Do more with less - but how to do it?

[date-stamp]Doing more with less is a normal thing these days. Businesses get more and more competitive, and in order to stay in business, doing more with less is required. There is a continuous demand to improve the bottom line of the company, be more productive, and improve overall performance. Let's look at ways to achieve more with less.


Use the best tools available

There is a reason tools are released in new versions. There's also a reason that some tools wither and die, and new, more effective ones take their place. New and updated tools can do things smarter, with less effort, and with a better result. Note that selecting the right tools can be a make or break for a business; if the wrong tool has been chosen, this can seriously hamper your efforts to do more with less.

One example is CRM. If your organization has settled for Tactile CRM, chances are great that this CRM system will cause you more trouble than it’s worth when acquiring and keeping your customers. It is slow and lacks basic reporting so it's hard to keep an overview, and you're lucky if you ever get an answer from their customer support. Using such a tool is a clear disadvantage for your business.

So choosing the right tool is more important than most realize; this choice can literally make or break the company. Earlier this year, I blogged about a company where a friend of mine works, and they had fallen into the trap of using the wrong tools.


Automate tasks

Having people doing tasks that can be easily automated is a waste of time and money. With the plethora of automation tools available now, it is almost a crime not to use them. Do you post a lot of information on social media? Use HootSuite to schedule when posts are to be published. Then you can schedule up to a week’s worth of social media posts, and then you're done with that for the next week. No need to spend hours every day clicking on the publish button in various social media throughout the day. In an earlier blog post, 10 cloud applications every company should be using, I touched upon this topic and more. Being efficient and not getting stuck with inefficient applications just because that's what was hot three years ago when you last reviewed your software stack.


Focus on scalability

Investigate everything, which is done by your company, and divide things into two: Those that can scale easily, and those that cannot. For marketing actions, emailing more people is easily scalable but cold calling and knocking on doors is obviously not scalable. For software developers, using an integration server to automate unit tests is easily done, as well as using dependency injection to make your code easily manageable. However, if your code is monolithic, adding features to it will require far more resources than if it is loosely coupled.


Measure the effect of changes

When doing a change in how you work, it is just as important to measure the effect of that change as doing the actual change.  How can you know the change had the desired effect without measuring the effects of it? It’s impossible. If you have launched a large social media campaign to increase the number of visitors to your website, you need to measure the number of visitors on your website to know if the campaign had the effect you wanted. If you have recently switched from one marketing firm to another, measuring sales and lead times is vital. Otherwise, how can you know that the new firm is actually doing better than the old one?

The consequence of measuring is taking action if the numbers from your measurements show that the effect of a change is not as expected. If that new marketing firm does not lead to the increased sales that you were after, fire them and find someone else. It is important not to be sentimental with such things; if a change does not work, kill it or change it again. Continue tweaking until the desired effect has been achieved.

Taking action based on data like this is in general a very good way to run a company. Decisions are data-driven, and if results are not met, something needs to be done. This is how many of the best run companies in the world operate.


When it's good enough, move on

It's easy to get lost in the details when doing things a new way. Using some principles from agile software development might be a good idea, where a feedback loop with the customer is established early on and multiple iterations are performed in order to get as good a result as possible. The first iteration is far from perfect, but, incrementally, things get better and better until things are good enough. Defining the "good enough" point is important; by continually moving the goalposts on what is good enough will lead to changes taking a lot longer than they have to.


Have a plan

The things mentioned above are company-level things, but there are things you can do on your own as well in order to do more with less. Have you ever tracked your time during the day and seen how you actually spent time? I have, using RescueTime. This is an app that installs on your machine and looks at which application you are using. Spending all day reading news in-between answering emails? RescueTime will reveal this, plus it divides things up into productive and non-productive things. Spending time in Microsoft Excel is normally more productive than reading the Washington Post :-)  This can be an eye-opener, and lead to a more conscious approach to how you spend your time.

One good approach is to plan your day as the first thing you do in the morning. List the tasks you’re going to do, and put a priority on them. Then execute the tasks by priority. Do this on a few days, and you'll be amazed at everything that can be done in a short amount of time.

StrategyStein J. Gran