Going digital can bring all sorts of cost savings and new revenue potential to your business - digitally mature businesses are 23% more profitable, according to Forbes.
For some, the necessary pace of change can be overwhelming. But you don’t need to boil the ocean to make great progress.
If you’re noticing a lack of progress or process inefficiencies in your business, the answer could be to go digital. But this needs to be rationalised. Where there are new strategies, unprecedented events, outdated technology, or even business reorganisations, there are drivers for digital change.
We all really want to avoid a long, expensive, all encompassing project to fix everything we find. Almost everyone has to work on a project called “Phoenix” at some point and that is what we do not want here. We want constant improvement without big bang economics to deliver it.
There are FOUR steps to go through.
1. Involve the team, take stock
The first place to start is always by noting what processes you already have in place. Map out essential and critical processes, such as payroll or going to print. This highlights what’s needed to support your business growth in its simplest form. You don’t need to detail everything, just how data flows.
Hold one-to-one sessions with key stakeholders. You may come across some change resistors here, so avoid butting heads. Listen to their insights. Embrace their experience by involving them in delivering the outcome. It highlights inconsistencies and allows you to see where different departments see value. You’ll be surprised how they’ll become advocates.
Identify the journey of your data. Where does it come from and where does it go? Discover its touch points, where there’s potential for errors or bottlenecks, and check how visible the work queue is. A critical process that relies on the memory of a single human is a disaster in the making.
Publish the data flow map that you’ve made – it’s alright if it’s just bullet points and it shows the direction of traffic. Get feedback from the team to see if you’ve identified the main data flows. It is common at this stage to receive additional information and processes that you haven’t caught, so this is an important step.
2. Prioritise and measure
With your team, identify the pain points (they’re usually time consuming or cause friction) and missed revenue chances.
Look at where data has multiple touch points, the potential for errors or bottlenecks, such as a manual data extraction or conversion before the next step. Check how visible the work queue is and where work silos have formed. For example, what fails if somebody is sick?
The highest priorities are those that will bring the biggest rewards, or reduce the risk of critical process failures, and will become clear during these sessions.
Put in some basic measurements to check you’re optimising the data flows that will bring about the biggest rewards. For instance, ask each member of staff affected by a process how long their parts take. This allows you to see whether this is worth investing in. For example, five minute tasks don’t need fixing unless they are repeated one hundred times a month.
3. Make the change
There are many factors involved in deciding what to do at this point, and depends on the cause of the issue you’re addressing. The answer isn’t necessarily a brand new system.
Other options include training, adapting existing systems or building an interface that talks to your current systems or using some software that automates tasks.
Make sure the new digital flow can both hold the data and the process so you always know where items are in the process. This will help you revisit your company’s “engine” after building out the processes.
If the tasks that take the longest time are tackled and there’s no more internal room to improve but there is still pain, it’s time to consider replacing systems.
4. Re-measure, review, prioritise
Once the new process is introduced, allow the team to work through the new process for a couple of cycles. Then, review and re-measure the process to see how much improvement you have unlocked. Often you’ll notice other successes too.
A vital part of the process is to celebrate success. By publishing results, you’re sharing learning, acknowledging the transition team's efforts and helping to win over the sceptics.
There may be further improvements to be made. But before you jump in, repeat the process from step 2 and take time to reprioritise, so your iterations are most effective.
Once the biggest tasks that take the longest time are tackled, and there’s no more internal room to improve, but there is still pain, you look to replace systems.