In my recent conversations with UK Public Sector leaders, I’ve come to realise that, for some, there is an outdated perception of how modern ERP works. They think that moving from one ERP system to another is equivalent to moving from one fixed state to another. Perhaps this is because digital transformation in the public sector is often mandated by regulatory and/or compliance requirements – the whole project can feel like a box-ticking exercise. Therefore, they think that once a digital transformation is completed, it won’t need to happen again for another 20 years.
That may have been the case years ago, but it couldn’t be further from the truth today. The pace of technology has sped up and a ‘rip and replace’ model is not a sustainable approach to transformation. It certainly doesn’t help an organisation operate more efficiently.
Instead, leaders should be moving their organisations to an agile tech environment, where processes can be continuously reconfigured according to people’s changing needs in an uncertain world. This means that organisations need to be fluent in the language of their processes – understanding what they do, why and how they do it. This way, when the goal posts shift, they can shift with them to exploit new opportunities or mitigate unforeseen threats. There is no ‘end-state’ of digital transformation – only a starting point for sustainable agility and constant adaptation.
That need for agility is why SAP offers a modular suite of products that can adapt to an organisation’s needs and unique situation. We also leverage SAP Signavio, our software suite for business process management, to ensure that the digital transformation process itself is part of the destination.
Mapping the organisation and where it needs to go with Signavio
From day one of a digital transformation programme, the SAP implementation teams use Signavio tools to model our customer’s current, as-is foundation, creating a complete operational and system overlay. We model existing processes and give people the ability to navigate and digest it from multiple different entry-points and approaches.
We shape the process modelling to what best suits the organisation and gives users the best insights. This can mean starting with workflow processes at a lower level and working bottom-up, so the hierarchy and architecture modelling take care of themselves. Sometimes the best approach is the most straightforward – so for example, mapping an invoice process by simply following an invoice to see where it goes – this approach can reap some unexpected insights.
Where in the organisation we start with Signavio is not set in stone. We can test the solution on any function, and gradually roll it out to other areas once its value is demonstrated. For the public sector in particular, this not only lowers risk but also takes some of the sting out of difficult procurement processes, as smaller licences can be purchased and enlarged later as and when needed.
Collaboration is the key
As we begin to build a picture of an organisations’ processes, these are recorded in the cloud browser-based Collaboration Hub, capturing not only process mining and process insights, but governance and risk too. It becomes the single source of the truth for an organisation, where all users can consume and digest how the business operation runs.
This crowdsourcing approach is unique to SAP, and critical. The biggest factor that causes transformation projects to fail is not the rollout of technology, but the adoption and integration into the organisation once it has gone live. Using the Collaboration Hub allows everyone affected by the transformation to contribute from day one and leverages the wisdom of the crowd to determine whether or not the change programme an organisation is pursuing is the right approach for everyone. Organisations that take a deeply collaborative approach often don’t even need to go through business change programmes, because everyone has visibility and clarity from the beginning.
When it comes to testing new processes to mitigate risk, one of the most important features of SAP’s Signavio tool is its ability to simulate multiple future scenarios, based on process or operational change. The simulation capabilities turn the outcomes of process changes from conjecture into something real. It lets users test varying demands on process like staff resourcing, periods of increased demand, bottlenecks in approvals, etc. We can then create a baseline that can be used to improve processes and simulate new ones. The ability to ‘check’ before investing in change reduces potential losses.
The ability to test multiple process change opportunities to identify the best choice, ensures that the organisation can continuously follow the discipline of operational excellence. This is the careful balance of people, process, and technology, and that balance is in constant evolution. Being able to constantly ask and answer ‘what if?’ in a risk-free environment ensures that changes to process and operations benefit both the top and bottom lines of the organisation. This is how the public sector can generate significant, ongoing value and stay agile.
The human element
Too often, one of the ways that organisations justify IT procurement is by first reducing headcount and using the saved costs as a business case to buy new tech. This is extremely risky for organisations that don’t fully understand the roles their people are carrying out and the processes they are involved in.
SAP Signavio helps organisations understand current roles and helps them make decisions about where efficiencies can be made, which might not necessarily include headcount reductions. Signavio can reveal where people are being slowed down by IT and getting distracted from their work by ‘clunky’ processes. New processes and reallocated resources may allow staff to focus on areas that have greater levels of productivity and refocus on utilising their expertise. By determining and unlocking the maximum potential for each employee, efficiency and productivity gains may outweigh any previous cost concerns that would have led to headcount reductions.
Simplify then automate
One of the ways this can be achieved is intelligent use of automation. By simulating future state scenarios, users can make more informed decisions on how to implement automation. It’s not as straightforward as ‘automate to simplify’ – the better approach is to ‘simplify then automate’. Automation is like a digital person or group of people and any automated or digital worker needs to be in the right team with the right KPIs, with the environment that is best for success. So, it is critical to have insights into those factors and ensure there is the ability to manage changes.
SAP Signavio is an enabling technology to allow transformation leaders to manage change and run projects more efficiently, realising value as quickly as possible while mitigating risk. The decision to map out an organisation’s current processes on SAP Signavio should not be seen as a one-time return to the drawing board. The drawing board should always be looked at and be your go-to forevermore because it will be the key to making continuous smart decisions about change and staying agile. That constant evaluation of process and efficiency should be embraced.
Satpal Biant is head of Public Sector for SAP UK&I.