Every industry is impacted by change. Business process excellence ensures that you respond to change mindfully, not react to it blindly.
Business transformation is the process by which an organization makes comprehensive changes to become better, more competitive, and more equipped to meet future needs.
Before the rise of digitalization, businesses would undergo extensive transformation roughly every 10 years. Because of the relatively slow pace of technological advances and market changes, businesses were able to forge long-standing processes, technologies and organizational structures.
Business Transformation Today
Only when it was absolutely essential for success would businesses undergo transformation, and when they did, the transformation would be a complete overhaul, reconstructing their business model, adopting new technologies, and restructuring their workforce. Because transformations occurred so infrequently, businesses had ample time to think through potential changes, judging how new technologies would affect their budget, processes and people.
For example, IBM has undergone several business transformations in its more than 100 years in business. Starting in 1911 as a company that produced tabulating machines, it pivoted its business model to adapt to changing technologies and market demands, becoming an industry leader in mainframe computers in the 1960s and personal computers in the 1980s and 1990s.
By contrast, today’s business landscape is constantly changing with little time to plan or prepare. In a culture driven by digitalization, it is impossible to go an entire decade without experiencing disruptions to your business model.
Three factors set the pace of current business transformation: technology, market dynamics and consumer expectations.
Technological advancements are being developed and implemented at an unprecedented rate, and innovation is becoming an expectation on both individual and industry levels.
In the past, deploying a new technology would take years, but today, businesses can integrate modern technologies into their workplace within months. For example, consider the rise of ChatGPT at the end of 2022. Almost immediately, industries ranging from finance to journalism to higher education felt its impact and scrambled to leverage its efficiency and creativity.
New players can enter and disrupt the market easily because there is little need to invest in physical assets. E-commerce platforms have democratized retail, enabling small businesses and start-ups to sell to a global audience without having a brick-and-mortar storefront.
Additionally, cloud-based services eliminate the need to invest in physical IT infrastructure and hardware. With a lower barrier to entry, even small businesses can make a big impact quickly.
In our digital age, consumers are accustomed to personalized experiences and instant gratification. Social media has given a powerful voice to consumers, enabling them to give instant feedback to their personal circles, or, in the case of influencers, empowering them to shape the opinions of their followers. What consumers want can change day-to-day, and failure to keep up may result in consumers going elsewhere.
Swift changes on the technology, market and consumer fronts can create pressure on organizations to keep up with every development. But, just because you can make a business transformation doesn’t mean you should. It is important to keep a process excellence framework in mind so you don’t make changes to your business model without contemplating their consequences.
Business Transformation Driven by Process Excellence
Business process excellence is a strategic approach that drives the continuous improvement of an organization by routinely evaluating and strengthening the interplay among processes, people and technologies. Viewing situations from these three lenses ensures decisions are well-informed, thoughtful and aligned with the organization’s long-term goals.
While technological advances, market changes and consumer expectations may pressure an organization to make rushed business transformations, business process excellence encourages organizational leaders to evaluate transformations thoroughly from several different standpoints. Encouraging efficiency, not haste, process excellence ensures a business transformation is an action taken in the organization’s best interest, not a reaction to fleeting disruptions.
What is a Business Transformation Process?
Processes are at the core of everything businesses do. Without examining your current processes and their relationships to your people and technologies, you could:
- Choose or configure the wrong technology.
- Give tasks to teams that shouldn’t be working on them.
- Have a process in place that does not make sense for your team or doesn’t add value to your organization.
- Retain processes that don’t take advantage of new technical capabilities.
- Build an infrastructure that’s cumbersome to change over time.
- Make ongoing business transformations that don’t drive results.
Within a process excellence framework, business transformation is a set of processes that facilitate a transition to a more efficient and effective state. These processes are not isolated, abrupt changes — they are a series of deliberate steps that drive comprehensive improvement.
Your organization’s business transformation process should begin with an evaluation. Consider the following questions:
- Why are we considering a transformation? Is it driven by our own performance metrics, or external factors like technological advancements, market changes and customer expectations?
- What processes can we optimize to streamline workflow and alleviate the workload on our teams?
- What processes can we optimize to deliver a satisfying customer experience?
- What technologies could we explore to streamline our existing processes?
Your answers to these questions will determine which business transformations would be most advantageous to your organization’s future.
You Cannot Separate Process Excellence From Business Transformation
Let’s explore an example of an organization that pursued a business transformation without applying a business process excellence approach.
A few years ago, a bank reached out to Centric Consulting to update its account onboarding process. Whether customers applied online or in person, onboarding was a long and tedious task because it was a one-size-fits-all process. For example, it didn’t matter if a customer wanted their first credit card and had zero credit or if they needed an auto loan and already had established credit with the right kind of collateral. Customers had to use the same hard-to-navigate form, which meant establishing an account with this bank was challenging. In some cases, approval took weeks.
Bank leaders thought they could use newer, previously purchased technology to simplify their onboarding process. Because they implemented the technology without evaluating anything else, the technology only updated the design of the onboarding form, not the onboarding process itself. In short, the bank’s new form was pretty, but not functional. Customers still had difficulty making an account, and the bank’s problem persisted.
The bank’s approach to this specific business transformation was one-dimensional, driven by technology while neglecting the crucial aspects of people and processes. Its onboarding process presented problems because of its one-size-fits-all nature, not the platform on which it was hosted. To improve its onboarding experience for customers, the bank needed to consider people, processes and technology equally so they could best meet their customers’ diverse needs.
A Successful Process Excellence Approach
Just as each service the bank offers has its own distinct process to follow, it should have a specific form to start the onboarding process. Recognizing the need for tailored onboarding experiences, we implemented customizable requests. Instead of navigating a confusing one-size-fits-all application, customers selected the service they were interested in and were directed to the corresponding customized form. As a result, a customer looking for a credit card would fill out a different application form than a customer seeking an auto loan.
Next, we broadened the scope of “people” to encompass not only new customers but existing customers and employees. To enhance the customer experience and streamline operations for employees, we introduced several services to the bank’s online processes, including seamless transitions between communication channels on their website and mobile app; pre-fill options that automatically populate application forms with relevant information; save and continue and e-signature capabilities.
These services not only simplified the application process for customers but also reduced the amount of paperwork that employees needed to review and sign in person. Additionally, we automated the approval process for smaller requests like debit card replacements or credit card limit increases, so customers could have their needs met quickly and employees could focus on manually reviewing more significant requests.
Only when people, processes and technology aligned did performance metrics reveal a successful business transformation: the bank’s application abandonment rate decreased by 40 percent.
Business Process Excellence for a Better Future
The external forces that drive change — technology, market dynamics and consumer expectations — will only grow stronger, and the pace of change will continue to accelerate based on how dexterously organizations adapt.
Without applying a business process excellence approach, you might be responding to change reactively, resolving issues as they pop up instead of building a business process excellence infrastructure within your organization.
Once your people, processes and technology align, you can develop holistic performance metrics that evaluate each aspect of your organization and pursue business transformation proactively. Then, you can become one of the forces that drive change, inspiring others to examine their own processes.