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Product Strategy

7 key steps to digitize your business processes

Nisha Gopinath Menon
April 10, 2021

Going digital stopped being a buzzword since way before the turn of the decade. It's no longer challenging to digitize your business with the help of today's software, and digitizing your business processes means being able to keep pace with global tendencies. Customers don't phrase it this way, but what they are demanding from businesses across industries is a complete overhaul of business processes to make the user's lives easier. Around-the-clock availability, intuitive interfaces, real-time fulfillment, personalized treatment, zero errors, and global consistency, this is the world to which your users are now accustomed to. This goes beyond just superior user experience. Companies can also offer better competitive prices thanks to better operational controls, lower costs and lesser risk when they get it right. Many traditional organizations struggle to meet these rising expectations. And so, startups that seem to spring out of nowhere in the digital ecosystem swoop in and disrupt the market with their rapid delivery of services and products powered by advanced algorithms and superior tech.

As your company continues to expand and grow, both internal and external business processes can become quite complex, particularly if you've outsourced a variety of your company's needs or opened up many locations. You will have to both learn why the digitization of business processes is so important and define exactly how your business processes work to better address your business complexities or understand how to change your business methods. You might want to visualize a flowchart in which tasks and activities take place in a sequentially & use data to continue down a particular path to better understand business processes. Your company should gain greater success by implementing better external and internal business processes, success in terms of faster ability to react to changes in your particular market, and greater customer satisfaction. This kind of organization within a firm will also allow various departments to work more effectively amongst each other. You should start with a specific objective and end with the desired achievement of results that lead to some form of value for the customer when you are beginning to develop a business process.

Companies will have to accelerate the digitization of their business processes to meet today's high customer expectations. But they will have to go beyond just automating an existing process if they want to see bigger results. They must take a closer look at their business process and perhaps reinvent it, meaning reducing the documentation necessary, cutting the number of steps required, dealing with regulatory and fraud issues, and developing automated decision making. Operating skills, models, roles, and organizational structures have to be redesigned to fit the reinvented processes. To enable better performance tracking, decision making, and customer insights, data models should be rebuilt and adjusted. Digitization often means combining old wisdom with new skills. New roles, such as user-experience designer and data scientist, may be necessary.

The advantages are huge: Turnaround times can be improved by several orders of magnitude, and costs can be cut by up to 80 percent by digitizing information-intensive processes. And additionally, replacing manual processes and paper with software automatically allows businesses to collect data which can be mined to better understand cost drivers, causes of risk, and process performance. Real-time dashboards and reports on digital-process performance let managers address issues before they become critical. For instance, by monitoring feedback in digital channels and customer buying behavior, supply-chain-quality issues can be dealt with after identifying, more rapidly. Our team has helped leading organizations come to see that with traditional large-scale projects, migrating every current process to a digital world often takes an extremely long time to deliver impact, and at times don't work at all. Instead, successful firms are choosing to reinvent processes, rebuilding everything related to an existing process after challenging it using cutting-edge digital technology. Rather than creating technology tools to allow back-office employees to type user complaints into their systems, for example, companies have created self-serve options for users to type in their own complaints. This kind of approach is typically done process by process in a series of short-term releases combining new agile2 software-development methodologies with traditional process-reengineering methods like lean1. Businesses in many industries can learn from the practices employed by other companies that have done this well.

Let's take a closer look at the steps our team has taken to help digitize the business processes of some leading firms.

Change here is a process.

It is imperative, with shifting user expectations, to revamp the technology structure whenever your team or users feel any sort of friction or delay in business processes. The process afterward is what follows the transformation journey. The roadmap will ensure focused attention on technology-led processes and user journeys. It then enables firms to become more agile and secure.

Work back after starting at the end.

Digitization often allows a process to be reconfigured fundamentally. Take, for instance combining self-service with automated decision making. It can help eliminate manual processes. Successful digitization ventures begin by designing the future state for every process without taking into consideration current constraints. Take shortening a process turnaround time to minutes from days. Once you describe a compelling future state, constraints or legally required checks can be reintroduced. Don't hesitate to question every constraint. Most are corporate myths which can be resolved fast through discussions with regulators or customers.

Within your company, beta test.

Only once they have been rolled out in a controlled environment can the impact of new digital initiatives be best understood. Implementing small-scale intra-operational changes, barring specialized functions, minimizes risk, and contains the coverage area of sweeping changes. Moreover, during this phase, external stakeholder relations stay unaffected.

Tidy your end-to-end user experience.

Digitizing a handful of stages of the user experience will increase efficiency in those areas of the process and address a few of the burning customer issues, but it can't really deliver a truly seamless experience, and so leaves behind significant potential on the table. Process-digitization teams need support from each function involved in the user experience to tackle an end-to-end process such as customer onboarding. Ideally, the end customer is also heavily involved in this too. Some firms, to accomplish this, are building cross-functional units, start-up-style, which bring together all employees involved in the end-to-end user experience, including IT employees. The cross-functional unit will have the mandate to question the status quo. Employees are often collocated to ensure a true team effort and improve lines of communication.

Hire the right team or build competence internally.

Digitization skills can be in short supply, so successful programs often outsource such needs. The aim is to create a collaborative environment, but a voice of experience with an external skilled team that can be called upon to digitize processes quickly. Companies have always had to search for talent externally to address the need for new skill sets and roles, such as user-experience designers or data scientists. Given its importance, the team selected to lead the transformation have to be chosen carefully, ready to commit to the promised results. It is also crucial that the team has the skills necessary to build the needed technology components in a modular manner so it can be reused across processes, thereby maximizing economies of scale.

Move fast.

Traditionally, software-intensive programs delivered a return only at the end of the phase, sometimes a year or two after the kickoff of the project. But one by one, digitizing end-to-end processes can deliver improved performance in just a matter of months. Complex IT problems like legacy systems integration could become tougher to move along quickly, but there are means of mitigating the risks of delay. One industrial company, for example, pursuing an IT legacy-systems integration, made use of low-cost offshore resources to rekey data among systems, letting a new digital user process to be brought online for use with pilot users while a robust IT interface was built in parallel. This method reduced the risk involved with the integration effort, at the same time, accelerated payback. Moving quickly isn't as easy as it sounds on paper. However, it's higher up decision making, more often than not, that becomes the bottleneck rather than software development. That's why to align all the stakeholders, digitization programs need solid board-level support, and all other decisions must be delegated to the project team.

Don't roll out, roll in.

A new solution is progressively rolled out across sites to existing user teams in traditional deployment. However, because of radical changes to the supporting organization and processes, a different approach might be needed when companies undertake digitization. For example, automated algorithms may not be trusted by bank-credit underwriters, and they may choose to review automatically approved applications. Instead of self-serve kiosks, telecommunications salespeople might prefer customers to apply for services through the existing store system. In these cases, it could be easier to roll in a new organizational unit to handle the new digital process, and then bring in the employees while parallelly increasing the volumes handled by it, into the new unit. This promises a far easier transition to the new digital process by not expending too much energy on changing old behaviors and habits. The new organizational unit will have engulfed all the necessary employees from the legacy units by the time every process volume has migrated to the new digital process.

There is hardly any industry in today's environment that is immune to disruption. All business owners, at the minimum, are obliged to invest in a thought out strategy to adopt the right technology. The huge potential of cutting-edge technologies accompanied by personalization and connectivity opens new markets, unlocks new opportunities for businesses, and inevitably will bring revenue. Transformational tech is capable enough to digitize your businesses so that it is ready to respond to the needs of today's users. Our team has enough experience to help you manage your vital data, enable smooth interactions, adopt techniques, and methodologies to boost productivity and make your project a profitable and value-bringing venture. We're also glad to be featured in the Top App Development Companies Of 2020 according to DesignRush.

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Nisha Gopinath Menon