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Digital Transformation - Simplifying the Complex

Leaders today, regardless of industry or role, know that transformation of their organization is not only inevitable, it is necessary for survival.  The business landscape over the last 10-15 years is littered with the remnants of corporations that were once foundations of their industries, now disrupted by up-and-comers that could recognize trends, embrace innovation, and more nimbly maneuver to achieve success.  Look at Apple's disruption of the music industry, Amazon blowing by Wal-mart in retail, or Airbnb turning the hotel industry on its head.

Obviously executives need to be apprised of where their markets are headed, how to harness technology to stay ahead of the curve, and who are the disruptive and rising competitors in their space, however, transformation and disruption mustn't only exist at the C-level.  A cycle of analysis, strategic planning and continuous improvement must permeate every level of an organization for it to be disruptIVE, and not disruptED.

Easily said and easily understood, but how does one one actually define and execute business transformation?  In the information age, and with multiple systems and communication channels supporting our businesses, making sense of and processing all of the data and components can seem paralyzing and insurmountable when attempting to identify and implement change.

Atul Gawande, in his book Checklist Manifesto, studies the ability to delve deeply into a complex situation and emerge with a seemingly simple solution.  His examples include the advent of the pilot's checklist to help avoid potentially catastrophic problems in flight, or how in Karachi, Pakistan the introduction of soap with instructions for when and how to use it led to significant reduction in diseases.  Even with many years of intense training needed to address the complexities of surgery, of the approximately 50 million operations performed annually, 150,000 result in the death of the patient.  Gawande, a surgeon, applied this checklist concept with his own team, developing a list of steps to follow before, during and after a surgery that showed a 36% drop in complications and deaths.

So how do you apply these concepts to your own business, untangling a complex and dynamic ecosystem of people, data, systems and processes?  How do you do break down work-flows into distinct and repeatable steps that can improve quality, increase efficiency, and provide a better experience for everyone involved?  Here are a set of steps to get you started:

Break Down Your Current Workflow.  What are your starting and endpoints, and what are all the potential steps and paths to get you from point A to point B?  Diagram your process, noting key decision points and the possible branches in the process that could occur based on those decisions.

Identify Where Errors & Inefficiencies Occur.  Where are incorrect or poor decisions made, and where does the process tend to slow down and or hit roadblocks?  This likely occur where data is needed, a decision must be made, or the next step in the process transfers to another party.

Where Do Users Rely on Memory and Judgement? These areas could quite easily mimic your identified points in the process where errors or inefficiencies occur.  When there are multiple choices to be made and many data points helping drive those choices, processes can get bogged down.  Furthermore, in the absence of data and context, making a quick and sound decision may require a great deal of expertise that is not always present. Memory and judgement are not only unreliable, they’re hard to scale.

Create Your Checklists!  Focus on the areas identified where the inefficiencies and errors occur, and where the user must rely on memory and judgement.  Where can a simple, easily followed checklist be implemented?  Here are some key areas to “checklist” that can equate to big improvements:

  • Include seemingly small, but important steps that tend to be missed
  • Steps to ensure a clean hand-off; make sure there’s clear communication and a “receipt” from the recipient
  • List sources of data to reference that can help guide the decision-maker
  • Create an escalation so that if a quick decision can’t be made, that there’s still a defined next step to someone that may break through the roadblock

These checklists are really guided processes that are not meant to teach you how to do something, rather they’re meant to guide you through the workflow and take as much guesswork out of the process.  When used properly they can accomplish seemingly opposing goals of 1) creating structured, disciplined actions, and 2) encouraging creativity by relieving the process follower of having to focus their energy on analysis of and action against unstructured information.

"One of the things that struck me about the 'Miracle on the Hudson,' when 'Sully' Sullenberger brought the plane down that saved 155 people after it was hit by geese over Manhattan and landed it in the river," Gawande says, was that "over and over again we wanted to say, 'Look at this hero who piloted this plane down,' and the striking thing was how much over and over again he said, 'There was nothing that hard about the physical navigation of this plane.' Instead he kept saying 'it was teamwork and adherence to protocol.' "

Here at Spice we're fanatical about guided, repeatable processes that break any work-flow down to the specific steps and possible outcomes that can be achieved.  We've built our platform to ensure that the users of these processes, whether they be people or machines (aka robots), have a structured format for completing the task at hand, and using data to dynamically guide them wherever possible.  In doing so significant transformation can occur, including better customer experiences, greater productivity, and more engaged and satisfied employees.

Want to learn more? See our other blogs on Intelligent Robotic Process Automation and Guided Processes vs. Decision Trees.  Or, just Contact Us. At SpiceCSM we're passionate about digital transformation and would love to discuss your needs and goals.

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