How to Shift Your Workflow Experiences for the New Reality

6 minute read

These are challenging times as we enter into our new reality, and I wish the best for you and your families. We are going through an unprecedented event together. The strategies we use now and in the future, require a shift in mindset. The simple goal of this article is to help you reflect on, reframe, and communicate your modernization mindset so your company can perform at a high level.

"By asking the critical long-term questions—and doing that for the duration of the outbreak—you'll be better prepared for whatever comes."

—Rich Lesser, Chief Executive Officer, Boston Consulting Group


As some of you may know, there is a term that frames a range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time. It is called the Overton Window. Simply stated, the political viability of an idea depends mainly on whether it falls within this range, rather than on politicians' individual preferences. The window frames the range of policies that a politician can recommend without appearing too extreme to gain or keep public office given the climate of public opinion at that time. 

In a nutshell, "how difficult is it going to be to sell this idea?" For example, the federal government pushes $2T into the marketplace. That idea quickly shifted from outside the frame (radical) to inside (sensible) due to an unexpected outbreak. Consider how policy changed after the American Civil War or after World War II. Ideas that were once outside the window of realistic change moved to the center. The historic event we are living through is a black swan that shifts the Window of what is possible at every level: political, societal, business and personal.


Image 1: The Overton Window from Joseph Overton


We are not discussing public policy here, but we know how it feels to introduce an idea out of the frame. Eyebrows raise, heads shake, and people squirm in their seats. But today's disruptions have forced a tectonic shift in the collective window. Many of us know our company's Mindset Window must adapt to the new reality. We have the green light to move the digital transformation imperative from the edge of the frame to the center so our company can survive and possibly flourish in the new normal. A reality where workforce footprint and work flow structure changed dramatically. Where conferencing traffic increases by 300% and home Internet access is part of the critical IT infrastructure.

It is my hope this article helps move your organization to digital transformation and workflow optimization. Your company should prioritize elegant digital workflows today for a competitive edge. As time goes by, your organization will feel the weight of the critical truths of the shift and know this was the moment the new mindset deserved a plan. Ignoring facts invites unnecessary risk. Instead, move digital transformation to a priority in the new Mindset Window to achieve performance and survival. Use the next 90 days as an opportune time to craft your short-term and long-term roadmap with specifics to grow into the new reality.


Image 2: Move Digital Transformation to the Center of Your Mindset Window


The 2nd quarter of 2020 is an opportunity to reflect on your business with great sincerity and plan your steps of bold action. Stressful business environments have created new businesses and unexpected innovation in the past, it is happening again. For the sake of your stakeholders, please don't miss your moment. This can be your finest hour and the change will require a cultural conviction. We have to meet tomorrow's challenges with tomorrow's answers - now. This disruption is historical, the assistance the government is giving businesses and individuals is massive; why should our strategic disposition be timid?

A business case gives you a better idea of the total economic impact of the change based on the cost of the status quo and the expected returns. Sometimes, positive financial performance improves faster than expected since companies may not have realized how wasteful the status quo is. A company may know the status quo is expensive, but no one ever quantifies the waste. Going through a business case would be valuable in order to baseline the business. For example, there is an application cost, and then there are the hidden and often unexpected application costs, such as customizations and maintenance. The 2nd cost categories require forethought because they are not as explicit or transactional as the first. If you have ever deployed applications across an enterprise, you already know this pain. 

One area where digital transformation delivers significant business outcomes is workflow optimization.


3 Simple Workflow Truths from Your Strategic Mindset Window 

Truth #1: You Need Effortless Customer Workflows to Win

Customers stay with brands that make doing business with the company effortless. Research shows that effortless customer workflows are a disproportionate contributor to loyalty and where companies must prioritize. Customer frustration comes from channel switching, transfers, lack of personalization, repeating information, and too many interactions. Instead, let's get customers to the right person with the right information who can help at the right time. 

A painful and very human example is unfolding in front of us. Look no further than the pain of the recently unemployed requesting help from state agencies. The workers cannot get the help promised since the system cannot scale to the demand.

Ah, The System. The 3rd wheel. The clumsy elephant in the elevator. From your customer service calls or customer portal experiences, have you ever carried the burden of The System? As an example, when you finally (sure, you've got time to kill) get to a customer service representative, but too often, you both are at the mercy of a high-customer-effort, grinding, and slow system.

An effortless customer workflow that drives loyalty seems like a galaxy away. Sometimes after a customer service call, I'd like the option to send the customer service rep a box of chocolates since they deserve a better employee experience too. Moreover, some giant companies don't understand the portal experience at all. When this happens, I immediately think of ways to escape their torturous system. Like all digital customers, my ability to exit becomes easier daily.

Make Your Move: Design and implement effortless customer workflows from the customer's viewpoint to drive loyalty, sustain your revenues, and help you grow.


Truth #2: Great workflow-from-anywhere experiences attract the best talent

The movement to work online from anywhere just received a hard push, and it's not going back. You don't need more average employees. To win, you need the best employees who can deliver business outcomes with minimal supervision. Many of us will be spending more time working from home and remote places after the quarantines are over. 

Do your employee workflows attract the best work-from-anywhere employees? You need to understand their goals, tools, Internet services, security, devices, and how workflows can improve. What everyone was doing six months ago could be a cautionary tale in a year. Life moves fast, and your workflows will need to cycle through faster to attract the best talent. Employees focused on performances that define their careers will choose employers that design great work-from-anywhere experiences from the employee's point of view.

According to a study run a few years ago by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom, work-from-home employees are more productive. Bloom ran a test whereby 500 employees were divided into two groups-a control group (who continued working at HQ) and volunteer work-from-homers.  

The almost two-year study shows:

  • 13.5% more calls made than when in the office

  • Employees quit at ½ the rate of people in the office

  • The company saved $1,900 per employee for nine months

  • Employees started earlier, took shorter breaks, less sick days, worked until the end of the day, and took less time off

His video:




Working from home or from anywhere isn't for everyone, and a flexible model is best since some people cannot always work from home or prefer the office. However, the belief that office workers are more productive than someone working out of the home is a myth.

Great employees are not surprised by this research because they've enjoyed more freedom and responsibility. Reinforce this connection in your company; amazing and empowered employees create profitable long-term customers.

Make Your Move: Design and implement effortless employee workflows based on their expectation to work from anywhere to attract and retain the best talent.


Truth #3: Company-wide platforms give you an agile foundation to win

Your company policy to create effortless workflow experiences is in alignment with the emerging business landscape and, hopefully, your business model. En masse, we are accelerating into experiences where employees and customers want digital, integrated, and transparent resolutions. If an employee moves from one department to another, why must they go into user experience shock? Let's retire legacy applications that frustrate users and create disloyal customers. This should be a fire-in-the-belly strategic mandate. Business leaders can stop the timing debate. Instead, repurpose and then reimagine the changes required for the immediate future. Take steps to secure or expand a unified and intelligent platform that can build any digital workflow.

Consider this from the market intelligence team at IDC: workers have to switch between 7.6 applications daily. This context switching hinders productivity and degrades the employee experience. You know this feeling as an employee and a leader. During the next 90 days, your company could be taking steps to accelerate your mission by getting clear-headed advice that addresses your goals, industry, capabilities, and processes. Then, design modern workflows leading to high performance coming out of the economic turn.

Make Your Move: Talk to outside expertise to consider company-wide platforms and solutions that allow for integration and customization. Starting the conversation costs you nothing during a time of corporate reflection. From there, you control what's next.

Agile companies change due to the new environment, or they miss the shift and become a cautionary business model tale for the next MBA class. Your competitors would love to hear you are moving slowly to digital transformation. Don't hand them the victory on a plate. Good luck with your plan for digital transformation success.

“Why then don’t you complete the work, if you have the right aim and I have both the right aim and right preparation? What is missing? . . . The work is quite feasible, and is the only thing in our power. . . . Let go of the past. We must only begin. Believe me and you will see.” 

— Epictetus 

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