For those organizations that have deployed ServiceNow®, it is clear that the service management platform can be a highly effective System of Engagement and System of Action for providing services to its constituents. It also is a platform to provide insights into the nature, effectiveness and costs of that service delivery. It does not replace your systems of record, but allows you to better deliver and automate supporting services and tasks.
In this blog series, I have written about the emphasis that ServiceNow is putting on people for customer success and how Organizational Change Management (OCM) activities must be integrated into your program to help manage and adopt the change being introduced. But to maximize the benefits of the platform and associated changes, you must also make sure you’ve planned, designed and implemented an optimized user experience and set of roles, processes and desired outcomes/insights.
This month, I discuss the guidance provided by ServiceNow that organizations going through these efforts must standardize – as much as possible – their business processes to ensure consistency and efficiency in delivery of their services. To do that, there is typically a need to address and embrace Process Innovation.
According to ServiceNow, Process Innovation is the proactive task of identifying, analyzing and improving upon existing processes within an organization for optimization and to meet new standards of quality. It often involves a systematic approach which follows a specific methodology. Processes can be modified, automated, or even eliminated for the ultimate goal of improvement – a mindset that should define the culture of your teams.
Pursuing this path requires the team to:
- Identify & Capture Process Improvement Opportunities
- Identify & Capture Automation Opportunities
- Define Process Ownership & Oversight
ServiceNow goes on to identify other very critical benefits of standard processes. These include:
- Removing Redundancies
- Automating Administrative Manual Processes
- Creating Meaningful Process Stages
- Enforcing Good Workflow Design Discipline With Your Users
The guidance around good, sustained service delivery related to business process basically asks you to Standardize, Simplify and Automate. Let’s look at what those really mean.
1. You’re not special (Standardize)
In its most general sense, the recommendation is to avoid specialization. It’s a natural tendency to say, “We do things differently here” and then go on to develop and implement system-supported business processes based on the way things have been done in the past. It’s difficult to change what the organization has always done (for help on that, see our overview of OCM) and come to a standard set of processes across varying functions and knowledge workers in the organization. This is where process improvement or, more importantly, process transformation comes into play for the organization.
Not only can this approach leverage best industry practice for business functions, but it also avoids problems down the road with respect to upgrade and integration challenges. This is very clear guidance by ServiceNow to avoid upgrade risks (make sure things don’t break during an upgrade cycle!) and being able to seamlessly take advantage of new functions as delivered by subsequent platform releases.
2. Make it meaningful (Simplify/Fit for Purpose)
When embracing standardization, make it meaningful for the users and simplify things as much as possible. Best practice design principles call for you to:
- Break down your workflow. Map it out, then analyze with a critical eye. Are some processes even needed?
- Appoint Business Process owners, but involve users
- Enhance the user experience (take the view of the user; reduce manual intervention)
- Standardize recurring and identical processes (see if you can reuse components)
- Review the organizational structure impacted (do all these people need to be involved in the process?)
- Define and use automated business rules (the ServiceNow platform can help here)
- Make it an iterative, rigorous process
*This is not an exhaustive or one-size-fits-all approach for process improvement, as this blog is not intended to define how to do it, but to address why it’s important.
Reengineering your processes and designing standard workflows will likely require deep process design expertise. Your business owners should consult with your solution architects to optimize processes before converting them into standard workflows.
3. Take yourself out of the process (Automate)
Keeping workers immersed in the process is not a good design goal. Sometimes these transformations lead people to think their jobs will be in jeopardy, but who wants to keep doing repetitive tasks day in and day out? And furthermore, what value is that to an organization?
By automating and providing self-service capabilities, you give yourself the opportunity to provide enhanced value to the organization by using your skills and knowledge to improve the nature and level of service to the organization. Leverage that functional and institutional knowledge to drive innovation and value to your customers, be they internal or external.
Remember, this is about process transformation (using standard practices as much as possible), simplification, automation. Keeping a strong focus here leads to:
- Enhanced functionality
- Enhanced/improved time to value
- Lower ongoing operating costs
- Consistent/continuous operations
Why It Matters
Business Process Innovation can be critical to the initial and sustained success of service delivery. Continued improvement, simplification, standardization and automation enhance the organization’s capability to deliver superior services to its client base. Good process design and adherence to standards help mitigate risk, protect your upgrade and enhancement paths, and provide consistent delivery quality. This is how you create satisfied users of your services and demonstrate real value to the business.
Being able to take advantage of this capability is why ServiceNow says advisory partners with the most strategic value are those that understand process improvement and can help prepare clients with process transformation.
Something else: Have you considered how to ensure that things don’t get out of control and that new, specialized processes don’t find their way into your operations? Strong personalities always seem to get special treatment, so how do we ensure things go according to design principles? Good questions. Without proper rigor or discipline, the gains described above are often not realized, which leads us to the issue of governance. How do you ensure best practices are initially designed and adhered to over the long run? I’ll address these questions in my next blog about project and program governance.