Digital Transformation Through Process Improvement
What is Digital Transformation?
With the technology world constantly evolving at such an accelerated pace, it’s hard not to fall behind in your pursuit to keep your company running as efficiently as possible–this is where digital transformation comes into play. Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into your company by adapting current processes, culture and customer experiences into a modern experience.
With more specific examples, using process automation to eliminate repeated user tasks, eliminate the use of disorganised and out-dated paper forms, and integrate IT systems in a logical data flow. What digital transformation looks like will greatly vary for every company. However, in order to start this transition, it is important to first know why it is needed in your company, and where.
Why is digital transformation important?
Digital transformation is vital for a company to be able to adapt to the evolution of technology-driven business processes and application landscape. Business leaders must constantly challenge their organisations to ensure that they are maximising productivity gains and competitive advantage across all functions, while also delivering exceptional customer experience.
A common struggle with digital transformation that companies face is the need to harmonise their enterprise applications. Between ERP, CRM, ECM, and other systems, companies typically have several applications that cater to the diverse service needs of multiple departments, groups, and users, both within and outside the organisation. Any delay in the internal process can impact the overall business operations. Along with this, an automation tool allows for repetitive tasks to be done without the need for human users which ultimately leads to fewer human errors and duplicated data when completing these tasks.
It’s critical for organisations to increase operational efficiency, ensure optimum productivity is achieved and end-user targets are met in a timely manner. All of this can be done with the implementation of digital technologies like business process automation.
How can digital transformation in the form of process automation be introduced in your company?
The transition of introducing new digital technology to your company can be very intimidating with the large selection of technology on the market and the possibilities they can all bring your company. It’s easy to get excited and want to implement changes all at once, but it is important not to boil the ocean. In other words, do not take on an overly large amount of work because it will most likely be impossible to accomplish given the reality of your resources. Rather, transition through a realistic and scalable, step by step approach.
When looking at automating your operational processes, it is first important to know what you need. Broadly, there are four types of automation technologies; RPA, Workflow, DPA, and BPM, and some of their functionalities overlap. Let’s take a quick look at what they all do:
Robotic Process Automation replaces users with, well, robots. Consider an RPA bot’s function as learning and mimicking a user, down to using the user-interface of applications, and thereby being able to complete simple, repeatable tasks.
The advantage of RPA is that it is quite easy to quickly ramp up your bot-workforce. On the other hand, RPA bots have no connection to your process, and any upstream changes in your processes or your applications (even simple software updates) can render your bots useless. It is almost easier to understand RPA if you rethink the nomenclature as Robotic Task Automation, because there is no process governance behind RPA.
Almost every single business application today comes with workflows included, and there are many third-party applications that specialise in workflows. Workflows are a subset of automatable steps within a process, and often within a single system.
For example, workflows within your ERP system can take a purchase order input and automatically process the order, generate the invoices, and update the material master table. What is important to remember is that the workflow does not reflect the overall end-to-end process, which might begin and end well outside the scope of the workflow.
Digital Process Automation is a relatively new term, and with all the emerging technology around process automation, it is probably a good idea to identify the specifics of DPA applications. Unlike workflow, DPA considers the end-to-end process across multiple systems. By its very nature, DPA must be a third-party application that can connect to all the existing systems and internally manage the process, tasks, and data.
In the purchase-order example, DPA would begin with the start of the process, perhaps the identification of the need for a specific part number, and would navigate the process through approvals, order creation, and receiving; perhaps interfacing with the ERP, CRM, and Financial systems along the way.
Business Process Management includes DPA; and adds a layer of process modelling, management, and governance over the automation. Unlike the other technologies mentioned here, BPM is more than the technology, it is a discipline for process management and continuous improvement that utilises technology as a method to achieve process excellence.
Without BPM, your processes and your automation are two separate entities; one managed by the business and one managed by IT. BPM unites these two, so that your processes and your automation are always in sync. Of course, you can use a BPM application only for DPA, but you cannot use a DPA application for BPM.
Digital Transformation Through Process Improvement – A Key to Success
Digital transformation is imperative for all businesses whether they are at the small or enterprise level. With the growth of your company and the changing digital landscape, it is crucial to reimagine your workplace and upgrade your organisation’s current technologies through a series of scalable steps. An important component to recognise in the process of this transformation is the need to enhance your company’s business processes.
Process management is an important practice to have in any company – without it, a company will be too slow to cater to all the tasks they need to complete. A robust process governance system allows for efficiency among people, processes, and technologies across all industries to ensure maximum productivity gains and competitive advantage across all operations, while also delivering remarkable customer experience.
It is also important to remember that the four types of automation technologies can complement each other and knowing when to use each approach is vital for maximising return on investment and keeping companies running efficiently.