Guest Blog: Industry Analyst Neil Ward-Dutton Shares His Thoughts on BPM Trends

 1) Generation Y aka the Millennials: The networked generation place a great importance on communicating and sharing at each stage of their decision-making processes in their personal lives, what is this generation looking for when it comes to Business Process Management?

The shift we’re going to see in the needs companies have in managing their business processes is partly about the needs of a workforce with new expectations around communication and collaboration, but it’s also partly about the increased role of automation generally in business.

We’re seeing that automation is taking more and more routine tasks out of the hands of people, and into the bits and bytes of software systems – general administration, sales, marketing, operations management and other jobs are all being squeezed.

What this means is that the jobs that are left, and the jobs that companies focus on nurturing, are going to be more and more creative and collaborative knowledge-based roles. So we’ll see leading companies look to support more collaborative-based approaches to decision making and work co-ordination where people are involved – and they’ll look to software systems to provide that support. Part of this is about the expectations of millenials, but not all of it.

2) What are the specific challenges with case management vs. process automation. Is there an increase in Case Structures vs process structures, and how does that affect the tools used for automation?

There are quite a few challenges that businesses need to think about when pursuing case management implementations to support processes, vs. pursuing ‘traditional’ structured process automation implementations. Some I’m seeing relate to analysis and design notations, methods and skills; in the structured process automation world these things are all quite well understood and more or less accessible (though experienced people are still really expensive). In the case management world, we’re only just seeing the first notation standard emerging; and there’s no cross-industry established body of knowledge around how you design a case management application.

Other challenges kind of spring from that – I’m thinking specifically here, for example, of the challenge of working a productive implementation method. Getting subject-matter experts and users involved in process improvement is always a critical success factor, but getting productive engagement, ideas and feedback from a group when designing a case management application can be harder – because the behavior of a resulting application isn’t readily discernible from any kind of map you can draw, in the way that it is with a structured process automation project. By definition case work is collaborative, dynamic, non-deterministic and requires expert discretion.

3) How important are integrations for process automation, and can BPM be used with core apps to engage users and add flexibility and agility to an organization?

Integrations are absolutely critical to most process automation projects! You can get value from a BPM project without implementing any integrations with existing systems, but if you do you could be missing out on some massive efficiency and quality gains. Looking at it the other way around: process applications can absolutely add value to existing core systems of record, by creating a more user-centered and process-based environment in which work can get done that’s much more flexible than the core underlying systems.

4) How quickly are organizations deploying new applications to introduce new processes? And, is the deployment speed meeting expectations?

Of course, the time it takes businesses to deploy new applications to introduce new processes varies massively – some of it is to do with the maturity of the business, some of it is to do with the complexity of the processes in question, and some of it is to do with the tools they have available. Best-in-class businesses can sometimes develop and deploy simple process applications in just a few weeks, particularly for relatively straightforward administrative processes.

At the other end of the scale, I’ve seen some businesses struggle for years and fail to implement process applications because they didn’t have the right tools or the right skills in place.

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