What You Know About Process Is All Wrong

What You Know About Process Is All Wrong

Advances in computing power over the past decade have dramatically changed how people think about technology -- and what they expect from it. Smarter, faster, and connected, today's tech has led to a revolution in how almost everyone on the planet works, lives, plays and, most importantly, accesses information.

Because of these tectonic shifts, it should come as no surprise that the business processes your organization depends on to interact with the new world of the anytime/anywhere/always-on customer also needs to be re-imagined. In the past, business process optimization and automation was all about digitizing existing paper-based systems so they would be more efficient. That was it. There was no fundamental rethink about what a process was, i.e., a series of steps to get from one interaction to another in order to achieve a task. Order to cash, procure to pay, on boarding new employees, etc. went digital basically unchanged.

Fast forward to today and you can see the limits of this approach. Today's customers expect to interact with your business on-demand. Digitizing a process that responds to local business hours and shuts down afterwards, does not meet the demands of the customer. Smart processes redirect to operating branches and people when they can and will respond immediately, keeping your business pipeline flowing. 

The challenge, of course, it is not realistic to just rip and replace existing processes. That is the old way of embracing change. Business processes optimization today needs to follow a different path; one that takes an iterative approach to incorporating new information and technologies. For those familiar with the Agile and DevOps movements in IT today, this is basically the same approach. The idea is to avoid huge, time-consuming and costly projects that takes years to complete and, once done, are hard to change.

Instead, you need think about processes in terms of the interactions between people and information in order to get from the current-state to a desired-state or outcome. This can be as ad-hoc as facilitating a meeting between two people using mobile devices and geo-location, all the way through to something that is far more long-running and complex -- like a procurement to payment process that integrates with your ERP and supply chain solutions as well as your vendors and partner's technology ecosystems so that your employees see a holistic view of the job at hand and your customers' needs are met faster. In this digital reformation, interoperation is no longer a feature, it is a necessity.

One way to approach this complex topic is think in terms I call "appification". The idea is to think about the things you can do quickly that will enhance existing workflows. Look for technologies that allow you to do this with minimal effort. Opening up scheduling to be mobile friendly and interactive, for example, is something that could be done today. The benefits of this example are many: time saved by your staff, customers who can book from anywhere at any time, and valuable time slots not going to waste all add up to a process that is not only streamlined but enhanced and improved – the ultimate goal of any process improvement effort today.

To learn more about the future of business apps, read the white paper: “Business transformation doesn't need to be a long drawn out process”