To Digitize or not to digitize – is probably no longer a question? Here we discuss the criterion you should use to determine your digitization priorities.
To Digitize or not to digitize – is probably no longer a question? The right question is – how to go about it. Or how to determine which processes should be digitized. Depending on the industry and the organisation’s stage, it could have multiple processes screaming for an overhaul. Which ones should come first? We discuss the key criterion here.
Important vs Urgent: Many of us will be familiar with Stephen Covey’s highly acclaimed book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in which he suggests that if we want to truly make our lives productive and impactful, we should focus our time and energy on the IMPORTANT tasks (Quadrant IV) compared to the URGENT ones (Quadrant I, II, III). The more we focus our efforts on Important tasks, the Urgent fires in our lives start to reduce or go away.
Historically, organizations have adopted solutions in a very linear fashion often mimicking early adopters in their industries. Generally starting with mandatory or regulatory processes like Finance & Accounts and gradually moving to other areas like procurement, HR, supply-chain, etc. When considering digitization though we would argue to add a new criterion in determining their priorities – Importance (vs Urgency).
Put simply – which processes if left unattended would affect the business more? Is the process revenue-impacting? If there are two similar ones, which one, if not digitized will have a higher impact on revenue. Impact and importance. Not Compliance or populism.
Current level of automation: This is a crucial point. What if you are not completely automated yet? You need to look at your overall processes and identify processes that are currently – (a) manual or semi-automated, and (b) already automated.
Where automation is absent, you need to focus on getting it done quickly. One can’t run, before one walks. You have a payroll solution but compensation is still done outside. You have a CRM tool but the crucial bid management process flow is run manually. You book orders in ERP but the contract finalization is done in a word processor. Lack of foundational automation can become the weak link in your overall digitization efforts. You need to fix it first.
Onto the second case. Processes which have already been automated, now present an opportunity to leverage them further by making them better, and smarter. A decade ago, when the adoption of ERP was on the rise, many customers would postpone buying the BI modules. One probably bought that ERP finance module earlier, but skipped the consolidation module. Or during the purchase of SFA, one postponed the analytics module. Now with ML/AI, these solutions can be a great value-add to your already automated processes whether its bid management or customer service.
And don’t forget the third scenario. Can digitization help you skip the process altogether. Think RPA. Think mobility.
User adoption: How will the users take to the digitized world? How will the adoption look like? As with all solutions, they can be successful only if the users adopt it, use it whole-heartedly. If it’s an end-customer app even more so. Can the new digital approach mimic or improvise the current processes? Can the new abilities be aligned to the users’ core roles? Or better still, can it be embedded into the current systems, so that users hardly notice it. The solution (and providers) you choose should benchmark against these parameters to make sure that digitization is truly a success for your organization and not merely a tick in the box.
Consider the low hanging fruits: Those processes which were set aside for a future date, can be your low hanging fruits. Either, the cost to get the job done manually was lesser at that point in time or no appropriate solution was available. Such processes can be your soft-targets. Alternatively, you could consider a process which has undergone serious change since the earlier automation was implemented, e.g. customer acquisition. Be aware that processes which are already adequately automated may require a significant solution upgrade/overhaul, and may not be good candidates as the low hanging fruit.
Costs: No technology discussion can end without costs. One thing today’s CEOs can be sure of is this – costs don’t have to be up-front, costs can be deferred, and costs can be tied to outcomes. So, while the overall spend will depend on every organization’s current state and the scope of its digitization program, its outflow can be spread-out, predictable, and flexibly structured.
Why now? Can’t one wait? Does it need to be done now? For the answer, go back to point-1. If it’s “Important” to you, you must do it. If its “Urgent”, you can’t wait.
Comments and observations welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.