Recruitment and rail, two established markets undergoing significant change demonstrate why CIOs must be involved in business process modernization.

“Evaluating the end-to-end process with user research can allow you to see where a bespoke application development is needed to solve a bespoke problem.”

That’s what Anna Dick, CTO with Hiring Hub, an online platform that is modernizing the recruitment industry said in our latest CIO Talk.

She adds that as important as it is for CTOs and CIOs to use out-of-the-box technologies to reduce business cost and excessive customization, there are times when an organization has to look at its business processes and craft an improvement and the technology to match.

Business process improvement has become a key area of leadership for CIOs, one keenly demonstrated by the pandemic, where organizations had to use new, technology-driven business processes to remain viable during the global lockdown.

The digitization of businesses and their processes will result in technology teams operating at the vanguard of business improvement.

“There is a real seat at the table now in terms of the whole organization understanding the value of technology. You don’t just bring a technology system or infrastructure, it is about solving business or customer problems, and part of that is the business processes,” the Hiring Hub CTO says.

In doing so, CIOs and CTOs have a razor-sharp focus on the needs of the customer.

“You have to really understand from the customer’s perspective and map that out,” Dick says. John Sullivan, a CIO with extensive experience in the rail and retail sector, agrees: “You immerse yourself in what the customer experience is. I spent a lot of time on the trains and in the stations talking to customers and colleagues,” he says.

Both business technology leaders take the same approach to developing business processes and applications for the workforce of an organization. Before joining Hiring Hub, Dick worked on the digital team of mutually-owned retailer The Cooperative. “We worked the stock rooms,” she says. Sullivan says colleagues provide: “a really clear view so then you have a chance to solve the challenges they face.”

Although many describe digital transformation as being customer-facing, both agree that it encompasses the entire organization and relies on multi-function teams. “Product focused teams who revolve around a problem can build technology and create a new process rather than just looking at the problem from a pure IT perspective,” the Hiring Hub CTO says.

A team that has a broad understanding of the problem can also be more honest, both say. “You have to give teams and individuals the autonomy to challenge and ask why?” she says. “I like my teams to call it out; I encourage descent in a positive way,” Sullivan says.

For the last 12 years, CIOs have been called upon to help organizations cope with major challenges, with the financial crisis of 2008 being the first time CIOs led major business efficiency drives, which carried on throughout the austerity years that followed, and then when the pandemic hit, once again CIOs delivered the remote enterprise and the new business processes required.

At Hiring Hub, new video and staff on-boarding functionality was added. “So much had to change quite quickly, for some organizations, what had been a four-step process that involved coming in and out of the office had to be done in a different way, and make sure that the candidate experience was really good,” she says.

Sullivan adds: “The spirit of everyone working together really came through, and people were not so worried about processes; we just needed to work together.”

Creating Lighthouse Projects

In more normal times, creating small, often dubbed lighthouse projects allows CIOs to demonstrate that a new business process can make a real business difference.

“You often have to go in with a small case study to show benefit and show the value to get the support,” the Hiring Hub CTO says. This method, coupled with user research, has enabled both CIOs to avoid investing time in changing a process the wrong way.

“To have a common purpose and goal and all areas of the business working around those is vital, but it is harder with large organizations,” Sullivan says. “At the BBC and The Cooperative, we tried to pull different areas into the digital team, but there can be different cultures and mindsets, and they are measured in different ways,” Anna Dick of Hiring Hub adds.

To overcome these challenges, former Virgin Rail CIO Sullivan says communications is essential in business process change: “If teams are energized, then that can make a difference to any business change.”

In today’s digital economy, technology has a more central position in business processes, and therefore their modernization. As a result, Sullivan says the modernization of the technology stack within the organization is vital.

“Sometimes it is a challenge to explain why you have to modernize the technology, but the modern technology platforms make such a difference and allow you to be more agile,” he says. “The rail sector is full of legacy technology, to the point where we had to do a lot of screen-scraping,” he adds.

Modernizing business processes is not a single project the two CIOs reveal. Both describe digital transformation as a continuous approach to business operations.

The retrospective project meeting methods, agility, and cross-functional teams allow the business to “continually evolve”, the Hiring Hub CTO says, adding that everyone in the organization has to have a voice in the constant development. “The culture of not blaming people is really important to learn lessons,” Sullivan adds.

Technology is reshaping markets and, therefore, how an organization can operate. Hiring Hub has refreshed how procurement and HR teams interact with candidates and agencies, whilst Virgin Rail got the renaissance of rail travel in the UK rolling.

Therefore business processes will always need to change track.

To learn more about how to evaluate business processes in order to improve them, join me in the latest CIO Talks, Continual Business Process Improvement, now available on-demand.