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Will all business process need to be smart processes in the future?
Thursday, March 06 2014, 09:51 AM
  • Peter Schooff
    more than a month ago
    I'm adding this after Theo's comment, but here's how Jim Sinur defines it in a podcast I recorded with him. "A smart process is one that assists the resources or includes some significant intelligence. I like to keep it kind of simple if it has event recognition, complex event recognition, in other words, the ability to sense patterns, it’s intelligent."

    Here's the podcast: http://bpm.com/interview-with-jim-sinur.html
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 06 2014, 10:07 AM - #Permalink
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    No. Processes will remain processes. How we think about them, design them and execute them with the right tools will become smarter. Taking advantage of real-time data and applying it in context to the process is "smart" but a process will always follow it's design. We're not in the realms of true process artificial intelligence yet. Forget ACM etc, they're still governed by rules, guardrails, boundaries, code, it's not smart. You can't make a process "smart," that's just marketing.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 06 2014, 10:49 AM - #Permalink
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    Arthur C Clarke's third law states that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Technology advances and we drift from awe inspired craving to a blasé disregard. Of course processes will be smarter and it will start today and continue to the future. Tomorrow we'll be better off but less impressed. Thus goes the lifecycle of technology. Will processes achieve the level of smarts that makes them sentient? No, but they will appear to be. It's magic.
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    Thursday, March 06 2014, 11:05 AM - #Permalink
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    No. No matter how smart we think a process is, there will always be one process player that "outdumbs" the process designer. Processes live within design boundaries - human stupidity does not.
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    Thursday, March 06 2014, 11:24 AM - #Permalink
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    Peter that explanation is helpful in context that some vendors are applying "smart" to their offering in that they have been "smart" to pull all their components together to allow a "smart" marketing tag as Theo suggests! Jim Sinur’s definition hits the mark as a desirable capability which we have had for some years! The ability to recognise past decisions or events that can dynamically present next appropriate actions or new options for users is “smart” and “intelligent”. Sorry Theo you are wrong this journey has started with sound R&D and there will be more to come. So to the question “Will all business process need to be smart processes in the future?” Answer NO the smart capability will cover very specific needs likely just part of an end to end process. The majority of processes will happily be covered by adaptive capability. However the answer is YES if you are buying into a BPMPlatform to deliver on business requirements then “smart/ intelligent” needs to be on the agenda as a capability that can be incorporated into the “design boundaries” where appropriate
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 06 2014, 01:28 PM - #Permalink
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    Like it or not terms like "smart process" (apologies to Jim) and "smarter process" (apologies to my friends at IBM) and "smart bpm" (apologies to Pega circa 2007) have been been reduced to marketing boilerplate. That said, I do believe there is a huge opportunity to use event streams, big data, predictive analytics and old-fashioned rules to make processes, and the people who use them, smarter. To counter Theo's point slightly, there are some edge cases (inbound marketing, credit risk analysis, recommendation engines, etc.) where real-time "learning" is actually changing the process on the fly. In most cases, however, the intelligence derived from these new data sources and analytic models will be used as guidance. That guidance will make the users of process more effective: customer service agents are guided as to which steps to take next with customers, investigators will use analytics to narrow root-cause analysis, etc. The guidance will also provide valuable insight to process designers, who will use it and an increasing pace of change to continually iterate and improve the processes they own.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 06 2014, 01:37 PM - #Permalink
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    This question makes me think of something I have to remind my kids about every once in a while. I tell them, Hey, you're really smart. That's great. But 'smart' may be the third or fourth most important quality a person can have. So stop assuming everything's going to be great because you're so bright and focus on what will really make you successful. Processes can be smart (subject to the marketing and technical definitions of "smart"). That's a nice thing, certainly. But before worrying too much about that let's make sure we've made our processes:
    • Easier to create and modify,
    • Intuitive to process actors,
    • Accessible on any device at any time, and
    • Available and valuable to sales, field support, and customers.
    Then we can talk about "smart".
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 06 2014, 01:50 PM - #Permalink
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    All processes will be smart, but some processes will be always more smart than others. :) Considering that we deal with a system of processes, at each moment of time such a system has a few points of the most leverage. Select such a point, make the related process more smart and start again with new points of the most leverage. Thanks, AS
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 06 2014, 04:25 PM - #Permalink
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    Adapted and triggered by third party applications, data sources and devices. Yes all future processes will be smart.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 06 2014, 04:48 PM - #Permalink
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    Thanks Peter for adding JIm Sinur's description of a Smart Process, which avoids the question. Ignoring the hype and marketing one can assume that some day all processes will be smart. But first people (both BPM consultants and users) need to understand that a rag-tag assembly of flows, rules and fragments won't become smart by some form of boolean logic triggered by external events. Boolean logic is not smart. Autonomous rule inferal is a little smart! What has to change: 1. Management will trust the machine recommendations. That is not yet the case today. 2. Processes are defined through explicit goals and verifiable outcomes. 3. The 'smart' function learns from performers and is not programmed by ML experts. 4. Performers validate the machine recommendations. 5. Processes are no longer designed and enforced but emerge from execution. The reality is that we could make all processes 'smart' according to the above today, but there is actually little interest. Due to cost cutting by outsourcing and BPM there are not enough people left to ensure that a smart process will perform correctly or that it has at least valid goals defined. Smart Process Apps are sold as problem solving bundles with precoded processes with the ability to add ad-hoc tasks. Plug-In flows and ad-hoc tasks is just as smart as things will be getting in the foreseeable future ...
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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, March 07 2014, 02:12 AM - #Permalink
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    I see a lot of references to machine learning as the key thing to turn on the "smartness" in processes. Having worked with AI (for predicting financial time series) way long before machine learning became mainstream cool via the Siri joke, I can honestly say that that moment is very, very, very far away. See, machine learning is great for some domains (especially pattern recognition - most popular being voice, sound, video, images, handwriting etc) but incredibly poor for other domains (facing the unknown, grasping new and infrequent concepts, etc). So, unless someone has an idea about how to train a machine to come up with a completely original decision when confronted with a major business crisis... don't hold your breath until our business processes become automagically autonomous. As an example, during our financial time series forecasting business, our simulations showed that any probable gains realized by AI (neural networks, genetic algorithms) during normal "periods" were more than wiped away by a Black Swan event. I apologize if this came a bit too strong, but there is a Murphy's law that goes: "If you hold a hammer, everything around you will look like a nail". Same goes for AI - I don't think this will ultimately work for business processes. The only thing smart about a Smart Process is the way it has been designed (including ideas like plug-in flows and ad-hoc tasks and external app triggers and whatnot), and that's inherently a human task.
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