The Essential Tools for Digital Transformation
The second in a 3 part blog series by iGrafx CTO, Ed Maddock
In the first of this 3 part series on the “Evolution of the Modern CoE” I discussed the combustive nature of digital transformation, specifically what I call the 3 distinct “transformation elements” and how to harness their combined power. In this article I’ll go a step deeper into the critical tools required to control and optimize the reaction created by smashing together Analysis & Redesign, RPA and Workflow Automation. As you recall from my last post, we likened digital transformation to a powerful but volatile – and potentially dangerous—nuclear reaction. To fully harness the power and protect from a business meltdown the reaction must be contained with a strong “linkage to strategy” on one side and “business level governance” on the other. Those foundational principles form the two walls of the reactor chamber. And that’s as far as we got.
As you know from decades of movies and TV shows, every nuclear reactor worth its salt has a control room with a dizzying number of switches, dials, meters, levers and alarms. These allow the nuclear technicians to carefully track every step of the power generation process, optimizing output and mitigating risk. With digital transformation you need a similar set of levers to stay safe and maximize results.
The Critical Tools for Strategy Linkage & Business Level Governance
As you can see in the illustration above, there are six key tools required to harness, optimize and control your Digital Transformation:
- Process Definition & Assessment
- Change Management
- Model-based Reporting
In total, these tools deliver a distinct set of capabilities that need to be applied in various ways depending upon the specific “transformation maturity” stage your organization is in. The final installment of this three-part series will explain exactly how, when, why and where to apply these.
Let’s break each tool down in more detail.
Process Definition & Assessment
At some point in your CoE journey, you will need a tool that will allow you to identify and create an inventory of your organization’s key processes – or at least the ones you’re trying to automate.
The concept of “mapping” is pretty old fashioned in regards to process capture. Most organizations already have processes captured in various systems. Or sometimes in binders on a few people’s desks… But it’s not just capturing process maps – it’s also the supporting documentation; procedures, manuals, etc. They may exist in a central repository alongside the processes, or in completely different locations scattered across your company. This could be a hole in your repository structure, and one that is often overlooked.
After capturing and building your inventory you’ll need a mechanism to evaluate the processes to determine the right candidates for automation, RPA or otherwise. As simple as it sounds, there are many important elements to process capture. First, consider process assessment – where you understand the process itself, it’s key elements, and the key properties associated with it.
Then there are the mining and discovery elements which allow you to compare and contrast what you say you do in your process map vs. what you actually do in real life.
Another thing that is easily overlooked is building a common terminology. You must be able to capture the concepts and ensure that everyone understands exactly what they mean in the context of your business operations. And you must make sure that when you change something, everyone has the most up to date information. Common terminology or a common glossary, if you will, is key.
As I mentioned above, automation is a very important element of being able to fully model and effectively execute your processes. And, as it turns out, automation tools run the gambit from simply throwing a bot at a single menial task, to tying together complete organizational workflows.
There are effectively three key types of automation:
- iBPMS – full business process management suites that cover end-end organizational workflow with significant, system oriented automation. To facilitate a successful implementation, you must be able to provide the documentation and process definition detail to the team that will develop and program the full automation.
- Human workflow management is a key element of the tool set that augments the full-blown machine automation delivered with iBPMS. This is often called low-code automation. It’s often used to automate user tasks for data gathering, input and entry.
- Lastly, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) bots are now the most crucial element in this solution set, since RPA offers a low barrier of entry for building efficiency, accuracy and compliance around individual tasks within a larger process. The RPA bot object represents a concept that can be easily linked to compliance initiatives, and strategic initiatives. There is representation and support along the way, and there’s an interchange with other automation systems from the standpoint of the model capture.
Change Management & Collaboration
Change management and collaboration are fundamental pieces that go hand in hand. Net/net, if you’re not managing the change that’s going on within your organization, it’s impossible to communicate effectively. Different functional areas are by definition “not on the same page,” and you risk inefficiency, errors and being out of compliance.
It’s important not only to know what the previous versions of your processes were, but also to be able to compare them to what you currently have. There should be a review cycle with commenting, replies and other annotation capabilities. Roles and responsibilities are essential to this, since you must have ownership of all the process elements and have responsibility for approving cycles.
Another vital piece is training. This includes endorsement and acknowledgement to ensure people are looking at the information in question and providing comments.
Finally, you must consistently disseminate information from multiple locations throughout the organization. The navigation through your process repository needs to be multifaceted: permission-based and license-based and multilingual to ensure people can look at everything in the language that they’re familiar with. It should also be time-based so that you can synchronize processes being available to the community until the necessary execution steps occur. All of these facets are critical to ensure proper change management and collaboration throughout the organization.
Model Based Reporting
Model-based reporting, and impact analysis are also important. In other words, you must understand what happens if you change one system. Which processes will be impacted? All gaps, whether reference model gaps, risk or control gaps, or something else, must be identified. And after the list is generated, you must be able to assess the gaps and their impact based on the model you’ve created.
Then to keep everyone on the same page, you need the ability to share a process narrative. Organizations must have the ability to report on information about the process and its associated objects (business impact) all in one place.
Finally, you must be able to capture your KPI’s and key risk indicators and then integrate the values you need into reporting. Rolling that information up and grouping it for strategic views is essential for success. It’s imperative that you can drill down to understand who has responsibility for changes. Essentially you need a dashboard with business-critical process automation information at your fingertips. From an RPA perspective, it’s key to understanding what the bots are actually doing and whether you are on the right track.
As you can see, there is quite a bit involved with successfully managing Digital Transformation, and the many tools at the disposal of a modern CoE to mitigate risk and ensure success. In my next post I will dig in a little further and answer the obvious question – what to do with all these tools? How should you use them? In what order? At the end, you should have a firm grasp of the methodologies necessary to successfully apply your toolkit.