Process By Design: Digital Transformation’s Intersection Between Strategy And Operations
This article is by David Armano, global strategy director at Edelman Digital. He leads their Digital Transformation Practice.
Process. It’s a word that makes most people’s eyes glaze over. I get it. The often enjoyable parts of our jobs involve things like launching a new product, completing a significant task or assignment, closing a deal, acquisition, merger, or even successfully implementing a new technology. Process is the boring behind-the-scenes driver making all of this happen. Without it, these scenarios and countless others would not exist. There would only be chaos.
Many view process as an operational function, but that’s only half the story. The other half is strategic design, meaning it comes from an intentional act of planning and forethought. One key issue in today’s dynamic business environment is that process and plans need to be designed in such a way that brings order to chaos, is flexible, nimble, agile, and pliable—able to flex and scale as conditions change. As companies navigate their own digital transformation journeys, the design often boils down to managing change across people, process and technology platforms, and for process, it’s about approaching it a way that’s fit-for-purpose for the organization.
To underscore how fit-for-purpose process design can be a strategic business advantage, one need only to look at technology. Here you’ll witness one of the most significant shifts in process design and methodology. In the first wave of the web, led by Amazon and e-commerce, most companies implemented what was referred to as a “waterfall” process to build websites. Modeled after industrial era type manufacturing such as an assembly line—these processes prioritized steps, phases, internal testing and then a final launch in linear and sequential fashion.
Today, most tech companies (and business enterprise alike) follow some form of an agile process to build and maintain their digital ecosystems. The agile process looks less like a series of concrete cascading steps and more like multiple cycles that test and iterate changes to code based on real time feedback. Facebook, for example, is famous for “beta testing” platform features with test groups before rolling out significant new features to mass audiences.
For brands and organizations who find themselves grappling with the disruption and change often brought on by digital, it’s worth taking a look at three process design approaches which can help manage the chaos as they transform:
Intelligence and Analysis
Obtaining and analyzing data and intelligence can (and likely should) be part of a larger process, but its complexity means it’s often a process in and of itself. It involves gathering, organizing, and tagging multiple data sets before ultimately mining that data for actionable insights. Some argue these activities can be fully automated as technologies like artificial intelligence advance, but whether it’s done by a computer algorithm, humans or a combination of the two, it’s key to setting a foundation for process.