Harvard Business School just sponsored a webinar on the digitization of business and McKinsey is offering a reading on the digitization of business processes.
Each takes a slightly different take. HBS puts more emphasis on the potential for analytics to help digitalize your processes. In essence, if you gather lots of information, from emails or websites and then process it using Analytic algorithms, you are likely to learn useful things. You may find that, on Mondays, items placed in a certain area of the store are much more likely to sell. You can spend time worrying about why it might be so, or you can simply take advantage of it by moving items you want to promote to that area on Monday.
McKinsey takes a broader perspective, which is interesting, but which almost ends up saying that its good to use software automation wherever you can. They point out that Amazon and Apple are busy setting awfully high standards for customers. Those of us who shop on Amazon or use an iPad have become accustomed to immediate feedback and things that work right out of the box. Conversely, we have less tolerance for more poorly handled processes that can't provide good support.
Most of this is not new to our readers. We all know its important to delight the customer, and we all know that automation is a major way to do this. Most of us would probably like to work at a company that uses BPMS software, has its major processes modeled, constantly gathers online data about core processes, and was constantly looking for ways to automate more elements of our processes, thereby reducing labor, increasing speed and efficiency, and generating happier customers.
For most of us, the problem isn't conceiving how to do this — its getting management support and a budget that will allow us to do these things. At the same time, even with support and a budget, it would still be a matter of getting established processes, employees and managers to shift from their current patterns and embrace radically improved processes. In other words, most of us aren't held up by a lack of ideas about how to change, but by a lack of support and acceptance.
As Machiavelli observed a long time ago: “There is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful of its success, than to be a leader in the introduction of changes.” Perhaps its a little easier today than it was in the 1450s. Today, most people today talk about how change is pervasive and constant, but somehow there is still a big difference between accepting that change happens, and accepting that change should happen in your work area.
Still, no matter the resistance we may face, the Apples and Amazons of the world continue to show what can be done… and competitors everywhere must innovate and match what customers come to expect, or stumble and eventually get acquired by someone else. For many process people, perhaps the unsettled environments created by acquisitions represent their greatest opportunities to really recast their organization's processes.
If I were working at a organization, I'd keep a very high level overview of my organization's core process, that showed both the process and how it interacted with customers and major stakeholders. I'd have the four or five biggest opportunities highlighted, and I'd use any chance I got to tell people how we could revolutionize our organization by addressing those opportunities. Hopefully I attract a following for making some changes. Worst case, I'd upset people so much that they'd want me out of there — and that would probably be a good sign that I'd do better working for another company. Let's face it, if you aren't at a company like Apple or Amazon, or a company that is struggling to become like one of these companies, you are probably working for a company that is going to be downsized or acquired in the near future, and you might as well be looking for a better job now.