By Sateesh Seetharamiah, CEO – Edge Platforms, EdgeVerve Systems Ltd.
Digital Transformation is probably the most discussed strategic initiative in board rooms across the world. Yet, barely 15% of companies were digitally savvy before 2021. The reason was simple – while digital came with advantages, there was no tearing hurry to get to it.
The action on digital kicked off with the Covid-19 pandemic because, honestly, companies were left with no choice – it was “go digital or perish.” McKinsey found that in just eight weeks, digital adoption leaped ahead five years. But was this merely a band-aid solution for a deeper wound? A study found that 70% of digital transformation projects fell short of their objectives.
New frameworks for a digital-first approach
For a successful digital transformation, you need to look obvious and dive deeper. What would your company need to respond to a changing market and consumer needs quickly? How can you bring speed, scale, and customer-centricity – the essential ingredients for success? Before you jump into automation, I would say look at your processes.
The complex, global, connected enterprise today is like a living, breathing organism. Just like living organisms depend on their nervous system, the modern enterprise depends on its processes. As organisms grow in complexity, add cells, organs etc. the complexity of their nervous system also increases. Where a single cell organism can get by with a chemical reaction, human beings need over 100 billion neurons to function. These neurons help us take cues from the environment and from our physiology and act in our best interests.
Similarly, business processes directly influence the enterprise’s ability to sense, synthesize and respond to market changes. And the more complex the business, the more complex the processes become. To respond faster to stimulus’ these processes need better integration, faster synchronization, and seamless connection between multiple systems and functions. Just like every neuron must be fired at the right time for the signals to pass along the human nervous system, every part of the process must function as intended and in the most efficient way.
Digital transformation cannot happen without process transformation. You can’t lift and change the manual process to digital and expect it to amplify returns. Yes, it might be better, but only marginally. To truly unlock the digital potential, processes must be redesigned for a human-centric, digital-first world. That’s when you can scale the impact.
To bring about change, you need to know the on-ground situation – how does each process in your business work? How do people interact with these processes? How can this human-system interaction be improved, optimized, or automated? Adopting digital without answering these questions is a recipe for ineffective digital transformation and reduced ROI.
The challenge is that most companies don’t know their processes as well as they should. And you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.
We all have standard operating procedures and documentation on how processes are executed. But ask yourself, is this information truly accurate and up to date? Honestly, these documents can never capture all the process variations. And over 70% of the enterprise processes do not follow the standard operating procedure! Then there are processes outside the ERP system that are never captured. It’s nearly impossible to get an accurate process blueprint. Or is it?
Process discovery: A robust foundation for digital transformation
A leading global beverage company’s process complexities were pushing up their cost of operations. They operated in 20+ countries where differences in the local procedures followed, languages, and legal requirements created process variations. No one knew what the right process was. To drill down to an optimal process and identify automation opportunities, they needed to map how things were done across countries and pick the best practices. That was a mammoth task, almost impossible to do manually with any accuracy. Instead, the company deployed a process discovery tool on 50 user systems and created detailed process and task maps with 3480 automated recordings. These maps, made in just two weeks, were over 90% accurate. This granular and step-by-step view helped them identify over 300 process variations. Based on this insight, they designed an optimal process flow leading to over a million dollars in annual savings.
Process blueprints uncovered with process discovery have many interesting applications, as several companies have already discovered. For instance, based on this data, companies can find automation opportunities. Or they may even decide not to automate at all. For example, based on process discovery insights, a financial product company decided to re-engineer its process rather than invest in automation. Similarly, a US-based bank found that targeted user training is what they needed to improve their process efficiency.
Well begun is half done
Starting your digital transformation journey with process discovery is akin to finding out what is the best route to take from point A to B. It can tell you (in a completely unbiased way) what’s happening in your processes along the way and how you can overcome challenges and roadblocks or even take an entirely new approach to transformation that is optimal.
So, if you want to create a de-risked automation navigation strategy with measurable ROI, start with process discovery.