When thinking about recent trends like “The Digital Enterprise” or “Internet of Things”, I often try to find a common link or simple way to communicate how these trends are changing the way business is supported by IT. I believe that the easiest way to explain the effect of big data, cloud, analytics and IOT on IT is to focus on business processes and the changes that are needed to support this ever changing landscape.
Business Process Management
If we are going to start with a business process view, we must also look at Business Process Automation tools or (BPM). BPM offers a wide range of capabilities that are needed to traverse the complexities of big data, factory of the future and IOT initiatives. In order to create value out of millions of connected devices, business processes must be lean, automated and global in nature. Imagine trying to make sense out of terabytes of data without first understanding the context of that data and the processes that both create and support the devices. It would be next to impossible.
Now imagine a global automated process that supports field service and how easy it would be to introduce IOT concepts for remote devices that are supported by field service. The better the process the easier it is to introduce and decipher large amounts of data.
Another challenge for today’s Digital Enterprise is the idea of “connected applications”.
To truly maximize value from digitization, solutions must be connected throughout the supply chain, factory, sales and marketing channels, and customer experience. For example, a vending machine that reports an out of service error and an out of materials error would drive two very different processes within the back-office.
"By leveraging the concept of BPM technology combined with a Lean Six Sigma effort, we can develop the MDM process needed to support today’s digital enterprise"
A single device that is connected to the internet now has the ability to drive supply chain processes and field service calls with an automated signal. If the solutions that support those processes are not connected and scalable, revenues will be lost.
I believe that we have finally seen the convergence of BPM technology and the promise of self-service. Business Process Management is the technology that connects the IOT and back-office processes by extending business rules, case management and analytics to a layer above the traditional ERP and back-office systems. BPM allows for a rapid change and rollout of processes that are required to service and support the connected world. Introducing a change into this layer is made easier by technology and the fact that regression testing and compliance issues are reduced in scope. It’s easier to change directions with an agile and smaller craft than the Titanic.
BPM is the technology partner to Lean Six Sigma process improvement. Not only does BPM allow for fast, global implementations of Lean processes, it provides a unique benefit in the form of a “Perpetual DMAIC”. In fact BPM touches all five letters in the DMAIC process.
D – Define-The automated process is the definition M–Measure- The process can be measured based on the predetermined metrics A–Analyze- Because all transactions and cases are auditable, the analysis is available in line and variations can be identified I–Improve- Once a gap or opportunity is identified within the process , it can be improved C–Control- The automated process is now updated and becomes the new standard. The DMAIC can now be repeated with the new process
While BPM automates the data collection and visibility, the process as to make improvements remains manual. If we apply adaptive and predictive analytics, we can automate the DMAIC process using algorithms to detect variations that resulted in KPI improvements and then standardize on those variations.
Master Data Management
The final complement needed for the “Digital Enterprise” is Master Data Management. I am not recommending a restrictive process that slows down data maintenance to a crawl, but rather the familiar concept of a global process that provides simplification and consistency to data maintenance.
Duplicate user ids or machines names and incorrect organizational structures will cripple any digital process. If the process is constantly breaking down and requiring manual human intervention it is not digital in nature.
By leveraging the concept of BPM technology combined with a Lean Six Sigma effort, we can develop the MDM process needed to support today’s digital enterprise. Even if your company is using a large central ERP system, the complexities and speed of change will require a BPM solution that wraps the core data model with an easy to use, flexible process.
Now that we have covered the basic tenants of BPM, the partnership with Lean Six Sigma and the need for connected processes – we can see how BPM is the enabling technology for businesses that want to take the step to become “Digital Enterprises”. BPM is the glue that will connect the global processes necessary to support the IOTs, big data and analytics that are needed to compete and provide a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace.