In spite of being around for decades, there is still a pervasive misunderstanding surrounding digital transformation. Many think that it just consists of taking something analog and merely moving it over into a digital format/“the cloud” and…that’s it.

It’s neither faster nor more efficient. It’s just…digital now. Here’s why this sort of thinking is a major obstacle to taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by digital transformation:

With that logic the process itself remains largely unchanged. It’s not really transformed and can be considered part of a company’s legacy as opposed to the path forward.

With customer expectations changing more rapidly than organizations can, the only way to maintain a competitive advantage is by phasing out a legacy mindset from your organization.

In this post, we’ll explore what exactly a legacy mindset is, how it’s an obstacle to becoming a truly innovative enterprise, and how to overcome one in your organization.

What is a Legacy Mindset?

A legacy mindset doesn’t necessarily just live in the minds of people. It can also be present in processes, technology, or worst-case scenario, all three.

People with this legacy mindset are “perfectly happy to keep plugging away in the same way they always have” says Bill Franks, Chief Analytics Officer at IAA, “regardless of how the world is changing around them.”

During his CamundaCon 2019 keynote address Jakob Freund, CEO of Camunda, pointed out the main way to (not) become a digital-first enterprise.

In Jakob’s words, “established corporations trend toward where they’re most comfortable and can occupy the high ground…Unfortunately, this isn’t where the battle [for competitive advantage] is happening.”

Losing competitive advantage, especially in industries where there are rapid disruptions happening or margins are razor-thin, can be detrimental regardless of whether your organization has been around for 10 years or 100.

Limitations of a Legacy Mindset

It’s the people behind the tech who will either make or break any sort of digital initiative at your organization.

Let’s say you’re starting to build a case internally for a scalable process automation program at your company, you may be battling against some team member’s trauma from experiencing previous “failed” digital transformation projects. Which might’ve involved their team taking a previously analog process, copying it, and then pasting it into a digital format with no desired results to follow. Each application and process require a custom transition plan to ensure it has what it needs to run smoothly from one environment to the next. 

Oversimplifying the process is a common problem and one that was encountered by Dr. Eric Euerlings, Senior Integration Domain Architect at Helsana, Switzerland’s leading provider of health and accident insurance. 

Dr. Euerlings said, “many companies in the late 2000s got everyone together and said ’we need to organize our company around processes.’ Process this and process that – becoming a huge process engine. They thought if they’d just rebuild the processes in a new tool like Pega, then it would work. Mostly, it didn’t.”

While the steps to overcome a legacy mindset are simple, they’re not easy. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a rewarding journey as illustrated by the story Dr. Euerlings shared during his presentation at CamundaCon titled The Journey from Ideas to Production.

5 Steps to Overcoming a Legacy Mindset

Speak early, speak often

It’s important to start building a multi-functional network across your organization. Automating a business process from start to finish, and transforming it into something more efficient and automated necessitates cross-departmental cooperation. 

As Dr. Euerlings said during his presentation, “superheroes don’t fit well into corporations.” This means looking for allies in seemingly unlikely places depending on the sort of process you’re working on.

For instance, if you’re dealing with something that involves contracts or the like, you should absolutely seek out some friends in the legal/compliance area as they’ll need to be involved in the process eventually. Why not get them involved with the project from the start?

Speak about the right things

Whatever you do, regardless of the project, do not begin with discussing  technical things. Focus on the value and the benefits that such a project might bring to their workload. Explain the ways it’ll increase transparency and efficiency.

The most important thing Dr. Euerlings noted is that you must have a team member that can be bridge “between techies and the suits”. You need someone who is able to translate technical language into business objectives and opportunities, and vice versa.

Test a small project

After socializing your plans for automation, the next step is to choose a pilot project that will operate as a proof of concept.

As we’ve written about before, the fastest, most effective route to digital transformation is picking a lighthouse and pilot project that gets results fast. Find out more about how to choose the right project that will help you get off on the right foot in scaling process automation at your company.

Train, train, train. Then, train again.

Training is an essential ingredient to succeeding in this process.

Dr. Euerlings related that on-site training in particular was an essential ingredient in Helsana’s success. Training gives your team the opportunity to bring in new ideas into their work and build up new insight they can layer on top of their existing knowledge.

For instance, “They get to learn and see all the ways to integrate with external systems that really drive their enthusiasm,” Dr. Euerlings said.

Present everywhere

The last but most vital part of stamping out the legacy mindset once and for all is sharing your success story with process automation everywhere. 

Celebrate your successes across the organization, loud and proud. Do “roadshows” across departments, business, and IT alike, making sure to present in a way that will resonate with your audience.

That might even include speaking at CamundaCon like Dr. Euerlings did.

Modernize and Conquer

Dr. Euerlings ended his presentation talking about how overcoming the legacy mindset was so impactful to his business that they have a backlog of new project requests. “We have actually had to block requests” he stated.

This may seem like an outlier example but automation programs that have the best chance at succeeding like the one at Helsana begin small and don’t try to do too much all at once. 

For a step-by-step guide on how to accomplish this, check out our guide Scaling Process Automation at your Company. Inside, you’ll discover the methods and thinking behind the success of hundreds of automation projects.