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Effective Digital Transformation Requires Right Processes - What Does This Mean?

01 September 2020, 07:05 pm


We started this series on digital transformation with an overview and listed people, culture and processes as the three factors that need to be aligned and in harmony before diving into digital. We then looked at people, followed by culture. Today we focus on processes.

The dictionary defines process as ‘a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.’. For the sake of your convenience, we have highlighted certain parts of the last sentence in bold formatting. The key in that sentence is ‘achieving a particular end’.

Let us first focus on why processes are necessary. Processes often do one or more of the following:

  1. Processes help define and describe how to do something and in what order
  2. Processes are often determined by the most efficient way to achieve said objective
  3. Processes define the standard ways in which to achieve said objectives, and offer consistency and accountability
  4. Processes lead to improvement

Processes help define and describe how to do something and in what order

Most of you would have bought a piece of IKEA furniture at some point. How did you discover how to assemble it? You followed the set of diagrams that came with the kit, right? That diagram describes the process to assemble your furniture. Not just the IKEA furniture, but almost everything we buy and use these days comes with a set of user manuals, the most basic instructions in which are how to get started.

Question 1 for you to ask yourselves: How well defined are your processes in achieving objectives?

Processes are often governed by the most efficient way to achieve said objective

By efficiency we’re not just talking in terms of money, but also in terms of time, resources, human effort and other criteria. Unfortunately, most people who are part of a system often tend to forget the bigger picture. If a process saves someone a lot of time and cost, but adds more cost and time downstream then it’s not worth having such a process, because it is not efficient in the long run. However, processes that reduce overall human effort, overall time or are resource friendly overall, are efficient.

Question 2: How efficient are your processes overall?

Processes define the standard ways in which to achieve said objectives, and offer consistency and accountability

Imagine you and your friend both bought the same piece of furniture from IKEA, but received different instructions. Imagine their set of instructions were correct and yours were wrong. What are the consequences? They can range from loss of time to injuries or even loss of life. However, having a standardised set of instructions ensures this doesn’t happen. With the IKEA furniture, not just you, or your friend, but if anyone else across the planet bought the same model and specification of the same product as you, they would also get the same diagram describing how to assemble it. Moreover, they also create accountability. When things go wrong, the first thing that gets asked is ‘were standard processes followed?’.

Question 3: If two different employees in your company who have never met each other before were randomly chosen to do the same task, will they follow the same process and achieve the same result?

Processes lead to improvement

This should be very obvious by now. Given that processes offer consistency, are standardised, define and describe how to do something, and are driven by efficiency, it is easier to measure and monitor processes. Therefore there is room for improvement. There is no best way to do something, there is always a better way. Now, imagine if ten different people bought the same piece of furniture, but had no instructions to put it together. What would happen?

Question 4: How are you ensuring improvement in your organisation?

So, the point we were trying to make is, your people, culture and your process need to be aligned and in sync. If this does not happen, no amount of digital will save the say. Let us consider the following three scenarios

People + Culture – Process: No consistency, standardisation or accountability for anything (Hippyland)

People – Culture + Processes: No leadership, no values, no rule of law or ethics (Wild Wild West)

Culture + Process – People: Can this situation exist? Here’s another question for you to think about.

Also, we know a thing or two about digital transformation. So, why not get in touch?

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