I hear many stories about how employees are challenging their employers on reason for why they are operating at inefficient level. Now we notice, many are started to show strong opinion on things which otherwise tends to be a normal practice. The solution for this is to connect organizations internal processes with digital outside environment and free flow of information with digital technologies and organizations workflow practices. Without such initiatives employee expectations will be raised by external digital initiatives they have access in the social environment.
Business Process Management is the backbone which can address above challenge and helps in linking the digital technologies with organizational work processes. BPM must follow a casual model of taking data /decisions from the digital technologies and formulating business rules on top of it. These mix of BPM and Digital technologies will help organizations staying ahead in the current scenarios. Digital technologies are essential for BPM as, they help in coordinating people, process, and Customers. The goal of BPM or Digital Transformation is not to replace humans but providing the right mix of technology, processes and people which can derive sustainable business process to achieve compliance and reduce risk.
I can quote example for EHS to explain more, but I would like to take an example which you all can relate. For example the automation of Employee Expense or claims statements for processing monthly statements, which is there for many years. It used to be a manual printing of documents and submitting to relevant departmental heads for processing. With digital technologies employees can now scan the documents and upload to respective folder with a specific naming convention. The system automatically reads the documents and extracts the information and compiles the expense statements with necessary information. Followed by a business validation rules for type of expense and triggering exceptions, which require approvals from managers. It triggers a workflow for approval to managers at scenarios the expense is not a default expense type for further evaluation. Here the need for human intervention for processing the documents could be for determining whether an document is appropriate or to interpret the data from the document when it cannot be extracted or even employees might not have access to digital tools to send the scanned document. It needs a careful planning of BPM with Digital needs to combine the technologies and workflow to create a successful scenario of automatically processing the documents. Here you can clearly notice that Digital acts as an interface for processing the documents and BPM acts as a backbone in deriving the necessary workflows achieving successful ROI & competitive advantages in the current scenario. Here you can notice the core process of business validation rules, approvals remain the same, however digital technologies acts as an enabler, like Enterprise Expense platform.
Digital transformation is a series of steps which enables one organization right from digital competence -where digital technologies are confidently used to digital usage and finally digital transformation stage where innovative models are used to manage processes. Now coming to selecting base Business Processes which needed to be aligned to Digital platform, either we can start afresh given that software systems are clean slate on top of which we start our journey. Or it can be existing company competitive processes which have been innovated over many years of time or it is from Process Council sample recommended tools. Assuming existing processes are competitive, and company wants to move them to future state. How to go about implementing the same? All the current processes within an organization are required to be evaluated for possible digital adoption. One needs to take into consideration overall business direction in adopting the technologies throughout the organization, as digitalization cannot be achieved in silos or departmental view. Careful planning needs to be exercised to identify the accurate differentiating processes which are required to be digitalized and its value proposition as it takes huge effort in move all processes into digitalization.
Companies needs to either extend the processes or replace with newer technologies or Custom Develop on top of existing technology. There are various approaches suggested to implement the processes like doing a pilot within the organization or engaging outside experts who are leaders in the technologies, followed by adopting the digitalization technologies to automate the data flows, eventually running to automating the processes and finally including the AI & Digital capabilities within the processes. That is starting with one individual business processes and including automation capabilities with decision making, link them with overall processes. That is one should start slowly with incremental adoption of change or bringing digital capabilities and carefully plan data interchanges, followed by process linkages. No off the shelf Software tool will have these abilities readily built, one can have a framework established but actual implementation depends on organizational process and data model.
Barrowing the principles of Six Sigma or Total Quality Management principles, the successful design in implementing the digital technologies include i. understanding the scenario which is causing issues (PLAN), during which identify the processes, define value drivers ii. Assessing the root cause for the issue like if multiple errors are linking to the main source as issue in the condition (DO) iii. Validating whether applying the digital technology will resolve the issue and finally (CHECK) iv. Applying the change and assessing the changes (ACT). It does not stop with ACT, but continues to implementation of continuous monitoring of changes and applying necessary fixes like adjusting the technologies or algorithms for example adjusting ML algorithm if you are working on a predictive algorithm (Continuous Improvement). The cycle continues to be evolved to achieve not only implementation of digital technologies but also the intended business benefit. During this process one needs not only validate the digital technologies but rather change the rules of the process or procedures to achieve business outcome. When such process adjustments are made to complete sequence of processes by incorporating the capability to understanding the content, data driven decisions and dynamic readjustments to processes, we truly generate next generation digital processes. The incremental implementation approach for Expense and claims process discussed above include automating ability to read the Documents and generate attributes for data validation using Vision Technologies. Similarly, other incremental approach would be implementation of different validation approaches for successful data validation and finally Automation around automatic email processing routines and notifications. The value proposition from such initiatives is creating increased value, providing revenues, improve compliance opportunity, improve workforce abilities to handle the process in a better way.
There are various approaches of moving to digital technologies and re-engineering the processes. To begin evaluate the current processes one needs to understand, the direction in which the market is being driven. What is the adoption rate of the technologies for the business processes in mind? Like do we have any cases studies available in the market which show case potential benefit of moving to new technologies. To achieve digital processes, companies can follow a simple evaluation criterion covering their existing processes for organizational readiness and process acceptability, such as
- How much of the existing process have incorporated digital strategy or can take given an opportunity?
- The reason for adopting a specific process or technology for solving existing process framework
- How would the future road map of BPM with Digital technologies look like within the organization
- Do the company has digital has an overall strategy and what are the core competencies for emerging technologies
- What is the that which take to reach to digital level and corresponding costs
- Finally involve business users and build user stories with their involvement
To remind age old comment “not every company can be a software development company, but remember with the emerging technologies and market competition, every company needs to think like a software development company”. Companies who are successful in this topic are those who have gone digital both inside and outside of company environment. Company differentiators cannot be left to system integrators or software vendors, but rather work in tandem. Company needs to develop digital strategy and build core competencies for emerging technologies. Not all the capabilities in a software is what used by organizations, rather it is a combination of those core selected processes and company differentiators is which is needed to become a truly transformational company.
Finally, to conclude, it is always a debatable question on when to start Business Process alignment with Digital technologies. Is it after the implementation of Software or Digital systems or during the implementation or once the system has been set up?, as the real benefit is transforming things which are not already automated. It is when business businesses build a common model for key business processes, followed by technological changes it derives great value. It is needed to Identify which processes are Industry best practices which can be adopted without many changes offered by software vendor. Besides industry best practices, integrating organizations key differentiating business processes by digital technologies is also required for successful transformation journey companies need not wait for software availability, rather you can always redesign processes without going into deep into transactional levels. Companies can explore different BPM tools available in the market with Digital Transformation capabilities, right from creating customer journeys, carrying out touch point analysis, customer segmentation and even including IoT, Digital processes.