I recently read a presentation from the Pega users’ conference held earlier this year. It described the three major contributors to digital enterprises, from a business process management (BPM) perspective as the need to deploy case management rather than pure workflow, next best action and omni-channel.

I agree with parts of the message content but argue on the context. It is not about BPM embracing extended functionality but rather the adoption of intelligent platforms that contribute to the digital enterprise. For me, too many of the BPM offerings are simply over-amped workflow, and at worst a collection of different applications cobbled together under one name.

This might be suitable for organisations that are principally built around the concept that a form is the main initiator of a process. However I would argue that for organisations driving operational excellence the solution lies in what is more accurately called intelligent business operations suite (iBOS). To be effective, an iBOS solution needs to be a single platform and must avoid becoming a multi-headed Hydra that addresses the business needs with multiple applications. XMPro is evangelical about this as we continue to deliver a solution for digital enterprises. In the early days we did see the world through the prism of BPM but that view limits you to the office world of ‘corridors and suits’, not the operational world where things are made, happen or need to happen.

Pega’s view proposing that case management is a fundamental building block for digital enterprises aligns with XMPro’s. Our unique point is that from the beginning we have offered case management functionality along with unstructured and structured process capability, on a single platform. While it may semm to be only semantics, we refer to the capability of decision support as ‘best next action’ and not ‘next best action’. Maybe the intended real-world use case for this functionality, in the speaker’s mind, was for call centres, where next best action is in common usage. We see it as decision support for all stakeholders in the digitised process, rather than a prediction of what the customer’s next action may be. To assist the process actioner it is fine to offer a prediction as to what the next action should be, but decision support is a wider beast. Operational needs may require confirmation of device settings (“is the choke valve turned off?”), alerts about potential resource constraints (“the testing calibrator is not available due to maintenance”), weather alerts (“order more beer than average as it will be a very hot day tomorrow”) and so forth. I see it as feeds that provide information to help the actioner exercise better judgement. This is why we place emphasis on ‘best’ as the first word and not ‘next’.

The software world has taken pages out of the retailer’s handbook. First ‘next best action’ and now ‘omni-channel’. Process consumers interact on many platforms, so multi-platform is a very simple value proposition. Get used to it, cater for it or be left behind.

I think the presentation omitted two very important ingredients for ensuring the success of process projects within digital enterprises.

First; the solution needs to be enterprise grade and agile. Our experience from the ERP world is that these two factors don’t often co-exist. Agility is about keeping up with the business on an operational level. There is a massive disconnect if the time to deliver required changes exceeds the need for the change. Therefore it is vital that the enterprise is properly resourced, a suitable platform is selected and obviously be part of the overall business strategy.

The second factor is citizen development. I hear citizen development described as the building and deployment of micro-processes by end users who are not trained in the application functionality, and therefore it becomes a discussion of ‘hiding’ complexity. There is enough written detailing the fact that complexity, like work, is not destroyed, it just gets moved around or rebranded. Although an important component of the digital enterprise journey, the impact of citizen development needs to be fully understood. The power of citizen development lies in its ability to kick start process thinking and deployment across the enterprise by harnessing the power of the enterprise. To be citizen development grade, the iBOS platform needs to remove the language aspect of the platform and replace with ‘point and shoot’ but still within a disciplined environment.

iBOS solutions, not BPM solutions, are the cornerstone for operational excellence for the digital enterprise.

 

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