Don’t Get Stuck On The Tools

Does ‘Systems and Processes’ always mean high-tech?

We’ve become so used to technology these days, it seems our default position is to search for an app or some software to get any job done.

This makes sense to some degree, though can also lead to overwhelm when starting out systemising your business. Or worse… a lot of wasted time and money on blind alleys and dead ends.

The two key stages when you create any system or process in your business are Planning and Implementation.

In that order.


As you start down this journey, please don’t reach for some fancy online sketching, mapping or wire-framing tool.

You will slow yourself down, because now you have to learn to use the new tool before you can get any value from it.

Add to this the fact our brains and creativity have had tens of thousands of years to develop… our software skills, not so much.

Just use pen and a whiteboard.

When you use the tools everyone has access to and can already use, you’ll make much more progress, faster. And you’ll be able to involve your team better and easier too.

Don’t reach for technology right away, just think and design. Draw pictures on the wall and discuss them with your team.


Here again, a misconception might be that it all has to be software and complex.

Now, you will benefit massively from using the correct software for your business, but you’ll only know what that looks like when you really understand your designed processes and workflows.

Here’s an example.

I worked with a kitchen design and installation company.

The product was really high quality, but the business was in complete chaos.

Nobody knew exactly where they were with each project. Everyone seemed to have their own idea of progress and how things were to be done.

This meant that customers experienced the chaos in their own homes during the installation, creating a lot of unnecessary inbound customer service enquiries.

Internal communication took up a lot of time and caused frustration for everybody.

It was almost impossible to plan anything more than a couple of days in advance, as there was always some crisis to sort out.

Morale and productivity was on the floor.

A No-Tech solution

The solution we designed for them was to have each project in one of eight stages. From Design to post installation Follow-up.

In addition, each stage had an associated checklist, and a project could not move to the next stage until the checklist was completed and signed off by a supervisor.

The checklists ensured that everyone understand what it meant, and what was required for a project to be in a certain stage. The 8, clearly defined stages meant that anyone could walk into the office and see exactly where any project was, and how many projects were in any given stage.

This meant it was a whole lot easier to allocate staff and resources to the projects when they needed it, rather than simply reacting to the project which shouted the loudest or had the latest crisis.

The technology used for this process?

8 pigeon holes, and a cardboard folder for each project – with the checklists stapled to the inside of each folder.

This was a super-simple, no-tech solution, and it had an immediate impact on the business.

The business was able to:

  1. Grow capacity with their existing team – reduced chaos meant greater productivity;
  2. Improved customer experience – clients now knew when each stage of their project would be completed;
  3. Reduced internal communications – staff simply needed to look at the pigeon holes and folders to see exactly where a project was and what needed to be done;
  4. Reduced inbound customer service call – because customers now knew what to expect and when.

In time, this type of system can be transferred to a software platform and everything can be managed online, including some additional automation where required for a process.

However, if the business was focussed on choosing software at the outset, they would not have identified and designed a process with as much impact as possible, because all the focus would have been on the software and not their systems and processes.

Don’t get stuck on the tools!


Author: Pieter De Villiers

Pieter K de Villiers is slightly obsessed with systems. The systems and process automation he builds for small businesses are transformative, to say the least. Pieter is a Co-Founder of Blue Peg Group and the Amazon best-selling author of “Barefoot Business: 3 key systems to attract more leads, win more sales and delight more customers without your business killing you”.



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