Dedupe Your Processes

The phrase “dedupe your processes” was created at a board meeting I was at last week. If you know our portfolio, you probably can figure out which board meeting it was based on the use of the word dedupe.

It was part of a conversation where the goal of “Simplify Simplify Simplify”, which had been turned into “Simplify Simplify Simplify“, was finally listed as “Simplify”.

It sounds so obvious. But it’s so fucking hard.

If you disagree, do a quick reality check. Focus first on “within your company” when you answer the following questions.

Within your company, do you use more than one of:

  1. Google Drive, Dropbox, Box
  2. Skype, Hangouts, Bluejeans
  3. Asana, Trello, Basecamp
  4. Slack, iMessage, SMS
  5. Word, Google Docs

Those are the easy ones. Let’s keep going. Make a list of every SaaS-based license you have. If you don’t know what this list is, ask your VP Finance. If you outsource your accounting, hire a VP Finance. Now, consider how many different overlapping things you are using.

When you are tiny, it’s fun to experiment around with different things. When you get a little bigger, say 20 people, it’s natural to have multiple systems introduced as you try to optimize things, hire new people who are used to what they used at their previous company, or just get frustrated with what matters and distract yourself with something that doesn’t matter.

As you interact with more people outside of your company, you’ll add systems (and processes) to try to accommodate them. If you want to see an extreme example of this, just take a look at my computer and the number of apps and logins I have.

You will reach a point in your company’s life – typically around 50 people – where you realize you are wasting 20% of your collective time on overlapping systems, inefficient processes, redoing work because someone decided to build a database in Excel that doesn’t link to anything, or scrambling to pull together information that should be immediately available to everyone.

This is the point at which you should dedupe your processes. If you have a good CFO, she’s the one to lead the charge. CEOs should never do this as almost all CEOs I know are part of the problem either by holding on tightly to old processes or randomly trying new things all the time with the elusive goal of continuous improvement.

“Simplify Simplify Simplify”, then “Simplify Simplify Simplify“, and finally “Simplify”.

 


Also published on Medium.

  • I’ve thought of this process / infrastructure stuff as something the COO does, although I realize that many great CFOs naturally are good at this too.

    I also think a lot of these highly impact culture, so cross over into hiring / talent, which again I think more of in the COO’s corner.

    What do you think of as the classic role / areas of responsibility for the COO?

    • It’s a logical COO role, although most of the companies I’m an investor in don’t have a COO as early as they have a CFO. And – a great CFO plays a proxy COO role.

      • OK, that makes sense. Feels like the COO role is less well understood? Fits into some thoughts I’m having as I try and define my own roles.

        • COO is a poorly defined role, especially in smaller (< 100 person) companies.

  • Thierry Schellenbach

    getstream.io uses: Google Drive, Skype, Trello, Slack, Word & Google docs

    unfortunately can’t drop word as we use it for the fun documents we send to customers. (terms of service, contracts etc)

    this thought experiment also works well for infrastructure and hosting btw. nothing improves reliability as much as keeping things simple.

  • ktinboulder

    In big companies, sometimes the tools suck so bad that employees thirst for using the latest and greatest. Ironically, this creates the tool fragmentation that drives inefficiencies in a once simplified org communication structure.

  • dusano

    There’s another elegant way to compile a list of every SaaS-based license – let Squrb parse your credit card statements and help you with SaaS optimization. So if you don’t want to hire VP Finance just yet, check https://www.squrb.com/blog/2016/7/14/cut-excess-saas-spending-while-letting-teams-use-the-top-tools-squrb-introduces-corporate-cards-support

    Full disclosure: I’m founder and CEO of Squrb.

  • Really?

    True many smaller companies gain tools with staff. Simplify require an understanding that the tool serves the process at a growth stage where process is often rejected. Process done well allows focus on work freeing up the mind. Einstein simplified his wardrobe to free mental activity, process simplified is more time in the market or innovating

  • Kristjanfreyr

    I have had these debates multiple times. The most difficult part for me is when you have champions on different sides debating which is better (e.g. Jira vs Asana vs Trello), PPT vs Keynote, Exchange vs Google etc.

  • Yes. This works on so many levels and in so many places. You cannot be all things to all people. You cannot have several masters. In investing, multi strategy sounds good because we want choice, but it actually doesn’t perform as well as focus.

  • panterosa,

    OMG It’s the Konmari method for digital!! The magic art of tidying is performed by our digital janitor aka the COO. He rocks at it.

    The speed bump in all these things is of course poor design. When you have to have two things because neither does all. And yes once you’re onto a third it’s a slippery slope. I am the database design thinker, and with a digital janitor we are pretty awesome. But we still find gaps that we have to build ourselves.

    The hardest part is keeping current. Any thoughts on that? How much time should clean up be for what improved efficiency/speed? How much time per week should keeping it clean take (max)?

  • “almost all CEOs I know are part of the problem” — I read that and a nervous laugh followed.

  • fstein

    Great wisdom. Thanks. We often slide into this because we embrace agility and using cool new toys. Yet, almost all us startups are trying to build cool new toys.

  • The waste from doing this, having multiple systems is not insubstantial. Trying new things for a long time has hurt my operation a lot.

  • Millica Rigby

    SMEs want one provider, one helpdesk, one platform, all pre-integrated. They can’t afford the continual breakdown costs of app connectors. Similarly the staff get stressed with so many different looks & feels and ways of doing things. The onboarding and induction process is a nightmare. Your ability to change people is therefore restricted. Additionally it can’t operate like a true ERP system as everyone see every app in the connector world. myofficehub.com avoids all these problems, and it is a simple low cost models for SMEs. A pre-integrated all-in-one application