Complex digital processes can often be lengthy and trying. It takes a long time to handle customer or internal processes. Due to that opportunities are missed, frictions occur and there is hardly any room for creativity. Implementing an automated digital process would then be a smart step to take.
Whether it is about a production process or customer demand, the digital jungle is vast and needs some structuring. But how do you do that? How do you make sure you have the right people at the right place? And if you are not able to do such an optimization yourself, who will you turn to? What will have your attention and priority? What is the right process? There are so many questions that need to be answered. This article can help you to get started!
1 Defining the business case
Experience shows that when a company wants to improve its processes through a digital optimization, there needs to be a good and rock solid business case. After all, there needs to be a positive financial reason to make such an investment.
As a project manager or technical architect, it is advisable to think about the business case in a technical matter, whether you are part of an internal department or are an external consultant. I.e. think of the sort of solution, is it a hybrid or more of a customized approach?
Eventually you will benefit from being involved in the process early on. Make sure that, besides the goal, it is clear what the current processes are. In some cases it will involve multiple systems that do not connect in a simple way. Take this into consideration, also in the research that has to lead to the best solution. Obviously good planning couldn’t hurt either.
An example of a digital optimization stroke from current processes for future hybrid processes by means of the application of an automated digital infrastructure.
2 Choose the right tool and the right technique for the case
When there is an agreed business case and everyone is on the same page, the real work can commence. The technique. Which programming language are you going to use and why? Are you working from a sql database or is a microservices approach better fitting?
Depending on the assignment, everything has its advantages. Microservices allow you to develop, flexible, simultaneously and using different programming languages with the help of API’s, where static databases will become too large and have too many dependencies after a while. Applications can use multiple microservices at the same time.
Be guided by the solution
This doesn’t mean that, when it is a smaller technical project, a static database would not be the best solution. Be guided by the desired solution and never by a predetermined process or tool. These do not always match up for the best possible result.
The choice for the right programming language is also something to think through, even though your developer will probably have his preferences. Don’t be guided by this, always consider the best solution for the case or the client. And always keep in mind that you are facilitating a process that not only has to last for a year, but has a much longer service life.
The microservice-architecture of Microsoft as an example.
3 Make sure marketing and IT are working together
My experience as a ‘techie’ with an affinity with marketing, is that from a process and IT perspective, marketing purposes are not considered enough.
Even though there often is a clear goal for the process optimization, the combination marketing and IT is not always as it should be. When it concerns a commercial optimization, i.e. speeding the process of sending ordered products, the combination between these two disciplines should be obvious. It reinforces each other and guarantees a future for the solution you have built.
Besides that, you can perform all kinds of neat tricks with the data you have collected from your IT-solution. Like predicting your next purchase based on click-read and buying behaviour. If you would use this data to create data-driven marketing campaigns by applying these fancy technical tricks, your conversion on marketing activities would increase.
To illustrate how collected data by means of smart tricks can lead to a higher conversion under the name Next Best Actions.
4 Creating a structured planning
There are many, many possible planning and management methods that could be applicable to the project or release. Eventually none of these are the best by definition. There are simply too much facets to take into account whilst picking i.e. a classic waterfall or scrum method.
No implementation is the same but one thing that always is applicable on any project planning is the collaboration between you and the client. Would it be impossible for the client to facilitate in a scrum method, or does he applauds the developers freedom? Is it a fixed scope, are there obstacles along the way? Just a small part of the stuff you need to clarify before a method is picked and you finally can get started on planning the project or release!
Don’t forget you are facilitating the process together with your client. Keep them involved on proceedings, changes in planning both positive and negative. Do not worry too much about uncertainties or obstacles along the way. This is all part of the process. It is more important how you cope with those as the project manager or technical architect.
5 Functional testing
Every digital optimization goes along with a technical innovation. Testing of this innovation or better: new functionality is just as important as the development itself.
Do not just test yourself by using the well known unit tests, also intensively involve your client and end user in this phase.
If your testing audience is less experienced with technical solutions, you could use a testplan. But be aware that you leave room for the testers own interpretation instead of fixed set of actions in your plan. Make sure your test plan is not turning into a predefined checklist!
Ensure yourself that the testers know what they should do and manage expectations. Explain it personally if necessary to avoid misunderstandings and wrong conclusions.
Always keep an eye on result
The most important driver for the implementation of a digital solution is, of course, profit. The tool, platform or connection should earn money in one way or another.
So, whether you have decreased the application time for a certain product or service, or that you have aligned and optimized an internal process, somewhere it all comes back to one thing: Conversion.
To get insights in just how successful your solution has been for the client, you and the succeeding of the business case or best practice, always make sure you can compare old and new data. Where did you improve the process or earn the money and even more important: Where do the opportunities lie to expand your optimization? In other words, where are your future guarantees for more work?