“You know that something’s happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?” – Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man
Welcome to the post-ERP era.
In this new era, single-purpose apps and enterprise systems can no longer meet the organization’s needs, and happily many organizations have grown intolerant of the old world of expensive software customization, inflexible apps, and data silos.
New realities are exploding rapidly across company borders blurring the boundaries between employees, trading partners, and customers. Old analog processes, born long ago in an era of information poverty, can no longer compete in this era of information abundance.
But what exactly is a digital process? How would you know one if you bumped into it in the middle of the night? Here are nine attributes that define the core capabilities of a digitized process.
1. Can Be Rapidly Deployed & Changed: A digitized process can be rapidly configured (in weeks) to automate unique process requirements. The best digital processes also change on-the-fly, immediately adapting to evolving business conditions. Digital processes adapt either automatically or through user input. For example, process re-routes (or reassignments) can be triggered either by the system or a user when certain pre-determined conditions, such as volume, timing, or cost are met.
2. All Work Is Synchronized: Business processes involve coordination of tasks and data sharing across networks of participants that can include employees, trading partners and customers. The best digital processes automatically share data and tasks that are automatically synchronized so everyone has the latest information and knows exactly what they are required to do now. As a result, information can flow from worker, to partner, to customers and to third-tier suppliers in an instant.
3. Task Segmentation Into Automated & Augmented Work: Digital processes have tasks segmented into two categories:
Research from McKinsey & Company and IDC, reveals that 30% of worker time is wasted searching for information, coordinating tasks and reporting status. Digitized processes eliminate these inefficiencies by giving each user one place to access the current data they need, instructing them what to do (checklists), and tracking status automatically.
4. Real-time Coordination: Instant messaging & e-mailing do not adequately coordinate work tasks. They simply communicate (socialize) status and questions. True coordination goes far beyond instant messaging (IM) and file sharing. Real-time coordination happens when each participant:
Knows exactly what they’re suppose to do and when
Has one source of the latest information (objective truth)
Knows the real-time status of their projects and processes
Processes digitized in this way eliminate the need for e-mail, IM, spreadsheet reporting, and searching for information, because the digitized process manages, integrates, tracks and communicates everything automatically.
5. Total Transparency Across Networks: Every worker is already massively networked both internally and externally with co-workers, partners, suppliers, and even customers. Digitized processes transcend simple data sharing and move towards process interdependence. In this age of “networked businesses”, business value is derived from your networks of relationships. The best digital processes provide visibility across these multiple tiers of relationship networks. For example, this is particularly important when coordinating processes across several tiers of a supply chain or project-chain, where each organization (network node) has their own network of partners. (i.e. networks-of-networks).
6. Privacy Protections Beyond Encryption: Sensitive data is encrypted for protection at rest and when it’s shared. But, encryption alone does not protect data privacy. Privacy is protected when only the “minimum necessary” information is accessible based on the “purpose” for access. It’s like the system has taken an oath of secrecy, only revealing information on a “need to know” basis. Privacy protection applies to any sensitive data from medical records, to payment data, and intellectual property.
For example, our medical are encrypted, making them secure. But any person with a login can access everything about every patient. The records are secure (encrypted) but not private. The best digital process has privacy protections built-in that automatically control information access based on the user’s “need to know.”
7. Quality & Compliance Controls Are Hardwired In: Every industry has external regulations, industry standards and internal policies that demand compliance to ensure quality, safety, and prevent fraud. Periodic “after-the-fact” auditing and manual controls do not assure compliance and/or quality. Digitized processes have built-in controls that guarantee full compliance with all affecting rules. Controls are also embedded to control quality, cost and time at each stage of each process. This eliminates the burden of quality controls and regulatory compliance from users who are now free to focus on just getting their job done.
8. Self-Improving: Digital processes have the ability to generate analytics that identify ways to improve the process. Administrators use this data to implement incremental changes to optimize each process. Sometimes cognitive computing is used to evaluate large data sets and analyze improvement alternatives.
9. One Integrated View: Today’s digital processes automatically connect everything (databases, documents, tasks, other apps and sub-processes) so users have one integrated view of truth. Different process types are automated on a single platform, while data is pulled in from multiple information sources at the time it’s needed.
These nine (9) attributes are significantly different from most of today’s “old ERP era” processes, but hopefully these attributes define a digitized destination. It won’t be easy or inexpensive, but it’s not optional either. It’s also important to mention that many of these capabilities are in use today. Digitize of Die!