This post describes the challenges in getting ready for a Digital Boardroom. You may ask yourself what is a Digital Boardroom? We believe that this is the information in electronic format delivered to management to make quick and clear business decisions without any manual intervention using high quality and reliable data. If that is the company’s desired end-state for Information Delivery, Process Optimization, Governance (processes, policies & IT) and Willingness (people behaviour) need your clear attention.
The Bigger Picture
Companies that set themselves targets to become fully paperless need to automate all internal and external reporting. All the relevant data end up in the “Digital Boardroom” which enables companies a total real-time overview of business performance across the different processes throughout the organization.
Systems and processes have to be made ready to support these goals, not only the structured data (ERP, CRM, SRM, and LIMS) but also the non-structured data like Document-, Training- or Issue Management.
And in order to obtain the reports in a logical and meaningful way, the processes must run flawlessly. Expectations have to be clearly defined at all levels which include Top management in order to have clarity on what to deliver and with what frequency.
Data in systems exist of:
- Configuration Data
- Master Data
- Meta Data
- Transactional Data
- Reporting Data
Configuration Data and Master Data are more governing items. In fact, they steer the other data next to the implicit functioning of the application. But if you want your data “ in order”, you need to work on all 5 items. So it starts with a proper understanding of how systems exactly work. But the real journey starts with the below challenges:
- Can the data which is generated by the system in the form of transactional data serve as information delivery? Did you apply consistent definitions for the same thing?
- Is the data complete and aren’t we doing some transactions outside the system?
- Is there a delay in data cleansing, harmonization, and updates?
In general, it is imperative that data needs continuous attention from all angles:
- Implementation wise
- Process wise
- Update wise
Even with a strong focus on systems and tooling, the best system fails when the processes are inappropriately followed. Ultimately the success of the company is in the processes (differentiator) where systems and data are the enablers.
Therefore Process Optimisation is the key activity of each IT department, in close cooperation with the business functions and anchored with the appropriate level of governance (see below).
Process Optimisation is ideally part of Operational Excellence or Continuous Improvement Programs. Process Optimisation needs a multi-disciplinary approach since it is driven by various items:
- Standardization – Harmonisation of the way of working across all units in the company enables process optimization. Apply when possible and logical One Company, One System, One Way of Working strategy.
- Training & Discipline – Key and End Users need to be continuously trained so that the implemented processes are understood and also followed.
- Process Monitoring – Monitoring the actually executed processes can give insight to what extend the desired processes are followed and encourage further improvements.
- Focus on end-to-end processes – Process optimization is best served if an entire process is fully done in the intended system without shortcuts.
- Automate wherever possible – Line of thinking should be automated wherever possible and going paperless should be the ultimate goal.
- Reporting and KPI’s – Ideally Management should have a clear view of KPIs and the frequency of reporting these KPI’s.
- Persistence and willingness to walk towards the last mile – Continuous improvement is in fact the only option.
IT Governance ensures the effective and efficient use of IT which enables an organization to achieve its goals (Gartner). It is the prime responsibility of the CIO. Nevertheless, the Business Processes Governance is primarily the responsibility of the Business Process Owner (BPO), usually a C-level staff member. Effective governance can be obtained when the BPO is able to take this role (including the accompanying ownership), understands the processes, and has the ambition to improve it.
Important is that Governance is clearly set and maintained, employees are to be made aware, convinced and requested to follow the rules of the game and it is updated and refreshed in their normal way of working. In fact Process & IT governance go hand-in-hand. Proper IT governance can enable to have proper process governance. Therefore the role of the CIO is important to encourage and inspire continuously the company on applying proper governance.
How to get ready for the Digital Boardroom?
In order to get ready, it is highly recommended to have the relevant data available in one repository. More than one repository will work as well but it will complicate the case. Take the current Management Reporting as a given and have this populated in the Digital Boardroom. Focus not immediately on all items, take a logical subset, and scale up thereafter. Have governance in place for process optimization so that detected flaws can be addressed efficiently and effectively. Select carefully the audience of the pilot group. It helps a lot if the audience is convinced of the desired end-state. Apply the approach of the Deming cycle: Plan, Do, Monitor, and Act:
- Establish Governance
- Define and run Data, Systems, and Processes
- Check/Monitor, report (KPIs)
- Optimize / Improve
Digital lifestyle was a dream 5-10 years ago but now it is becoming a reality. With so many technological advances that constantly keep evolving at hand, the way business is steered also changes. Organizations that have worked on digital integration will win from the organizations that continue working with scattered Excel files. Are you a laggard or an early adopter? The DIGITAL BOARDROOM is just around the corner but is your organization ready to embrace it?