I regularly use case studies to teach my clients about innovation.  Case studies show a particular example of a business innovation, but can be generalized to apply to many businesses in a variety of markets.  The following case study describes an innovation developed at one of my clients.

A law firm regularly filed documents with a government agency by first class mail.  Each mailing would include a postcard addressed to the law firm that was date-stamped by the government agency and returned to the law firm.  The postcard acted as a receipt that the documents were received by the agency.

The law firm had an internal procedure that required each postcard to be stored in a physical file containing the documents mailed to the government agency.  These physical files were also used regularly by attorneys and support staff in the law firm.  Administrative employees spent a significant amount of time each week attempting to locate the physical files to insert the postcards.  This procedure was not only time consuming, but very disruptive to the attorneys because the administrative employees would interrupt attorneys while looking for files.  When physical files could not be located, email messages and further disruptions resulted.

An employee of the law firm suggested a change to this internal procedure.  Since the postcards were rarely used after they were received by the law firm, there was no reason to file them into the physical files.  Instead, a card box was used to store the postcards for future access, if needed.  Thus, the received postcards were still maintained, but the costly and disruptive process of filing the postcards in the physical files was eliminated.  This change saved many hours of employee time every day and significantly reduced disruption of other employees.  The time saved on employee cost alone was over $20,000 annually.  The cost savings and increased productivity of attorneys and other employees was significantly higher than $20,000.

Many businesses have similar internal procedures that can be modified or eliminated to reduce costs and enhance productivity.  This case study shows that even small changes to internal procedures can significantly reduce operating costs and simplify business procedures.  Look at your own business and seek ways to innovate your internal procedures.