Three forces making modern process optimization fly
Customers never appreciate how hard it is to make everything work behind the scenes of each successful touchpoint they have with a brand. Mobile app and SaaS consumers probably imagine business processes as rather lightweight flowcharts dictating the steps of a typical ecommerce website or mobile app.
In reality, most mature companies have a mountain of process complexity tied up in disparate systems and services, unstructured data swamps, paper documents, and interpersonal communications. Like a jumbo jetliner, it’s hard to visualize how so much mass could ever get off the ground.
In aviation the invisible forces of thrust, drag and lift keep an airplane aloft. Fortunately, there are three forces that can, when working in concert, similarly make modern process optimization fly: operational intelligence, process automation, and process design.
Overcoming organizational inertia
If there’s one criticism of most existing low-code app builders, task management and RPA solutions, it’s that the resulting processes they create are brittle, meaning they tend to fall down on the job once any unexpected changes happen, or heavier demand starts showing up.
When a single change is the cause of process failure, then it is really a symptom of a deeper problem – a very tenuous process journey connecting the enterprise’s systems of record and data communications to the applications used by internal resources and external customers.
Each station of a complex business process has its own set of tools, for instance the finance department may have different ERP systems and process rails in place for invoices, orders, pricing, approvals and transactions. These may interface with sets of tools built on other process frameworks, for instance the fulfillment side of warehouse inventory, logistics, production planning, and supplier sourcing.
Maintaining the continuity of a business process as it crosses so many departmental and vertical-specific tools is difficult, since most of the tools were built for specific tasks, rather than having conceptual foundations in BPM. Each task must be integrated in an ad-hoc way with the next task in a sequence.
Even if process integration tools are used to stitch services together, or RPA and custom scripting are combined to repeat user actions on a screen, whenever changes are introduced there’s still a high failure rate because there’s a lack of context and continuity.
The three forces of process optimization
What are three forces that can enable the heavy lift of process optimization, and help businesses get airborne faster despite the inertia of existing systems?
You might think of operational intelligence as the thrust force of flight, or the data that fuels the process engine.
Task and process mining are first employed in the live production environment to discover and document currently active user actions and system-to-system data flows across multiple core systems and application processes. Then, additional historical data can be correlated with real-time processes to power much more powerful forms of analytics than simply tracking the state of the business.
Operational intelligence allows organizations to locate the root cause of process interruptions and mistakes in real-time, as well as spot emerging trends that indicate an upcoming bottleneck. Lastly, companies should run simulations based on the analytics, so they can run ‘what-if’ scenarios and predict the impact of process changes.
Much of the engineering work of aerodynamics involves the reduction of drag on the airplane caused by the friction of moving air against a surface. Similarly, drag is inherent in manually tying together multiple processes, as each task connection point may call for a human to check a spreadsheet or fill out a form, or for a system to validate an API call or its returned value.
Over the years, we’ve seen many different forms of process automation that show connections as snap-to-fit steps in a flowchart, perhaps aided by libraries of automation templates. Automation was further assisted through interfaces such as process wizards or configurations.
However, for automation to truly reduce drag, customers and employees should be able to interact with processes as they do with people, and ask the automation suite what they are looking for within the flow of their workday.
With recent advances in conversational AI, a helpful chat assistant can interpret conversations as an integrator behind the scenes, and make service calls and connections for the team to use, without requiring them to spend time within a workflow builder.
A great degree of lift is critical for getting that jumbo jet off the ground, and up over shifting winds and clouds. Process design is how organizations similarly achieve altitude, not just by efficiently routing work to the right people or systems, but delivering differentiated capabilities that sustain growth.
A successful process design collects a wealth of accumulated organizational learnings and knowledge to map a differentiated course for continually improving business processes. Best performers in this arena have a deep understanding of customer journeys, and the value stream of technologies that help the org deliver on its promises to customers.
Finally, a well populated repository makes it easier to reference what processes worked, or didn’t work, so compliance and best practices documentation can be generated in line with strategy.
Maintaining a digital twin with care
A major international healthcare technology, medical device and service provider used the cloud-based process optimization Process360 Live platform from iGrafx to build a Digital Twin of an Organization (or, DTO) of its own best-operating renal care treatment facilities—from admissions, to treatment, to discharge and post-procedure recommendations.
Dialysis patients have a special set of needs, as they must visit a renal care facility 3 or 4 times a week, which can severely impact their ability to visit family, friends or professional associates. Researching care center locations, scheduling and booking appointments, transferring medical records, documenting insurance coverage and more makes travel a daunting task.
This digital twin was far more than a replicated model of the company’s technology stack. The iGrafx solution captured and replicated the entire renal care customer journey across all of its related systems devices, applications and their product offerings to using Process360 as a repository, including:
- Patient care records and journeys
- Infection control procedures and processes
- Interaction with systems of record including ERP and CRM
- How to deal with global supply chain interruptions and inventory issues with alternative sourcing
- Support activities and history
- HR and employee onboarding procedures
Now patients can visit any of this provider’s hundreds of locations around the world, and get the exact right experience, since everything from secure patient data, to facility design requirements, necessary supplies, and even staffing plans and work processes have been combined into one process optimization model.
By building on the same DTO process design, the company was also able to improve in-home, outpatient or remote versions of its treatments, to make them as safe and effective as they can be when a global pandemic made clinical access difficult.
The Intellyx Take
Why did I leave out the airplane’s weight, when talking about so much heavy lifting?
Well, that process weight is the value payload, in the form of actual work product delivered and customers served. Obviously, we want to limit unnecessary expense and toil, but the business does have to deliver something of utility—it can’t simply cost-cut its way to market leadership.
Likewise, process optimization doesn’t dictate which systems and predefined processes the organization must use, since there’s no value in replacing what already works. With real-time operational intelligence, automation and process design working hand-in-hand, companies can consistently innovate and elevate their customer and employee experiences every day.
An Intellyx BrainBlog for iGrafx by Jason English
Copyright ©2023 Intellyx LLC. Intellyx is solely responsible for the content of this article. As of the time of writing, iGrafx is an Intellyx customer. No AI chatbots were used in the writing of this article. Image source: NASA LRC, wikimedia commons.