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Overcoming the “Uh-Oh” Factor in Business Process Improvement Projects

“Self-transformation is empowering, energizing, even exhilarating. I mean just take a look at some of the titles of self-help books: Awaken the Giant WithinPracticing the Power of Now. Or here's a great one we can all relate to: You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.

“When it comes to self-transformation, you can't help but get a sense of the excitement. But there's another type of transformation that occupies a very different emotional space. The transformation of organizations. 

If you're like most people, when you hear the words ‘Our organization is going to start a transformation,’ you're thinking, ‘Uh-oh.’

That’s Jim Hemerling in the terrific TED Talk, 5 Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change.


When many people hear the words, “We’re going to launch a business process improvement initiative” or “We’d like you to change how you manage your business documents through a digital document solution” the response is usually the same: “Uh-oh.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Let’s explore how Hemerling’s 5 Ways might apply to our world of digital document solutions and business process improvement, including automation.

Jim’s #1 -- “The transformation needs to connect with a deeper sense of purpose.”

Many document management projects fail to see the forest for the trees. Yes, it’s important to target specific processes, improve them, and doggedly evaluate ROI. But don’t lose sight of a business process automation initiative’s true purpose: not just to improve a discrete process, but to transform – for the better – how the organization itself operates.

Jim’s #2 – “Go all in. Too many transformations are nothing more than headcount cutting exercises, layoffs under the guise of transformation." 

It’s true that early document management projects were implemented to automate manual tasks, and with that came an inevitable wave of headcount reduction. But the expectations are now bigger. Innovative document management initiatives seek to improve the top line (i.e., revenue and profit!), not merely cut costs. They carry with them the promise of enabling workers to get beyond mundane, repetitive tasks to work that matters.

Jim’s #3 – “Enable people with the capabilities that they need to succeed during the transformation and beyond.”

Generating enthusiasm for a corporate “digital transformation” initiative can often fall flat. Employees might offer a kind of manufactured enthusiasm, but it’s hard for them to map lofty rhetoric back to their areas of control and expertise. Every worker has an idea of how their job could be done better and how their work could be more fulfilling. Your content and document management projects should reflect these aspirations.

Jim’s #4 – “Instill a culture of continuous learning.”

One surprising benefit of a document management initiative is that success tends to breed requests for “more.” Capitalize on this. Enable departments to share their successes. Not only will this commitment to learning open new ways to leverage your document management investment, it will create cross-functional relationships that are the backbone of innovative organizations.

Jim’s #5 – “In order to capture the hearts and minds of people, you need to be inclusive.”

Many enterprise technology projects follow a similar path. The business requests help from IT, then washes its hands of accountability as it leaves IT to magically come up with a solution. IT reacts by operating behind closed doors, and the delivered solution is not very satisfying to anyone. Successful projects require a commitment to engage all stakeholders –in the beginning, and throughout a project.

Overcome the “Uh-oh” factor in business process automation initiatives by putting people at the core. By engaging employees directly and tying improvements in their jobs to the success of the organization, even the most aggressive transformation initiatives stand a much higher chance of success.

See a demonstration of automated business processes in action with a personalized ECM demo for you and your team. 

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