Before automating your business processes, improve them

The State of the CIO Study 2022 highlights the motivating factors behind the last two-year cycle of nonstop digital transformation. According to the survey, companies should return to their base as IT departments refresh technology investments to ensure that their investment in digital technology goes beyond the basics. To do this, technology leaders must understand both their existing business processes and the new automation processes they seek to enable.

Among Covid, 66% of business leaders – from a wide range of industries – were already piloting automation technologies, McKinsey & Co. reported. Gartner predicts that this permanent disruption to our work will lead more organizations to move towards digital-first business models and cloud-native operations in 2022, with major implications for IT automation.

And, just as automation is becoming the “holy grail” of accelerating digital transformation, companies are learning that just because they can automate the process doesn’t mean it should. Choosing the wrong processes for automation can wipe out entire business initiatives and ruin ROI expectations. To be successful with automation on a scale, organizations must master the art of process excellence.

What is process excellence?

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

In order for a business to excel in its process excellence, it must understand its number one business objective – to improve the way it builds and delivers value to its customers. Ultimately, this critical ability lies primarily in the coherence 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, the alignment of staff, processes, technology and automation of business functions can improve business performance, as many of us have seen in the last two years.

However, in order to keep up with consumer demand, businesses must also accelerate the digitization of their operations, customer service and product development. Digital transformation is no longer a distant goal. Most organizations now believe that digital transformation is necessary, but more than 70% of digital transformation efforts fail. So the question is clear: What can you do to ensure that your digital transformation process is successful?

Organizational alignment should start at the top and then move down the line. The absence of recognition of digital transformation in the working organization will lead to the absence of change. It is crucial that the team demonstrates the benefits of changing their processes, experience and goals.

The process of change begins with a change of mind

Technology is important, but the human dimension (organization, management model, processes and culture) is often the most important factor. Institutional inertia is a significant obstacle caused by deeply rooted behavior. Failure should not be an option, and yet it is the most common consequence.

Companies that thrive put their people – and their processes – at the heart of their organizations. By managing a people-first culture, you will empower employees to think about how their actions will affect others and how they can change them to improve your business processes.

How will this affect Sally? Will doing this make it easier or harder for him to do his job? Will this contribute to the growth of the company? These are just some of the questions that business leaders should ask themselves when laying the foundation for a process.

Business and Automation: Who Should Lead the Charge?

And, of course, that doesn’t happen with a magic wand swipe. There are various approaches to solving this problem. Some organizations choose to lead the project and fold it into a process excellence program. Others set up a process center of excellence to get executive support.

Either way, this is 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 start a process improvement project to get the ball rolling. Only then will employees begin to rally for adoption and standardization as they experience the acceleration of their joint efforts.

In the most unfortunate experiences, organizations realize that they are standing on a sinking ship. Instead of jumping overboard – which can never solve the problem of the best swimmers – team members must accept that they have to change their way of working together or risk drowning. It is at this moment that change management begins, and then immediately the right people need to take the helm of the ship.

It’s not rebellion! We are talking about building a foundation built on processes. A newly formed group will develop methods to drive process initiatives ranging from ownership of responsibilities to continuous improvement processes, documentation, communication plans, rollouts and measuring KPIs. Once on the road, people will come out of their silos and contribute upstream and downstream.

Evaluate as you go along

As the processes unfold, disruptive changes will occur. This will determine if the process is successful. However, a digital maturity assessment is needed to effectively evaluate where your KPIs need to be and to see if you are lagging behind your competitors, finding ways your company can improve its processes and bring better results.

In today’s digital world, leaning on older technologies and the status quo of “what we’ve always done” hinders growth. Many processes cannot further align with today’s customer or employee expectations, especially where innovation is the measure of success. With such a wide range of automation technology available, almost any problem can be solved by automated processes. But, first, ask yourself, how can I improve the process?

Tomar Zucker is the CMO at Nintex Kryon.

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