Processes are integral for every business operation, whether in product development or quality assurance. We all know this. The trouble is, many businesses become reliant on entrenched habits and bureaucratic processes that ultimately hinder their digital transformation initiatives.

They choose to follow the status quo because it’s easier than implementing change. But, the reality is, processes are prone to breaking and must stay dynamic. It’s not a people problem, but rather a result of the world we live in and the passage of time. As the world changes, technology advances, and your business shifts course, your processes will inevitably have to adapt. If they don’t, they can impact productivity and aggravate your teams.

To stay flexible and ensure success, you must adopt a continuous improvement mindset. This involves recognizing dynamic shifts, radically transforming your internal processes, and developing a more sophisticated process management infrastructure.

In this article, we look at how you can rework your processes and set yourself up for a successful digital transformation.

What is process transformation?

Process transformation is a change management initiative that aims to overhaul a business’s internal processes to adapt to new market conditions and meet strategic goals.

Sound familiar? This is a well-worn intention. However, the reality of process transformation is often:

  • temporary fluctuations in productivity,
  • mismatches between ideal and on-the-ground processes,
  • a lack of tools,
  • and employee change resistance and misconceptions.

So, how do you overcome these challenges to realize the potential of process transformation?

Processes are all about achieving outcomes

Tweaking a process to make it more efficient isn’t a transformation. Process transformation should come as a result of working towards an intended outcome.

Deciding you want to speed up new product testing by 10 percent is outcome-focused. And achieving it therefore may mean transforming several connected processes.

These transformations might include

  • Implementing new tools and technologies, such as automated workflows for manual tasks.
  • Integrating core business systems to optimize management.
  • Streamlining processes to reduce costs and improve operations.

The point is these activities are aligned to an outcome. And they can be even more effective when integrated into your digital transformation strategy.

A common sign that processes require attention is when they’ve stayed consistent but the outcome has changed. This scenario doesn’t necessarily indicate your teams aren’t following a process. Rather, it suggests a process is becoming outdated.

And given this dynamic shift is likely to happen regularly, you need to constantly be on the lookout for changes in outcomes. This vigilent state is more commonly known as a culture of continuous improvement.

3 ways to incorporate process transformation in your digital transformation strategy

Process transformation therefore requires you to work backwards from your overarching strategic goals to define the outcomes you need. And then seeing how you can facilitate those outcomes through analyzing, re-engineering, and streamlining existing processes.

Remember, this requires going against the status quo and realizing your current ingrained processes aren’t working. To make the most out of this process transformation, you and your team must be open and willing to adapt.

1. Identify processes that require improving

Process inefficiencies are still common, even in the most digitally savvy businesses. It’s thought that 51 percent of workers spend at least two hours per day on repetitive tasks. This is not only unproductive but can amount to costly inefficiencies over time.

To tackle this issue, list back office processes your employees find inefficient. These tasks are usually easy to perform but take up much of an employee’s time.

For example, inefficiencies in your accounts payable and receivable processes could benefit from integration with your ERP system. Or, your development teams may benefit from continual automated testing.

Ask your departments where the biggest inefficiencies lie. Then pinpoint a handful of low-effort, high-value opportunities for process transformation. You should revisit and examine these processes regularly to see whether you’re following the set standard and still achieving your outcomes. If you’re not, you might need to course-correct either on the compliance or innovation side of things.

2. Engage your employees

“Given that the transformation will impact the whole business in one way or another, initiative teams must be diverse enough to represent important considerations across the firm. This helps to ensure that hidden opportunities and risks are surfaced and addressed before the transformation path is finalized.” – Gartner

Process transformations – like any change management project – will affect a range of individuals across your business. So don’t get caught up in meeting the expectations of your C-suite alone.

No matter how small a role an employee plays in a transformation, you must engage them. Without buy-in, they may go against process changes or revert back to your old status quo. Neither of these outcomes will support your transformation efforts.

Facilitating cross-enterprise participation before tool or process implementation creates opportunities for employees to:

  • ask questions,
  • highlight risks,
  • understand the beneficial intentions,
  • empathize with change management concerns,
  • and better understand business expectations.

You will find some employees are more loyal to the “old” methods, while others are eager to embrace innovation. The optimal balance is to retain certain elements of your traditional processes and slowly adopt changes at a granular level. For instance, you needn’t automate 100 percent of a human process — find the 10 percent that will deliver the most value.

Again, these process transformations shouldn’t be set in stone. As the months and years wear on, you can continually improve and innovate.

3. Adopt a continuous improvement mindset

You may have processes you want to transform now, but it pays to wait a moment and consider your future needs. Gartner advises surfacing ‘critical future capabilities’ that will generate value in future business models.

For instance, do you plan to scale your operations or open up new offices in another country? Then you may want to evaluate cloud-based software that combines processes and tools. Enterprise resource planning software, for example, lets you consolidate many of your processes into one platform.

Equally, if you operate in a heavily-regulated sector, prepare for regularly changing legislation. This could mean tools that automate tax documents or allow you to better manage data subject requests, for instance. The important thing is to focus on how you can continually improve your processes in the long run.

Measure, adjust, repeat

The critical lesson of transformation lies within its name. A transformation is never a “once and done” task. So, don’t fall back into the habit of sticking with what feels familiar. Learn to adapt.

To complement your digital transformation initiatives, your process changes must continually evolve. This means:

  • setting KPIs,
  • measuring your success,
  • requesting employee feedback,
  • implementing lessons learned,
  • and adopting a culture of continuous improvement.

The last bullet point is crucial as continuous improvement will ensure you resolve risks as they arise. This helps maintain optimal efficiency as you advance your digital transformation journey.

At Success Software Services, we ensure businesses hit their digital transformation goals while staying adaptive. We follow the two main codified certifications of continuous improvement —CMMI and ISO 9001 — and can support organizations with any specific accreditations as needed. To find out more, get in touch with our team today.