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How we make practice workflow, work

If you’re an adviser, broker, senior accountant or other “front stage”, client facing member of a team responsible for delivering face to face value and generating opportunities, and you’re spending time ticking off completed tasks in workflow, I need to share something.

You’re doing it wrong. Very, very wrong.

You have permission to never have to do it again, and here’s why.

If you’ve seen the movie Zero Dark Thirty (the story of the capture of Osama Bin Laden), you’ll get what this next bit is all about instantly. If not, let me explain briefly.

In one a key scene from the movie, a raid is happening somewhere Pakistan,

The interesting thing is the people who are directing the operation are not in Pakistan. They’re back in a control room in Washington.

This darkened room is filled with secret agents and a wall of high tech monitors. They’re watching live images from a spy satellite, the feed from the helmet cameras of some active soldiers, and a whole bunch of other data.

They’re seeing the battlefield more clearly than any on-the-ground person.

Meanwhile, the highly trained Navy Seals are moving into position, doing the dirty business of executing (pun intended) and turning strategy into results.

The conversation flows. The control room feeds them orders and information about the lay of the land. The Seals respond to the orders, provide voice updates and act accordingly.

It’s an interesting lesson in the division of roles.

If we think about this very same battlefield scenario in the world of an advice business, I naturally think of the wall of monitors being the army equivalent of your CRM, task manager or workflow system.

You start to see how differently these tools are used in our world.

Often I see businesses where an expectation has been set that everybody marks their tasks off at the end of the day, everyone works in the workflow, everyone uses the CRM and everyone communicates via email.

It’s crazy, it’s wrong, and it’s not how it’s meant to work.

The focus of those “on the ground” shouldn’t be having to email or tick off tasks or frankly, use the technology of any kind.

Their job is to engage with clients and do what’s needed in such a way that enables the business to execute it’s mission.

Can you imagine if that very same Navy Seal team had to take a timeout to open their laptops, send an email back to control to update them on the next task in the queue and confirm they’d achieved their previous objective by ticking off a task in Salesforce?

I think we know how that ends.


The technology systems and the processes those technology systems are designed to enable (note the order) in the background are the eyes in the sky that enable you to know what needs to happen in your business, what’s actually happening, and what the results are.

And the people whose role it is to be those eyes – back office if you like, backstage, as we call them – they’re the ones an ambitious business needs to be doing the monitoring.

This is where it gets interesting.

You see, if this system is working as it should, it’s the people in the background, supposedly less senior people, who we need to be calling the shots.

Yep. That’s right. They need to be the Boss for this to work.

This is the greatest mistake I see when it comes to workflow tools, task management systems, CRMs and all the rest of it.

These are not tools for everyone to use.

They are tools designed to help those entrusted with making the business hum, to tell those entrusted to make the business grow, what needs to happen, and to track what’s already happened.

The lesson is this.

  1. If you have a system that requires your frontstage team to log on every day, tick off tasks and manage workflow, stop them from doing it.
  2. Hand over that responsibility to the people whose job it is to man the computers, manage systems, follow and track the processes, and make sure it’s all operating as intended.
  3. Work out a way for your front-stage team to provide the data needed to the back office without having to touch a keyboard. Then find a simple means for the back office to let the front office know what they need answers to. We use Voxer and I highly recommend it.
  4. Get everyone clear that it’s the role of the people in the office to tell those front stage what to do next and record what’s happened.

Do that and it’ll change the way you view technology and workflow.

I can’t promise a purple star or a front page capture headline, but you might just find yourself discovering just one a number of key strategies that ends in you truly realising the huge productive potential the wave of affordable SME technology offers in this brave new age.

Want a next step?

Don’t hesitate.

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