February 16, 2023

How do you put meaning back into digitalized business processes?

By Patrick Chabannes

[1] When processes kill organizational creativity.” At a time when everyone is questioning the meaning of action at work, too many digitalized processes are oriented towards control, where trust, through the symmetry of attention, would open to performance through collaboration. How can digital technology help to balance trust and control in source-to-pay implementations?

[2]Out of weariness in the face of the appalling multiplicity of problems, the complexity and difficulties of life, the great mass of men aspire to a mechanization of the world, to a definitive order, valid once and for all, which would spare them any work of thought.”
The processes, the Rule, are certainly necessary. But they must only allow the collaborators, the Contract, to face the daily challenges. In this never-ending battle between the Contract and the Rule, the danger is that employees will abandon their freedom to act in the service of the company’s good for the mechanical framework of processes. Digital technology, which is natively embedded with control, can and must develop collaboration by considering only the soul of the process.

A digital process can never be a copy of a manual process.

[3]Spontaneous orders are not necessarily complex, but unlike the deliberate arrangements of humans, they can have any degree of complexity.
The superimposition of predetermined approval circuits and processes that vainly try to describe the reality of complex business gestures written, moreover, at a moment T of the company’s life, can only work if the employee puts himself at the service of the process with only one vision: feeding the machine. 
Their work loses its meaning, the company loses its efficiency, agility is a dead letter, commitment diminishes. By considering only the soul of the process, digital can offer efficiency and agility.

[4]Thinking a process in its detail is not possible, failure is assured.

So the question is: What then is this soul of the process? 

Consider the solution from three angles: spontaneous order, control and data quality.

  • The soul of the process is the set of steps strictly necessary to complete the task: steps that are shared, understood and adopted. 
  • Unlike manual rules, digital technology accompanies spontaneous order by adapting to contexts and, thanks to its collaborative dimensions, will suggest adding an approver here, or asking a question of an internal or external resource there, while helping the user with task tracking or prioritization recommendations.
  • Between the audit trail and post-processing analysis, the native control of software tools is known to all. So well-known and integrated that you need to make it discreet.
  • And the icing on the cake is that the committed and empowered user will naturally pay attention to the quality of the data. 


  • 1 Philippe Silberzhan, in blog post When processes kill organizational creativity.
  • 2 Stefan Zweig in Conscience versus Violence
  • 3 Friedrich Hayek in Law, Legislation and Freedom
  • 4 Frank Vidal, Group Head of Purchasing Transformation and Digital

Lectori salutem, Patrick Chabannes