Why can’t IT adapt to our needs rather than the other way around?
In fact, it usually can. It is typically very flexible to the variations found in one environment versus another.
However, that might not be getting the best out of it or really permitting it to fully deliver a positive business transformation.
To understand why it’s necessary to consider just how the business processes in many organisations evolve over time.
Processes often reflect history
When analysing a company’s processes and operations, it’s not unusual to find strange activities that, in some extreme cases, appear to add no value to the task in hand.
An example might be a document moving through a company between people where someone stamps the document with a number and writes that into a register. That register and number are then found to never be used.
Perhaps that had its origins in when the document was logged as moving between two departments, whereas those departments were merged 30 years ago. So, the activity is meaningless today.
It would be perfectly possible to replicate that allocation of a number and logging but an IT process analyst’s job is to ask “why?”.
If it is retained as a manual intervention simply by virtue of the fact it is the ‘as is’ position, it will inevitably impact the new system’s full potential.
IT aims to achieve clean “straight-through” processes
The above example is very contrived and over-simplified but it illustrates a key point.
Every IT system offers the potential to revolutionise the way you do business. Its end objective in terms of processing is to remove as much human intervention as possible, thereby making things faster, more cost-effective, and ultimately, better able to service your business objectives.
Processes that are fully automated with little or no need for human intervention are called “clean” or “straight through”. Yet although this is easily discussed as a major corporate objective, it can be a challenge to achieve in many organisations.
The resistance to fully exploiting IT’s potential, can be considerable.
In some instances, this is human and understandable. If IT systems are successful, one measure of that may be lower costs achieved through lower personnel requirements.
Inevitably, this needs to be handled with sensitivity and humanity, though some people may be reluctant to assist with new-process thinking and implementation for obvious reasons.
Other roadblocks to re-thinking approaches may be erected by local management, who may be influenced by other considerations, such as a fear of diminished authority as a result. This fairly frequently results in propositions to the effect that the new system won’t work due to the need for the “XYZ” process to continue manually.
Such concerns must be taken seriously and fully analysed, however, in many cases, there are often system capabilities that are more than capable of replacing such processes.
For executive leadership seeking transformational change facilitated by IT, the challenges are clear:
- all existing processes should be defined as being subject to review and analysis. None should be considered untouchable simply by their nature;
- the potential of IT should not be constrained by the organisational shape of the company or existing assumptions about “how we do things”;
- executive leadership must be seen as clearly leading and championing process review as part of any major IT systems installation.