What should be the primary focus of modernization efforts: people or processes?

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Senior Executive Advisor in Software, 10,001+ employees
Rabinow’s Rule #23 of leadership states that If you have someone who is a dope at the top, you will have, or soon will have dopes all the way down. There are a lot of people who are thrust into different roles without understanding the potential ramifications, probably because they were brought in to provide a different perspective.

But process improvement is also really important. A lot of people think technology will be that silver bullet to help with your modernization, and they forget about everything else. The reason why a lot of companies have come into this mess is probably because of the processes in place. But that could be because the wrong people were put in place. We never know.
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Vice President, IT & Systems in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

As long as we have a clearly defined process, it should be automated if it's repetitive. In hyper-growth companies, people are being hired by the day and with that comes new applications, but we tend to land with missing or misaligned processes. So our modernization focus adopts a Bot First philosophy when we introduce new technology and people.

CIO in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Getting new people in first is critical, because that's the trigger when an organization wants to modernize but hasn’t done anything. As IT leaders, our focus should be, how quickly can you get a job requisition filled, and then for how long can you be retained? That's something that I measure my managers on, as well as, how much diversity are you bringing in, placing people of color or women into these roles? 

I’ve found the more diversity I have in my team, whether it's my direct reports or the larger teams,my solutioning becomes that much more creative. And with that creativity comes the buy-in and all the benefits we know about. That's the driver of modernization, and that's why I like to focus on people first. It could be an army of 1 or 2 and they'll help you leapfrog to the next stage.
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Senior Executive Advisor in Software, 10,001+ employees

I totally agree, especially in this climate that we have where retention and attraction is a big challenge. Identifying the right change agents for any modernization journey is critical. You need to have those innovators and early adopters to get that critical mass to drive your organization forward. And it's not just a matter of identifying the right change agents, but also the right number of them. Because you can't have too many or too few. [Jeffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm is a good representation]

CEO in Services (non-Government), Self-employed
Process, hands down. Process we can control; people can't be.

For a majority of very large companies the last time they engaged in what I would consider to be a disruptive modernization effort was in the early 2000's with B2B.

Among many of the lessons learned in the decade that followed however was that "process" had lost it's value as a key differentiator. Differentiation between competitors has largely been reduced to product and price.

Further, while the last decade has shifted the focus to the customer, the majority of modernization effort has been embedded in UX and UI and omnichannel marketing. Today however that's not enough.

In the digital era, we can have the best technology, but if the business processes are not designed or redesigned to optimize that technology and to drive more customer value, faster, and at lower cost, modernization efforts would be for nought.

When businesses were forced to reverse engineer their business processes in order to make a desired data exchange (transaction) at the correct point in time, that removed or obfuscated the je ne sais quoi that endeared them to their customers and made them leaders. If that reminds you of the phrase "be easy to do business with" you won't find it in an App or a Chatbot. You might find it with very sophisticated AI but it's still rare.
Director of IT in Software, 201 - 500 employees
If you don’t have good people on the right positions you can’t successfully modernize the organization processes
CEO in Software, 11 - 50 employees
It'd say depends on the organization size. At first glance processes might seem the lowest hanging fruit giving that you can modify them, adapt them or even recreate the process in order to be aligned with modernization efforts. in my experience changing processes need major buy-in from people, you can change processes all you want but if you don't have a buy-in your team members will be creative enough to revert back to old processes or even use new processes in ways that don't serve your modernization efforts. After all processes are created by people to be adopted and followed by people. Creating the right environment for your team in order to adapt and change, train them, help them acquire new skills the will be crucial in capitalizing value from the new processes, hire talents that are familiar with your modernization aspects and support them to act as internal evangelists, have a clear vision and value driven strategy for modernization, and perhaps letting go of some of the change resisting personnel ( usually it's one to three people).  All of that wrapped in a strong leadership that iterates the vision and values of why we are ding this  over and over again will give a better shot at successful  modernization efforts 

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