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At last week's bpmNEXT there were a lot of exciting looks at the future of business, from IBM's Watson to wearables from SAP. So in your opinion, how big of a role do you see BPM and processes playing in the future of the enterprise?

Tuesday, April 07 2015, 09:40 AM
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 09:46 AM - #Permalink
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    Heuh? What if processes and bpm don't play a role? Then the enterprise doesn't exist.

    BPM is not about having processes, you just do. It's about finding the right level of management to make them do what you promise.

     

    (remember, I am from the 'BPM is daily business' camp)

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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 10:24 AM - #Permalink
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    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.

    • Patrick Lujan
      more than a month ago
      "Process, and more specifically process automation, are in the heads and hearts of every person in every organization." I've been a lot of places coast-to-coast in the trenches, this I do not see.
    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      Agree with Patrick. And I even think (not scientifically proved) that the larger the enterprise, the more this is true.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 10:37 AM - #Permalink
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    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 ........

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  • Accepted Answer

    Tim Bryce
    Tim Bryce
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    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 10:50 AM - #Permalink
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    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.

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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 11:33 AM - #Permalink
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    We have a number of threads playing out here.

    Skeumorphism

    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.

    Paternalism

    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.

    Industrialism

    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.

    • more than a month ago
      I like your observation. I can only add that business process as any process with predefined (but robust) logic moves to the rank "obsolete" not because managers are suddenly become wrong, but because the outside economy becomes so dynamic that the competitive advantage now is not in the mastery of resource management and exotic resources, but in the ability to adopt market changes at the pace of their appearance. I call it business flexibility and have a formula and method for its estimate. I think that BPM will have some future as an implementation of the outcomes of the "Business Architecture for a Dynamic Market"©[copyright]
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 11:39 AM - #Permalink
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    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.

    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      Absolutely agree. Organizations have processes, people have jobs. And sometimes they are aligned well, sometimes not.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Ian Gotts
    Ian Gotts
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    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 12:04 PM - #Permalink
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    If BPM doesn't rebrand it will continue to have a marginal impact. The BPM approach could and should have a strong future in driving Customer Experience - probably the last area for competitive advantage for companies
    • Patrick Lujan
      more than a month ago
      I hereby dub "The Process of Things." Dispensaries coming soon to a locale near you.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 12:39 PM - #Permalink
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    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.

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  • Accepted Answer

    Maria Paz
    Maria Paz
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    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 02:00 PM - #Permalink
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    All comments have an interesting take on the subject, but I would like to add a vital point: BPM access for SMEs.
     
    Many large companies already use and take advantage of BPM practices.
    SMEs, on the other hand, don't and there are 3 main reasons for this: license cost, consulting cost and lack of management time. The first 2 are obvious but the 3rd one is usually forgotten. Managers (or CEOs) tend to work against the clock.
     
    In order to grow and develop, SMEs have to organize their processes and that is why in my opinion BPM will have an increasing role for them. That is, if the solution comes at an affordable price (license + consulting) and efficient time. The SMEs that recognize the power of BPM will be ahead of the curve.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 02:50 PM - #Permalink
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    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.

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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 02:57 PM - #Permalink
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    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.

    Thanks,
    AS

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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 04:32 PM - #Permalink
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    Great discussion as a follow-along to BPMNext. 

    So, out of 1st year philosophy a variation on an old question: "If work is done in the forest, is it a process even if we don't call it a process?"
     
    Answer? "Yes".
     
    1. WORK-AS-PROCESS -- Business is about work, about the purposive expenditure of effort. And work is what a solitary woodsperson does in the forest with an axe; business organization is about orchestrating many people working together. But in both cases, the project consists of a series of work steps or tasks, and the whole thing is a process. On this basis, all work is a process, including work that is not labeled as such. (I can make a good argument that projects and cases etc. etc. are also processes of a special kind.)
     
    2. BPM-AS-TECHNOLOGY -- BPM technology is the technology that explicitly surfaces for management purview the abstractions of the daily work of organizations. All other technology aspires to do the same, i.e. build artifacts which are force-multipliers for the work of business. But BPM technology is the only technology that does this explicitly. That makes BPM technology "better", even the "end-point" of software evolution related to work. (There are a few other irreducible software domains which are complementary to BPM software technology, especially database and business rules/decisioning technologies etc).
     
    BPM is the technology of the work of business. It is the technology of winners.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, April 07 2015, 11:57 PM - #Permalink
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    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.

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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, April 08 2015, 03:30 AM - #Permalink
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    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.

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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, April 08 2015, 05:37 AM - #Permalink
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    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".

    • Scott Francis
      more than a month ago
      Actually I think Keith did a good job of pulling together a community-endorsed definition last year. People may not have internalized it but it is out there.
    • Anatoly Belaychuk
      more than a month ago
      He pulled us together to develop a common definition of BPM and it was great. BTW, ABPMP is going to accept it almost literally in CBOK v.4.

      But what about process? I don't remember that we worked on this too.
    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      What is a process?

      Shall we take a year off for that discussion? ;-)
    • John Morris
      more than a month ago
      It's amazing when in this forum we can have statements from experienced and thoughtful people that the very subject of our interest does not have a "commonly agreed definition" (@Anatoly).

      I suggest such a definition is (a) possible, and (b) that it should likely be done as a formalism (i.e not starting from narrative), and lastly (c) that "work" is likely at the core of such a definition (as in "purposive effort which transforms a thing from state 1 to state 2). On such a basis of a "process algebra", all the derivatives of work and process can be defined ("project", "case", "repeated task" etc.). My statement isn't criticism; I'm highlighting what could be opportunity.
    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      Agree with Bogdan (in next reply ;-) To me a process is everything you do and need to deliver what you promise.

      What interest me more is what makes a performing process, so what needs to be set up and what is the best way to manage this process.
    • Anatoly Belaychuk
      more than a month ago
      Emiel - with all respect to defininung a process as everything we do, it makes no difference e.g. between project management and process management. Yet for any practician these two differ significantly indeed. So I personally prefer to use the term "capability" for everything we do and reserve the term "process" to BPMN processes - repeatable and predictable. I tried to draw the separation lines in the article here at BPM.com: http://bpm.com/bpm-today/blogs/818-managing-projects-processes-and-cases
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, April 09 2015, 02:30 AM - #Permalink
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    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 :-)

    • Bogdan Nafornita
      more than a month ago
      sorry, I meant this as a comment to Anatoly.
    • John Morris
      more than a month ago
      Here's a way we could think about whether formalisms are useful. The buyers of a bridge want a good ROI and low risk, based on the delivered functionality of the bridge. They trust that the engineering science and calculus, as well as the quality of materials, are done correctly. But bridges don't fall down in part because the engineering profession is immersed in rational, systematic discussion of engineering, based on science, math, research. It's not just narrative descriptions of why a bridge won't fall down.

      In the same way, I believe that business process technology, as software incorporating business process math and logical formalisms, can and will be developed. And BPMN could be shown to be an expression of this, or not.

      Does this help sell a business process project to customers? And make them happier with the results? If the resulting software is great, then absolutely. Do the customers need to know about resolving a graph in real time or process algebra? Probably not.
    • Bogdan Nafornita
      more than a month ago
      Thanks, John, for the comment.

      I agree that formalism is necessary when working critical infrastructure such as bridges or middleware software. But I believe the key difference here is about the level of formalism.

      Maybe I sense this wrong, but in my mind the equivalent of formalizing the definition of a business process would be, in your example, like formalizing the definition of a bridge. You can't risk overlooking the basics (do both ends solidly stick into the sides?) but more than that may be too specific to an actual implementation to be relevant for a theoretical definition.

      :-)
    • John Morris
      more than a month ago
      Bogdan, thanks for engaging on this topic. And you've hit on a critical distinction I think, which is the level of formalism appropriate for a given task.

      As a sales person, formalisms should be the farthest thing from my mind -- because as you say the client wants to know about the bridge to a certain degree, but not down to the calculus of stresses and strains. They will look at blueprints of course (akin to process models).

      So why even bring up the question of formalism?

      Because the original question concerned our "mutual agreement" on definitions of BPM technology.

      This question of specialist community discourse is on a different level than the discourse with customers; it is where the tribe goes behind the curtain to progress the state of knowledge.

      And behind the curtain there certainly is a lot of science and formalism - we've probably all seen academic research on BPM. But mostly "our" own discussions involve only narrative discourse on BPM.

      A good example is "what's the difference and relationship between business process management and case management". And despite the excellent insights by the most experienced and successful practitioners, I don't believe narrative is sufficient to the task on its own. Both business process and case management concern work, and are just different ways of organizing work, appropriate for different circumstances. A formalism will show this. And the narrative will then be much easier.

      Lastly, why would a sales person care that BPM isn't yet fully defined and its potential fully realized?

      Because customers want good solutions to real problems.

      A problem worth solving is the alarm fatigue problem found in healthcare, oil and gas exploration etc. Another problem worth solving is a simple responsibility escalation pattern.

      Both of these problems involve business process and business rules (and analytics), but the solutions are still craft-built, not industrialized and professional. Craft-built is not anti-fragile. But it is expensive and frustrating. And explains I think why BPM isn't more popular than it is.

      A sales person "sells what you have". Doesn't mean one shouldn't try and understand where we are going.

      Apologies for the length of this tl;dr note; I lack the time to make it shorter as they say. : )
    • Bogdan Nafornita
      more than a month ago
      I agree with most of what you said, John.

      However I see around me prominent examples to the contrary. One that pops to mind immediately is the minor iOS 8.3 update - it brings new emojis and has some bug fixes. Size of the update? between 250MB and 1.5GB! This is actually how much of the launcher images and animations are pre-processed and pre-compiled and included in the update.

      Also the perceived stability of the iOS platform is based on a manual draconic control of the external parties that have access to the system functions. There is no architectural wonder here, nothing formally superior to other mobile OS's.

      This highly non-formalistic approach works very well for Apple (as judged by its stock price). And I'm sure this is a design choice, they can afford to be as formal as any other company.

      PS: funny thing is - I'm European, and a Finance professional, so with a sickly propensity towards formalism and theory. You are a Canadian sales executive and should be the other way around!
    • John Morris
      more than a month ago
      LOL Bogdan regarding a "sickly propensity to theory and formalism"! Which of course should be anathema to any self-respecting and successful sales professional. And it is, let's be clear on that!

      Now with that out of the way, I'll share with you my strong interest, even enthusiasm, for business process technology (obvious I suppose). BPM technology is important, the products are of widely varying quality, and the results of too often disappointing. As a sales person I can help improve the odds today.

      And I also believe that there is a lot of upside for future business process technology-based business. The recent release of Volker Stiehl's new book (already reviewed by Bruce Silver among others) gives a hint as to the way forward. And it may be in the context of the methodology suggested by Stiehl that BPMN is "enough" of a formalism now, as both notation and executable.

      As for Apple, you have made a very intriguing point concerning the design and delivery of Apple's world-beating products -- and the lack of obvious formalism as a point of departure (we can ignore the deep formalisms that support compilers etc.).

      I think you are correct for Apple -- but maybe this situation is not applicable to a dispersed ecosystem of BPM consultants, BPM shops inside enterprise etc. Consider that Apple's technology stack and dominant economic position require a certain style of technology.

      A BPM project on the other hand is about capturing and evolving business semantics specific to a given enterprise in a given market, and the semantics concern the universals of work which are shared by all enterprise.

      I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Apple business semantics (as opposed to UI semantics) are comparatively shallow by comparison to BPM projects; any Apple business semantics can be managed in code by Apple itself.

      However, at some future point when Apple decides to get into the "productivity business" (starting from the autonomous actor owning an iPad or iWatch), then at that point Apple development gurus are going to migrate to business process and business rules engines where processes and rules are first class citizens of the system.

      Then, owning the "end point" or "edge" but now with full business semantics, Apple will be in a nice position to move towards the centre. It's the flock of birds argument, or emergent behaviour. And at that time complacent vendors in the centre who think that code is an acceptable substitute for the hard thinking required to build formalisms will have reason to reconsider.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, May 28 2015, 03:13 AM - #Permalink
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    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.

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