Using BPM to accelerate digital transformation



Jorge García
04/25/2018

Introduction                    

Although the idea of a digital transformation is no longer new for many organizations, it remains an elusive target for some. There are many reasons for this, but there is no doubt that more businesses than ever are seeking to achieve a state of full operational efficiency and effectiveness via digital transformation.

But what does digital transformation entail? An interesting definition provided by Agile Elephant states:

Digital transformation is the process of shifting your organization from a legacy approach to new ways of working and thinking using digital, social, mobile and emerging technologies. It involves a change in leadership, different thinking, the encouragement of innovation and new business models, incorporating digitization of assets and an increased use of technology to improve the experience of your organization’s employees, customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholder.

A digital transformation initiative touches many, if not all, aspects of an organization, from common business activities and processes to the way the organization develops models for its corporate ecosystem, as well as all associated assets: customers, sales automation, digital content generation, and more.

Effective and efficient business process management (BPM) practices and solutions are essential for achieving operational efficiency and business performance excellence and ensuring successful digital transformation initiatives. BPM is no longer an optional add-on but an important component of the digital transformation.

In “The Nine Elements of Digital Transformation,” George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee describe a coherent and logical approach to digital transformation, placing its key attributes (items) in three main categories:

Transforming the customer experience via

  • Customer understanding
  • Top-Line growth
  • Customer touch points

Transforming operational processes via

  • Process digitization
  • Worker enablement
  • Performance management

Transforming business models via 

  • Digitally modified businesses
  • New digital businesses
  • Digital globalization

Although the customer category plays a vital role in the digital transformation process, it is the second category, operational processes, which is largely responsible for procuring the moving pieces to make the initiative work. It is also this central category that consolidates all the elements of the digital transformation process, providing the elements for new and necessary business models come to life, and enabling them to be agile, efficient, and intelligent.

Embedding the BPM process in the digital era

Although many organizations have already achieved high levels of efficiency and control over their BPM practices, new business and IT developments are constantly arising, adding an additional level of complexity and forcing companies to frequently assess and update their BPM plans. Therefore, BPM practices need to be treated as continuous initiatives.

In the context of a digital transformation initiative, the adoption of a BPM system has three primary tasks:

  • Address increasing complexity in business operations that drive organizations to continuously review, modify, and improve their processes;
  • Address an increasing need for extensive collaboration, flexibility, and mobility to continuously improve business processes, reduce complexity, and increase collaboration between all parties, and
  • Address the need to increase process interaction efficiency to improve relations with customers, partners, associates, and users, thereby ensuring effective communication, information sharing, and collaboration.

In the context of digital transformation, organizations can take advantage of BPM’s potential to use process management and automation practices and deliver specific benefits such as efficiency, effectiveness, and agility (i.e., the ability to quickly adapt to new business requirements).

Moreover, BPM can and should be used to directly support and influence customer experience efforts by streamlining the overall process, automating some tasks that can be done without customer interaction, and, most importantly, reducing friction and the time users need for process execution and operation.

This way, process and automation solutions can help put the customer at the center of the equation, making a clear impact on:

  • Optimizing the costs of operation;
  • Improving product, service, and delivery timelines and quality;
  • Increasing personalization of processes; and
  • Customer-centric decision making.

Of course, caution should be used when transforming challenges into opportunities. This includes, for example, avoiding BPM projects that are led solely by IT departments, looking instead to involve all the affected departments as well as upper management. This can make a BPM initiative truly business responsive and agile, whereas IT-led projects often become rigid and resistant to rapid change in favor of ensuring internal and technical compliance.

Transformational BPM, a call to action

The following six considerations for digital process agility can help organizations implement an effective business process and automation solution to work alongside a digital transformation initiative.

Start small, but think big

BPM solutions should be part of a continuous digital transformation journey and should be permanent instruments for achieving progressive business and customer success, rather than a short-term project.

Select the best-fit process management/automation solution

There are many solutions to choose from, but consider the software functions you need to achieve core digital transformation goals. Setting clear functional priorities that support your current and future digital transformation needs is essential.

BPM solutions need to be flexible and mobile

Universal access is critical, from any device, such as a PC, tablet, or smartphone, as well as from any place and at any time. Cloud options can facilitate the adoption of BPM software offerings, especially those that with technical constraints. Many organizations can take advantage of subscription-based models or on-demand services to reduce their initial IT investment.

Ensure continuous innovation

New BPM and automation initiatives need to ensure continuous improvement and innovation for both internal and external users, growing and evolving with them.

Combine flexibility and simplification

An agile design mechanism might be needed to streamline process design, development, and deployment.

Establish the foundation for a BPM Center of Excellence (CoE)

Establishing a BPM CoE or at least working towards its foundation can align the company’s process management and automation practices with the goal of continuously improving your existing BPM strategy or establishing a new one.

Working towards an efficient BPM practice can help ensure that an organization is operating in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Conclusion

Achieving process efficiency and agility in the digital era can be challenging, but it can also be a driving force in your company’s quest for digital transformation. By establishing a series of clear and well-established steps, aligning BPM practices to an overall digital transformation initiative can be vital for ensuring the sustainability and maximization of your digital business operations.