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FAQ Process Digitisation: What you should know about digitising processes

What does process digitalization mean? Why should companies digitalise their processes and activities? And how can analogue processes be converted into digital ones? We clarify these and other questions in this guide.

Before we delve deep into the subject of process digitalization, let's first define a few basic terms. Because terms like process, enterprise process, process digitalization and process automation sound similar, but they are not really synonyms.

What is a process?

The term process has several definitions. In the business environment, it stands for a sequence of activities that influence each other and often take place one after the other. Each step serves to achieve a goal and obtain a desired result.

What is meant by business processes?

Corporate processes - also called business processes - are processes within companies. The work processes and their individual work steps serve, for example, to provide resources, to carry out measurements and analyses, to manufacture products and to distribute tasks. The specialist literature distinguishes between core processes, supporting processes and management processes, among others.

If you deal with the conception, implementation and control of business processes, you are working in process management - Business Process Management (BPM). If you optimise existing business processes, you are responsible for Business Process Optimisation (BPO).

Process automation: What does that mean?

Processes that function without the constant intervention of humans are automated. Process automation is about breaking down processes into such steps that they can be completed independently by suitable technologies. The result is partially or fully automated processes.

If you use process automation in your company, it is called business process automation. The technical term for this is Business Process Automation (BPA).

Definition: What is process digitalization?

Human activities and workflows are digitalised in process digitalization. This means that such processes are no longer carried out by people, but by software applications or large IT systems. The input as well as the output are - casually speaking - an accumulation of bits and bytes.

What is known as process digitalization in German is called Business Process Digitalization (BPD) in English.

Process automation vs. process digitalization: What are the differences?

When you automate processes, you can do it with machines and robots. The processes are then done manually or semi-digitally. Process digitalization is about mapping processes completely digitally so that they are no longer tangible. But these do not necessarily have to run independently - i.e. automated.

If you mix process automation and process digitalization, you get automated, digital processes. This symbiosis is known as Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

Overview of technical terms and their meaning

  • BPM / Business Process Management - handling of business processes
  • BPO / Business Process Optimisation - optimisation of business processes
  • BPA / Business Process Automation - automation of business processes
  • BPD / Business Process Digitalization - digitalization of business processes
  • RPA / Robotic Process Automation - digitalization and automation of processes

Which processes can be digitalised?

In companies, process digitalization occurs in many areas. On the one hand, you can use process digitalization to digitalise existing, largely manual or analogue processes. On the other hand, increasingly better technologies such as machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI) make it possible to develop new, fully automated and digital processes.

Process digitalization is therefore not only about transforming established workflows one-to-one into the digital, but also about creating completely new, digital processes.

Rethinking is extremely important. Otherwise, you might transform bad, analogue processes into bad, digital processes. Fittingly, Thorsten Dirks, former CEO of Telefónica Deutschland, once said: "If you digitise a shitty process, you have a shitty digital process".

Examples: Which business processes can be digitalised?

Example 1

Accounting used to consist of a lot of "paperwork": Outgoing invoices were printed out and sent, and incoming invoices were entered manually and filed in folders. Thanks to process digitalization, such processes are now digital and (partially) automated: e-commerce systems create and send outgoing invoices independently, and incoming invoices land in the mailbox and are automatically processed by accounting programmes.

Example 2

Returns and complaints can lead to high expenses in companies. This does not have to be the case! For example, CITRO digitalised the customer service for Sunrise Medical. Since then, enquiries are automatically forwarded to the responsible departments and made transparent. A central software ensures that a high volume of e-mail traffic and long Excel lists in customer care are a thing of the past.

Example 3

With digitalization, the danger of cyber attacks is also growing. That's why companies need to properly secure their IT systems, but this usually involves a lot of manual, repetitive work. Special security solutions make it possible to automate tasks such as hardening systems - even in large system landscapes.

What are the advantages of process digitalization?

In other words: Why should processes be digitalised? The simple answer: because it makes processes more efficient.

  • If you digitalise processes properly, there are no hurdles and obstacles. The data can "flow" - and extremely quickly. This brings a speed increase in the individual work steps as well as overall. Goals can be achieved in a shorter time with digital processes compared to analogue processes. This reduces costs.
  • People make mistakes, especially in boring and repetitive tasks. Digital systems, on the other hand, are very good at processing large quantities of repetitive tasks without errors. This significantly increases the quality of the results.
  • Another advantage: digital information is easier to search and analyse. This high level of measurability makes it easier to find optimisation potential.
  • In times of globalisation and permanent crises, work processes can quickly determine success and failure. If you rely on innovative, digital processes, you will gain a competitive advantage - perhaps one that is crucial for survival.
  • Finally, you should consider that it does not make sense to employ expensive skilled workers for activities that can also be done digitally. Counteract the shortage of skilled workers and make the right use of your employees' skills.

Which tools are suitable for the digitalization of business processes?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The selection of suitable tools is as varied as the requirements. CRM, DMS and ERP systems, accounting software, automation programmes, low-code platforms … what you use in the end depends on your requirements and goals. Therefore, it is eminently important that you approach your process digitalization in a planned and strategic way.

Even if it sounds tempting to take an all-in-one suite, in many cases this is not sensible. To meet your individual challenges, you probably need a customised solution. This may be a comprehensive toolset or individual applications developed specifically for you.

When choosing tools, don't just think about the status quo. Software solutions that seem suitable today may not be usable for scaling or change. Plan ahead and define what your needs are in the short and medium term.

Benötigen Sie Unterstützung bei der Prozessdigitalisierung?

Would you like to professionally examine your existing processes and design new, digital processes? The CITRO team will be happy to assist you with individual advice. In addition, we can support you in the development of suitable BPD and RPM solutions.

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