The People Element: The Neglected Link
Despite all the excitement around automation there remains a key stumbling block: forgetting to bring your people on board. Anyone who's failed in transformation will tell you why: lack of communication, collaboration, and workflow. Here's why investing in business process management is a must.
Given all the hype and money spent on developing new technology solutions, there is a common and understandable misconception that automation itself is the ultimate solution. In fact, automation is an enabler – but without massive human involvement across the enterprise, you just won’t succeed.
Automation and outsourcing have emerged as some of the most important levers for executives seeking to optimize process performance, agrees Ivan Seselj, CEO of process management software provider Promapp. "But by committing so wholeheartedly to the technology, we run the danger of outstripping the ability of our teams to keep up," he warns.
"Then, when a problem occurs, teams don’t have a common understanding of how the process works before they try to solve it. You can’t afford that. What you want is a rapid understanding of current process, so that when problems arise, investigations and conversations can happen quickly, and online. You can achieve this through effective collaboration tools."
This is where most organizations are out of balance according to Seselj. Far too many are still using ‘software we already have’ like Microsoft Office applications to capture process knowledge. Just as no sales director today would dream of managing a sales force without a CRM system, business process managers, too, find themselves at a watershed moment. With shared services emphasizing transparency and end-to-end integration, mapping process workflow through non-tailored solutions bolted on to a content management system just doesn't cut it anymore.
"It's amazing to me that senior management still expects business process managers to simply ‘make do’ with the tools they have. The message they are sending is: It's not worth investing in BPM as a repository for critical knowledge," says Seselj. "We need to wake up to the fact that you cannot manage the human element without acknowledging its specific needs – which are not supported by traditional tools."
"It's amazing to me that senior management still expects business process managers to simply ‘make do’ with the tools they have."
According to Seselj, the majority of today's business processes are still being managed this way. It’s an attitude that inherently builds failures into the system, he explains.
"The most significant failure is that there is a general inability to understand which processes and roles are involved when there is a problem. It’s vital that you know, if you change a critical form or tool, which stakeholders need to be alerted immediately and how to do this."
Automation delivers simple solutions for complex steps, and the result is often nothing short of a game-changer. What is lost in translation, however, is the social connection between teams that helps them work successfully together, to drive better performance.
"It's the constant collaboration between teams, as they fight fires to improve the process, that results in innovation," explains Seselj. "Systems are constantly being modified, but to capture improvements you need an enabling platform. Companies that overlook this opportunity run the risk of not innovating at all.
"Innovation breakthroughs come from understanding a process inside out. Its complexity is what defines the opportunity, but complexity also slows down work. Automation replaces all this complexity, but then you need to layer the people back on top to add the intelligence," he explains.
"We are a Google generation that demands simplicity and ignores complexity. People are the differentiators; that's the real magic of business process management," Seselj says. "Once you’ve got that simple understanding of how things work you have a platform for innovation that you can use to drive better outputs. But you need the platform first."
"We are a Google generation that demands simplicity and ignores complexity. People are the differentiators; that's the real magic of business process management."