It wasn't that long ago that business process management was all about automating paper-based business process in order to make them function better and cost less. To do this, most companies just hard-wired the business logic into a computer and called it done. And, while this work continues in many industries today (healthcare being the first one that jumps to mind), given the speed at which digital transformation is taking over entire marketplaces (music, for example) and how the anytime/anywhere access to information is changing the very definition of "work" for an entire generation (Millennials and GenXers, in this case), treating business processes as a series of steps to be automated is an antiquated approach that will not net real business benefit in today's digital economy.
The way companies must react to challenges, threats, and opportunities today is completely different than it was just a decade ago. This may seem like a long time in Internet years, but business years move much more slowly. In fact, it was only a generation or two ago when doing business today the way you did it yesterday was seen a sign of a mature and, therefore, trustworthy company.
This is no longer the case.
New consumer technologies like mobile, social, and cloud are forcing companies to continuously reinvent how they interact with their customers. And it not just consumer facing organizations that are feeling the pressure. Even B2B companies, the companies that are hardly household names, are being forced to leverage technology and information to keep their business customers (internal and external) happy and loyal. That is why a lot of CEOs are looking to digitize their supply chain technology, and CIOs are spending their time on business transformation beyond technology.
In order to rethink business processes today you have to start not with the existing processes but by envisioning how your people actually work, the information they need to get their jobs done, and the technologies they choose in order to accomplish that task. Like the technology that supports them, processes today need to be agile and flexible; able to react quickly to a fast-changing business landscape. Taking six months to meet a competitor head-on is no longer an option. Market share in the Internet age can ebb and flow in hours and days, not the months and years of days past.
While pulling this off may require a cultural change in your organization, the ultimate goal is to empower people to react quickly and make better decisions faster, across the entire business. In other words, it's not just about giving them more information faster but providing them with decision making options and the potential business outcomes of those options.
A good example of this is mobile; today's corollary to yesterday's business process automation push. Like business process automation, just adding mobile capabilities to a business process is just a functional feature. It's the knock-on aspects that really matter: decreasing decision making cycles, gaining improved situational awareness through information sharing, reducing time-to-revenue, and improving the customer experience.
As process technology continues its evolution you can expect to see the emergence of "pre-active" processes that react to a range of inputs not with a pre-defined set of outputs but more intuitively, much like a human would. In this future, the process is no longer just a series of steps to be interacted with, but a nervous system organizations can depend on to do what they do better.
To learn more about the future of business apps, read the white paper: “Making A Better Framework For BPM”