Digitalization is a necessary first step on the road to artificial intelligence. Processes in which information is not available digitally, or is only partially available digitally, are not digitalized end-to-end and can neither be evaluated by machines nor automated. Companies will also not succeed in internal coordination and exchange with other organizations if data is not completely available digitally.
But completeness is not the only important factor; the data format and end-to-end networking of applications are also important. Almost everyone is familiar with the difficulties that arise when an ERP system is not fully linked with a CAD system, a spreadsheet system and a detailed planning system for manufacturing to form an integrated unit. Don’t shy away from the effort required to ensure reliable data consistency.
Not only the data, but also the processes must first be solidly defined before digitalization makes sense.
Example: A company specializing in metal construction from the industrial services sector was spun off from a corporate structure and had earmarked funds for IT carve-out and process digitalization. The process of digitalization was started by the newly established IT department almost simultaneously with an internal restructuring in order not to lose any time. During this time, processes continued to be changed, personnel were replaced and documentation was adapted only very slowly.
After the official completion of the “digitalization”, the management had to realize that none of the now digitalized processes worked. Therefore, the digitally implemented processes were consistently bypassed. Processes that seemed almost archaic implemented themselves as a parallel world with the help of unguided paper records or verbally without further documentation.
In the stand-alone organization that was only just emerging, neither the strategy, nor the organization, nor the culture had been consolidated to such an extent that digitalization could have been successful.
Processes can be documented using a standard Business Process Management System (BPMS). However, you then get process documentation that spans a parallel world to the ERP system. The fact that work bypasses the defined processes should not really be a surprise. The only remedy is process documentation that can be directly executed as a digitally created workflow. In the meantime, there are some ERP systems that offer this possibility. For companies that do not want to change their ERP system for this reason, suitable workflow systems are available that obtain their data from the installed ERP and enable the possibility of immediate execution of the processes.
Only with a clean data situation and digitally integrated processes linked to the ERP system will your company be in a position to take further steps, such as Robotic Process Automation, in a meaningful way.
With the help of a suitable Digital Process Automation (DPA) program, which from a practical point of view should be aimed less at IT experts and more at the process owners, the workflows are created, appropriate tools are identified in collaboration with the people working in the process, and are then introduced once they have been selected.