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  • Writer's pictureOliver Nowak

Why Everyone is doing People, Process, & Technology Wrong

The concept of People, Process & Technology has been around almost as long as the idea of Digital Transformation itself. And most organisations that are considering these three elements when they embark on their transformation think they've got it all figured out and are doing things 'properly'.

But the failure rate of digital transformation is still shockingly high, despite People, Process & Technology. So clearly there's still a lot going wrong....

What everyone is doing is viewing each of these components in isolation:

  • People = Reorganising the staff ready for our impending transformation

  • Process = We've implemented new business processes to support our new technology

  • Technology = We've bought something new

I'm not saying that People, Process & Technology is the wrong way of thinking about it, not at all. I'm saying, thinking of them in isolation is what's wrong. The idea is that these are the three core components of a successful digital transformation where success is the area in the middle where each of these circles intersect:

Viewing them in isolation encourages organisations to think very tactically, rather than holistically. How many organisations have we all seen or been a part of where there's reorg after reorg, or the next new process that is going to transform how we work, or the next new technology that's going to be our magic wand and fix all of our problems? Inevitably it's failure after failure.

To bring it to life, let's consider a simple example, reporting.

"We've got a problem in our organisation where report creation has grown out of control, none of them are working the way the respective business unit wants them to work, they make lots of complaints and before long they decide it's just easier to take matters into their own hands and build their own in Excel."

Sound familiar?

So what tactical People, Process & Technology solutions are considered?

  • People: Let's establish a dedicated reporting team within IT.

  • Process: Let's create a request process so that the business units can ask IT to create the reports that they want.

  • Technology: It's the technology that's holding us back, let's buy a new one.

6 months later.....

  • People: "The reporting team is useless, it takes ages to get our new reports."

  • Process: "What's the point in requesting them, my report will never see the light of day anyway."

  • Technology: "This new one is even worse than the last one!"

So, what went wrong?

The problem was, we never actually defined the business issue that we were trying to solve. So we never considered what the intersection point of our People, Process & Technology should be focused on.

We need to ask ourselves the question: How should this change impact how we work after it's been implemented?

This is what ultimately matters. In short hand it's: Why are we bothering?

So going back to our reporting example, rather than thinking about the reports themselves, let's think about the problem the reports are trying to fix.

Ultimately, we're generating reports because we want to make better decisions, and giving us access to real-world data is, in theory, the best way of doing that in a data-driven world. I.e. if we knew we were making the right decisions without the reports, we wouldn't use them. So the business problem is "How can we improve decision making?", not "How can we improve reporting?".

Bringing all of this together, we realise we need to be thinking about the overlaps within our Venn Diagram and we know we need to be focusing our solutions on the real Business Issue. So let's build it out.

The first overlap is People & Process. The outcome we're looking for is that our people are enabled to make business impacting decisions. So we need to worry about the following:

  • What is our definition of 'business impacting decisions'?

  • How are we measuring 'impact'?

  • How are we ensuring our decision makers are enabled and empowered to consistently deliver these impactful decisions?

  • Who is responsible for ensuring decision makers have what they need to deliver impactful decisions?

Now this may involve a reorg as spoken about above, but the key difference is it's reorg with a purpose.

The next overlap is People & Technology. Now that we have defined what decisions are being made, who is responsible, and how it's going to be done consistently, we need to worry about giving our decision makers what they need to execute. In our reporting example, this is access to accurate data, in the right format so that the appropriate insights can be gleaned to make impactful decisions. With this in mind, an appropriate assessment can be made to determine what the right technology is to deliver these outcomes. And crucially our decisions makers need to be involved in this selection process as they are our key end users.

Lastly we have Process & Technology. As we know, to see any real value from a technology investment we need to ensure it's aligned to our process. Otherwise, 6 months down the line, nothing will have changed. This means either adapting the process to the technology, or the technology to the process - there's no right answer here. But beyond that, the other key factor is adopting a continuous improvement mentality asking the question - does the technology have the capacity to support further enhancement of the process in the future? A simple example could be, does the technology support the conversion of manual processes into automated processes over time?

And now, our Venn diagram is complete and we can confidently say we have a solution that is truly transformative. We know who our key decisions makers are, we have a team that is accountable for giving them what they need to deliver these decisions, we have a process that is consistent, and we have a technology that aligns to this process and has the capacity to further improve how we make decisions in the future. Sounds like job done to me!

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