Everything we do is a process. I get my reminder to look at the BPM.com blog, I read the subject, I read the posts, I decide if there is a contribution I can make, I write, I rewrite, I post. Everything is a process.
It used to be that only aficionados "thought" in process terms but today, every person, from the factory floor to the wood paneled office, is looking to optimize and automate process. Just a decade ago starting a new business required millions of dollars to buy infrastructure: now the infrastrcuture is available for free, or for a small monthly fee, in the cloud. What does the infrastructure provide? A place to store data and a proven process to manipulate it. Look at SalesForce, DropBox, Gmail and the rest. Here are generic data stores but the value delivered is in a prewritten, proven, process. What differentiates SFDC from every other CRM system is not the data it stores but how to manipulate that data and process one follows to derive insight and understadning of the data.
When Codd first introduced us to data modelling, normalization and relational databases he made it very clear that data evolves slowly. Today's bankers databases are really not much different from 19th century hand written ledgers at the data level. How we bank is very different. The banks that are no longer on Wall Street or the High Street didn't fail because of poor data but failed for not processing and interpretting the results well or fast enough.
Process, and more specifically process automation, are in the heads and hearts of every person in every organization.
It is the discipline that will drive next generation creation of custom software needs in the enterprise. This will enable the front end of business to be all joined up to support user satisfaction and improve efficiency. This includes data from such wearables
The challenge is exactly how this will be achieved with direct input from the business and of course supporting ready change by the business ........
I see BPM as a subset of Systems Engineering, a vital part of Information Resource Management (IRM). To me, IRM is the bigger picture and also takes into consideration Enterprise Engineering, Data Base Engineering, and Project Management. So, yes, BPM is important, but no more than the other disciplines.
We have a number of threads playing out here.
In the first iteration of anything, we make it like the thing it replaces. So our first generation computer systems replicated the documents, ledgers, diaries, calendars and presentations we were used to. And BigIT was about keeping the C-Suite, the operational systems and the people systems we had but just on computers and servers.
In the second generation we move beyond that - digging back to what a document is for, how we can make numbers dance and how we can connect. We're seeing new, better ways of doing all three. And we're questioning the ideas about the C-Suite too.
Our factories were an extension of the slave trade, to process the goods harvested by slaves and imported - the brutal methods came with them. The artificial and rigid rules in aristocratic families and society were replicated in companies too.
We began to abandon these control methodologies after they killed 7 million people who were following orders in World War One. The military rearraged itself into small, autonomous groups of skilled people pooling their skills for the greater good. We emancipated women and later children. Familes became about everyone pulling together. And we embraced equality between races, religions and cultures.
Enterprise Companies failed to evolve. In their world to this day the only people allowed to think are the C-Suite. Racism between silos is rife. Control is everything. Slowly we are beginning to see that that is not the best way to run any organisation.
In the industrial age, product was king. Customers were an afterthought. A one size fits all strategy - make millions of the same product and ignore differences between consumers. All that mattered was making more product for less money, lowering wage bills, overheads and costs.
In the connection era, people are individuals. Moulding the company to them is the new skill, not the other way round. And the new world is more fluid - we can no longer impose processes for decades when the whole business model cahnges every few years.
What does this mean?
The autocratic idea of management is fading fast. The imperative of maximising the efficiencey of a process is changing too.
And the shape of an enterprise business in the 21st century will be very different from the one framed by this question.
So if Business, Process and Management are all different, what is the future for BPM. Different, at a guess.
But think also about the Enterprise
Enterprise companies grow up where there is a natural monopoly. Where communication inside a company is easier than outside it. Where only massive investment can create a market. Where the bully sales and marketing tactics of "I'm the largest so I win" work. Or where you can pull up the drawbridge after you to create a moat, preventing competition through high cost of entry.
But entry costs are shrinking fast. Communication costs are shrinking fast. Marketing costs are shrinking fast. So the moats are breachable, the smaller companies can be heard and the celebrity status of number one becomes fleeting, like a pop chart. We see this in the Fortune 500, where 40% of the top companies a decade or two ago aren't there anymore. Only in the false markets where government interference favours the incumbent is there a haven.
I don't think enterprise companies will play as big a part in our lives as they did. And while process has been released from its box and will grow fast, the idea of Managing Process in the paternalistic way we have done is really only the twitching of a corpse - confined to the industries which have been protected from Darwinism by government interference.
The new process will be in machine learning, in automation and in the systems on our smartphones which, totally unseen by us, rule our lives.
The ECM people think the world revolves around their content, the CRM people around their engagement. The database people are indefatigably confident that EVERYTHING revolves around them (bottom-up they're probably right) and the middleware people are too tired and stressed to care.
Front-line folks just want to get their job done, as efficiently and painlessly as possible.
And we, here, in our little bubble, echo chamber, occasionally look sideways at the shark and consider jumping it.
BPM's part of the stack. Some orgs place more emphasis on it than others, some don't. Some people do it better, some people worse. Few do it well.
BPM makes part of the three main pillars of any organization. First, it requires an head to think what to do (strategy). Second,the business processes (BPM) to operationalize the strategy (how to do), and third the resources to use (HR and IT) in the execution of business processes. Thus, organizations will have more capacity to face the constant market changes, the better the organization of their BPM systems. Otherwise, the strategy thinks one thing, and company (business processes) does something different, or at least is slowest to align, which means lose of time and money, what can lead to loss of market position and end death.
I'm surprised nobody has yet mentioned (well except perhaps in the tl;dr posts, which were tl so I dr) the role of BPM in replacing custom coding. IT and the business will in the end be unable to resist the lower TCO and faster turnaround of custom BPM-driven application development. As this trend solidifes, it will render BPM into a can't-do-without technology, much as, say, Visual Studio is today.
Considering that the future of the enterprise is fully digital, it will be mandatory to perfectly and timely coordinate activities, things, objectives for the best of customer experience. Such a coordination must be explicit and executable. Thus we may “rebrand” BPM to “Coordination of Activities, Things, Objectives for Customer” – CATOC.
Great discussion as a follow-along to BPMNext.
I think that BPM will be "everywhere" - the question is whether we'll call it BPM or whether it will be just a characteristic or feature of other products, methods, etc.
For example. you have chat applications. But you also have chat embedded in applications. Will BPM become diffused throughout application infrastructure like REST and other baseline capabilities? or will it be something that stands on its own, like a piece of middleware or infrastructure or utility capability that other applications tie into?
I don't have the answer, but I guess neither is mutually exclusive. You can have a world with slack, hipchat, instant messaging, and whatsapp.. and some will be really important and others are just features.
conceptually, process is already well-distributed in the way companies think about what they do.
I like Maria's point. SME's are the future of the enterprise, if we're talking about BPM technologies and practices.
Building on that, I'd venture to say that, in the future, TCO (and RoI of course) will become a non-issue. In the SME space, even today you can build a good enough BPM solution with little to no money. Two years ago, I spent around 6k EUR on a solution license for a 80M EUR TO company - it probably paid out in the first 2 months (and I live in a cheap country). I never bothered calculating payback and RoI, it would have probably cost me more to do so. I have friends that built their own workflows, with zero formal training, with open-source WfM tools, for their own small (around 1M EUR TO) companies. And this is just the beginning.
Zero-code is a dream. But "good enough" is a reality that SMEs already embrace. They don't need the latest fad in BPM technologies, they need anything to acquire and keep customers and control their speed and costs. And they will use any tool, no matter how fragmented and illogical this would look from a BPM purist standpoint.
The enterprise of the future is the one that can quickly pivot its business model around an agile enterprise architecture. This means they must be able to quickly acquire (and couple) and give up (and decouple) bits of their business model (entarch included).
BPM is best positioned to deliver to this kind of enterprise an agile architecture with the least amount of cognitive pressure.
But this is so much easier said than done.
It's an age old question indeed. And with all due respect to the opinions above, nobody could say it better than Geary Rummler in one of his last interviews. Quoting from memory - BPM as an acronym may go away but processes are here to stay because people will need to coordinate their work activities anyway.
Several analysts at bpmNEXT stated that BPM isn't "sexy" for customers any more. Is it a tradegy? For me, not at all. Ideas mature and evolve, it's a norm. Labels are changed even more often. Digital Transformation and BPM are almost same things for me and if the former is more attractive to business then why should we insist that BPM (as a term) is forever?
What worries me more is that we still don't have a commonly agreed definition for processes. As this discussion shows, some people call anything we do a process while others reserve the term for repeatable things and prefer to call a business entity closure (a one-time activity) a project.
And I personally strongly dislike saying BPM while having in mind "BPM technology" or "BPMS software".
I cannot yet realize whether a formal definition of process helps me or not.
In a way, it might be useful if this makes its way into the standards and helps scope out anything foreign (although I can't see that danger yet) in a way that accelerates development of relevant methodologies.
However, this might limit any customer approach we might want to take - which for me is the most important thing. Especially in the cloud context, the frontiers between technologies, methodologies and deployment methods get more and more blurred.
There are BPaaS companies out there whose technologies and methodologies will never be BPMN- (or any xxxML-) compliant, but they're still doing great and their customers are happy. Isn't that the whole gist?
You can have a process mindset without necessarily having a crystal-clear definition of process.
Also, a blurry definition makes things a lot more interesting :-)
BPM provides a framework that enables enhanced control and management of core business processes across an organization. An enterprise can integrate the business functions they've built over the decades by using BPM tools, techniques, technologies, best practices, and business processes as the fundamental construct. The enterprise will be much more flexible, dynamic, and capable of integrating into the value chain of products, suppliers, and consumers. The enterprise can be in the middle of the chain as a value-addition node to the overall value delivery network.