Do we recognise the value of business process automation?

We live in a world – in our lives as individuals outside work, as well as our lives at work inside organisations – where information technology is arguably the most potent force driving transformation. In organisations, IT is driving new opportunities for sourcing capabilities and systems through Cloud-based platforms; new opportunities for delivering information and services through mobile devices; new ways of engaging individuals and communities with social software platforms; and new ways of understanding environments and markets and acting on insights through the ability to crunch ridiculous volumes of data in near real-time.

But it’s a double-edged sword.

At the same time as providing so many opportunities, global use of IT and communications technologies is also creating some of organisations’ biggest challenges. It’s fuelling globalisation of competition, and raising customers’ expectations – forcing organisations in developed economies in particular to focus on trying to differentiate themselves through customer experience excellence, while at the same time trying to minimise their costs by ‘rightsourcing’ capabilities to various third parties.

Is technology a friend or foe to the process professional?

The thing is, great customer experiences need to be integrated and personalised; when you think about Apple (held by many to be the paragon of slick customer experience) it’s hard to tell, mostly, where the lines between hardware product, software, services and digital content are. Trying to integrate and personalise products and services to create great experiences is really tough, if at the same time you’re becoming part of a more dispersed and atomised value chain.

Resolving this tension between distribution and integration in core business processes is what you might call a ‘non-trivial’ problem. Doing it at scale without technology support is foolhardy.

And yet.

Our industry research and consulting tells us that there’s nowhere enough involvement of process improvement practitioners in the IT-dependent initiatives that are ongoing right now to reinvigorate operational systems in organisations. We do know that when organisations get these projects right, they can deliver really significant value; but at the same time, very often projects are led by IT professionals with much more experience of (and interest in) developing applications than understanding of broader issues and techniques for driving improvement and change. In these cases the results are much more modest and the failure rate is much higher.

In a recent PEX Masters discussion on LinkedIn, myself and my colleague Mark McGregor participated in a discussion which considered whether process improvement professionals and initiatives were in danger of becoming irrelevant if they failed to engage effectively with this set of issues.

The outcome of that discussion was – to put it very briefly – "yes"!

But there’s a flip side: for those who are able to get actively involved, the chances of great results for individuals and their organiations are much, much higher.

With all this in mind, MWD Advisors has teamed up with PEX Network to survey process improvement professionals like you with the aim of understanding the current state of play regarding the use of technology in process improvement initiatives. The survey will help us all understand where and how the kind of cross-organisational collaboration in improvement we need is happening; where it’s not, and why not; and – by taking soundings from those practitioners who are getting actively involved – help us understand some of the most important practical things that contribute towards project success.

If you can help us by taking part in the survey, we’ll be happy to share the results of the survey with you when all the analysis is completed (mid January 2013). As well as producing an in-depth report from this survey, we’ll also be presenting some of the key findings in a webinar to PEX Network members to follow later in February 2013.

To take the survey please click here:

Thanks very much in advance for your support!