Before automating your business processes, improve them

The ​​State of the CIO Study 2022 highlights the driving forces behind the last two-year cycle of nonstop digital transformation. According to the survey, companies must get back to their foundations as IT departments refresh technology investments to ensure that their investment in digital technologies goes beyond the basics. To do this, technology leaders must understand both their existing business processes and the new automation processes they want to enable.

In the midst of COVID, 66% of business leaders — from a wide cross-section of industries — were already piloting automation technologies, reported McKinsey & Co. Gartner predicts that this permanent disruption in our work will lead more organizations to move to digital-first business models and cloud-native operations in 2022, with large implications for IT automation.

And, since 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 should. Choosing the wrong processes for automation can dismantle an entire business initiative and ruin ROI expectations. To succeed with automation at scale, organizations must master the art of process excellence.

What is process excellence?

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

In order for a business to excel in its process excellence, it must understand its number one business objective — improving the way it creates and delivers value to its customers. Ultimately, this critical ability resides primarily in the congruence between management’s decision-making and the corresponding processes. 

Process management approaches such as Lean and Six Sigma have proven effective at solving business problems. In fact, alignment of staff, processes, technology and automation of business tasks can improve business performance, as many of us have witnessed in the past two years. 

However, to keep up with consumer demands, businesses must also speed up the digitization 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, but over 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 must begin at the top and then proceed down the line. The absence of recognition of digital transformation in a functional organization will lead to an absence of change. It is crucial that the team demonstrate the benefits of changing their processes, experience and goals.

Process change starts with changing minds

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

The companies that thrive put their people — and their processes — at the center of their organizations. By conducting 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 impact Sally? Will doing it this way make it easier or harder for her to do her job? Will this contribute to the company’s growth? These are only a few questions that business leaders should ask themselves when building a foundation on process.

Business and automation: Who should lead the charge?

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

Either way, this is not an organic process. Executive management rarely leads these efforts and mid-level managers are not first-process thinkers and thus are not motivated to change. Often it’s best to initiate a process improvement project to get the ball rolling. Only then will employees start to rally for adoption and standardization when they experience the acceleration of their joint efforts.

In the most unfortunate of experiences, organizations realize they are standing on a sinking ship. Rather than jump overboard — which never solves the problem of even the best swimmers — team members must accept that they have to change their way of working together or risk drowning. It’s at that moment that change management begins, and then immediately the right people need to take the helm of the ship.

It’s not a mutiny! We’re talking about building a foundation built on processes. A newly established group will develop methods of executing process initiatives from ownership of responsibilities to continuous improvement processes, documentation, communication plans, rollout and measuring KPIs. Once en route, people will emerge out of their silos and contribute upstream and downstream.

Assess as you go along

As the processes roll out, disruptive change will happen. This will determine whether or not the process is successful. However, to effectively evaluate where your KPIs need to be, and examine if you’re falling behind your competitors, a digital maturity assessment is needed to look for ways that your company can improve its processes and produce better outcomes.

In today’s digital world, outdated technologies and leaning on the status quo of “what we’ve always done” can hinder growth. Many processes can additionally not align with today’s customer or employee expectations, especially where innovation is the measure of success. With such a wide range of automation technologies available, nearly 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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