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bpmNEXT, Automation, and the Next Wave

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Peter Schooff: Hello, this is Peter Schooff, Managing Editor at BPM.com. Today I'm pleased to speak, once again, with Neil Ward-Dutton. Neil is the founder and director of MWD Advisors and will be one of the keynote speakers at this year's upcoming bpmNEXT, which is this April. He is one of Europe's leading enterprise technology advisors and researchers, and he has a long history with BPM and automation. That's what we're going to focus on in this podcast. One of his specialties is automation.

Neil, first of all, thanks so much for joining me, once again, on the podcast.

Neil Ward-Dutton: You're welcome.

Peter Schooff: You're going to be speaking at bpmNEXT. I think you've done that every year so far. Give me a quick overview of what you're going to cover.

Neil Ward-Dutton: Sure. It's a pleasure to be invited back. I'm going to be talking about, what I call, the new wave of automation. Just briefly, what that really means is, we see three related areas of technology change that are really coming together, creating this kind of wave that's all about how systems and people interact and work together in different ways, and then they're all kind of ... Three different complimentary layers and they're all happening at the same time.

Those three are, basically, there's changes around interaction, so this is specifically new technology that we're seeing that are changing the ways that people interact with software systems. I'm sure you've seen, Peter, and many other people would have seen, lots of discussion of bots, text based, natural language based, automated systems that enable you to be much more natural in how you interact with a backend system.

But there's more to it than that, there's also great advances in computer vision, in audio recognition, video processing, and so on. There's a whole range of innovations happening at that interaction layer that are really enabling us to start rethinking how people and systems work together.

There's also a big change happening in, what I would call, the insight layer, which is fundamentally technologies that allow us to process data, and make analysis over those data, to make recommendations and deliver insights. Of course, analytics technologies been around for 30 plus years, but what's really happening there is a shift away from a much more reactive batch mode, where a lot of the analytics were done offline by specialized teams in their own silo, to much more integrated, real time analytics and recommendations in the flow of how people actually use systems in a digital environment.

The change at the insight layer, fundamentally, are about bringing insights right into the flow of how work gets done in the digital era.

The third layer, sitting below that, is a lot of changes really happening around integration of various kinds, and this is where things like RPA, robotic process automation, plays a part. There's more to it than that though. The big picture there is really a shift around integration moving from something that used to be done by a very, very highly specialized team of people using expensive tools, only on the most mainstream use cases, to much more of a constellation of tools that are much more lightweight applied to a whole long tail of use cases.

And so these three things are all happening at once, and they're really fundamentally changing the nature of how systems sit in our organizations and how they fit together. That, in turn, has quite a big impact on how we think about things like BPM.

Peter Schooff: It definitely feels like a monumental shift. How would you say this new wave of automation differs from BPM of the past decade?

Neil Ward-Dutton: I was thinking about this a few minutes ago, and I think it's not necessarily that it's different from BPM, but what we're seeing with these three layers of change is that they're really changing the environment in which things like BPM happen. It's really about ... It's almost rewriting the rules in which we have to think about how we coordinate work through BPM and how we make work effective through BPM. That's really what it's about.

Peter Schooff: Got it. Does MWD Advisors, do you see the new wave of automation as competing with BPM in helping grow a larger industry and market space in essence?

Neil Ward-Dutton: It's not really competing against BPM. It's really about changing the rules of the game. I really don't see BPM going away and I see, actually, greater opportunities opening up, but in order to do that, I think the vendors and the consultants in this space need to be prepared to look more widely at how organizations are trying to create automation agendas and automation strategies, and be prepared to think more creatively about how they promote the technology.

For example, just continuing to talk about BPM as being about driving efficiency in the back office, for example, or just continuing to think of it as something you use to drive auditing and compliance. You know, those things are still relevant but we need to be more imaginative in, basically, how we show the value and how that fits in with other kinds of technologies.

Peter Schooff
Author: Peter SchooffWebsite: bpm.com
Managing Editor
Peter Schooff is Managing Editor at BPM.com, where he oversees the BPM.com Forum as well as other content and social media initiatives. Peter has over 15 years experience in various enterprise IT fields, including serving as Director of Marketing for email security company Message Partners. Most recently he served as Managing Editor for ebizQ, for which he created and ran the ebizQ forum. Peter is known world-wide for his views and contributions to BPM, and was named among the Top 12 Influencers of Case Management through independent market research.

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