As mentioned in our previous article the Flavors of strategy we would like to further discuss the steps needed to embark on a digital journey. Without a clear direction it might be daunting how to even begin. At Limber, we have helped our clients relentlessly to improve the digital support platform for their businesses and/or projects. In this article series, we would like to propose a generic method to help avoid varying degrees of ”analysis paralysis” that management may be facing. This article focuses on the principle of how to map your current and future value creating processes. We have also included an example method needed to perform a simplified analysis: Process mapping methodology
The starting point is always your current business today, being able to accurately describe the status quo. Both in terms of people, department interfaces and activities, as well as the digital tools currently involved in daily business
While Business Process Mapping (BPM) is a well-established field, many companies do not utilize advanced training or software to improve their current situation. However - a structured approach is recommended to yield results quickly.
Without diving into the technical details of process analysis in this article, we have published an example methodology for those who are interested in the mechanics of process mapping Process mapping example. In this context, we will say this: For most companies inexperienced with this kind of process may require some outside assistance. The goal (both in digital strategy and process mapping), should however always be to take ownership of the knowhow and implement it widely in your business. To start process mapping internally without prior experience and knowledge may result in breakdown due to internal disagreement on method, scope or context of the analysis. It may be difficult to have productive discussion and clear analysis results without some guidance. But who do we trust as guides in this situation? There are a couple of common pitfalls here.
Far too often, overeager software salespeople or consultants looking to maximise their contracts miss their mark here. For the software group it is not always favorable to “push the product” regardless of the application suitability. Not all software fits the client process scope or scale. Similarly, consultants may charge extensive rates to “adapt” a poorly matched software to the client's needs (that could perhaps be better resolved by choosing another, better suited SW). Or they will perform very advanced “local” analysis (that can, in itself, be very high quality) but without looking at the client's overall needs or underlying issues. In other words, not taking ownership of the clients total performance in their environment. This in turn, leads to failed digitisation projects, cost overruns and an aversion to risk related to SW changes - especially with smaller and cost sensitive businesses.
At Limber, we have a different approach - we would like to act as coaches to the client’s own organisation, transferring as much knowledge and ownership as quickly as possible about digital restructuring. Further we pride ourselves in being honest about our limitations - not the “no problems” pushy salespeople.
We believe that this in the long will build a loyal and satisfied client base that enjoys the growth and benefits that digitalisation can provide. Further, we also believe that building a customer base and improving our best practice “process library” will add value and speed up progress significantly for many clients. After all, it should not be necessary for all to go through the same trial and error process of starting from scratch. We have found that many processes are similar in companies although their service areas and business models vary widely. This enables us to work with near-generic building blocks to construct larger and more complex process interactions required to suit the client needs. This, in turn, enables our clients to access some wormholes, progressing at warp speed using our generic process templates and software support for these. We call these short cuts ant-paths, getting better and more pronounced the more “ants” that use them.
As the business becomes more adept at identifying and implementing change, we usually start seeing the QMS dilemma. As the process change rate increases, how do we keep our management system up to date? And how do we train and update all our doers on the current state of best practice? As change speed increases - maintaining a separate written management system becomes impractical, if not impossible.
ISO 9001 has recently recognized information systems as an integral part of defining how QMS is maintained. Limber offers functionality with QMS procedure fully integrated into the digital workflow, greatly facilitating process changes while meeting the management system requirements of standards and user needs (work description updates following role assignments in projects). With this approach the QMS system is not like a wounded soldier that you carry through a battlefield (and may actually be an improvement inhibitor), but one that is by your side and covers your back.
In later articles we will also discuss the introduction of 3-dimensional process visualization as a common language for QMS training, process modelling, and blueprint for digital support system development.
While mapping and improving the flow of internal processes are important, it can be equally important to step into your customers’ or suppliers’ shoes for a moment. If we look at your company as a black box, how do you interact with your environment? Are you approaching the total supply chain with the same improvement focus as you do internally? After all, it is only the interface in/out of the black box that is visible to your business partners…
Being proactive and building the value chain of which you are part is an important part of growing your own business. Indeed, some of the more powerful unlocks of digitalization lie across company boundaries. Taking a leadership role in such interactions will improve your standing.
If you liked this article, check out our next one in the series: Digital strategy – Understanding the data needs