Last month I celebrated my five-year anniversary working for a field service software company. Having had a prior history of 25 years in service delivery and service sales, many service transformation engagements have been a trip down memory lane.
As a former business leader, I too sought modern tools to replace my legacy business processes and looked for advice on how to shape my service transformation. When software vendors showed me their capabilities, they showed me the happy path. As a service “firefighter,” I knew that standard blanket processes wouldn’t fit every situation—real life needed contingencies for the not-so-happy path.
Confronting legacy processes
When you’ve run a service organization for multiple years, you’ve built a routine of tools and processes to get the job done. If, like me, you had limited access to budget, your business processes will be a hodgepodge of makeshift tools.
And then, either by design or by the turn of events, your company is in a digital and service transformation process evaluating standard software. The happy path looks great. It’s easy and it’s efficient. But something doesn’t feel right. Your business is more complex. You have many variants and exceptions.
Of course, you can ask the software vendor to demo all those exceptions, but do you really want your service transformation to recreate all of those legacy business processes? Or, do you want to make use of the new tool capabilities to challenge and improve your legacy processes?
One of the big drivers for new tooling is standardization. Not only can you rationalize your current IT stack, but you can also ‘clean up’ the sprawl of business process exceptions. In transformation journeys, I often hear verbiage like “common global process.” When I do hear this, I try to understand how employees and customers will benefit from a common global process.
Do customers want a standard one-size-fits-all process, or do they want a contextual transaction? Do employees want a business process that is cast in iron, or do they need a level of flexibility to address the unforeseen?
At the recent Copperberg Power of 50 event, we talked about “managing the hybrid service paradigm.” If on the one end of the scale we have forces driving a common global process, then hyper-personalization is pulling towards the other end. The good news is that technology can help us find the middle ground. One does not have to go at the expense of the other.
If we picture the blend of interests:
- Business and IT leaders want to exercise control over the execution of business processes.
- Employees need a level of autonomy in how they deliver their work to cater to expecting and vocal customers.
- Customers expect services to be delivered situational to their business impact and those tend to fluctuate.
The above three actors operate in shifting contexts. Because priorities tend to change over time, we advise business leaders to enable and empower employees to deploy contextual workflows beyond the happy path. Because it is beyond the happy path where friction, inefficiencies, and dissatisfaction manifest.
The right mix: 80% Global, 15% local and 5% situational
At the Copperberg Power of 50 event, we saw a video of service technicians Amy and Jake from DormaKaba. They talked about how every day is different, and how they need trust and empowerment to get the work done. What does this mean? If we want happy customers and technicians, we need to abandon the belief in a happy path and move towards contextual business process behavior.
Guiding many transformation journeys for our customers, we’ve seen we can strike a balance between business process standardization and situational flexibility using modern workflow techniques. We call this 80% global, 15% local, and 5% situational.
- Global: Despite the uniqueness of service businesses there is a core of commonality in business processes. This core will ensure that global leaders are able to roll up the data for decision-making purposes.
- Local: Instead of standardizing everything, we have to be mindful that localisations exist for a reason. It’s often the commercial reality that a local product-market combination dictates how we need to do business with those customers. Without localisations, a company may not be able to do business.
- Situational: Echoing the words of Amy, “every day is different.” We may have agreed upon a process, but in day-to-day operations, we encounter unforeseen situations. Instead of responding with a freeze, we need to enable and empower employees to make informed decisions to maintain a flow, and to keep the world running.
Adoption drives value
The happy path is what any software tool can support. Implementing the happy path may even seem to be the preferred transformation path. The value-proof is in eating the pudding. When you deploy the happy path it is very likely you will encounter the adoption hurdles associated with local and situational variants. Needless to say: no adoption, no value.
Thus, the way forward is to account for local, contextual, and situational workflows. When you ask for your next demo, do ask to deviate from the happy path. Ask how the software facilitates the exceptions. What insights and visibility will be available to the users, such they can make informed decisions? Decisions that align with your overall company objectives.