Before automating your business processes, improve them

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The State of the CIO Study 2022 highlights the driving forces behind the latest two-year cycle of uninterrupted digital transformation. According to the survey, businesses need to get back to basics as IT departments refresh their technology investments to ensure their investments in digital technologies go beyond the basics. To do this, technology leaders need to understand both their existing business processes and the new automation processes they want to enable.

Amid COVID, 66% of business leaders — across a wide range of industries — were already piloting automation technologies, McKinsey & Co. reported. Gartner predicts this permanent disruption to our work will drive more organizations to go digital-first cloud-native business models and operations in 2022, with big implications for IT automation.

And, as automation continues to be the “holy grail” of accelerating digital transformation, companies are learning that just because they can automate a process doesn’t mean they have to. Choosing the wrong automation processes can dismantle an entire business initiative and ruin ROI expectations. To succeed with large-scale automation, organizations must master the art of process excellence.

What is Process Excellence?

This is the key to unlocking the true potential of digital transformation. The role is to properly define and describe processes, so a business can truly understand what it is doing – and how it will affect the bottom line.

For a company to excel in process excellence, it must understand its number one business objective: to improve the way it creates and delivers value to its customers. Ultimately, this critical capacity lies above all in the congruence between management decision-making and the corresponding processes.

Process management approaches such as Lean and Six Sigma have proven effective in solving business problems. In fact, aligning people, processes, technology, and automating business tasks can improve business performance, as many of us have witnessed over the past couple of years.

However, to meet consumer demands, companies must also accelerate the digitalization of their operations, customer services and product development. Digital transformation is no longer a distant goal. The majority of organizations now believe that digital transformation is essential, yet over 70% of digital transformation efforts fail. So the question is clear: what can you do to ensure the success of your digital transformation process?

Organizational alignment must start at the top and then work down the line. Lack of recognition of digital transformation in a functional organization will lead to a lack of change. It is crucial that the team demonstrate the benefits of changing their processes, experience and goals.

Process change starts with a mindset change

Technology is important, but the human dimension (organization, operating model, process and culture) is often the most important factor. Organizational inertia caused by deeply ingrained behaviors is a significant barrier. Failure shouldn’t be an option, yet it’s the most common outcome.

Successful companies put their people – and their processes – at the center of their organizations. By embracing a people-centric culture, you’ll empower employees to think about how their actions will affect others and how they can change them to improve your business processes.

What impact will this have on Sally? Will doing so make it easier or more difficult for him to do his job? Will it help the business grow? These are just a few questions business leaders should ask themselves when building a foundation on the process.

Business and Automation: Who Should Lead the Charge?

And, of course, that doesn’t happen with a wave of a magic wand. There are different approaches to solving this problem. Some organizations choose to lead a project and incorporate it into a process excellence program. Others establish a process center of excellence to gain management support from the start.

Anyway, it’s not an organic process. Executive management rarely leads these efforts, and mid-level managers are not first-process thinkers and therefore are not motivated to change. It is often best to initiate a process improvement project to get the process started. Only then will employees begin to mobilize for adoption and standardization when they experience the acceleration of their joint efforts.

In the most unfortunate experiences, organizations find that they are standing on a sinking ship. Rather than jumping overboard – which never solves the problem for top swimmers – team members must accept that they must change the way they work together or risk drowning. This is when change management begins, and then immediately the right people have to take the helm of the ship.

This is not a mutiny! We’re talking about building a process-based foundation. A newly created group will develop methods for executing process initiatives, from ownership of responsibilities to continuous improvement processes, documentation, communication plans, deployment and measurement of KPIs. Once underway, people will come out of their silos and contribute upstream and downstream.

Assess as you go

As the processes unfold, disruptive changes will occur. This will determine whether the process is successful or not. However, to effectively assess where your KPIs need to be and determine if you are lagging behind your competition, a digital maturity assessment is needed to look for ways your business can improve its processes and produce better results.

In today’s digital world, outdated technology and the status quo of “what we’ve always done” can impede growth. Many processes may also fall short of current customer or employee expectations, especially when innovation is the measure of success. With such a range of automation technologies available, almost any problem can be solved by automating processes. But, first, ask yourself, how can I improve the process?

Tomer Zuker is CMO at Nintex Kryon.


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