This post is the fourth and final in a series on enabling growth through business architecture. In the first article we covered how and why to understand your business capabilities. In the second article, I shared about the importance of establishing metrics and controls to understand and manage work. The third post was all about inexpensive and practical ways to train people involved in doing the brute force work necessary to scale, but has yet to be automated. This article caps the series off with digitization of workflows.
Digitization is the automation of existing manual or paper based processes, by digitizing the information. Even the most technology oriented companies face challenges in automating processes that are led or managed by people, and this is especially true of fast growing SaaS companies that have relied on people, rather than systems to support the need for a quick response to growth demands.
The point is clear – whenever possible you must digitize the process. This will reduce labor cost, eliminate human error (except software bugs) and drastically shorten the wait times customers experience.
An example, it is common that a sales person will request a quote from a team that makes sure the quote is right. The salesperson then presents the quote to the customer to sign. They sign it, scan it, email it back to the sales rep, who passes it along to someone that creates the necessary ERP records so it can be fulfilled, and then the project is given to the professional services team to fulfill. 8 or 9 touch points later and maybe the customer gets a call in a week or two after they signed the contract, and if you are really lucky, there will not be errors in the order. It’s crazy to think that’s how it still works for a lot of businesses.
Instead, design product bundles around solving a customer problem. Solving that problem will necessitate one or more products that are part of the problem specific bundle and include all the professional services and ancillary item necessary for customer success. The salesperson then sits with the customer to use an online tool to select the problems they want to solve. This immediately generates a quote that is electronically signed and the electronic signature triggers the automatic creation of all the necessary ERP records to initiate the project and ensure accurate billing. What used to take 8 people and days to accomplish is completed with the sales rep and the customer in minutes.
If you think that figuring out what to automate first and how to program all of it would take forever, and likely be wrong when it is done, we have good news! The capability documentation and work instructions necessary to get it right in a manual process are the basis for the automation.
- The architecture step tells you what needs to be done most urgently and how the work is accomplished…this is just a short step away from a programming specification.
- The metrics step informs how the automated process needs to be measured so you can monitor the automation.
- Because you trained people, you can be confident that the workflows are tested and will produce the right outcomes.
The digital transformation of your business – in all aspects – will add enormous efficiencies that will enable aggressive growth and be a competitive differentiator.
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