Digital Transformation: It’s a Process, Not a Finish Line

The Wednesday General Session at Appian World 2017 filled up fast, as record-breaking skier and polar explorer Ben Saunders took to the stage to share some some amazing stories about his success on the trail, and his remarkable South Pole expedition.

Along the way, he joked about getting really good at dragging heavy things around cold places. And about how the career aspirations of polar explorers are limited by the fact that there are only two poles to explore. And both, as Saunders mentioned, were discovered long before he was born.

Saunders ended his remarks on the keys to success. He talked about the importance of setting big goals. But, for me, the big takeaway was that success is not a finish line. It’s a process. Distinguishing yourself from competitors, coming out on top, is about focusing on execution—not just outcomes.

It turns out that the same is true of digital transformation.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of digital transformation involves getting difficult things done in difficult environments. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) is a case in point. CME owns and operates the the largest options and futures trading exchange in the world, along with the Chicago Board of Trade, the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), and COMEX.

Before Appian, CME had a problem with inefficient workflow. Pushing spreadsheets around just wasn’t cutting it anymore. The IT leaders decided against custom coding, because it wasn’t a core competency, and went with a low-code app development platform instead. CME piloted their first BPM software solution using Appian in the Cloud. This was followed up with an aggressive schedule of application rollouts. In a difficult, highly-regulated environment, the company was able to transform its business processes to:

  • Introduce hundreds of new products annually, across multiple departments
  • Launch a cloud-based BPM prototype app in just 12 weeks
  • Reduce time to market from 8-10 weeks down to 2-4 weeks

The magic of low-code digital transformation is that it allows developers to focus less on the back-office mechanics of process automation, and more on business activities that create business value. This is precisely what happened with a major wireless carrier that had to overcome the challenge of accelerating deployment of some 70,000 mini cell phone towers to boost coverage for customers. (Watch the video).

In the past, provisioning a new cell tower could have taken up to 30 days. But, this carrier switched to a low-code powered iBPMS (intelligent business process management suite) from Appian, and streamlined the thousands of business processes involved in provisioning a new cell site.

With a low-code approach integrated into their iBPMS, this carrier was able to reduce their data collection, analysis and reporting times from 30 days to 7 days… and deploy their low-code solution in just 3 weeks. Which represented a remarkable improvement in operational process.

In a similar case, the largest surperannuation (similar to a 401 K retirement fund in the US) in Queensland, Australia experienced similar success with a low-code approach to digital transformation. (Watch the video.)

This Australian financial services company manages $19 Billion (AUD) on behalf of more than one million enrolled members and more than 67,000 employer organizations. But they were running operations on paper-based processes, which was not creating the kind of superior customer experience the company wanted to deliver.

For example, a simple rollover of funds required members to complete a 15-page form, and submit it via mail, fax or email. This manual process increased the risk of errors in verifying and completing the transactions.

Additionally, the forms were also manually entered into several other systems, including a CRM tool, which triggered a whole nother series of manual verifications to ensure the funds were tax-qualified. In contrast, with a low-code approach, the company was able to automate back-end operations to make transactions easier, reduce operational costs, and improve customer experience.

Business processes were automated in weeks, not months, with the Appian Low-Code Platform. Rollovers were digitized, with real-time auto-checking of data accuracy for tax qualification and other verifications. Now, Plan Administrator can get a unified, holistic view of member information, with one-click access to data related to member transactions.

Before Appian, Rollovers could take weeks. Today, the process can be completed overnight via desktop or mobile device. Customers get the benefits of faster, more convenient service. And Rollovers cost the company 50% less to process.

Which leads us right back where we started: To succeed at digital transformation, focus on process, not outcomes.

Roland Alston

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