People & Data – A Match Made in Heaven

Post by 
Caitlin Thomas
July 21, 2022

ata has never been more valuable. It is used by organisations to showcase statistics and ‘real’ business insights, by taking away the subjective and biased nature of people’s opinions. Ultimately, data is now the true driver of change within organisations. Let’s be honest, there is no better way to spruce up a business case in the eyes of the Senior Leadership Team than stats, graphs and numbers!

Data underpins digital transformation projects (yes, there’s that buzzword again!). The emphasis here is on the word transformational; the digitalisation of business, such as the automation of repetitive activities, is not transformational unless it underpins the fundamental reinterpretation of the business to create greater value and to grow. In simpler terms, it needs to have made a marked positive change within the wider business.

A convincing case for change is often built on the foundation of either an impending threat or an apparent opportunity. Every business needs to change how it works to create growth, to thrive and prosper. So if data is so great at identifying valuable business cases for change, why are 70% of digital transformation projects failing (according to research completed by by BCG1)?  

Data and technology are important; those who failed to embrace the digital era and adapt to rapid technological changes are either struggling to stay competitive or are out of business. However, the people element (organisation, operating model, processes, and culture) is typically the deciding factor to successful change and transformation.

Inertia, driven by ingrained behaviours, is a big impediment. The biggest challenge that most organisations face is how to overcome this resistance to change.  

So why do employees dislike change so much?  

If you look at the bigger picture, all business processes include people. No matter how much of that process is automated, when all is said and done, a person is always involved. The goal of a successful business process is all about delivering valuable output for somebody, a person.  

By making changes that impact people based solely on data insights makes the employees, and often the subject matter experts (SMEs) of that process, feel undervalued and often vulnerable. The organisation will also miss out as they neglect important business context provided by the SMEs to aid data interpretation.  

So what is the most successful way to utilise data and to drive inclusive change?

There are many organisations that are jumping on the process mining craze to help gather business process insights to drive continuous improvement. Process mining is a technology that enables organisations to mine their transactional data logs in order to visualise and analyse their processes in real time. The technology, if implemented correctly, can provide a sound business case for successful transformation as it can generate the following benefits:

  • Shorter lead times
  • Increased process efficiency
  • Better use of manpower
  • Variance and bottleneck detection
  • Improved compliance management
  • More effective process modelling
  • Automated analysis
  • Continuous improvement
  • Increased collaboration

However, a number of these projects fail when the organisation allows data to take centre stage while leaving those required to adapt and embrace the change sat in the dark. To reap the rewards these new technologies like process mining can provide, we must take the subject matter experts on the whole journey, from ideation to implementation and adoption.  

Getting them onboard for the journey allows them to understand and foster passion for the overarching vision and the specific goals of the initiative. They become part of what they and the organisation sees as something that is truly going to add value to the business. They become part of the business success.  

Taking that into account, here are some tips and tricks to get your team to embrace and help drive change from the start of a project:

  • Include process SMEs in the kick off - don’t leave them in the dark
  • Continually revert back to the ‘why’ of the project – why is this important and how will it benefit them?
  • Get them to trust the data - explain the data validation process and answer any concerns
  • Familiarisation is key - demonstrate and, where appropriate, train them to use the technology
  • Involve them in the analysis – whoever completes the data analysis should have regular touch points with SMEs to incorporate business context to the insights, this helps to avoid false causations or  ‘analytical blackholes’
  • When designing the improvement roadmap, assign SMEs as initiative owners – this sense of trust will help them to drive the changes and increase team adoption.

Getting the perfect balance between people and data isn’t easy, and depending on the use case the necessary level of involvement will differ. However by identifying what works for your business; the match between people and data will create the ultimate couple goals which other organisations will aspire to have.  

Keep an eye out for Caitlin’s next article where she will dive into detail on the exciting opportunities process mining can offer organisations and how to avoid common challenges faced when utilising the technology for process improvement initiatives.

1 BCG Article 2020

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