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April 20, 2018
From Sticky Notes to Smoother Processes
By: Elaine Turville

I’ve been writing about the three pillars of digital transformation we’re exploring with our partners at the USDA: process transformation, change management and technology—all underpinned by customer centricity and user-centered design. In this post, I’d like to take a closer look at process transformation and why it’s a crucial part of any digital transformation.

If you’ve worked in government for any length of time, you’ve likely experienced the downsides of implementing new technologies based on old processes. It’s the classic scenario of “paving a cow path”; even the greatest, most innovative technology can’t overcome clunky, inefficient and otherwise broken processes. And yet, the phrase “process transformation” might sound complicated, overwhelming and expensive.

I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be.

Process transformation is something an agency can tackle by bringing together the employees and citizens/customers who know and use the process. They’re best qualified to illuminate the potholes and speedbumps and to make suggestions for streamlining and simplifying how work gets done. Don’t worry about formal methodologies like Lean Six Sigma. Instead, focus on “lowercase lean”—that is, making processes as short and sweet as they can be.

This upfront work will pay big dividends as you advance in digital transformation. For starters, limited IT funds will go a lot farther if you’re creating a solution that has fewer steps and screens. Second, your customers will be a lot happier if you streamline how they engage and enter data. And, your employees will feel greater satisfaction in being able to accomplish what they to want accomplish more quickly and easily.

You can start down this path today. How? First, choose a process that is causing a lot of dissatisfaction among your customers and/or employees. Then workshop that specific process. Gather people in a room, preferably with a big white board, and use a slew of sticky notes to fully document the “as is” process. Be sure to capture how much time is required for each part of the process.

Then literally step back and look at the current approach. Set aside all assumptions about the status quo and get brutally honest about how you could complete the work more quickly, in fewer steps or with less effort from all parties. Figure out how you can eliminate, or at least shrink, large gaps of time where the effort is stalled.

Now use more sticky notes to redesign the process and begin to identify how you can address the issues. In what areas can you make immediate changes? What areas might require further testing and refinement? And, what changes will need to be tackled as part of a technology implementation?

You don’t have to reshape every process from the ground up to support digital transformation. But you will increase your odds of success by investing upfront time and energy in preparing your processes. You could even see some shorter-term benefits in the form of lower IT costs, better employee engagement and higher customer satisfaction.

There’s still so much here to discuss with you in exploring the three pillars of digital transformation. Connect with me on social media and keep an eye out for my next post focused on change management.

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