As [url="https://twitter.com/levie"]Aaron Levie[/url] Tweeted in April: "Enterprise software used to be about making existing work more efficient. Now, the opportunity for software is to transform the work itself."
What do you think?
The opportunity for software to transform work has always been present and limited only by our ability to innovate.
Here is how enterprise software transformed the USDA, but not for the better: [url="http://freebeacon.com/issues/444-million-later-usda-only-achieved-1-5-percent-of-its-goal-to-update-it-system/"]$444 Million Later, USDA Only Achieved 1.5 Percent of its Goal to Update IT System.[/url]
Enterprise software failed to deliver that vital support to help people achieve the promised efficiency. Sure "processing" data speeded up certain functionality but people had to mould to the system and so that gap between reality in business and the imposed IT systems just got bigger. However now with "Adaptive" software that truly supports people and how they can work then transformation and measurable efficiency will be the future.
BPM thinking will aid the planning to get there but it will be the digitization which will deliver people empowerment and the real time measurement..... and so a new journey for enterprise software will begin.
Now, transformation is about highly funded startups unseating the incumbents. Those startups are using the combined power of cloud, social, mobile and big data. But these are high volume, low margin business which rely on very clearly defined and efficiently managed processes. So BPM is critical.
Is software now more about "transforming work" than before? Well, yes and no.
Sure, new software technology enables new business models.
But software doesn't transform anything by itself, obviously -- put like that, the statement is an example of magical thinking and discounts the hard work of edge engineering and business analysis for business semantics of process, rules and algorithms.
And it's also a little a-historical to claim that enterprise software was only about efficiency.
For example, a major insuranced provider today might maintain a portfolio of over 1,000 or more life and annuity products. Such a wealth of offerings fine-tuned to each market segment and need is only possible with "enterprise software" . . . in other words a vastly enhanced insurance business model over what went before, "pre-enterprise software".
The question can be addressed on two levels: (1) Above I've addressed the question as applying "in the large", to work associated with business models; (2) the question can also apply "in the small", i.e. the ease with which business processes and business rules can be addressed as first class citizens of technology, the better to "transform work". "In the large" is Geoffrey Moore and Clayton Christensen territory. "In the small" is BPM and BRM territory. And together there is a lot of opportunity, for sure.
A follow-along question is "why is the CEO of Box.Com tweeting about work and ERP?" Since September 2014, the company has been offering a beta of Box workflow as part of the Box platform offering; Box workflow is based on a mining- and analytics-oriented product from acquisition "dLoop".
BPM is the lubricant that makes transformation easier. Look, if you've got a $100 million company (or division), and you want to pivot that business, one of the largest obstacles is going to be the million lines of unmaintainable code that your IT folks have created in support of your legacy operation. BPM offers you the opportunity to rapidly deploy new applications without having to rip out the guts of your legacy infrastructure: your ERP, HRIS, and CRM systems, for example.
That said, however, if you've deployed BPM from the top down, supported by layers of middleware and ESBs, then not only did you spend too much in the first place, you've also attenuated the advantages suggested above. BPM's power lies in its agility and flexibility. Take that away and it's like forcing a gymnast to compete in a full body cast. And you definitely shouldn't do that, it isn't nice.
If “to transform the work itself” is considered as enabling a digital transformation then I would say that for now software is the least problematic element in the transformation puzzle. Imagine – one day, the best BPM software (e.g. Pega and Appian) are free of charge. How many companies will transform their work at that day?
Digital transformation is individual for each company and it must be architected with the use of BPM, of course. See some ideas in REF1.
Who thinks that an IT tool or whatever other tool, will transform its business, is in a huge mistake.
Said that, tools are useful, and certain transformations couldn’t be done without appropriate tools. And BPM is one of these very useful tools.
A very interesting (real) example: Organization X wants to reduce the use of paper to “transform” its business from a “loan giver”, to a “help you fast with any financial need”. But after adopting a BPM solution, every employee prints every request, because it is easier to read on paper. So process didn’t get faster, but slower. Has the business been transformed? No. Has it changed? Yes, for the worst.
[b]Tools don’t transform businesses. People do.[/b]
It's a mistake to think that technology changes enterprises; it doesn't.
People transform enterprises and technology can only speed that process up or slow it down.
The discipline of BPM helps that transformation, using improvement cycles. This reduces risks and facilitates change, in order to correct possible mistakes.
Particularly in [url="http://www.flokzu.com/en/smes/what-is-bpm/"]Small Business[/url], this effect is even more obvious, since they need to adapt quickly and make agile decisions. This is their only opportunity. That's why BPM doesn't transform, but it's a crucial tool to achieve transformation.
In my understand, software is a mean to enable enterprise to generate better services and products...also to support the transformation...is a tool.
The Today's software itself is not able to transform an organization but just support it....the human continues to be the most important piece in the transformation.
Maybe in the near future with the development of "artificial intelligence" the organization will be able to have an interaction with a non-human system which will be able to take decisions to transform the business or enterprise. (If the human allow this happen!!!).
Work itself is being morphed into something else every day. Technology has a deeper impact on work and I see three main perspectives:
[b]ubiquitous computing[/b]- your tech stack (smartphone, tablet, laptop, broadband acces to cloud services) is mostly with you all the time. This opens a Pandora's Box (slight pun intended) for work itself - interruptions caused by the constant stream of work-related events is a blessing to managers but a curse to creatives. BPM can help here a lot, since process logic is less relevant to creatives, who usually do light case management at their activity core.
[b]work tech stacks span across ecosystems[/b](unlike personal tech stacks) - it's impossible to be confined, for work purposes, to a single vertically integrated stack (unless you are on an Apple-blessed work domain and thus one of the hundreds of millions human batteries that feed Apple's offshore accounts). Fragmented stacks present significant challenges to work coherence. Again, not a problem for some (managers or others with light stacks), but a huge issue to many others. Integrations are possible but still expensive (the cost is decreasing though due to the explosion of the API economy). BPM can help but there is a long road toward recognizing BPM's primary role here.
3/ I agree with others that
[b]BPM is basically about accelerating and enhancing existing work[/b]through increased clarity, automation, optimization of work organization etc. But just as the electronic media morphed the content (Internet consumption style morphed the publishing and music industries in terms of content production), in the same way the speed with which we perform work (now digitally) actually morphs work itself. As we increasingly automate tasks and micro-decisions, we delegate them to machines. This frees us - humans - to focus more on the human attributes that makes us valuable to business: creativity, ability to learn and adapt, ability to motivate. And this means a huge change to what our jobs look like today.
Managing Founder, profluo.com
Of course it is the human that,
[i] in any aspec[/i]t, decides if and how much he changes; technology,
[i] in itself[/i], doesn't change anything. As organizations are collections of humans, highly driven by amygdala's, the same paradigm applies, all be it more complex...
Ongoing development in technology (and thus software) however, definitely
[i]influences[/i]roadmaps IMO. Or even
[i]disrupts [/i]them (e.g., Uber distroying the existing roadmap of traditional taxi-companies, and hey, combine this with automatic cars, imagine the destruction of a whole lot more roadmaps, or actually business models...).
The link with BPM here: Without proper BP
[i]Management [/i]in place, you see what's happening in quite some organizations: A mix of
[i]not very well connected business objectives, humans and enabling technology[/i]. Or dare I say, pretty headless chicken running around? So, you can have a mission, vision, strategy, a bunch of people and tech-enablers: as E Scott Menter quite rightly mentions "BPM is the lubricant..." here.
Obviously your business model plays an important role here. When, as Ian Gotts mentions, you go for high volume and low margin and very important, have a strategy to achieve a very high market penetration rate,
[i] BPM is a must.[/i]The mix without the BPM ingredient will simply be not as succesful or even fail.
"In the first machine age we moved beyond the limitations of human muscle. In the second we move beyond the limitations of the human mind".
Science fiction taught us to think artificial intelligence was about robots. Instead it is appearing everywhere as a clever layer between data and human. One which gives people the data they need to make better decisions. Which takes mundane, easy decisions out of the way altogether, leaving people to concentrate on the human interactions and the judgement issues. Slowly we are evolving a simpler, more intuitive infrastructure where the simple stuff just happens and more of the hard stuff is turned into the simple stuff.
Accounts, order processing, procurement and logistics are becoming simple interconnected computer functions. Every stage in manufacturing is documented, enabled and quality controlled. Selling, marketing and customer service are becoming augmented reality, with the computer running things and people simply following instructions. Documents have become simple mobile snippets, delivered exactly when they are required. And everything is delivered straight to mobile, with instant insight and drill down on what is going on, backed with notifications when decisions are required.
I see a parallel in electrical circuits. Once they were hard-wired. Large, complex and unreliable - now millions of circuits on a single chip in a tiny "magic" box.
"The Future is Here - it just isn't evenly distributed" William Gibson
Some of us are dealing in that future. At the cutting edge of the internet of things, datascience algorithms and clever, responsive, learning system design. Chip designers, if you will, with the principles of BPM at our core, but overlaid with a constantly re-iterating, always improving lean startup methodology.
Others are still slaving away with a soldering iron, connecting up the discrete components and hoping - praying that it will all work long enough for them to get out the building, cheque in hand. Still working on "we do this at this workstation, then move it on to this person's inbox". Sad, really.
That is quite a transformation of work itself. But do you really want to go back to your rotary dial phone, valve TV and carburettored car? I don't.
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BPM is probably the best way to manage the business transformation, because it allows to do it precisely by processes, minimizing redundancies of business activities, increasing the quality and decreasing costs of changes.
To complete this vision, I think that we could classify the changes as with major or minor impact, as following:
1) Strategy changes causes the biggest impact on the way of work. Can go until the creation of new processes, new departments, requiring new skills, etc.
2) Changes tactics with big impact on organizational structures that exist already. E.g., change an E2E process and IT of support, change the role of organizational units, etc.
3) Changes tactics with minor impact over the organizational structures that exist already. E.g., change a procedure under a process E2E, small improvements on IT support, as refine an data search,reconfigure a screen layout, etc.
BPM is a good candidate to transform the work itself and not only to make existing work more efficient. For that to be a reality, however, we need to make sure that BPM technologies focus a bit more on how to create, update and continously change engaging Applications based on changing requirements, and new business opportunities. Business Applications that speak end user's language, that get better over time, that bring competive advantage to organizations and that boost innovation.
IMO, the BPM industry has been a bit too much focused on processes (which, don't get me wrong, are the essence of BPM) but we've often neglected the importance of Applications.
Peter, that probably deserve a dedicated blog post, Is "Application" a tabu word in BPM? :-)
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