Technology is changing so fast that it can feel like your new tool is obsolete before it’s even installed. And in the midst of this chaos, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees (aka it can be hard to keep focused on your core business processes). Or, it might even be that new technologies make steps in your current business processes obsolete. So here’s some advice on how to keep your business processes optimized, both now and in the future.
First, let’s talk about the term “future proof”. Future-proof means something that works now, but is also designed to work in the future—even if we don’t know what the future holds.
What do future-proof business processes look like?
When we talk about “future-proof business processes,” what we’re talking about is business processes that can adapt to new tools, technologies and insights.
In other words, future-proof business processes are:
- strategically focused
- continually optimized
- dependable yet adaptable
Let’s look at each of these qualities in more detail.
Ideally, all your business processes will tie back to your organization’s strategic plan. But that takes a lot of time and planning: something many organizations just don’t have. At the very least, though, your core business processes should be directly linked to your company goals. This means everyone involved in the process should have a clear understanding of the business goals at the company, department and process level. It’s much easier to get everyone working towards the same purpose if everyone knows what that purpose is. Success is measured by your KPIs. So if you want to achieve a goal, you need to have your KPIs in mind when optimizing your business processes. Which leads us to…
Change is the one constant in today’s business landscape, and because of that, continuous process improvement is a must. It’s hard to believe that we didn’t have smartphones 20 years ago, and yet now we have virtual reality, 3d printing, and so much more. But changing just for the sake of trying the “next new thing” carries a lot of risk. Instead, focus on making small, strategically focused improvements to your business processes.
But most importantly: continuous improvement should be continuous. Many businesses only try to improve their processes in response to poor performance, and this is a mistake. If you’re continually reviewing and optimizing your processes for peak efficiency, you’re better prepared to make changes to your processes—and the changes you make in response to poor performance won’t cause as much upheaval.
Continuous improvement also helps workers adapt to change more easily. Workers are more open to process changes when they happen on a regular basis, and not just in response to poor performance. If you’re only adjusting processes in reaction to poor performance, those process changes might feel like a punishment - which can lead to resistance and even hostility.
Dependable yet adaptable
When future-proofing anything, the name of the game is adaptability. But according to a 2016 Gartner post, 75% of businesses aren’t yet ready for business process management—either because of rigid processes, confusion around business outcomes or a lack of BPM maturity in the organization. The post also states:
“Success in a digital age also requires rethinking how you define process. In a constantly changing environment, static and routine processes will not suffice. Processes are merely ways of coordinating people, their skills, capabilities and behavior with other people, systems and resources to drive the right business outcomes. BPM offers a way of engaging and empowering employees to reinvent how work is performed to drive better outcomes for customers.”
Your business processes need to be dependable above all else. They need to do what you need them to do. But they also need to be adaptable to new things: new or evolving customer demands, new compliance regulations, new technology.
Of course, this is all easier said than done. But it can be worth the effort. As Albert Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”