Business growth is directly proportional to operational automation; the more you get done in lesser time, with lesser resources.
Anyone who's worked in operations knows how hard it is to make changes to the existing way of how things work. The global and interconnected nature of today's business world calls for leaders who are both culturally sensitive and technologically savvy, able to manage various teams and engage with divergent workflows.
Let's talk about why that is, what you can do to turn things around and how technology can play a catalyst role in operational efficiency.
Before we get into the weeds, let's talk about a System. A System is a collection of entities that produces a meaningful output given an input. Pretty much everything we see around us is a system. The people in a company work in a system. Systems develop their own group behaviors. For example, when you think of a workplace system,
a) People in an office tend to work late or leave early. This is not just dependent on the individual but on the culture of the office.
b) How fast do you respond to a customer support request - Behavior of the CS team rather than the individual. Comes from expectation setting over a period of time.
c) Do people falsely report their attendance time in operations? - Behavior of the entire ops team.
The interesting thing to note about systems is that they are resilient. More complex a system, the more resilient it is. A good example of this is that when you want to introduce a new product to your ops team, the smaller the team, the easier it is for you to implement. It depends on other factors too but there's a direct correlation between the team size and the effort involved.
Systems are by default generated with designs to reach a solution and map a process, which demands to be iterative in nature. The transformation in an already acceptable working system requires design operations to optimize how a business can churn the maximum value with simplified efforts.
Think of your team as a rubber band. When you apply pressure, the rubber band stretches and comes back to the original position. This is what typically happens when you make changes to a system. In order to make a permanent change, you need to apply a pressure strong enough to induce a shock to the system that its existing behavior breaks. In the rubber band analogy, you want to break the rubber band.
Going by our note above, the larger the team, the bigger should be the change in order to make changes in the existing way of doing things.
This thought is beautifully described in the book Systems Thinking - A Primer.
Digital transformation is the process of changing the way companies run their operations through the assistance of technology, usually for the better.
Technology solutions tend to provide significant improvement to the way companies run their Operations through providing better access to data, highlighting mistakes, guiding process execution and improving access to data.
Typically a company tends to see an improvement of 55-70% in their operations when they move from a basic spreadsheet based operation to a robust technology solution.
Companies, small and large, are constantly evolving their operations through the use of these technology solutions to improve their operations efficiency consistently. These products can either be internally built or could be 3rd party SaaS solutions.
One of the common problems seen with the digital transformation efforts is not identifying or fine-tuning the technology solution but the adoption of it.
When you implement a new process, while the long term effect of the change in process is going to be positive, there is a temporary uncertainty in the mind of the people impacted that they resist the change.
When the adoption of the new solution is not effectively followed up, people tend to revert back to the original way of doing things and the transformation effort tends to fail.
According to the Smartsheet report Automation in the Workplace, workers surveyed look forward to spending less time on repetitive manual tasks like data entry, and to spending more time on rewarding aspects of their work.
The first step to automation is to eliminate daily repetitive tasks that tend to demand a lot of time and energy but can be eliminated effectively with a simple tool in place.
Tasks like data entry, documents collection and expense filing can save up to 40% of employees' time.
With great digitization comes great sight to identify the break, flaw or hurdle in a system. Eliminating the delays in a process is easier and a workflow management system can help you gain an overall sight of what’s happening where and what needs your attention.
It is reported that up to 60% of resources can be saved with automation.
“If employees don’t have to complete so many mindless tasks, they are free to focus on creative endeavors and coming up with ideas.”
Workers are eager to contribute to their organizations, and feel they could be adding more value through creative work and innovation. By giving workers more time to be creative, automation may lead to greater innovation in businesses. In fact, 43 percent of those surveyed believe that automation will lead to greater innovation for themselves and their teams.
Run a pilot for a small group of users if possible to iron out the kinks. This process usually involves,
Once the smaller pilot is successfully implemented, it is time to expand the scope for the entire team. The most important part to remember is that this process takes more time than expected. And it involves tracking the performance even after the adoption is complete to make sure any previous behavior is completely ironed out. This process usually involves
Once this entire process is complete, then the transformation is successful.
I hope this guide helps to understand the fundamentals of Operational transformation in a company and how to navigate through the same.
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