Samantha Bureau-Johnson, Vice President, Business Process Solutions & Project Management Office, Blue Cross NC
Many businesses are striving to quickly move to digitally transform their business. Digital transformation is a broad category, as it ranges from digitally re-imagining your business through AI tooling to automating operational transactions with RPA/RDA/IA/ and anywhere in between. It also carries many terms, so for this article, the rubric is Digital Process Automation, which includes Intelligent Automation capabilities.
The place I like to start is the question of “What do we mean by Digital Transformation within your business?”
– What are you strategically trying to achieve as a business and how does this fit in?
– Are you focused on outcomes, such as:
– enhance the customer experience?
– driving down costs?
– increasing revenue?
– driving efficiency?
– speed to market?
– all of the above?
What is WHY?
Coincidentally, these are the same types of questions that would be asked in any strategic transformation effort or when any strategic endeavor is conceived. The difficulty can come in discerning what the most valuable “why” is to undertake such a large endeavor for your business and then mobilizing the right way to achieve the desired outcomes.
And then there is the external pressure you feel from your competition and the desire to move at a rapid pace, hearing from experts that it is achievable in record time.
Some steps to consider as you kick off your Digital Transformation
1. Bring clarity to your transformation effort, by creating the case for change, that will resonate internally with employees and externally with your customers and stakeholders
2. Select a “C” suite executive champion that will provide visibility, active communication, change support and the all-important alignment across the “C” suite to ensure it keeps top of mind
3. Pick a seasoned transformational executive to lead the day to day effort, working to create the detailed strategy and roadmap, key goals and measurements and who can motivate and empower the teams while building a coalition of partnerships
4. Just get started, pick a tool, pilot a willing business area and don’t wait for perfect. The learning you will get, outweighs the time lost to perfect.
5. Build a flexible and adaptive enterprise governance structure, that has a foundation in collaboration, change leadership and shared outcomes. The goal is to erase divisional lines and have a strong Business, IT and Support team culture.
6. Commit to enterprise thinking and agility with the appropriate safety you need for your business (if your highly regulated you will have more to consider)
7. Celebrate the small wins of success, don’t wait for the big wins
8. Set the culture to be not only agile minded but also one high in collaboration and continuous learning, recognizing there will be some fails – set the tone that it’s okay
9. Bring training to the forefront for your employees and leaders. Managing and working with a human and digital workforce takes new skills and practice
10. Balance speed to value with speed to sustainability
A digital transformation program is much larger than picking a bunch of tools and getting enamored by shiny objects and terms like RPA/RDA/AI/IA etc.
Software companies and integrators are going to tell you the tools are plug and play, that you will get immediate value, that they have “no-code” and “low-code” capabilities. Nothing is really that easy and I typically fall back on “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!” Everything worth doing takes a measure of effort.
To be fair the tools are rapidly progressing and becoming more realistic for the citizen creators, in business roles, to use these tools. However, it still requires a human to build the models and refine the tools. For example, if you want to use Natural Language Processing, an ingenious human, well versed with the appropriate context, still has to create and refine that model. You also need broader engagement from your workforce to further refine the model.
As much as each business at a high level is the same within an industry, they are also very different in the details and context on how they run their business. Only your human capital can wade through that context to build the right model for the technical machine to follow.
Just like any other program that transforms the business, it has the highest chance of success when it is rooted in focusing on driving business value. Technology doesn’t drive business value just by being installed. The technical tools, when aligned to enabling the business to transform, are most able to when they include all the support needed to implement them. And that will include humans with different skills and capabilities. Be careful to not just throw digital tools about here and there, because there is a lot of human brainpower needed to fully unlock the capabilities within the tools and the more you subdivide the more sub-optimization and lower value will be achieved.
Pulling it all together
A clear vision, strategy and careful change leadership coupled with human centric design, is critical to achieving a true “Digital Transformation” that scales smartly over the long haul and is sustainable for the future.
About the author:
Samantha Bureau-Johnson is currently a Vice President leading $350M in strategic investments at BlueCross NC, the largest health insurer in the state of North Carolina, with $10Bn in Revenue and 3.5M customers. She also leads the Enterprise Business Process Solutions teams delivering results through Lean/Six Sigma, Business Analysis and Digital Process Automation. She has led core operational, technical and sales operations teams, throughout her career, consistently exceeding goals and achieving improved business performance, either in growth or margins.
One of her current enterprise initiatives is leading the Digital Process Automation program with a coalition of exceptional colleagues and thought leaders across business and IT function