It’s easy to look at any business problem in isolation and jump straight to a technology solution. But, be warned. This kind of narrow focus in the planning stage often leads to the deployment of point solutions. And an ad hoc approach to technology can often create more problems in the long-term than it solves in the short-term.
Throughout my career, I’ve spent a significant amount of time working as a pre-sales consultant, helping organisations implement technology that enables long-term success. In this role, I would often have customers seeking technology that could solve a specific business problem, but their focus was too narrow – they weren’t thinking of the bigger picture.
A common example of a narrow focus wrongly leading to a point solution is a businesses rightly recognising that their paper form processes are taking up a lot of resources, requiring a significant amount of manual handling and re-keying, eventually resulting in data errors and contributing to lost forms, along with a whole lot of frustration – and deciding they need to digitise the form.
If you’re looking at this problem in isolation, the obvious answer is a simple swap – rather than paper, put the form on your website. Digital forms are in line with customer expectations, and there’s certainly technology that can do this. Easy – job done!
But, if you take a step back, you soon realise that there’s a whole business process behind the form that needs equal consideration. For example, how do you encourage people to use the web form? What happens if they start the form and abandon it? How are those leads then captured? And what happens once the form is submitted?
Typically, a form requires an evaluation and quality control process – is the person who’s completing the form eligible to do so? There might also be some type of approval process needed once the form is submitted. So, how do you route the form record to the right person at each stage of the process? How do you make the applicant aware of the form’s status and progress? There’s also the entire fulfillment process to think about.
It’s not as simple as just putting a form on the website. There need to be proper workflows, approval processes, digital communications, and assignment and routing rules and processes in place to support the form.
To successfully digitise the form process, you need to take a holistic approach – one that takes into account the entire lifecycle of the form, not just data capture. Anyone introducing a web form in isolation is not only introducing new problems to the business, but also missing a big opportunity to significantly improve wider processes and, with them, both customer and employee experience.
This is the main challenge with point solutions. They typically fix one issue at a time and don’t necessarily talk to each other in the process. By throwing new technologies haphazardly into the mix, you’re ultimately creating a set of compounding problems, which at some point, will need to be untangled – an exercise that is often expensive and complicated.
By thinking of the big picture from the get-go and, in the case of the digital form, investing in an integrated platform – one that provides the capabilities needed to manage the entire business process, not just a point solution – you can avoid this inevitable headache.
Before jumping straight into the technology solution, it’s best to think about the end-to-end business processes and desired outcomes first. Then, think about the capabilities necessary to achieve the determined process and outcomes, and match those capabilities with the right technology platform.
Using our web form example again, at a minimum, you need a way of securely and digitally capturing form data, and moving it through the lifecycle. You might also need the capability to attract applicants and, once they start the process, ensure they receive nurturing, feedback and transparency throughout.
It’s likely that you also need the more sophisticated ability to route forms to the right people at the right time, whether this is based on competency, geography, responsibility, lifecycle stage, or any other business rule. You probably need the capabilities of queuing, workflows, approval processes, collaboration and reporting. You may also need the technology to integrate with other systems for fulfilment, provisioning, billing and other purposes. Again, there’s a lot to consider!
A good integrated platform provides all of these capabilities via one solution that’s easy to use, configure and manage, with point-and-click interfaces that don’t require highly specialised IT skills. Plus, the platform’s unified set of capabilities work in harmony to address the common business challenges of today – not just a singular problem.
Form digitisation is just one example of a business problem that’s a lot more complicated than it might seem on the surface. There are many other instances of supposedly simple business tasks that are connected to an elaborate web of underlying process.
While it might be tempting to look at a business problem in its most simple form and jump straight to a point solution, envisioning the bigger picture and finding a solution that integrates with and improves end-to-end processes results in improved customer and employee experience, and sustainable long-term success.
For more insights into global trends shaping IT, check out the State of IT report.