Dr. Setrag Khoshafian, Chief Evangelist and Vice President of BPM Technology, Pegasystems
Anyone who has seen the introduction of new technologies and practices across industry in the past will tell you that, as soon as night follows day, one of the first questions asked is whether or not all of these new innovations have made existing systems obsolete and irrelevant. Clearly, the dawn of the digital age in which we all operate, has resulted in fundamental changes for the modern enterprise, the way they operate and the ways in which they interact with their customers. As a result, it can be tempting to look at technology like Business Process Management (BPM) and view it as an old, dusty antiquity; a cumbersome dinosaur in the shiny, new, digitally-empowered age. The truth, however, is that modern organizations must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water when investing in making themselves digitally-enabled. Indeed, it may surprise you to learn that, instead of fading quietly into the background, BPM is now an integral part of much of the digital transformation that is taking place today.
“Instead of fading quietly into the background, BPM is now an integral part of much of the digital transformation that is taking place today.”
Let’s be clear: BPM is not the only area that has transformed from a caterpillar into a butterfly as a result of technological change. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is another example of an enterprise software category that has faced challenges. The modern digital consumer relies more on peer review ‘likes’ vs. traditional marketing channels, and demand ‘snap’ responses—on time, on target, and customized to their needs which are constantly changing. It’s not overstating things to say that all of these considerations fundamentally change the way in which CRM business software is designed, implemented and used.
This is particularly true when you also consider the potential impact of what is largely considered to be the most important digitization trend today. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a phenomenon that is expected to far exceed the disruptions from Social, Mobile, Analytics, and the Cloud combined—and one that provides a significant challenge to existing software providers. Luckily, for vendors of CRM and other software categories that have been similarly affected, help is at hand. BPM, you see, has been evolving. It has become ‘intelligent’ and ‘dynamic’ and goes far beyond the 2-dimensional swim lanes of the years past. Today, BPM is an agile tool that can support digital transformation platforms as well as digital technologies and which can, most importantly, allow the digitization of processes involving humans, ‘Things’ (including robots) as well as enterprise systems.
The implications of connected devices—or ‘Things’—are profound and transformative, and it’s important to recognize that BPM will provide the strongest essential link between the customer and IoT. Why? Siloed connected devices by themselves will deliver little or limited business value. The substantive business return and business benefits of IoT will come from services that connect the customer to the rest of the extended digital enterprise. These services will invariably involve coordination of tasks and activities involving human participants as well as ‘Things’ (including robots) and enterprise applications. In other words, connecting IoT and Customers will need robust orchestration which is precisely the sweet spot of BPM.
There are a number of examples of how BPM can act as the strongest link between the customer and IoT in the digital age. Consider, for example, the fact that, with the rise of connected devices, appliances and machines in our homes, we are all exponentially increasing the number of channels available to us, as customers, to communicate with organizations. By using BPM to analyze customer sentiments and combine it with analysis from connected device sensors, organizations will be able to provide optimized next best actions in these channels as well as orchestration of tasks to improve the customer experience.
There are other, perhaps less obvious benefits as well, many of which will stem from software services. BPM will help organizations to remotely view, manage, and maintain the connected devices within their operations automatically and even go beyond reactive maintenance to predictive and even more importantly prescriptive maintenance. This means coordinating tasks and activities in the edges, the field, the enterprise, and the entire supply chain through intelligent BPM orchestration, to benefit business efficiency, CRM and profitability all in one fell swoop.
The point is that the benefits of using BPM today are numerous and can only increase through the increased prevalence of the IoT. Consider, for example, that BPM is about automating work and assigning it to humans or ‘Things’. We’re already seeing a shift in automation where more routine and repetitive ‘clerical’ work is being replaced by automated devices and robots. At the other end of the spectrum you have knowledge workers that often have the business rules in their heads. In between these two you have the most important category of workers: knowledge-assisted workers. With IoT you can also have robot-assisted workers. Thus digitized predictive models, adaptive machine learning models, as well as digitized business rules authored by knowledge workers are all assisting workers complete their tasks. At a fundamental level, the context of all the categories of work automation is BPM.
Let’s be clear about this—the IoT revolution is happening, and so is the customer experience transformation. We are increasingly moving to a service-led economy that is connecting the customer to the manufacturers and even the entire supply chain. There needs to be orchestration, collaboration, and continuous optimization for efficiency. The new connected, digitally-enabled world in which we live is creating new opportunities for innovation, especially when Big Data is analyzed and operationalized. But there needs to be a context, orchestration of tasks, digitization of rules and a platform for continuous change, all of which can be facilitated by BPM. It’s fair to say that, as we progress down the path of digitally-enabled transformation, BPM is alive and kicking—and will continue to play a significant role for the foreseeable future!