Welcome to the Optimization issue

New research shows how leading companies orchestrate people, processes, and technology to drive business success

Dave Wright Workflow Quarterly Optimization issue

As the world begins to imagine a post-pandemic, digital-first era, business and government leaders are refining their digital transformation plans. We’re seeing an increased focus on optimization, which we define as the simplification, integration, and redesign of processes to improve speed and agility.

To understand how companies and public entities are using technology to drive optimization, ServiceNow and ThoughtLab conducted a global survey of 900 senior business leaders from around the world.

The survey covered a mix of C-suite executives, including CEOs, COOs, CIOs, CHROs, and chief customer care officers (CCOs) or their equivalents. These executives worked in five sectors across 13 countries. Company sizes ranged from $350 million to more than $5 billion.

To identify best practices, we categorized respondents as leaders, intermediates, and beginners, based on the progress they have made in key areas of optimization. This enabled us to show what leaders do differently than others, and the performance returns to be achieved by moving to the next stage of maturity.

We found that leaders are more aggressive in addressing people, processes, and technology. Leaders understand the importance of these three pillars in supporting optimization efforts. They are ahead in nearly all aspects, but in certain areas, particularly those steeped in change management, they far outstrip others.

Tellingly, the top three optimization steps taken by leaders feature one element from each of these pillars. In each instance, leaders are substantially more likely to be taking these steps than others. On the technology front, 65% of leaders are modernizing IT platforms and systems to optimize business processes, compared to just 56% of non-leaders.

On the process front, 60% of leaders are improving coordination across departments and functions versus just 44% of non-leaders. On the people front, leaders are pursuing the provision of optimization training and upskilling in vastly greater numbers than non-leaders: 57% versus just 37%.

Leaders understand that it’s not enough to provide staff with better technology. To be effective, organizations need to ensure their people can make the most of the tools presented to them. Leaders are also well ahead in steps that inspire and motivate the workforce. They are significantly more likely to provide a vision and objectives around optimization, as well as to build a process optimization culture. Leaders are fully committed to optimization and are embracing core elements of change management to get it done.

We packed this issue of Workflow Quarterly with insights chosen to help you navigate the digital revolution. ServiceNow CIO Chris Bedi presents the three key elements of a digital operating model. (Spoiler alert: they include information, convenience, and exclusivity.)

We also profile process-mining pioneer Celonis, and interview Yoshua Bengio, one of the world’s leading AI researchers. Bengio is currently working on robust AI systems that can assist humans in decision-making based on estimated causation as well as correlation of events. In the future, we can expect these intelligent systems to drive process optimization efforts in every industry. When that happens, remember you read it here first.