How important is a foundation to a house, building or physical structure ? How important is electricity, plumbing etc to the a household.. No question BPM is the foundation, the glue and more importantly, the orchestration of the digital enterprise. BPM will help digitize the organization but the real driver is how to tie together the systems of customer touch and the systems of core data and transactions to deliver a seamless customer experience... not to mention enable organizations to move into the landscape of constant change.
Digital is your Dad's tech. It hit most of us back in 1983, with the launch of the CD.
Entering the age of Digital Business back in the eighties led to exponential growth for some big, aggressive organisations too. These were companies built on "Pushing Tin" hard sell methodologies and originally about selling hardware.
Having built large, voracious corporations to serve other large corporations, they needed a large, solid revenue stream. As computer hardware commoditised, they moved into software, buying up every company they could think of and turning it into products in their portfolio.
This led to the golden age of enterprise software. The gold, of course, was what they took from everyone with lock-in contracts and confusopoly pricing based on users and CPUs. New acronyms tumbled out of their marketing departments by the truckload - ERP, CRM, BI... and even BPM.
The methodology is simple. They know that if something looks simple, even if it isn't, you can't charge much for it. The trick is to create something which is simple to do, but looks hard and complex - then you can charge lots of money for consultancy fees, make fortunes as gurus attending conferences etc. Theirs is the cult of the magician or alchemist - smoke and mirrors.
I watched this happen with IBM BPM - they turned a simple "sort it in 6 weeks for £50k" product (Lombardi) into one with pricing so complex it took 3 days just to create a quote. Instead of a small to mid-market product it became a banks and "governance is a problem" companies only.
That was the Digital Age. Now we've reached the Data Age.
Companies are being increasingly driven by data. Not the old, expensive, inflexible DataWarehouses of the Enterprise Software era but easily connected fast datastreams which learn and enable agile processes. Not Agile as in big fixed methodology Agile, either, but systems which create a product and service proposition according to the history of the person who is asking, location, time of day (and their shoe size if it is in the algorithm)... balancing stock, creating dynamic pricing, choosing preferred delivery options - the possibilities are endless; even feeding all the data back into a machine learning process to continually improve and adapt.
In this environment the sort of BPM most of us are used to is like a Model T sat next to a McLaren. Old, slow, manual and uneconomical.
But does it mean process is redundant? Far from it. Process is actually what is driving this agile, responsive software. The system needs to know, in real time, what the options are - process. To make sure things happen in sequence where that is right, in parallel when it isn't - process. To use data to make informed decisions - process. To build a feedback loop which informs the process at every level on its performance, the gap to optimal and the options for improvement - process. Process is at the heart of the AI age.
It is time for BPM 2.0. And this time we need to keep the enterprise software companies out of the loop.
If the question had been "Is BPM important to Digital Enterprises", the question would've been pretty obvious: YES.
A Digital Enterprise has processes (like any other organization) and that's why BPM is as important for them as for any enterprise.
The beauty of this question lies in the HOW. How important, you're asking? Very. Many digital enterprises start with just a few employees, quite small and simple and boom, next thing you know they have hundreds of employees, are very successful but also feel overwhelmed by the amount of processes that grew too quickly for them to even realize.
That's why, as I said in one of my posts, Small or Medium Enterprises (and at the beginning, Digital Enterprises are usually that) should worry the most about its business processes in order to grow faster. No organization should postpone this issue until it's too late because then the solution might not be as simple.
What is a digital enterprise? Have a look at “#entarch view on #digital” in ref1 which starts with the statement “Business artefacts are available in digital formats (formal and executable)”. Thus BPM (as a full set of model, implement/automate, execute, control, measure, optimise) is mandatory to become digital.
Looks like a consensus that "BPM is important to enterprise", but there's a question as to what the word "digital" adds to the word enterprise.
Being very specific helps to get beyond the generality of "enterprise". For example, "servitization" (turning a product into a service, and then not sitting on your laurels, but continuing to improve that service) is a new type of general business model which has been enabled by cheap, tiny devices. There are other genres of "digitization", many of which involve ever larger numbers of "things" talking to each other. Presumably the various flavours of digitization involve the use of technology that helps us get more work done.
If digitization isn't to be just hype or magical thinking, we need details, both business details and technical details. And as everyone has already noted, BPM is very likely the right technology for much of the job.
I can see two aspects in the Digital business movement: external and internal. BPM is vital for the internal part - all processes must be externalized and wrapped with APIs, certain culture must be in place etc. Yet more important is probably the external part - the opportunities on the border between digital and physical worlds: all these sensors, smarphone apps that are always online, wearables etc. BPM won't give the clue how to prosper in this brave new world - it 'only' creates the key capability that make it possible. Is it much? Well it may sound disappointing for those obsessed with the 'quick win' idea but the truth is that one can't do anything of transformational scale without mature BPM capabilities. And Digital is transformational of course.
The problem with pure digital enterprises (whoever they are) is that most bits and pieces of them will become easily fragmented and then comoditized, as open-source software matures and becomes more and more a solid solution rather than a cool curiosity.
Ad insertion technology? Someone else than Google has it as well. Deep learning routines? Already a reality in open-source. ERP? BPM? CRM? OS? Document Management? Middleware (VM, DBMS, ESB)? Very powerful open-source alternatives are already eating the proprietary space at an increasing pace.
So a digital enterprise has two ways of digging competitive moats around itself:
1/ orchestrate the already comoditized bits and pieces with a powerful entarch concept and a lean "director";
2/ mesh the digital pieces with physical pieces that create enough "margin friction" and value for the customers.
In both cases: say hello to BPM technology as the key enabler.
First addressing our definition of The Digital Enterprise:
Trade and industry built from an electronic ecosystem whereby mutually dependent human-oriented service and information systems work together towards the delivery of business value. Definition of Value as being something measured, quantified, and eventually purchased (paid for).
Initially agreeing with Dr. Alexander's definition (above) but then I didn't find any reciprocation - in lacking the critical "mutual" or symbiotic relationship (HCI, Ux).
So, how important is BPM to the digital enterprise?
This new model merges business and technology into a single composite organization mutually supporting the production of actionable information alongside trade. Human-oriented service and information systems, now dependent, places what was previously unforeseen demands on technical capabilities.
Key point being that technology and business are now one entity in their delivery of value (services) into today’s market. Bringing this fact to light is the recognition of “process” being a core business asset. The immaterial nature of Information (IoT), and its trade, force this perspective.
Maintaining relevance now requires an increasingly focused model and drive towards market-driven delivery time-lines. BPM tools and frameworks are therefore a core requirement for the Digital Enterprise.
Separated from the discussion about what it means to be a digital enterprise, here are my 2cts.
Being currently part of an organization that sells enterprise software (DMS/RMA and Case Management systems), I can confirm that,without a proper and thorough BPM culture/attitude presentwith the customer, digitizing becomes a pretty tough gig.
It's amazing to see how companies (in our case especially local governments) go forward with decisionswithout a proper overview and insight in what they all are about. Or in other words, want to jump at fast moving adaptive case management trains say, whereas they still work with paper based archives.
In short: Without a proper BPM cultural supporting organisation, digitizing is – and I fully agree here with Stuart Chandler here – the same as building a house without a proper fundament.