Technology-based transformations enable innovation, but why do they often fall short of realizing their true strategic vision? The answer starts with work deconstruction at the employee level.
When planning a technology-based business transformation, you want to avoid the common pitfall of determining value solely from a process and technology perspective by deconstructing the work of the people who enable the delivery of business services.
We define transformation as driving competitive advantage through the deployment of strategic changes and ongoing performance improvements across an organization, encompassing people, culture, process and technology. Despite the overarching benefits, achieving this state is elusive for many organizations because they neglect to include people in their definitions of successful transformation.
In a recent study, Copperfield Advisory and Insider and Revolution Insights Group (RIG) came together to evaluate the performance of 128 global companies that invested in a transformation throughout 2016-2020 and determined only 22 percent truly transformed their reputation and finances. The analysis concluded how companies engage their employees while building a business case for change can be the difference between success and failure.
To avoid becoming the next contributor to this statistic, you need to take business case development beyond the traditional analysis of business processes and technology platform inefficiencies. You need to understand the impact this transformation will have on your employees.
How do you do this? It starts with work deconstruction.
What is Work Deconstruction?
As a starting point for this exercise, identify services your transformation will impact, and determine all business units contributing to the delivery of these services. Next, deconstruct the associated work by inventorying supporting tasks and activities to develop employee personas for each team affected by the change.
Unlike a job description, an employee persona represents the realities of required work by describing the demands, challenges and context of a role. By identifying personas, you can achieve a full perspective – versus a siloed view – of the effort levels needed.
For example, let’s say you’re implementing a workflow automation solution. In this example, success depends on taking a holistic approach to ensure the flow of tasks, documents and information across work-related activities occurs independently yet still in accordance with defined business rules.
Creating effective business rules requires you to deconstruct each work activity and consider all parts of the organization the transformation will affect at an individual level. Once you understand the effects, create personas for each of these roles by breaking down all associated activities the data will touch. For example, from an end-to-end perspective, the required personas for the design, implementation and continuous improvement of a workflow automation might look something like this:
Requirements Definition and Management Leader
A role that manages requirements through the entire delivery and operational life cycle – common activities can include:
- Eliciting and analyzing requirements — both functional and non-functional
- Ensuring that customer requirements and priorities are accurately reflected
- Organizing and prioritizing requirements using techniques such as — but not limited to — product roadmaps, epics, user stories and backlogs
- Specifying and validating requirements and constraints to a level that enables effective development and operations of new or changed software, systems, processes, products or services.
Accepting Testing Leader
A role dedicated to the validation of systems, products, business processes or services to determine whether the acceptance criteria have been satisfied – common activities can include:
- Setting and applying standards for acceptance testing
- Planning, identifying, designing, managing, executing and reporting on the outcomes of acceptance tests
- Encouraging effective and efficient collaboration with a range of relevant stakeholders
- Requesting and enabling formal acceptance of systems, products or services
- Creating measurable acceptance criteria related to functional and non-functional requirements, features, business processes, user stories and business rules
- Devising acceptance test cases and scenarios from acceptance criteria.
Business Situations Advisor
A role that supports the investigation of business situations to define recommendations for improvement action – common activities can include:
- Engaging with relevant stakeholders to measure Customer and Employee satisfaction (CX/EX)
- Reviewing the strategic context, including the organization’s vision, mission, objectives, strategy and tactics and external business environment
- Defining problems to determine root cause(s)
- Identifying potential changes to address problems or to take advantage of opportunities
- Gaining agreement to conclusions and recommendations.
When considering these workflow automation personas, it is not enough to limit focus to what data you’re transferring, you must also recognize the purpose along with upstream and downstream consequences. If you understand the purpose for the data and related personas, then it’s easier for you to assign the right activities to the correct people to ensure segregation of duties. Secondly, the suggested personas also increase the relationship maturity between business partners and IT providers by clearly defining and assigning activities that ensure shared ownership.
Using Deconstruction for Tech Transformations
In their 2022 Tech Trends Report, the Info-Tech Research Group identified complexity as a top risk factor for CIOs as they drive forward with certain tech initiatives. Deconstructing the work associated with a change offers a way to sort through this complexity and mitigate associated risks.
This practice shifts the focus to understanding supporting activities and tasks associated with an operation, helping rid your organization of bespoke processes at a time when you need seamless services and speed to succeed. It can also serve as an opportunity to consolidate multiple, disparate processes or retire ones you no longer require in the future state.
The outcome of this work deconstruction analysis should prompt the following considerations:
- Where are opportunities to reinvent or even retire business processes and their supporting technology systems?
- What activities and tasks performed today can you automate with robotic process automation (RPA), augment with artificial intelligence (AI) or potentially retire?
When contemplating the answers to these questions, look for any opportunity to proactively mitigate risk by expanding the business case for the purpose of removing these barriers. Can you justify this expansion by quantifying the financial value?
For example, perhaps you can leverage the benefits of this approach further by increasing the value of your RPA investment. Work deconstruction can help you identify the highly repetitive and manual activities perfectly suited for RPA. As for AI, deconstructing the work will help to design the interaction between human and machine, which would direct the development of a supporting process.
Pre-planning and analysis, which determine the scope of business cases tied to capital acquisition requests, need to go beyond reviewing business and technology inefficiencies and consider people as part of this equation as well – you can do this using work deconstruction.
By understanding how your employees perform their work, you can make the intentional choice of prioritizing individuals and interactions over process and tools, increasing the chances of successfully implementing change.
Work deconstruction can produce the following outcomes:
- Identify unknown shortcomings typically discovered either at the time of development and or implementation phases.
- Present an opportunity to increase the scope and validity of capital acquisition requests.
- Set the foundation for the supporting organizational strategy by identifying upskilling and or reskilling opportunities.
- Establish value-based measurements that are viewed as deliverables of the greater program.
Deconstructing how employees currently perform work will help you understand the impact transformation has on your people, individually. The success of a transformation completely depends on employees working together to achieve your program’s goals. This is key because shifts in strategic level activity will have a ripple effect on all aspects of the employee experience.
Successful technology adoptions can no longer occur in a vacuum. Today’s companies need to focus on marrying technology with the people it effects to make sure that they’re not just delivering a solution for the sake of the solution but that it achieves their goals, needs and vision.