Driving end-to-end digital transformation with effective process automation
The once-in-a-generation crisis that confronted enterprises during the COVID-19 pandemic led to a massive paradigm shift, creating a widespread disruption in economic activity and ensuing liquidity crisis.
The resultant challenges were significant, both in terms of their complexity and footprint.
Household name brands were thrown into a tailspin, with many organisations ultimately closing their doors, unable to cope with the impacts of the crisis. J.Crew, Hertz and JC Penney were all forced to file for bankruptcy in 2020, for example. And while this big-name trio were all ultimately saved by investment, many other, smaller businesses were not so lucky.
Looking through a UK lens, statistics show that the number of business closures in Q4 2021 totalled 102,700 – up from the 89,700 recorded in Q4 2020, and the 71,600 that shut in Q4 2019. Further, by the end of 2021, almost one in seven UK companies reported that they had no cash reserves remaining.
This turbulent period was not helped by the fact that practices like Just-In-Time (JIT) – a form of inventory management that requires working closely with suppliers so that raw materials arrive as production is scheduled to begin, but no sooner – were significantly impacted. Indeed, we saw thousands of shipping containers left waiting for shipment for weeks, paralysing production lines.
In response, many companies today have continued to maintain costly inventory buffers in order to protect themselves against future supply chain delays, this dramatically impacting how such entities manage their cash.
Inventory management is just one of many ways in which companies have been transformed as a result of the COVID-19 period. Equally, HR departments have found themselves struggling to retain the human capital needed to keep the lights on during a period dubbed ‘the great resignation’, while sales and marketing models have also had to be overhauled as customers increasingly demand improved experiences and greater personalisation.
In this period of mass change, organisations have become conscious of the criticality of flexibility in order to respond to market shifts and needs at speed. The question, therefore, is what can executives do to better sense problems, understand root causes, and ultimately adapt more effectively?
Prioritising process discovery and analytics
To improve flexibility and ultimately resilience, entities should be prioritising several enhancements, beginning with process excellence.
Gone are the days when impeccable process management policies were a theoretical exercise, or a nice-to-have. Today, they form the backbone of any efficient company, often underpinned by critical technologies such as automation and AI that enable process intelligence to become a growth driver.
That said, a huge number of companies continue to rely on paper-based and manual-led processes. And while others have digitized their processes, many have not optimized them. Such is the case of companies that count with a plethora of process variants with impact ranging from inefficiencies to compliance issues.
Forward-thinking organisations are leading the charge here. Indeed, they are leveraging several critical tools capable of driving such transformation, from digital process automation and dynamic case management solutions to robotic process automation and artificial intelligence.
However, critically, the most effective firms are also prioritising process discovery and analytics at scale. By investing in analysing how their current processes work, they are able to identify issues and improve them.
Applying automation to an inefficient process can actually serve to magnify inefficiencies, and the more you automate, the harder it gets to fix broken automations.
Equally, once automated processes have been implemented, they need to be monitored and managed by process experts. Without this, the CX and EX suffer as and when automations break. While tech can do a lot today, we never advocate for tech replacing human effort and insight. You need both to work hand in hand for process excellence to be achieved.
How process mining can help
It is for this reason that process mining to discover and analyse processes is critical.
Process mining is a simple and effective method of unlocking game-changing insights across IT software systems that reveal how your processes really work.
You can only optimise your processes when you know what’s really going on under the hood. Your company’s daily system processes leave a treasure trove of data traces behind.
This is where process mining comes in. With effective process intelligence, firms can track metrics on a regular basis, explore performance deviations and correct them where needed. By identifying the root causes of poorly performing processes by detecting and visualising compliance violations, companies can act on critical cases and eliminate performance bottlenecks.
Indeed, it is built to support organisations in making smarter decisions faster and optimising day-to-day operations. By striking the right balance between human expertise and intelligent technologies, businesses can develop and implement improved, efficient and automated processes that can meet modern needs and build resiliency.
Jose Velasco, Program Director, SAP Signavio