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Don’t stop at “operational!” Digital transformation is also strategic

08 Aug 2017 - Miguel Valdés Faura

When digital transformation tools are applied to the long-term vision and creativity of the enterprise, digital transformation becomes strategic.

We have seen two interesting shifts from our initial vantage point as a provider of a BPM platform now in use worldwide. First, we have seen a shift in focus from “business process management” projects to “digital transformation” projects. The second shift in focus is the realization that operational transformation and strategic transformation, while distinctly different, can be linked in sometimes unexpected ways.

from BPM to Digital Transformation

In our experience, we have seen enterprises that have Business Process Management, or BPM, at the core of their automation projects, are often focused first on improving efficiency, going paperless, streamlining their internal and customer-facing processes to eliminate duplication, reducing wasted time and lost “paperwork,” and so on.

Automating business processes by creating customized applications brings significant value to the operational aspect of the enterprise; we have a stack of customer success stories that attest to those improvements! Through the use of digital applications, organizations enhance and support their current means of doing business. For example, going paperless can in its simplest form follow basically the same processes as before, but now it’s done all online faster and with fewer wasted resources.

BPM projects are often operational – even those unique, core processes that differentiate an industry leader.

As the Harvard Business School Institute for Strategy & Competitiveness notes, operational improvements can be dramatic. But simply improving operational effectiveness does not provide a robust competitive advantage. When a company establishes a new best practice, its rivals tend to copy it quickly.

Strategic vs operational approach

But we’ve seen more and more that enterprises aren’t simply looking to improve their operational processes. We realized early on that this is a growing necessity for digital transformation, to apply process-based initiatives to do things differently and create unique value, not just do them better.

Strategy is about doing things differently, not simply doing them better than everyone else. And it’s the key to competitive advantage, asserts Harvard Business School Institute for Strategy & Competitiveness.

Bring in the digital transformation

Digital transformation is, in its simplest form, about changing current means of doing business through digitized, electronic, on-line tools. Using process-based applications to do things better leads to operational excellence. Using digital tools across the enterprise to do business differently, to enable innovation and creativity – with applications, software, platforms, IT and IS – leads to strategic advantage.

When digital transformation tools are applied to the long-term vision and creativity of the enterprise, digital transformation becomes strategic.

In the world of applications, strategic digital transformation enables unique advantages from better user experiences for customers and employees. State-of-the-art user interfaces, combined with streamlined backend operations, enable faster feedback, anticipation of and faster reaction to market changes and better adaptation to rapidly changing business environments, generally improved business efficiency, and smoother processes. Arming technical teams with powerful, low-code application platforms like Bonita means they are able to build fast, test fast, try new things, react quickly, and spend more time on differentiating innovation and less time on application maintenance.

An example of digital transformation initiated strategically

Executive management at pharmaceutical research company Bristol-Myers Squibb identified as one of its strategic objectives an increased emphasis on biologics research, and finding a key overseas partner specifically to drive this research. It was clear that for this international partnership to succeed in its mission, the groups would need to work quickly and efficiently together to provide visibility into status, progress and results to their customers, suppliers, and contract research organizations.

Consistent with the overall strategic vision, top management at BMS set as a short-term objective to first optimize the international analytical process, then leverage the results to the stateside process.

The first digital transformation project created an Analytical Assay Request application on the Bonita BPM application platform. The application was developed in six months and is now used by 1400 users across the US and India. It generates over 600 requests per day. A second application was deployed for two other organizations stateside.

Following the first two digitization projects, other deployments were made across the organization, and further extended into laboratory administrative processes as well. So far, 7 more applications have been delivered.

An example of how operational improvement can lead to strategic advantage

Strategic advantage can be realized from the operational side up too. For example, Coreso in Belgium is responsible for the coordination of services for secure operations of the high-voltage electricity system for over 40% of the population of the European Union. Coreso operator engineers continuously monitor data from multiple sources and predict how the European electrical power grid will look in the future, from a few hours to several days to a year out. They create and deliver reports to their customers, the European Transmission System Operators, which are used for critical decisions and actions. Before the transformation project began, collecting data and creating reports required a lot of manual work and was time-consuming; correcting and re-running calculations to produce an updated report quickly to reflect changing conditions might take hours or days.

Automating the data gathering and industrializing the decision process through digital transformation now allows Coreso engineers to complete the overall process faster. With more time to work on analysis of the data, and with more data to analyze, Coreso is now able to offer more accurate reports, and more complex reports, to their TSO customers.

Essentially, they have been able to create new and improved products for their market.

A dual advantage

The Six Disciplines blog says it succinctly: “The best companies are the ones which can adjust both strategically and operationally quickly based on feedback from customers, vendors, and employees on the front line. They think in terms of delivering extra value to their customers at the broad strategic level, and focus on excellence in executing even the most mundane functions at the lower levels.”

Tags: Vision