of the system we use (Secured Signing) are:
- There is a built-in workflow which will automatically send messages to all required signatories, either at the same time or in any order that you wish.
- They can receive automatic follow-ups.
- You can see the status of all items on a dashboard.
- You can add attachments.
- They can sign on any device, from anywhere, and once everybody has signed, a single PDF is returned to every signatory, as well as a central location where everything can be easily found.
- It integrates with Office 365.
Plans can start for as little as $10 per month, and you can do a free trial. For a free trial of our preferred supplier’s system, click here.
4 Document automation and workflow
If your business processes require the generation of documents, you should consider how robust the processes are. For example:
- Are your documents easy to find and use?
- Can one person easily prepare documents, or does it require a number of people to do various parts?
- What review or other quality control processes do you have in place? Will it be easy to review and approve someone else’s work?
It’s not just documentation processes that can be automated. Think also about how you can automate the provision of information to those who need it quickly to make good decisions. If you’re thinking creating a decision tree/flow chart, think about automating it in a form:
- Users will have a single place to go to and work through their situation
- You can update the logic behind the scenes without version control issues – they’ll always work through the latest guidance
- It can be dynamic. They’ll only see information relevant to their situation, so they’ll find it easier to get the answer they need more quickly
- You’ll see all the entries, and can see in real time what is happening across the organisation.
You can see examples of some simple automation in this webinar. Much more complex automation is also possible, often with only a few days work.
It is possible for everything to be available to your team online (perhaps embedded into SharePoint if you use Office 365). Users can collaborate with co-workers, customers or suppliers online, including using screen sharing.
5 Microsoft Planner or Trello
With your team no longer being in the office regularly, and face-to-face communication not occurring so regularly, you will need somewhere simple to be able to keep track of what needs to be done, who’s doing it, who has too much work and who could do more, and what the status of each item is.
If you’re on Office 365, you may want to start by looking at Microsoft Planner.
For these purposes at LawHawk we use Trello which we’ve used for a number of years. If you haven’t used it before, it’s like an online Post-It note board. It’s incredibly simple to use, has a free trial, and business plans that start at US$9.99 per user per month.
Do whatever works for now
We don’t believe there is any single solution that can do everything people need to do. Rather, it’s usually a case of finding a combination of tools that can be pulled together quickly and that will do the job required. If it’s not perfect, at least it will be significantly better than the current situation, and the time and costs involved do not need to be great. Because it hasn’t cost a lot, you can either improve or replace it later.
More than ever that’s the approach to follow now. IT teams will be overloaded with business continuity planning, so using something they are already comfortable with will help them a lot, as will finding ways to get things done without needing a lot of help from them.
At LawHawk we see ourselves as problem solvers who can help our customers understand their situation, and what options might be available to improve things, with a focus on immediate results. We specialise in legal documents and processes, but also work with businesses on less legally focussed problems.
If you’d like to know more about any of the suggestions above, or have some other particular problem in mind that you would like to get a steer on, please give me a call. If I can’t help you myself, I’ll be happy to suggest others who may be able to.