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2024 - a year of renewal and reckoning in system transformation

Kerry Brown Profile picture for user Kerry Brown December 13, 2023
As enterprises continue to recover from the disruptions of COVID, and as the economy shows signs of improvement, 2024 will be a year of renewal, says Kerry Brown, Lead Transformation Evangelist at Celonis. There will also be a reckoning as promised transformations in people, process and technology become real.

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We’ve all seen Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with our survival needs at the base of the pyramid and self-actualization at the top. There’s a business version of that diagram – Rewers’ Hierarchy of Corporate Needs – with Crisis Response as the most tactical, immediate need and Vision at the strategic pinnacle. When I look at the economy showing signs of improvement in interest rates and inflation, and return to the workplace gaining momentum as COVID recedes in the rear-view mirror, I see 2024 as the year enterprises will rise through this hierarchy, graduating from Recovery to Growth. 

2024 – the year of renewal?

If I had to summarize it, I would say 2024 will be the year of renewal. As our workplaces fill up again, with changing demographics and ways of working, and technological change adding urgency to every transformation (I’m looking at you, GenAI and SAP ECC), there’s a sense of renewal, and the future of work is surging further forward. 

Enterprises will settle into new norms

So what does renewal look like? We will see the further establishment of norms in two key areas: the future of work and system transformation.

The future of work (as always) is about people, process and technology. For people, the ‘where’ of work will evolve further, as large companies like Apple and Microsoft make hybrid a permanent aspect of return to workplace plans. As for ‘who’ it is that returns to the office, we’ll see the last of the Baby Boomers leave or at least plan their exit, as later generations become firmly established in the workforce. 

Then of course there are cloud technologies and AI, and the huge impact they’ll have on the workplace, which we’re only just beginning to fathom. Before we know it, the systems we use every day will be enhanced by AI, transforming the way we work internally and externally – even more than with the arrival of the PC

And just to add to the urgency levels, SAP customers are looking ahead to the 2027 deadline for ECC support, and accelerating their S4 migrations and wider transformation initiatives. 

Change is changing: more visibility, less emotion

So - change is afoot in 2024. And with the increasing scale, complexity, and urgency of the factors driving change, enterprises need to adapt their approach to system transformation.

A fundamental difference in 2024 will be the new levels of transparency available to enterprise changemakers. New developments like object-centric process mining (OCPM) are unlocking end-to-end integrated views of enterprise core processes. Couple that with process-level conformance checking and you’ve got a huge head start in seeing where your business weak spots lie, and where you can prioritize interventions to drive adoption. 

These new levels of visibility and actionable insight are slowly but surely banishing the air of mystery that used to pervade system transformations and taking the emotion out of decision making. I see it every time I speak to the people in charge of change & training. In the past, they didn’t really know if their efforts worked until well after going live – or if people were doing their jobs right. Now with task mining and process mining evolving and becoming supercharged by AI, they don’t have to cross their fingers and hope. They have data that helps set expectations, see what’s happening, empower people to self-correct, and intervene with positive actions when needed. They love it.

There will be a reckoning

Of course, when the stakes are sky-high and the truth is laid bare for all to see, enterprise decision makers will face a reckoning. 

Some change initiatives are a bit like redecorating your home. A lick of paint here, a tidy-up there. But when we’re talking about something like an ERP migration, we’re no longer alphabetizing our spice racks – we’re moving house. We need to decide what’s coming with us, and what we’re leaving behind. And because emotional decision making can turn us into hoarders, we need to combat that instinct. With process visibility, we can see what’s actually being used and how effectively, and, just as importantly, what’s not. 

This is exactly the situation we faced with a client of ours, a global pharmaceutical leader, when they went through a migration. With Celonis, they were able to address how they made choices in real time, measure what was happening, and make adjustments to support their timeline and the expectations set. And, they could make objective decisions about throwing out a few metaphorical boxes in their basement. 

The renewal opportunity

As this new year of renewal progresses, and many of the variables in people, process and technology begin to settle, there will be resistance to change. There always is, and for all the same reasons: 

  • “I didn’t know...”
  • “I wasn’t able...”
  • “I wasn’t involved...”
  • “I’m not willing...”

In 2024 I believe we’ll see breakthroughs that will address all of these objections – perhaps most importantly in terms of top-down communication about priorities. Those who lead and manage transformation and change have access to better information, so they can set expectations and manage execution with accountability.

Likewise, for managers and individual workers, they will have insights about how work is happening, successfully or not – down to a granular, process-conformance level – and proactively address issues.

Facts are friendly, once everyone starts to see the facts for themselves, and trust that they have greater control over these transformations than any that have come before – that’s when resistance will subside and progress can accelerate. Remember, in many cases we’re talking about multi year, multi million-dollar transformations. These are once, maybe twice-in-a-career opportunities. And in 2024, new levels of visibility and control will bring the means to achieve more successful outcomes.

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