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Operations Management

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In-depth guide to different types of operations management
Project Management 10 min read

In-depth guide to different types of operations management

Get to know the different types of operations management with Wrike’s in-depth guide, including multiple templates you can use.

An Epic Change: How the Odyssey Hotel Group United Operations in Wrike
Project Management 10 min read

An Epic Change: How the Odyssey Hotel Group United Operations in Wrike

Discover how the Odyssey Hotel Group used Wrike to unite disparate teams, streamline processes, and create a single source of truth for multinational operations.

What Is an SOP? How to Write Yours
Leadership 10 min read

What Is an SOP? How to Write Yours

SOP stands for “standard operating procedure,” a list of prescribed steps to complete a task. Here’s how to write an SOP for your own team or organization.

What Is Lead Time?
Project Management 10 min read

What Is Lead Time?

Lead time indicates how long it takes to go from start to finish. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the lead time meaning and how to calculate lead time.

Why Your Operations Team Needs a Sales Tracker
Project Management 10 min read

Why Your Operations Team Needs a Sales Tracker

Sales is part art and part science. It balances a charisma, careful relationship-building, and gut feelings with refined processes, clear metrics, and data-backed decisions. It's a balancing act. And sales can feel even more complex because it's a function without a clear start and stop. Sales teams are responsible for nurturing and converting leads but also retaining and even upgrading existing customers.  Needless to say, any sales professional will readily admit that there are a lot of moving parts — and that's exactly why a sales tracker can be so beneficial.  What is a sales tracker? As the name implies, a sales tracker is a tool or database that stores, organizes, and manages all of the information and updates that are relevant to your sales process.  While you might readily think of keeping track of any sales your team makes, a sales tracker is far more comprehensive than simply logging your closed deals. It should also house things like: Contact information Leads and opportunities Conversations and outreach Lead and customer history Sales goals and success metrics Put simply, your sales tracker is the single resource where your entire team will record, conduct, and maintain all of your different sales activities.  Who uses a sales tracker? Hear the term "sales tracker" and the answer to this question seems pretty straightforward: the sales team. Of course, the people on your sales team will do the bulk of the day-to-day work with your sales activity tracker. They'll use it to set goals, monitor performance, and manage their daily tasks. But this tool is far-reaching and offers benefits for other people and departments, such as:  Leadership can use the sales tracker to understand performance, make projections, and set realistic organizational goals Marketing can use the sales tracker to understand the sales process and how they can better support lead conversion and customer retention Customer support can use the sales tracker to understand how they can provide better service and minimize objections during the sales process So, while a sales team will be the ones who are in the weeds with a sales tracking platform on a daily basis, they certainly aren't the only ones who will benefit from it. In fact, sales trackers are most advantageous when they're shared across the organization so everybody can understand what it takes to get new customers to come (and stay) onboard. How to Train Your Team to Use a Sales Tracker Implementing a sales tracker tool is a significant step towards streamlining your sales process. However, its success largely depends on how effectively your team can use it. Here are some steps to ensure your team is well-equipped to use the sales tracker: Start with an Introduction: Begin by explaining what a sales tracker is, its benefits, and why the company has chosen to implement it. Highlight how it can make their work easier and more efficient. Detailed Demonstration: Conduct a step-by-step walkthrough of the sales tracker. Show them how to log in, update information, track progress, generate reports, and use any other key features of the tool. Hands-On Training: Allow your team members to explore the tool hands-on. This could involve creating dummy data for them to play around with, or real-life scenarios to practice on. Provide User Manuals and Guides: Create detailed user manuals and guides that team members can refer to when they need help. These resources should be easily accessible. Regular Follow-Ups and Support: Conduct regular check-ins to address any issues or challenges your team may be facing. Encourage them to share their experiences and provide necessary support and solutions. Continuous Learning: As the tool gets updated or new features are added, ensure to update your training materials and conduct refresher training sessions. Remember, the goal is to make your team comfortable and proficient with the sales tracker. This not only requires initial training but also ongoing support and learning. Why is sales tracking important? Perhaps you and your team have been making things work without a unified sales activity tracker. Why bother going through the work of pulling everything into one place?  Having a centralized spot to manage all of the stages and tasks in your sales process does more than help you figure out how to keep track of sales. It offers a number of other distinct advantages, including: Organize and centralize your information: You might be able to limp along with scattered spreadsheets and siloed email threads, but it's definitely not the most efficient or effective way to get things done. A sales tracker offers a single source of truth that people can reference for any sales activity — whether it's finding a customer's contact information or understanding the last time anybody touched base with a lead. Increase visibility: Related to the above, sales really is a team function. While individual salespeople are undoubtedly pursuing their own quotas, ultimately the whole team is working toward a broader goal of making as many sales as possible. What happens if somebody is on vacation? Or goes out on leave? Or leaves the company entirely? A sales tracker gives everybody the context they need about relationships with various leads and customers – so they can step in seamlessly without missing a beat (or an opportunity). Plus, leadership has instant and easy visibility into what the team is doing and how they're performing. Identify opportunities for improvement: A sales tracker boosts visibility across the team and the entire organization, but it also gives you better insight into the various phases of your sales process and pipeline. Is it taking you too long to touch base with qualified leads? Are people losing interest during a particular point in the process? Are certain salespeople way outperforming others? Your sales activity tracker empowers you with the information you need to further refine your sales processes. Close more deals: Combine all of the above and you get the biggest perk of all: a better sales process that helps you close more deals. Salespeople aren't spending as much time searching for information or getting up to speed on a lead's relationship. That means they can channel more time and energy into nurturing that relationship and converting the lead. It's little wonder why 54% of sales professionals say technology is a great resource for building stronger relationships with buyers. The same report found that 54% of sales representatives also say that digital sales tools help them win over more prospects.  Making sales is one of the biggest driving forces behind your organization's success — and it deserves more than random spreadsheets, disparate dashboards, and dated Rolodexes. With a sales activity tracker, you and your team readily have the information you need to pursue your ultimate goal: closing more deals.  What makes a good sales tracking platform? You're convinced that a sales tracker is a resource your team can't go without any longer. How do you get started? There are plenty of sales and operations teams that opt to track sales and all related activities in a centralized Excel spreadsheet. Here are a few popular sales tracker templates: HubSpot's lead tracker spreadsheet Excel's online sales tracker HubSpot's CRM spreadsheet However, spreadsheets do have some pitfalls — particularly since they require manual updates and lack a lot of the time-saving integrations and automations you'll find in dedicated sales tracking or work management platforms. Additionally, sales is an important function with tons of different aspects. You need a solution that can manage and monitor them all, which means you might quickly outgrow a spreadsheet (or run the risk of it becoming too large and unruly to easily reference and use).  Fortunately, other technology steps in where spreadsheets fall short. There are other options (like Wrike!) that can help you manage your sales process and avoid the drawbacks of traditional spreadsheets. Here's what to look for as you figure out what sales tracking platform is best for you and your team. Sales forecasting You don't just need to make sales — you need to estimate how many deals you'll close in a given time period. This isn't about shaking a Magic 8 Ball or pulling a random number out of a hat. You need to base your forecast in data and history.  That's hard to do if you don't have a place where you can access your past performance. Your sales tracker should display all of that relevant data — how many leads you converted, how many customers churned, the average size of each deal, and more — so that you can better estimate your projected revenue moving forward. Beyond informing your projections, your sales tracker should also have a place where you can store your estimates and even use them to establish success metrics that will help you monitor your team's progress.  New lead tracking Marketing teams know that lead generation is a relentless challenge. But when you finally have those qualified leads in the pipeline, the hard work isn't over.  In fact, research shows that many sales teams struggle with nurturing leads, which is arguably one of the most crucial parts in the sales process. When asked about their greatest challenges to lead conversion: 43% of companies say they struggle to collect enough data on leads 41% of companies say they struggle to follow up with leads quickly 39% of companies say they struggle to make initial contact with leads 35% of companies say they struggle to maintain contact with leads 29% of companies say they struggle to filter and funnel leads 25% of companies say they struggle to set appointments with leads A sales tracker can help with all of these. It pulls all of your leads into one place and also stores all of the must-know information about them. Plus, a sales tracking platform will nudge the process along with features like clear task assignments, reminders for when it's time to check in, and tags so everybody can quickly see what step of the process a lead has reached.  Less leads getting lost in the shuffle means more revenue on your team and company's balance sheet. Activity tracking Has anybody reached out to that customer about upgrading their account yet? When's the last time somebody got in touch with this super qualified lead? Who's generating your sales report this month? Sales teams are spinning a lot of plates. It can be tough to keep track of what you need to do on your own — let alone everything that the entire team is working on.  Needing to check disparate spreadsheets and platforms wastes time and also leaves too much room for errors. Team members could step on others' toes or, potentially even worse, let an important task or lead slip through the cracks.  A sales activity tracker brings some order and visibility to everything that the entire team is doing so that your sales operation can run like a well-oiled machine. Most platforms will include: Clear task assignments Due dates Labels Status updates No more guessing about who's doing what (and when). Your sales tracker will spell it all out for you so that you can boost productivity and performance.  Data visualization  Staring at seemingly endless rows of digits and dates is enough to make anyone's eyes glaze over — especially if you're searching that spreadsheet for one number or piece of information. That's why it's important to look for a sales tracking platform that has data visualization features. This will break your complex rows of data into more digestible and actionable charts and graphs. Whether you need to get a grasp on your revenue, number of leads, average deal size, or any other sales-pertinent metric, your sales tracker will quickly and painlessly get you the information you need — without having to comb through daunting spreadsheets. Plus, data visualization makes it far faster and easier to create any important sales reports and prove your value to other departments and company decision makers. Future Trends in Sales Tracking Sales tracking is an evolving field, with new technologies and methodologies constantly emerging. Here are some trends to look out for in the near future: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): AI and ML are set to revolutionize sales tracking. They can analyze past data to identify patterns and predict future outcomes, helping sales teams to make more informed decisions. Additionally, AI can automate routine tasks, freeing up time for salespeople to focus on more strategic activities. Predictive Analytics: Predictive analytics tools will become more sophisticated, enabling sales teams to forecast sales trends more accurately and plan their strategies accordingly. Integration with Other Tools: Sales trackers will increasingly integrate with other tools such as CRM, marketing automation, and customer service platforms. This will provide a more holistic view of the customer journey, enabling sales teams to tailor their strategies more effectively. Mobile Sales Tracking: With the rise of remote work, mobile sales tracking will become more prevalent. Sales teams will be able to update and access sales data on the go, making them more agile and responsive. Real-Time Reporting: Real-time reporting will become a standard feature of sales trackers. This will provide sales teams with up-to-the-minute data, helping them to respond quickly to changing sales trends. These trends represent exciting opportunities for sales teams. By staying ahead of these trends, sales teams can leverage the latest technologies and methodologies to improve their performance and drive sales growth. Step up your sales efforts with Wrike Whether it's art, science, or a little bit of both, sales is one of your company's most important functions — it has a direct and undeniable impact on your growth and your bottom line. That means it's worthy of some careful planning, strategy, and organization. Siloed spreadsheets and sticky notes aren't going to cut it when it comes to a winning sales process.  Ready to get started with sales tracking software that helps you close more deals (with less stress)? Wrike has tons of features to level-up your efforts, including: Automations to streamline your entire sales process Easy and intuitive lead organization Tailor-made blueprints and checklists for lead tracking  Real-time communication tools Reports to analyze performance, find patterns, and refine your sales techniques Integrations with other popular sales apps Customizable sales templates to save you time Don't leave your organization's sales success up to chance (or spreadsheets). Get the order and organization your sales team deserves. Get started with a free trial of Wrike today.

Employment Verification Letter Templates
Collaboration 10 min read

Employment Verification Letter Templates

Need an employment verification letter? Here’s how to request one, along with employment verification letter templates for employers.

Operational Planning: How to Make an Operational Plan
Project Management 10 min read

Operational Planning: How to Make an Operational Plan

Learn how to create an operational plan that will help your business succeed. Check out our guide to everything you need to know about operational planning.

What Is the Cycle Time Formula?
Productivity 10 min read

What Is the Cycle Time Formula?

Imagine that your customer just sent you an urgent request. They need a specific deliverable as soon as possible and ask how long it will take to get it done. Knowing they need it urgently, you want to deliver as quickly as possible. You believe your team can turn around the customer’s request within the next two weeks, so you set a strict deadline, promising to meet your customer’s expectations.  With the customer communication handled, you quickly reach out to your team to inform them of the request and urgent work. To your surprise, your team feels frustrated, annoyed, and bothered by the fact that you’ve promised such a quick turnaround — because it’s going to be nearly impossible for them to do the work in that short period. You thought a specific task would take 40 hours to produce from start to finish, but your team says it will take at least 80 hours to complete that task. The work has been scoped inaccurately, the customer has been promised a deliverable they may not receive, and your team’s morale plummets as they work extra hours to try and deliver on the guarantee you committed to.  You and your team are knee-deep in a mess, and you wish you would have known more accurately how long the work would take to complete. You want to prevent this from happening again in the future to ensure both your team members and your customers stay satisfied and happy. That’s where the cycle time equation comes in.  We’ve rounded up the fundamentals of cycle time, its benefits, two other formulas it works alongside, how it should be calculated, and how to track it. With a solid understanding of the cycle time formula, you can avoid ending up in these types of scrambles and deliver high-quality work in a timeframe that’s reasonable for both your customer and your team.  What is cycle time? Cycle time is a calculation that comes from the world of lean manufacturing. The cycle time is the amount of time it takes to complete a specific task from start to finish. You can think of it as the time it takes to produce one unit or item from beginning to end. In our example from earlier, it’s the actual amount of time (80 hours) your team told you it would take to get the work done. The cycle time formula is all about revealing the speed of delivery. It’s a crucial metric that allows you to measure how long it takes to complete a product or deliver a service. It can also be considered part of continuous improvement efforts since it can expose areas of inefficiencies that you and your team could address. It’s also a valuable metric when it comes to measuring productivity and efficiency within a business.  Cycle time can be applied across a broad range of industries and types of work. In software engineering, it refers to how long it takes to deploy code, or in supply chain management, it can explain how long it takes to fulfill a product order. But, industry aside, it also applies when managing projects of any size. Even if you aren’t working with physical product development, calculating cycle time can help you understand how long it takes to get work done — from beginning to end.  What are the benefits of calculating cycle time? Calculating cycle time can be a huge benefit to your business. Here are some of the key benefits of calculating cycle time and why you should be using the cycle time formula if you aren’t already: Increased profitability from cost savings. With the speed of delivery top of mind, when you maximize cycle time, you reduce costs and increase your profitability. Having a clear understanding of how and where time is being spent is a quick way to understand where you can cut back. In one case study, an organization’s pretax profits increased from 2% to 13%, in part due to an in-depth understanding of cycle time alongside other lean principles. More consistent production. When you have an in-depth understanding of your production flow, you can implement processes and tools to ensure consistent production rates. By honing in on your production rate to standardize it, you’ll eliminate the chances of under and overproducing. Highly-satisfied customers. Have you ever been in a situation similar to the one in the introduction? Where you promised a customer a deliverable within a timeframe you weren’t able to meet? It happens all the time when we don’t have a clear understanding of how long it takes to complete specific tasks. When you calculate cycle time, you can figure out your production rate and provide more realistic timelines that you can stick to. More efficiencies within your team’s working structure. When reviewing and assessing your cycle time, the data offers an opportunity to address inefficiencies. For example, maybe your cycle time indicates that you can’t deliver quickly enough and provide the turnaround times that you’d like. In that case, you can determine whether you can increase your production batch to deliver more quickly. You can use cycle time as a major player when it comes to identifying process improvements. Improved project scoping. If you lack a clear understanding of how long it takes for your team to complete specific tasks in their work, it’s challenging to scope work accurately with your customers. This leads to frustration on your team when they realize a project is way more than they bargained for, as well as with your customers when they realize you need to push out your deadline. Cycle time will give you a more accurate project scope than simply taking an educated guess. Outpace your competitors. Want to beat your competitors and retain loyal customers? Outpace your competition by being the partner who delivers within the quickest production time. You can use the real-time data and visibility provided by your cycle time to stay ahead of the market. Calculating cycle time will help ensure you’re putting your business at a competitive advantage and blowing your competition out of the water. A better understanding of business spend. Based on the cycle time of any given task, you can determine the worth or value of individual processes. Having an understanding of cycle time and how many resources are being paid to complete production tasks within a specific period can give you a clearer understanding of business spend. In turn, you can focus on optimizing the processes that create the most value and bang for your buck. What are the challenges of calculating cycle time? There are plenty of benefits to using the cycle time formula in your project, but it can be difficult to use correctly. Some common issues that can arise when calculating cycle time include: Communication siloes: Team members each working on their own tasks without regular and effective collaboration can lead to issues in the project's workflow. Lack of prioritization with tasks: With so many tasks being worked on at once, it can be hard to pick out where efforts should be focused for the good of the team. Can throw supply and distribution channels out of whack: When altering cycle times, there is a risk that this will offset the balance of your project's supply and distribution, which is important to stay aware of. Cycle time vs. takt time vs. lead time To best understand the cycle time formula, we need to talk about how cycle time works in relation to a couple of its closest formula counterparts: takt time and lead time. First, it’s essential to understand that cycle time, takt time, and lead time are different. In particular, cycle time and lead time are necessary metrics in the Kanban project management method. These metrics often get confused for one another, and while they’re related, they differ and are used to measure productivity in different ways. Let’s take a quick look at each metric.  1. Cycle time As we previously mentioned, cycle time represents the amount of time it takes to complete one task, production, service, or process from start to finish. It’s the amount of time required to produce a product or service or complete an entire cycle. We’ll get into the specifics of the cycle time formula later, but keep in mind that the formula is calculated by examining net production time (NPT) and the number of units produced within that production time.  2. Takt time  In contrast, takt time is the speed at which a product needs to be manufactured to satisfy customer demand. It’s similar to cycle time but emphasizes production speed in relation to how many customers are demanding your product or service.  In a perfect world, cycle time would match takt time. It makes sense, right? The rate at which your team produces a product, project, or deliverable matches the customer demand you’re up against. If your cycle time exceeds your takt time, your customers will be dissatisfied because you can’t keep up with the demand. And vice versa; if your cycle time is less than your takt time, there may be opportunities to improve your processes and work more efficiently. Your process might be too complex, or you might have too many staff members for the amount of demand you need to deliver on.  3. Lead time The third formula we need to understand is lead time. Lead time is the amount of time it takes to run through the entire production cycle from the order stage to the final payment stage. This metric reveals the time that elapses between order and delivery and gives insight into how long your process takes from the customer’s perspective. In a nutshell, taking a look at these formulas together can provide insight into how efficiently your business is operating as a whole. The cycle time formula, takt time, and lead time allow you to understand your business processes from the inside out. When you use these formulas together, you’ll experience higher overall customer satisfaction because you’ll be able to provide accurate estimates on how long production will take. It’s a win-win scenario for you, your team, and your customers.  So, how exactly can you use the cycle time formula to get a grasp on how long it takes to get specific tasks done? Let’s run through how to calculate cycle time and a few examples to help you get started.  How do you calculate cycle time? How exactly is cycle time calculated? The calculation itself is a relatively straightforward division equation that goes as follows: Cycle Time = Net production time (NPT)  / Number of units produced  That’s pretty simple, right? Not so fast! When calculating cycle time, it’s essential to understand that the net production time shouldn’t take into account any breaks or waiting time that affect the production process. This number strictly measures the time it takes to complete the task or produce the product, minus the extra fluff and downtime. Let’s take a look at a few examples.  Cycle time in professional services First, let’s look at a project-based example that applies to the professional services industries. Suppose you work at an organization and lead the internal marketing team. This year, you want your team to focus on building out your overall content strategy, which includes producing more online content and boosting your SEO rankings. With this in mind, one of the strategies you’re implementing is producing more blog content. You need to understand how many blogs your team members can produce before determining how the blog content will fit into the overarching content strategy. Let’s say you have five content writers. Each content writer averages approximately two and half hours of production time for a 1,500-word blog post. You want to understand the cycle time to generate 20 blog posts total because you’d like to publish 20 blogs per month. Using these numbers, we can calculate the cycle time for the entire team as follows:  Cycle Time = 2.5 hours / 1 blog post totaling 1,500 words The cycle time is 2.5 hours, and if we multiply this by the total number of blog posts we want to generate, we can see that it will take 50 hours for the team to complete 20 blog posts. 2.5 hours x 20 blog posts = 50 hours Using this information, you can now build in the total number of hours needed to generate blog content into your team’s schedule and do a more effective job building out your content strategy.  Cycle time in delivery services Here’s another example. Let’s walk through how cycle time applies in terms of a service delivery task. Suppose you work for the postal service and run the regular mail delivery routes. You run the same route every week, so you’re relatively quick at navigating the neighborhood. You’re working a 12-hour shift with a one-hour lunch break and an additional 30-minute break. In this example, we want to eliminate the breaks, otherwise known as downtime, to ensure we are strictly calculating the production time only. So your net production time is 12 - 1.5 = 10.5 hours.  You manage to deliver bundles of mail to 300 addresses during your 10.5-hour production time.  Cycle Time = 10.5 hours / 300 bundles of mail In this scenario, it takes approximately 0.035 hours, or 2.1 minutes to deliver one bundle of mail. That’s a speedy delivery!  Cycle time in production settings We can also calculate cycle time in a production line setting to determine how much to price an individual item. Let’s say you’re starting a small business and will be selling handmade t-shirts. You need to know how many t-shirts you can produce in a certain period of time to know how much you should charge. In your pricing model, you want to cover labor and materials and make a profit.  You’re working a 10-hour shift with a 30-minute break. So your net production time is 10 - 0.5 = 9.5 hours. You produced 50 handmade t-shirts today. Cycle Time = 9.5 hours / 50 handmade t-shirts It takes you just over 11 minutes (0.19 hours) to produce one t-shirt, so you can use this calculation to account for labor costs and add them to your material costs. Be sure to throw in a little extra to make sure you’re profiting off your small business and monitor your cycle time as you progress to adjust your rates as needed. Who calculates cycle time?  Not sure who is responsible for calculating cycle time? Cycle time impacts the overall efficiencies and success of any business, which means many different industries and roles calculate cycle time.  Whether you’re a project manager, product manager, manager of software developers, production line head, process improvement manager, manufacturer, supplier, or any level in between, you can and should be calculating cycle time. If you’re completing any sort of product delivery, service, or project from start to finish, you can calculate the cycle time for that task or set of tasks.  The good news is that you don’t have to worry about calculating cycle time manually and get bogged down in the math. There are a variety of tools that make calculating and tracking cycle time easy for anyone responsible for doing so. For example, you can calculate cycle time using a tool like a cycle time calculator. And to boost your productivity tracking even further, you can use a project management tool to help you understand your workflows and calculate cycle time thoroughly and comprehensively.  How to optimize your production workflows with Wrike  Wrike can help you optimize your production workflows and stay on top of your cycle time calculations with ease.  How does Wrike help track cycle time? Here are a few noteworthy features that can make your calculations simple, easy to understand, and easy to share. 1. Use cumulative flow diagrams Cumulative flow diagrams are data visualizations that work well with Kanban project management, and Kanban boards tie in well with cycle time and lean principles. These diagrams allow you to view cycle time, throughput, and work in progress. You can build a Kanban board directly in Wrike and use it to gather insights into productivity using your team’s analytics. 2. Compare estimated time and actual time You can enhance your team’s time tracking by comparing estimated time and actual time spent. Remember, you’ll need the actual production time to calculate cycle time, but it can be helpful to compare the production time against your team’s predictions on how long tasks will take them. To measure and report on the estimated time it will take to complete a task, you can set up a custom field and have your team members enter the estimated time for a task. Then, you can use the time tracker feature and have your team members calculate the actual amount of time they’re spending on each task. Run customizable reports to compare and contrast the estimated and actual time spent. 3. Streamline collaboration Wrike integrates with over 400+ leading software providers, which means you can optimize your production workflows without having to leave behind the tools you already know and love. Additionally, collaboration is a necessary component of optimized workflows, and Wrike has you covered. With the ability to collaborate directly within the software and share documents and reports instantly, you can easily visualize your team’s processes at every stage while communicating more effectively.  4. Rely on templates Working on a complex project that may include multiple cycle times as your team works through each stage of the project lifecycle? Use the Complex Project with Phases Template in Wrike to track cycle times from the initiation phase through the launch phase. Each phase of the project management lifecycle has its own folder, making it simpler to track multiple tasks within one project at the same time. Although cycle time is often tied back to Kanban methods, you can also use this metric as part of an Agile methodology framework. Agile encourages delivering high-quality products in short periods of time (see how that works nicely with cycle time?) Use the Agile Teamwork Template to start planning sprints and working in shorter iterations.  Understand (and maximize) your team’s time Nobody likes that panicked, stomach-dropping feeling when they realize they’ve over-promised and are bound to under-deliver. Fortunately, tracking and understanding your team’s cycle time will not only help prevent overcommitments to your customers but will also help keep your team members happy and working efficiently.  Cycle time isn’t just a measure of how much you’re producing — it’s a metric that will help you deliver high-quality work and leave you with loyal, satisfied customers. Whether you’re using cycle time for product delivery, a service, software development, or another type of project, the cycle time formula can help you improve your customer satisfaction levels and continuously improve the way you and your team get work done.  Are you ready to start tracking cycle time for your team? Sign up for a free trial of Wrike and start optimizing your workflows and boosting customer satisfaction today.

15 Suggestions to Improve Your Marketing Operations from Leaders
Marketing 7 min read

15 Suggestions to Improve Your Marketing Operations from Leaders

Learning about, and focusing on, improving marketing operations is becoming more critical for digital marketing teams trying to get ahead. Understanding your customers, implementing customer data properly, and measuring campaign performance are all key steps in building out your marketing ops. .In addition, marketing ops focuses on (1) managing the technologies that the marketing team purchases, and (2) measuring marketing effectiveness across the board. It’s not just your marketing techniques, but rather, it’s what goes on behind the scenes to make sure your campaigns reach their goals. . No one knows successful marketing operations better than the experienced marketers and business owners of today. Here are their secrets for improving your marketing ops:   1. Establish a cross-department workflow “The most important piece of improving your marketing operations is establishing a project workflow between marketing and the rest of the organization. The internal workings of individual teams can be heavily influenced by how other departments request projects and/or expect projects to be done. Once your workflow is established, using a tool to help task assignments, set deadlines, and follow up is critical.” —Daniel Bliley, Marketing Director, Passport 2. Work with your audience in mind “One issue with marketing, especially in digital, is the noise. There are so many companies saying the exact same thing, and companies don’t really do the proper research to figure out who they are, what their message is, who needs to hear that message, and how to get that message out.   Start from the top down. Take the time to explore your analytics and the data, interview your customers, pay attention to social media conversations & get involved, then create content that aligns your goals with your audience’s goals, speak to your audience in a unique way, and constantly review & tweak.” —Patrick Delehanty, Digital Marketing Strategist, Marcel Digital 3. Know your customers “The vast majority of the time, people make bad marketing decisions because they don’t have the right information about their target audience. To remedy that, I’ve worked hard to tie our CRM to our email marketing to our signups to our web traffic, so when we’re reaching out to someone, we have a complete understanding of them.” —D. Keith Casey, Jr., Director of Product, Clarify.io   4. Align all consumer insights "I think in an ideal state there is a dedicated consumer insights team, but a team that doesn’t work in its own little silo. A team that is interactive not only with the marketing team but also the product team, as well as with others who touch the customer technology. They have to understand the full circle of customers’ curiosities so they can put together a real, robust view for those who need it."  — Patrick Adams, CMO, PayPal 5. Establish your key marketing metrics “Establish 2 to 4 key metrics that will guide all your marketing efforts. Without establishing these benchmarks, your marketing team won’t have anything to shoot for individually or collectively. Unfortunately, many marketing departments don’t get creative with the metrics that serve as benchmarks for performance; their main metrics usually revolve around leads generated, sales, etc. However, there are usually more telling metrics for measuring your marketing effectiveness. For example, percentage of leads (free trials) vs. unique Website visitors; percentage of leads vs. conversions (paid customers); monthly recurring revenue.” —Jeff Kear, Owner, Planning Pod 6. Prioritize content development "We have a dedicated team that’s focused on content strategy and on creating what I call the content supply chain, mapping out where all the sources of content come from. Do we have the content already? How do we create new content? Who creates the content? It may be internal, it may be external. What format does that content take? Then, how do we work with the appropriate teams to get that content in the market?  — Rishi Dave, CMO, Dun & Bradstreet   7. Stay on brand "Ultimately [integrated planning] is a function that’s run through the marketing team. We establish the brand voice and try to create and implement consistency across all of our efforts, all of our communications channels, and all of our internal divisions/business units."  — Evan Greene, CMO, The Recording Academy (The GRAMMYs) 8. Focus on the ROI of your campaigns “Focus on ROI and user retention. By measuring the return of each campaign, we’re able to identify which ones are actually working and prioritize those. Our ROI has grown from 35% to 200%. Now, we have more money to invest in other projects to continue growing.” —Gabriel Stürmer, Chief Marketing Officer, Cupcake Sweet Entertainment 9. Implement Lean methodology to discover which campaigns work “Implement the Lean methodology (build, measure, learn). In essence, during planning sessions, we develop a list of hypotheses & prioritize based on expected impact. We then devise bare-bones methods to test these hypotheses. In this way, we get data-driven feedback quickly, allowing us to invest more heavily in winners and cut losers.” —Ryan O’Donnell, Director of Marketing, Avalara TrustFile 10. Use a Scrum board to focus weekly priorities “Enhance your weekly task delegation through the implementation of a Scrum board. Scrum is an Agile framework for handling tasks, originally developed for software development teams to easily delegate tasks. There is nothing worse than being inefficient when it comes to marketing, so a Scrum board helps us develop a weekly plan of attack, and lets everyone know what they should be working on.” —Jake Lane, Growth Analyst, LawnStarter, Inc. 11. Keep experimenting with new marketing techniques “Great marketing is about experimentation, testing, and measuring different approaches to find what works best. An issue many marketing departments face is that everyone has their discrete responsibilities, so it’s left to the marketing director or VP to initiate new programs. However, this should be everyone’s responsibility. Your team should meet regularly to brainstorm and come up with one new idea to apply and measure. It can be big or small, as long as you try something new — otherwise, you may never find that one golden opportunity that makes your revenue curve bend upward.” —Jeff Kear, Owner, Planning Pod 12. Build a long-term marketing plan “Set in stone a comprehensive 12-month marketing strategy and goals for the next five years. Developing a strategy with clear action items and setting both short-term and long-term goals pushes you to assign team members and actually implement the tasks.” —Beth Gard, lotus823 13. Hire a strategic analyst “The first hire in the marketing operations role should be a strategic analyst. This role is focused on developing ROI measurements for marketing. Once the tracking is in place, then everything else within marketing should be aligned.” —David T. Scott, CMO, Scott on Marketing   14. Continue to manage customer data "We’re building a centralized marketing profile that is at the customer level and becomes the common definition used by marketing teams across the organization to drive their campaigns. Getting the data house in order, making it real-time, and managing it at the attribute level is what’s important. As is making sure that the experts who are really close to the products have the ability to control what’s most important to them in that profile. This allows us to federate it out and take a much more efficient view across the organization, rather than be a big centralized behemoth that is too slow and ultimately doesn’t work." — Steve Ireland, SVP/MD, JPMorgan Chase   15. Remain accountable "In order to be effective, marketers need to have credibility. Because they have to do a lot of leading by influence, they have to do a lot of aligning and engaging and evangelizing, and that only works when people trust you. They only trust you if you deliver the goods and are accountable; you do what you say and you say what you mean. — Peter Horst, CMO, The Hershey Company     More marketing resources Marketing operations is a relatively new field, and there’s always more to learn. Here's a list of some of our resources for marketing leaders and teams (including our eBook, The Digital Marketer’s Guide: How To Drive Success at the Tactical Level) to help bring your next campaign to success. eBook: 7 Habits of High-Performance Marketing Teams Infographic: How to Choose Marketing Software eBook: The CMO’s Formula To 3x Your Digital Marketing Campaign Results Blog: The “We” in “Teamwork": How Marketers Can Drive Cross-Team Collaboration eBook: How to Avoid the Eight Pitfalls of Marketing Campaign Planning eBook: 5 Steps to Transforming Marketing Operations for Maximum Growth

Inventory Management: Definition, Benefits, and Techniques
Project Management 10 min read

Inventory Management: Definition, Benefits, and Techniques

Businesses that effectively use inventory management are destined to succeed. With the help of inventory management software, companies can automate the process of ordering, storing, and optimizing their goods in a single place. In this article, we will expand on the importance of inventory management, as well as the different inventory management techniques, benefits, and examples managers need to know. Keep reading to learn the key to inventory management that will give you a competitive edge.  What is inventory management? Inventory management refers to the process of storing, ordering, and selling of goods and services. The discipline also involves the management of various supplies and processes. One of the most critical aspects of inventory management is managing the flow of raw materials from their procurement to finished products. The goal is to minimize overstocks and improve efficiency so that projects can stay on time and within budget.  The proper inventory management technique for a particular industry can vary depending on the size of the company and the number of products needed. For instance, an oil depot can store a huge inventory for a long time. Or for businesses that deal in perishable goods, such as fast-fashion items, keeping on top of your inventory can be very costly. One way to account for inventory is by grouping it into four categories: first-in-first-out, last-in-first-out, weighted-average, and first-in-first-out. Raw materials are the components used by a company to make its finished products. Depending on the type of company that it is dealing with, different inventory management methods are used. Some of these include JIT, material requirement planning, and days sales of inventory. Other methods of analyzing inventory can also be used depending on national and local regulations. For instance, the SEC requires public companies to report the existence of a so-called LIFO reserve. Having frequent inventory write-offs can be a red flag that a company is struggling to sell its finished products or is prone to inventory obsolescence. Learn even more about inventory management from Walton College’s Supply Chain Management program’s introduction on the subject covering everything from forecasting to point models:  Why is inventory management important? One of the most valuable assets of a company is its inventory. In various industries, such as retail, food services, and manufacturing, a lack of inventory can have detrimental effects. Aside from being a liability, inventory can also be considered a risk. It can be prone to theft, damage, and spoilage. Having a large inventory can also lead to a reduction in sales. Both for small businesses and big corporations, having a proper inventory management system is very important for any business. It can help you keep track of all your supplies and determine the exact prices. It can also help you manage sudden changes in demand without sacrificing customer experience or product quality. This is especially important for brands looking to become a more customer-centric organization.  Balancing the risks of overstocks and shortages is an especially challenging process for companies with complex supply chains. A company's inventory is typically a current asset that it plans to sell within a year. It must be measured and counted regularly to be considered a current asset.  What is the goal of inventory management? The goal of any good inventory management system is to help warehouse managers keep track of the stock levels of their products. This means allowing them full transparency into their chain to monitor the flow of goods from their supplier.  The benefits are both operational and financial. Not only will it serve to improve performance, but it’s also useful for preventing theft with the help of product tracking and security.  Managers can also aim to use their inventory management plan to monitor sales procedures which leads to better service. Inventory management is especially useful for businesses that want to effectively manage seasonal items or new bestsellers throughout the year without disrupting the rest of their chain. Benefits of inventory management The main benefit of inventory management is resource efficiency. The goal of inventory control is to prevent the accumulation of dead stocks that are not being used. Doing so can help prevent the company from wasting its resources and space. Inventory management is also known to help:  Order and time supply shipments correctly  Prevent theft or loss of product Manage seasonal items throughout the year Deal with sudden demand or market changes  Ensure maximum resource efficiency through cycle counting Improve sales strategies using real-life data  Inventory management system examples Although inventory management can change from industry to industry, there are some big-picture themes worth learning about. Here are three major retail categories with real inventory management system examples: Grocery store chains  Modern groceries have managed to manage inventory coming in from different suppliers all over the world. Giving consumers several different types of internationally-grown produce in both organic and non-organic varieties at an affordable price, even when the fruits and vegetables aren’t in season, is a modern marvel thanks in part to inventory management.  Overseeing stock in real time and even setting up automated replenishment systems is mission-critical to many.  Online retailers On average, Amazon ships approximately 1.6 million packages from their brand to third-party sellers per day. Their Smart Warehouse uses robot and human help to get the job done, but it’s inventory management that keeps it all rolling. According to Tech Vision, “Amazon’s management technique, along with all that automation, have made the business astonishingly lean and mean by historic standards.” Toilet paper companies The inventory management of toilet paper companies was in the hot seat in early 2020 as panic-buying led to shortages nationwide. As demand outgrew supply beyond anything the brands had seen before (about 845%), it’s no surprise why there has been an increased focus on inventory management since.  Their secrets to overcoming this unprecedented event? Temporarily narrowing down their portfolio of products, sending out “defective” yet functional rolls, and even transitioning to a direct-to-consumer model, all with the help of strong inventory management systems.  Steps and types of inventory management Most product inventory management systems follow the same basic steps for finished products:  Products arrive at your warehouse  Products are checked and stored  Managers or crew update inventory levels  Customers place an order  Customer orders are approved based on inventory  Products are pulled and packaged  Inventory levels are updated again  This process is fairly straightforward and often involves help from software. There may be variations depending on what type of inventory management you are doing. Here are the main types you should know:  Raw materials This refers to pieces of your product that need to be shipped to you and assembled by your team. Inventory systems that track these must account for supplier timelines.  In progress Products made from raw materials and are currently being assembled or grouped fall under this category. This stage of inventory management may have one or several active projects at a time.  Repair Scheduled maintenance, updates, and refurbished goods all count toward this segment. Repairs may be handled in-house or in collaboration with a third party.  Finished goods Any good that is ready to ship to businesses or consumers is considered finished. These need to be updated regularly and constantly monitored to meet demand.  Inventory management techniques Without accurate inventory information, it can be very difficult to make decisions that affect your business. There are two main methods of keeping track of inventory: periodic and perpetual. The main difference between these is how often data is updated. Regardless of how often you track inventory, you may want to use one of the following inventory management techniques:  ABC Analysis ABC (Always Better Control) Analysis is inventory management that separates various items into three categories based on pricing and is separated into groups A, B, or C. The A category is usually the most expensive one. The items in the B category are relatively cheaper compared to the A category. And the C category has the cheapest products of all three.  EOQ Model Economic Order Quantity is a technique utilized for planning and ordering an order quantity. It involves making a decision regarding the amount of inventory that should be placed in stock at any given time. The order will be re-ordered once the minimum order has been reached. FSN Method This method of inventory control refers to the process of keeping track of all the items of inventory that are not used frequently or are not required all the time. They are then categorized into three different categories: fast-moving inventory, slow-moving inventory, and non-moving inventory. JIT Method Just In Time inventory control is a process utilized by manufacturers to control their inventory levels. This method saves them money by not storing and insuring their excess inventory. However, it is very risky since it can lead to stock out and increase costs. Minimum Safety Stocks The minimum safety stock refers to the level of inventory that an organization maintains to avoid a possible stock-out. MRP Method Material Requirements Planning is a process utilized by manufacturers to control the inventory by planning the order of the goods based on the sales forecast. The order is usually based on the data collected by the system. VED Analysis VED is a technique utilized by organizations to control their inventory. It mainly pertains to the management of vital and desirable spare parts. The high level of inventory that is required for production usually justifies the low inventory for those parts.  How to improve inventory management with Wrike One of the most critical factors that a company should consider is the accuracy of the information presented in its inventory databases. The data should be updated regularly to prevent it from getting distorted. Wrike is a project management solution that can help you do exactly that.  With Wrike's product management tools, you can manage all of your product team's activities in one place and get the most out of every project. Wrike's product launch automation helps accelerate product launches with a streamlined approach. Managers can easily keep inventory and shipping processes in check by planning and allocating tasks to the right people all from one central dashboard.  Wrike also makes it possible to create workflows that keep everyone up-to-date with the latest inventory progress. Tools like interactive charts and task dependencies help team members at every level identify and prevent delays. You can communicate with both vendors and clients through the advanced CRM built directly into the platform.  Plus, Wrike's advanced insights tools allow you to track progress in real time, which is important for any successful inventory management strategy.  Why choose Wrike as your inventory management software? Wrike is a project management solution that makes it possible to achieve all your inventory management goals while also maximizing the benefits of the process. Regardless of which inventory management technique you use, Wrike can help you take the process step by step to ensure your inventory is always accurate regardless of what type you’re managing. Improve your inventory management plan today with Wrike’s two-week free trial. 

Operational Excellence: A Guide with Principles and Examples
Leadership 7 min read

Operational Excellence: A Guide with Principles and Examples

Good is no longer good enough. To survive in the on-demand economy, companies and leaders must perform at an entirely new level of efficiency.

The History of Marketing Operations (Infographic)
Marketing 3 min read

The History of Marketing Operations (Infographic)

Marketing Operations is on the rise, with many companies turning to marketing ops teams to make their marketing efforts more efficient and effective. While Marketing Ops is still a relatively new field, its beginnings stretch back to the 1920s, and its evolution through different marketing disciplines provides insights into its importance, benefits, and increasing popularity. Keep reading to learn all about the hot new field that’s been identified as one of the fastest-growing professions in marketing. Share this infographic with fellow marketers on social media, or use this embed code to post it on your own site: Infographic brought to you by Wrike Current Marketing Ops Trends Learn more about marketing ops with this overview of popular strategies and common practices: State of Marketing Operations and MarTech in 2015