Stop Digital Failures with Process Mapping?

By Mark Johnson Posted March 26, 2019 In Business Process Management
Stop Digital Failures with Process Mapping_

Way back in the early 1980’s (ok, so dating myself) I was working for a Management Consulting firm out of Washington DC supporting DoD and the Intel Community. Times were exciting for me right out of college. It was the beginning of the Reagan years with plenty of money to go around. My first security clearance, the evaluation process for which I will never forget, I was whiteboarding “entity analysis” and process mapping diagrams for our Navy PMO400 client in Crystal City and learning about the Phalanx CIWS and Aegis Combat System. Not to mention delivering mini-computer spare parts to deep dark offices at the NSA. Those were the days, when management consultants did more than consult on management, and I was in over my head.

We were talking Digital Transformation even back then. Yes, you heard me correctly, the hottest buzz word for the past 5 years in the B2B space - all the buzz over 30 years ago. I’ll always remember my associate Chris Anderson going to the white board and advising us that we needed a holistic view of the problem. He drew a triangle and labeled each corner – People, Process and Technology. I was like, PPT!!! - the greatest thing since sliced bread (we didn’t have WTF back then, LOL). All my peers those days were reading and quoting from Michael Hammer’s “Reengineering the Corporation” book.

In 1990, Michael Hammer, a former professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), published the article "Reengineering Work: Don't Automate, Obliterate" in the Harvard Business Review. He claimed that the major challenge for managers is to obliterate forms of work that do not add value, rather than using technology for automating it. This statement implicitly accused managers of having focused on the wrong issues, namely that technology in general, and more specifically information technology, has been used primarily for automating existing processes rather than using it as an enabler for making non-value adding work obsolete.

Hammer's claim was simple: Most of the work being done does not add any value for customers so this work should be removed, not accelerated through automation. Instead, companies should reconsider their inability to satisfy customer needs and their insufficient cost structure. Even well-established management thinkers, such as Peeter Drucker and Tom Peters, were accepting and advocating BPR as a new tool for (re-)achieving success in a dynamic world.

Jump ahead to 2000 – remember the Super Bowl commercial from EDS about repairing airplanes while in the air? Yep, digital transformation and process mapping are not new – they go way back.

And here we sit in 2019. We still have silos. Dx is still the hottest industry “thing”, but failing left and right. And today we have robots to deal with low value work. The other day I saw this image posted on LinkedIn which I first saw, again, back in the mid 1980’s.

Process Mapping Action PlanI believe it’s still relevant all these years later. Vision is really Strategy and Action Plans are Tactics. Skills and Resources form Talent. This also reminds me of an important quote from one of my favorite warriors, Sun Tsu...

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.

But there is a foundational piece to each of the 5 buckets – PROCESS (and the mapping of those processes).

In my view the root cause of many Dx transformations is we forget about the absolute, fundamental and mission critical nature of Process. I mean, what’s going on? According to Forbes “84% Of Companies Fail at Digital Transformation” and according to McKinsey “Only 8 percent of companies they surveyed recently said their current business model would remain economically viable if their industry keeps digitizing at its current course and speed.”

It’s too easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest technology such as RPA, AI or initiatives such as Customer Experience/Engagement and how to now (because its real and exists) better leverage all the Big Data which is building around us at a rapid pace, its often just overwhelming.

I am not out to be a Data buzz killer. Success in our rapidly growing digital economy hinges on data. It’s the key to creating greater productivity (efficiencies and effectiveness), product innovations, and customer services. It can inform entire new business models.

So, it’s no surprise that with digital transformation at the top of the corporate agenda, organizations are making significant investments in data, analytics and AI to uncover new insights that can give them better decision making and ultimately the competitive edge.

Despite the high investment, however, returns can disappoint. In a recent Big Data Executive survey from NewVantage Partners, 73 percent of Fortune 1000 executives reported measurable results from their investments, but only 24 percent acknowledge that the results have been transformative and innovative.

Deriving more value from data means addressing four fundamental challenges: data inaccessibility, poor data quality, linking data-driven processes to outcomes and talent (skills and resources) shortages – all amid an ever-expanding regulatory landscape. It begs the question – how best to build our organizations to adapt to change?

My take is…to better manage change, and while each of these are equally important, don’t get too caught up with Strategy, Tactics, Talent and Incentives – because doing so we have seen lead to just more complexity and chaos.

FOCUS ON THE DAMM PROCESS and look at Automation secondarily!

Process mapping is the first step in a process automaton strategy. It’s an approach for non-technical business people to work across departments and functions to document their current business processes and operational decisions, and to discover new opportunities for innovation.

Process mapping enables you to gain a much better understanding of your business processes and decisions, and to identify specific areas that are ripe for automation.

With a collaborative approach to process mapping, subject matter experts from multiple, cross-functional areas of the business can work together in a virtual environment to document and improve the business processes and customer journeys that run your business.

Basic diagramming tools such as Visio allow business users to define an initial business process and provide a good path to getting your processes off of sticky notes and into a digital format. However, if company-wide collaboration, real-time change management, documentation and integration with automation tools are important to you, a dedicated process modeling tool such as BlueworksLive from IBM maybe your better choice.

Simple in nature, basic diagramming or flowchart tools such as Visio lack many of the capabilities that lead to the next level of true process improvement. By moving to a dedicated process mapping software, business users can improve processes, implement version control, keep teams in sync and standardize an effective process mapping solution across the organization.

Your organization relies heavily on business processes that must be mapped, modeled and changed to meet the new demands of the business.

Failure should not be an option when it comes to Digital Transformation, and in the words of Vince Lombardi, “Perfection is unattainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

Please reach out to our Salient Process experts if you are interested in learning more about process mapping that enables you to discover, map and document your processes, so you can stay ahead of the “process change game” and the competition.

Video: IBM Digital Business Automation Platform