Understanding Process Agility: Start with the End in Mind

Understanding Process Agility: Start with the End in Mind

In today's digitally fueled world information overload is pervasive. At every turn, decision makers are being bombarded with data coming in on multiple channels – emails,  instant messages, SharePoint, the company Intranet, phone calls, social media, etc. And on multiple platforms including work stations, mobile devices, and smartphones, as well as proprietary systems.

But you need to ask yourself, is this wealth of information designed to empower your people to make decisions, now stifling them? If your business process automation and optimization efforts do not take into account context, i.e., the types of decisions that have to made, the work environment in which those decisions will be made, and the information needed to make the best decisions, any efforts to improve a business process by layering on digital capabilities could backfire.

Let's look at an example: 10 or 15 years ago you would think of process optimization as something like automating your accounts payable process to speed up and simplify supplier payments. This is fine as far as it goes. But the notion of optimizing processes to be more agile and flexible needs to go way beyond this most basic approach. You have to starting to think about how to take accounts payable, plus order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, plus a range of other things, and optimize all of them together in a universal way that actually leverages technology to make people more productive, and your processes more accountable.

For instance, in the era of the connected mobile device the amount of time you wait for someone to make a decision has decreased by orders of magnitude. That not only allows you to streamline processes like exception management, but it also allows you to take advantage of technologies like location-based services that you didn’t have before.

A good example of where digitally enhancing business processes actually improves decision making is in insurance. In the past, the focus was largely about moving checks faster through the system. To make this process more responsive to everyone's needs (the insurer, claims rep, and customer), the need was shifted to the process front-end integrating new technologies and information to make it more responsive and comprehensive, not just faster. For example, customers can use their smartphones to take pictures or submit a video of, say, the tree that's sitting on top of their garage, with the GPS coordinates attached. Less forms filled out, but more information gathered.

If you combine this information with weather data  then the claims processor has situational awareness and can make decisions faster. This is good news for the customer (who has a hole in their roof); great news for the company because they keep a loyal customer happy; and good news for the claims rep for a job well done.

All of this and more is possible if processes optimization efforts are viewed through the lens of the people who are interacting with processes, not just an IT project. Evaluating how the information is collected, and how the information is received to eliminate information anxiety and evolving processes to respond how the users expect them to.

To learn more about the future of business apps, read the white paper: “5 ways to transform business processes and optimize agility”