Changing the way we change

If companies don’t change the way they change, they won’t be able to tap the huge opportunities being unlocked by the surge of new technology.

Catching the technology curve

It’s time to change. Specifically, it’s time to change the way we change. For all the billions that have been spent on change and transformation projects, the investment in ERP solutions intended to provide the foundation of a modern, agile enterprise, and the endless flow of literature from consultants and academics alike, the stakes are too high to carry on as we are. Change is the everyday norm in a modern business, and being change-centric is going to be an entry-level need in order to harvest the benefits that technology is offering for the foreseeable future.

The change gap is the ever-widening space between the capabilities and potential of new technology and the readiness of most organisations to adapt in order to exploit these possibilities. Closing the change gap becomes ever more important as the technology change trajectory gets steeper and the forces weighing down the business adaptability curve pull ever more strongly in the opposite direction. Ironically, one of the strongest of these forces is “technical debt”: the technology estate – typically dominated by enterprise software – on which most businesses operate, where change that needs to be delivered in hours or days typically takes weeks or months. The other strong force is lack of change readiness: many businesses are neither practically nor culturally equipped to become more adaptable.

For those businesses that succeed in closing the gap, and keeping it closed, the opportunities are enormous, more so than perhaps ever before. So how well equipped are we to do this?

Why change management isn’t working as it should

Change management: for all the years that it has been a recognised discipline, for all the money and resources that have been consumed by change and transformation programs, it still isn’t working as well as it should. The widely referenced data on failed programs tells its own story. Why? We’d suggest three main reasons:

1. Change still tends to be managed as a project – for example as part of a transformation program - rather than being recognised as an everyday reality in all aspects of how a business is run.

2. Technology-inspired opportunities, from the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence to Business Automation, are not being fully grasped and exploited because they demand changes in the business that often aren’t understood or prioritised.

3. Very few CEOs and senior executives are able to look at their business from a perspective that enables them to say: “this is what we need to change, and how we’re going to do it”. High-level end-to-end understanding of value-adding business workflows and transactions is rare – and yet it’s a prerequisite for CEOs and their teams in order for them to be able to lead change and, ultimately, to build capital value.

Technology makes business change possible and desirable. It has done for the past 250 years. And yet we have still not managed to really marry up the two – to interweave business and technology change in a single platform. The AptumX Digital Twin finally makes this a reality. It’s the foundation for transitioning organisations into the agile, flexible, usually highly automated post-industrial state on which future success depends and - critically - it enables every area of the business to become change-centric by putting the ability to drive change in the hands of business people.

Breaking down change

Change is intimidating when it appears big, complex and difficult. It’s a natural human tendency to resist this. But, as a species, we’re adaptable. We’re changing all the time, in big ways (evolution) and in little, everyday ways. Change ceases to be intimidating when we can understand it, see it, own it, do it at our own pace and in incremental steps. Think about how much this happens in our personal lives. Stand back for a few minutes and reflect on how your life and your environment has changed over the past five or ten years. Your family and relationships. Your work. How you entertain and educate yourself. How you use technology. What has been automated in your own personal orbit, quite apart from what happens in your job.

This isn’t to deny that some change really is big, complex and difficult, especially when it is transformative in its nature. Indeed, becoming an agile, flexible, post-industrial, automated, change-centric organisation is all of these things, and it doesn’t happen overnight. And that makes it all the more important to make that change visible, understandable and controllable. You can have the transformation without the transformation program.

Becoming change-centric

It will probably be a journey of several years to become that organisation, one in which the CEO and their team can look, in real time, at fully automated end-to-end value-adding transaction workflows, with the detailed supporting tasks automated where they need to be. This will be automation where it matters, not just in pockets or islands where there was a tactical opportunity (which is where Robotic Process Automation tends to operate). It’s impossible to stress how important this is. This is across the board Business Automation. Very few organisations have come close to achieving it yet and they won’t, without a platform that provides the understanding that enables simplification in order to be able to automate. UNDERSTAND – SIMPLIFY – AUTOMATE is the AptumX mantra and it is reliant on having developed the change capabilities and mindsets that equip the business to operate in this way.

This journey will have two critical characteristics:

1. Continuous benefit realisation

It will be broken down into multiple, incremental steps and changes that both achieve beneficial outcomes in their own right and expedite the journey the business is on. Think of yourself in a muddy field across which you build a gravel path, enabling you to cross comfortably on foot. This outcome provides a tangible benefit. It also makes possible the next project, to convert the path into a metalled road that you can drive across, which in turn can then be upgraded to an eight-lane motorway. And at this point, unable to foresee further linear improvements, your mind may turn to quantum change: flying taxis, anybody? 

In the same way, the first output on the journey to a post-industrial business will be to have the business fully defined in the Digital Twin model, forming the basis for managing and orchestrating change in a safe and low-risk environment. The operation of the Digital Twin and the incremental changes that the business can drive represents the second stage, during which time automation opportunities across the end-to-end workflows are identified and the Digital Twin is used to ensure that all necessary process definitions are 100% accurate – an absolute prerequisite for successful automation and a hurdle at which many businesses would currently fall. A third stage would then be a first round of process automation, followed by a further round such that all automation opportunities have been exploited and are in place – and ready to further adapt and automate as the environment, internal and external, continues to change. 

2. Encompass the whole organisation

From the outset, the journey of change will encompass the whole organisation. Becoming a flexible, agile, automated post-industrial business touches every aspect of how you operate, from leadership style and culture through who you recruit and how you support their development, how you’re organised, how you divide work between in-house teams and your wider ecosystem to how humans and technology interact in delivering your customer value proposition in an ever-changing world. The AptumX change methodology ensures that every aspect of the business model is adapting to support the needs of the organisation that is taking shape around the Digital Twin model and that nothing is left to chance. We’ll come back to this later with an example.

Weaving change centricity into the Digital Twin

So far, so good. We have a view of what it will mean for the organisation to become change-centric, and we know that the Digital Twin is providing a new level of understanding, always up to date, always replicating reality, keeping pace with changes in the business and, increasingly as the model becomes more sophisticated, driving some changes itself. But how do the two come together – become interwoven, as we described them earlier?

Interweaving happens at two levels: the individual and the organisation.

First, the individual. The AptumX Digital Twin is embedded in the business, starting with the creation of a high-level model that gives an overview of the end-to-end workflows and value-adding transactions and gradually incorporating task-level detail to build a full working model of the organisation. And that’s the key. It’s a working model, owned and operated not by IT but by business people. They are being given the keys to the car, no longer reliant on IT to drive it for them:

  • They have to put the necessary governance measures in place to ensure the Digital Twin is always current – a process that itself will be as heavily automated as possible
  • They are responsible for ensuring connectivity between the real-world business and its digital replica
  • They are empowered to use the Digital Twin to plan and execute change on a day-to-day basis.

All of these responsibilities – just like in a modern car – can be supported by a heavy dose of automation. What’s left for the business people to do is to take the decisions and perform the actions that require uniquely human attributes like emotional intelligence, complex cognitive processing and judgement, that the technology cannot perform.

And so the business is at the heart of the change. The risk of disengaging because it all feels too difficult and disconnected from their own reality disappears when, as a business person, I come centre stage. I can see the change, and make it, confident in the knowledge that in doing so I am not breaking anything else in the business. I own the change. I am engaged – just like the driver of the car is more engaged than when he or she is a passenger. I am becoming change ready.

Developing change readiness in the individual is essential. Everything will ultimately fall over without this. But it’s not enough. If the organisation is not becoming receptive to an environment in which change is the norm, a business-as-usual competence, then individuals will run out of sustenance soon enough. That’s where the Change Impact Assessment comes into play.  

Change Impact Assessment

The Change Impact Assessment sits at the heart of most successful change management. It’s basically an analysis of all those components of a business that will be affected by a planned change – anything across the spectrum from a minor process tweak to a fundamental change to the business’s ways of working. Each impact can be assessed for risks and opportunities, and mitigation strategies put in place to minimise risk and maximise opportunity. It’s a very powerful tool for running change initiatives successfully.

However, the Change Impact Assessment has the same limitations as every other tool that is basically a snapshot, or a steady series of snapshots. Maintaining the Assessment becomes an onerous task and it can become increasingly difficult to focus on the content as opposed to the administrative process. Furthermore, using the Assessment for projects and initiatives is fine, but it’s a huge wasted opportunity. In a world of continuous change, the Change Impact Assessment needs to be a business-as-usual governance and change-enabling tool. By building it into the Digital Twin, this becomes possible and it means that changes to every aspect of the business are orchestrated from the model.

To conclude, here's an example to illustrate the point. A bank is automating fraud detection processes. Instead of 5% of suspect transactions being checked at random by an army of investigators, every single flagged case is assessed, within seconds, against an array of criteria, some of them beyond the ability of a human to process. Error detection rates rise, false positives are processed out very quickly, and the investigator role disappears. In its place, new job requirements arise. Some investigators are capable of retraining and converting, others aren’t. With 100% checking, more contraventions are spotted and have to be dealt with by case workers. Data scientists are employed to develop ever more sophisticated ways of detecting fraud using the automated systems, and to identify new patterns and trends in criminal activity so that appropriate precautions can be built into the system.

Many aspects of the organisation are impacted. The bank recruits for different skills, different mindsets, and this has an effect on retention, reward, career development, training and talent management strategies. The business process model is radically changed, as is the infrastructure – both technological and physical. The new cadre of staff may be more suited to – or attracted by - remote working and more flexible employment arrangements. All of this could impact the very culture of the organisation, and the leadership philosophy and styles that will be effective in this new world.

The Change Impact Assessment, applied at the outset, enables all the consequences of this string of actions to be identified and orchestrated. As the initiative progresses and there are – as there inevitably will be – deviations from the intended path, so the expected impact is updated too. And, once the new ways of working are in place and incremental changes continue to be made, they too are followed through in the Change Impact Assessment. Change is acknowledged as the norm, and the business now has, in the AptumX platform, a way of recognising this and dealing with it. By this time, we really have changed the way we change.