Avoiding Digitisation Disasters
In recent years many organisations have acquired new software which promises “transformation” benefits. Unfortunately, digital transformations often don’t yield the full promised benefits – up to 70% according to research by Mckinsey.
Attempting to drive digital transformation embedded into inefficient or ineffective processes will often create more problems than benefits.
Common problems include:
- Failing to deliver on management or customer expectations
- Late deliveries to customers
- Missing internal process deadlines
- Confusion (Creating errors, then Rework actions)
- Regularly double handling information between systems
- Not having an accurate source of truth as the basis for decision-making
- Over reliance on key staff - Click to read more
- Large backlogs of work or widely fluctuating workloads
- Repetitive and tedious “pain in the neck” activities (Prone to creating errors)
- Information overload - Click to read more
Before you can improve the quality of customer service, reduce costs or improve the employee experience you will likely need to interrogate your processes [As-Is]. Then redesign them to fit the goals of the business [To-Be].
The best project scopes are carefully researched. The project scope should target the operational problem(s) that are really affecting the business. It’s important to understand how solving key problems will help customers and organisational growth. Without these insights it’s very difficult to define the project value, budget, success criteria, deliverables, or deadlines.
A simple method is to identify a strategic objective which is proving difficult to achieve. Then, ask key stakeholders about their experience. Try to note down the key impediments which are preventing the organisation from meeting the objective. Also, collect ideas about the possible root cause and impact.
Bringing people together can be very effective. Using a whiteboard (digital or physical) will enable issues and problems to be revealed. Then you can start to uncover the direction for improvements. This provides a firm basis for the information to be analysed by decision makers, and to determine the focus and scope of the development project.
Capture (Process Information)
Know your Current State
The first step is to document and understand how the processes actually operate - to confirm the ‘As-Is’ situation, and then ensure you are targeting the right processes.
Visualise the workflow – use a task tool, use a whiteboard / process maps, creating a common understanding amongst the team. This can be used to identify tasks which are regularly impeded – what causes the delays? Being able to identify the activity that is frequently impeded by other operations is a good indication of a process to target.
Where it's not clear which processes are causing the business the ‘biggest’ problems then we can collect and analyse the data on that. Identify – the most frequent issues, the costliest issues, or those most risky issues - to help decide on priorities for change.
Identify Superfluous Processes
Visualise the workflow – get people to question your processes. Identify any alternative methods currently in use, maybe where individuals carry out the task differently.
Identify Activities that are Frequently Repeated
Look for laborious and repetitive activities, these could be good candidates for automation.
‘As part of the process review activity we saved over 80% processing time on a regular compliance activity, making the process faster, less mundane, saving money, and freeing time to manage people better.’ - Client feedback
Identify Performance Information
An important aspect of this ‘Capture’ stage is to gather process performance information. This would include – costs, timings, elapsed times, speed of service requirements, delay stages.
In addition, information relating to process expertise/experience requirements, responsibilities and authorisation levels are needed.
Here is an example of a project assessing ‘Process Overload’. A new approach was adopted, and business benefits achieved. Read more here - Not Letting Processes Hold up the Business (adventmgt.com)
This is a case where a business operating on 24/7 365-day basis was being hampered by its processes for recruiting new members of staff. A process review, and re-design cleared the problems, and made the business ready for growth but without succumbing to ‘Process Overload’.
You can see how questions (blue notes) about the process can be highlighted and shared, to encourage understanding and develop improvements. One change in particular, the action of making the call to the ‘Successful Candidate’ created a faster response from successful candidates, and reduced the workload in the Business Support Dept.
In the example above, it shows the actions required following the interviews and making the job offer to the successful candidate. It shows the individuals and departments that are involved at which points. We could also show where data is stored, and which systems are used in the process systems.
No mountain was ever climbed without risk, but we can significantly reduce the risk of failure through testing and feedback.
If you can, test any assumptions early and inexpensively. Ideally test the high-risk assumptions first, (the ones which are most likely to cause an expensive failure).
As a first step visualise your redesign ideas and make them understandable. Ask people if they see any risks. Once a list is created you can ROAM the risks. An exercise to analyse the risks and create mitigation strategies – (ROAM stands for Resolved, Owned, Accepted, Mitigated). Read more here.
It’s often a good idea to try new processes manually before you automate them. Especially if you’re paying for custom automations which are often expensive.
If you are buying new technology, don’t get “shiny object syndrome” from a dazzling demo. Cloud based software often has a free version which allows you to test the basic features. Sometimes the basic features are enough!
The right product is the one which best suits your need and solves the business problem. Perhaps your current technology just needs optimising, and an expensive “transformation” is unnecessary.
“We thought we might need new software. To discover we were already paying for the features we needed was a pleasant surprise” – Client Feedback
Implementation of change developments will be dependent on the nature and scope of changes being introduced. So, any plan will be unique to each project and business. The major aspects for delivering successful outcomes will include the following:
Communications – with Staff, Managers, Users, External (Customers / Suppliers)
By collaborating with stakeholders at every stage the need to “sell” the change at this late stage should be minimal.
Here the ‘message’ is to substantiate the purpose of changes being adopted. Include all individuals and teams who will be involved with the actual change itself (the implementation) and those for whom the ‘new’ processes will become the new operational norm.
Training of Users, and Supporting Staff, External (Customers / Suppliers)
Training of staff to process information and actions will be necessary to ensure their understanding and competence in using new facilities/systems/processes.
Transfers and Changeover (e.g. data, systems)
To some extent this may be technical and be provided by external service provision, however operational staff will need to be included here to support any changeover actions. Implementation plans should be clear and visible to all affected.
Feedback and Response Facilities
In the initial phases of the new operation, it is important to check and confirm that processes are working in the manner expected, and that the outcomes are as expected. In supporting a successful change, it is important to have clear and simple feedback/response systems in place to alleviate any errors or operational difficulties.
It will be useful to capture performance measures of the new processes/systems to substantiate the impact of the operational changes. These measures (success criteria) should be set in the project brief. You then compare the achieved measures against measures described in the brief. These performance results could also indicate where future developments could provide further benefits.
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