Strong business processes are crucial to achieving organizational goals, as they coordinate the behaviors of people, systems and information to produce outcomes in support of a business strategy. In most cases, business processes produce better outcomes when part of a nimble, digital infrastructure. So, it’s no surprise that the companies that have embraced digital transformation are most likely to experience smooth and continuous business processes -- and, as a result, operations -- even during turbulent times.
Throughout the ongoing pandemic, for instance, enterprises that were further along the path of digital transformation have been the ones that have thrived, while the ones late to the game have seen existing processes begin to crumble. Gartner’s recent Business Continuity Survey, characterizes only 12% of organizations as “highly prepared” for the impact of coronavirus. This discrepancy between those that were/weren’t impacted has accelerated the case for digital transformation.
But how and where should IT leaders start? A logical step involves taking a close look at the processes that were pushed to or past the breaking point by recent disruption, understanding the gaps, and identifying the new systems, personnel and processes that will improve business continuity going forward.
Many businesses have found that their processes were weak and have now shattered like glass -- or that they were already broken to begin with but made much worse by current conditions. From something as obvious as employees that weren’t set up to work remotely, to more subtle but complex issues like processes that relied on a series of informal or in-person interactions and approvals to progress, the opportunities for disruption seem endless. To better address or maintain continuity, IT leaders have to either completely rework existing processes or create new ones from scratch.
The importance of process to business continuity
As the pandemic has shined a light on underlying processes, organizations are realizing that these processes are the glue that hold together the people, systems and information that comprise the business -- making them critical to successful execution. As IT leaders seek to ensure business continuity across their organization, they should focus effort on four areas for greater resiliency:
1. Examine systems and processes that impact collaboration: Employee ability to connect, communicate and collaborate is critical to success, and companies that have relied on informal or ad hoc approaches have faced a rude awakening thanks to the recent pandemic. Six months ago, remote work was an edge-case for most companies; many now find it a universal reality. Those without the luxury of working from home face additional sanitary and distancing requirements. All of this puts tremendous pressure not only on systems, but underlying business rules and processes. What has broken? What must change? Collaboration process changes can be as mundane (but important) as scheduling work area sterilization to more complex tweaks like reconfiguring approval routing.
2. Assess supply chains and customer engagement: What was once unthinkable (entire sectors of the supply chain shutting down; customers and sales no longer able to physically interact) is now clearly possible. Which existing processes broke as a result? Where is there a need for additional redundancy? For instance, a major global financial services provider we work with has had to create new processes and integrations with WhatsApp to replace physical customer loan engagement.
3. Reassess risk and governance practices: There are many risk-management measures businesses should take as part of their business continuity plans. For one perspective, Deloitte recommends businesses map single points of failure within their organization (whether that be processes, employees, or technologies) and draft countermeasures. Then, establish emergency measures and organizational instructions to ensure continuity of operations according to the level of risk. Finally, Deloitte urges businesses to prepare the necessary scenarios, plans, and measures to restore business operations should disruption occur.
4. Use automation to harden processes against disruption: Automation allows organizations to better orchestrate people, systems, and data, which in turn makes them less susceptible to disruption. Process automation has been at the core of digital transformation since the last financial crisis when organizations across the globe turned to business process management (BPM) software to unlock efficiency and cost savings. This old BPM approach has evolved into nimble and often low- or no-code modern digital process automation, with a healthy dose of robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), allowing businesses to not only improve efficiency but also maintain continuity.
For many organizations, the immediate priority of IT leaders has been a triage of existing systems and processes to get through the current crisis. But the reality is we are likely facing a “new normal”, and if there’s a silver lining in all this, it’s that it has illuminated the antiquated or rigid aspects of business operations that most need to change. The companies poised to thrive will take this opportunity and get to work.
Gustavo Gomez is an entrepreneur who loves solving problems. Equipped with a degree in Computer Science, he pursued a career in software engineering in Europe and Colombia. In 1989, he founded Bizagi, short for business agility. Despite running a global business, his passion for delighting customers hasn't changed. Those around him admire his accessibility and hands-on approach, demonstrated through his daily customer interactions, involvement with product improvements, and strategic thinking.