Today’s quality and management systems tend to focus on documenting compliance with ISO-standards. Furthermore, they are oftentimes procedure based. These management systems are geared towards the past, rather than the present and the future. This is problematic because within such systems the efforts companies make to innovate and continuously improve remain undocumented, and in turn become fragmented.
A familiar wave
Fragmented innovation and improvement initiatives aren’t novelties within the quality management field. The Lean Wave serves as an example of this. During the Lean Wave companies seldom took their point of departure from their quality and management systems. Nor did they incorporate the new and leaner processes in these, the result of which was leaner, but not lasting, improvement.
Why did so many Lean initiatives chose to disregard companies’ quality and management systems?
We believe the answer to this question is that what was documented in the systems did not represent reality. This paved the wave for process improvement projects aimed at “radical change” and “thinking new and differently”. Rather than focusing on bridging the gap between “has-been” and “to-be”, companies opted for setting up parallel process architectures, leading to further fragmentation.
A new wave
We are now entering a new wave, The Wave of Digitalization. Processes, either in part or in full, are being automated and that at the speed of light. As David Autor, professor of at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, noted recently “There is no question we are in an era of change where people are asking, ‘Is the Robocalypse upon us?’”
We do not share the fear of increased robotization, but we have asked ourselves what the trend entails for today’s management systems. In short, we see the need for a new generation of management systems.
The next generation management system
The digitalization and automatization efforts of companies today tend to be documented and controlled outside any Business Process Management System (BPMS). We are oftentimes met with the rationale that employees do not have to concern themselves with automated processes, as they run on their own. This is an unfortunate and dangerous assumption.
Though digitalized or automated, processes must comply with rules and regulations and be aligned with the company they are a part and parcel of. Thus, they too must be managed. We therefore make the case for incorporating the automated processes of tomorrow in a management system for tomorrow. This will create a true representation of how work gets done in the digital age.
Such incorporation brings about an interesting, yet often overlooked challenge. Where should the process ownership of automated processes lie? At companies’ quality, IT- or digitalization departments? This question quickly arises as companies begin implementing and documenting their automatization efforts, such as those within Robotic Process Automation.
We believe that by gathering a company’s many processes, systems, as well as its improvement and digitalization efforts in a shared system of management it will encouraged to, and assisted in, becoming more aligned. With alignment comes agility. And increased agility will be vital for companies’ ability to catch and ride the wave of digitalization.