Today, many companies are operating in an economic situation that is degraded by a health crisis. A number of them have already launched digitalization plans, which they are now accelerating as they fight to survive. But how do you assess your level of performance? What governance do you apply, and which teams should you put in place? Which technologies to evaluate and according to which criteria? What processes to start with, and what roles to assign, within the IT department and inside the lines of business?
Besides, as some processes relied on face-to-face interaction for coordination, the rapid, wide adoption of remote work has revealed differences, silos and the fragility of manual, only partially automated, and simply broken processes. All of these factors have a direct impact on team motivation, customer satisfaction and, ultimately, business and results. It is therefore time now to consider digital transformation strategies and automation approaches to leverage organizational efficiency.
Companies Need To Speed up Process Optimization and Automation
Digitization allows us to anticipate deadlines and deliverables for each activity and alert us in the event of irregularities. The COVID-19 crisis has amplified the number of broken processes in companies. These processes then require the intervention of different organizational departments, with a lot of coordination and interaction with heterogeneous internal and external information systems. This chaotic situation can have a direct impact on team morale, and in turn, on customer interactions and satisfaction.
Which Strategy Should Be Adopted for Digitization?
The first step is to create a benchmark of objective performance at a given moment, for each function and for each end-to-end process by documenting the costs, resources and volumes processed. This enables us to define requirements based on key performance indicators (KPIs).
Managers can then define a change strategy and initiate priority projects according to their objectives and required results, while optimizing the level of services and / or the associated costs.In addition, this transformation approach must be considered from both the business perspective and from the technical (CIO) side. Companies should continuously measure improvements to make them tangible, with concrete proof and with user engagement.
How Should Companies Tackle Digitizing Their Processes?
The strategic objectives and the criticality involving a digitization approach must be shared with the company’s top management. The IT department plays, in particular, a major role in this type of strategic approach. Process automation and optimization requires careful thought regarding the choice of technology, integration with existing systems, and compatibility with other ongoing IT modernization projects.
Further, it is important to identify the first projects for the digitization of operations and the first processes to be implemented based on well-defined criteria specific to your company. Then, it’s time to form the right project team and add the appropriate internal sponsorship system.
Which Process Should Companies Choose?
The next step is to create a hierarchy of processes and prioritize by asking the right questions:
- Does the manual process affect critical operations?
- Can it be automated using existing tools and techniques within the organization, or with tools that are easy to acquire and implement?
- Are there additional elements to be taken into accounts, such as reducing cycle times for customers, or a legal obligation for transaction traceability?
At this stage, it is recommended to consider the most critical processes as a priority, as these generally represent the real business of the company (such as requests for cranes in the construction industry, or purchases from key suppliers in the automotive sector.)
These processes, the most critical and therefore the most visible, can include various actors in an ‘agile’ approach. This is advantageous for everyone involved, even if the responsibility for the choice of a specific technology, its use, its deployment, and its fit with the rest of the information system inexorably comes down to the IT department.
Which Technologies Should Be Prioritized or Used Together?
There are 4 main families of complementary technologies in the digitization space:
- Process mining: These technologies allow a process to be traced and are used in process discovery to identify possible points of improvement, by analyzing the logs of applications used on a daily basis. They also help to prioritize digitization projects.
- Robotic process automation (RPA): These technologies automate repetitive task sequences, but not the entire process. They are generally applicable where people have specific roles in the process.
- Application programming interface (API): These make it possible to expose new services, access services, and manage their governance.
- Business Process Management (BPM): This family of technologies, called Digital Process Automation by some analysts, is at the heart of digitization. BPM is used to define the process graphically and orchestrate the interactions of people and systems (API, robots). BPM ensures transactional consistency and provides visibility over the entire process execution, with an eye to optimization.
If an RPA solution has been deployed to automate certain repetitive human tasks, it can be combined with BPM/DPA (digital process automation) solutions to address global and transversal process automation and optimization, by managing interactions among all types of systems (i.e, legacy, API based, UI-based via robots), as well as interactions with users internal and external to the organization. This also comes with full visibility and detailed monitoring of end-to-end automated processes.
The same approach remains valid when using API management solutions. The best approach, in general, is to favor a platform-type approach that offers faster handling and facilitates collaboration between users (with or without development skills), while allowing developers to address the most complex issues and the most advanced use and customization cases.
How To Ensure Real Transformation With the First Project?
True transformation must be supported by top management and involve each function at every level of the company, in order to capitalize on the expertise and assure continuing projects. In fact, too often, we see a lack of follow-through, from not enough dedicated funding or resources.
Success also depends on the involvement of end-users via an agile and iterative approach during project development and deployment of projects. This facilitates progressive and continuous value creation based on their feedback. Users thus co-build the solution and become its best champions.
It might even be worthwhile to elevate “digitization” to the level of a program within the company. Defining an axis of quantifiable improvement makes it possible to follow a path for the follow-on projects and to truly reinvent processes. The IT department can leverage a digitalization platform and make it part of sustainable investment. Not considering a viable long-term digitalization approach can be costly for companies.
IT department can be a transformation accelerator by providing businesses with the tools that will allow them to act over time, to anticipate change, and to mature. Businesses need to be able to describe their processes, to work on them, before moving on to development phases. Collaboration with the digitalization platform is therefore essential – and this is what BPM offers.
BPM is complementary to ERP and other business applications and is a solid foundation of information systems modernization capable of bringing tangible and rapid gains to organizations that want them.