In 2014, the top priorities for business process management (BPM) initiatives focused on extending mission critical business processes to support the mobile workforce and redesigning business processes to deliver exceptional customer experiences. During 2014, Forrester also noticed a growing appetite to move business critical processes into the cloud using BPM platform-as-a-service solutions. And, although customer sentiment for BPM was mixed to negative in 2014, software vendors reported respectable double-digit revenue growth for BPM solutions. Sounds like it’s time to pop the bubbly and celebrate, right?
Not quite yet. In 2015, BPM will fight to expand its relevance in the front office and will need to shed serious weight to better align with age of the customer imperatives that prioritize speed-to-market over analysis and complexity – traditional hallmarks of the BPM discipline and software solutions. Together, with my colleague Craig Le Clair, we expect 2015 to be a tipping point for the BPM market. In 2015, customer-obsession – the relentless focus on winning, retaining, and serving customers – will disrupt and reshape the entire ecosystem for BPM:
Over the last 12 years, I've seen – and helped drive – a lot of change in the BPM market. First, I watched BPM move from a heavy focus on integration to a greater focus on collaboration and social interaction. And then, BPM expanded from highly structured and ‘automate-able’ processes to address unstructured, more dynamic business processes. It is safe to say that over the last decade, demand for BPM was driven by key characteristics of the "Information Age" - a relentless drive towards improving the flow and sharing of information across people and systems.
Now, the most compelling business cases powering fresh demand for BPM focus on characteristics of the new age we are moving into - what Forrester calls the "Age Of The Customer." If you look closely at most of today’s BPM initiatives, they tend to hide behind an imaginary firewall that separates what external customers experience and what internal business operations feel they need to be efficient. In this new age, business leaders are waking up to the realization that they can no longer divorce process improvement from the people and systems that touch customers, partners, and customer-facing employees.
How is it possible for a local company to defeat global giants like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Watsons in your market segment and establish market leadership for more than a decade? The answer is given by Nongfu Spring, a Chinese company in manufacturing and retail industries. In my recent report “Case Study: Technology Innovation Enables Nongfu Spring To Strengthen Market Leadership”, I analyzed the key factors behind their success, and provide related best practice from enterprise architecture perspective. These factors include
Business strategy is enterprise architecture's top priority. EA pros often need to be involved in project-level IT activities to resolve issues and help IT teams put out fires. But it's much more important that architects have a vision, clearly understand the business strategy, and thoroughly consider the appropriate road map that will support it in order to be able to address the root causes of challenges.
Agile infrastructure sets up the foundation for scalable business growth. Infrastructure scalability is the basis of business scalability. Infrastructure experts should consider not only the agility that virtualization and IaaS solutions will provide next-generation infrastructure, but also network-level load balancing among multiple telecom carriers. They should also refine the network topology for enterprise security.
The IT services industry is being challenged on two opposite fronts. At one end, IT organizations need efficient, reliable operations; at the other, business stakeholders increasingly demand new, innovative systems of engagement that enable better customer and partner interactions.
My colleagues Andy Bartels and Craig Le Clair recently published thought provoking reports on an emerging class of software — smart process apps — that enable systems of engagement. In his report, Craig explains that “Smart process apps will package enterprise social platforms, mobility, and dynamic case management (DCM) to serve goals of innovation, collaboration, and workforce productivity.” In other words, smart process apps play a critical role in filling gaping process holes between traditional systems of records and systems of engagement.
Ten years ago, open source software (OSS) was more like a toy for independent software vendors (ISVs) in China: Only the geeks in R&D played around with it. However, the software industry has been developing quickly in China throughout the past decade, and technology trends such as service-oriented architecture (SOA), business process management (BPM), cloud computing, the mobile Internet, and big data are driving much broader adoption of OSS.
OSS has become a widely used element of firms’ enterprise architecture. For front-end application architecture on the client side, various open source frameworks, such as jQuery and ExtJS, have been incorporated into many ISVs’ front-end frameworks. On the server side, OSS like Node.js is becoming popular for ISVs in China for high Web throughput capabilities. From an infrastructure and information architecture perspective, open source offerings like Openstack, Cloudstack, and Eucalyptus have been piloted by major telecom carriers including China Telecom and China Unicom, as well as information and communication solution providers like Huawei and IT service providers like CIeNET. To round this out, many startup companies are developing solutions based on MongoDB, an open source NoSQL database.
Familiarity with OSS is becoming a necessary qualification for software developers and product strategy professionals. Because of the wide usage of OSS among both vendors and end users, working experience and extensive knowledge with OSS is becoming a necessary qualification not only for software engineers, but also an important factors for product strategy professionals to establish appropriate product road maps and support their business initiatives.
As some of you know, I’m a bit of a political junkie. I believe I picked up the political bug from years of riding shotgun with my dad as he listened to Rush Limbaugh blaring on the car radio. As a kid, I loved listening to Rush and trying to understand where he was coming from, trying to understand his perspective, trying to understand his ideology. The term “culture wars” in U.S. politics is used to define a clash between two different political ideologies – conservatism and liberalism.
Over the past few years, I’ve also started using the term “culture wars” to describe the clash and fragmentation we’ve seen in the BPM market. In the BPM space, the clash has primarily been around dynamic case management (DCM), human-centric workflow, and straight-through processing ideologies.
I’m the first to admit that fragmentation and categorization is not always a bad thing, since it can help software buyers and decision-makers better understand which solutions best match their business requirements and desired business outcomes. However, the fragmentation in BPM sometimes overlooks the primary purpose and value proposition of BPM – to help support creating a sustainable business change program.
Lately, I have become a bit obsessed with evaluating the linkage between good process design and good experience design. This obsession was initially sparked by primary research I led earlier this year around reinventing andredesigning business processes for mobile. The mobile imperative is driving a laser focus for companies to create exceptional user experiences for their customers, employees, and partners. But this laser focus on exceptional design is not only reshaping the application development world. This drive for exceptional user experience is also radically changing the way companies approach business process design.
Over the past six months, I have run across more and more BPM teams where user experience is playing a much larger role in driving business process change. Some of these teams highlighted that they see experience design playing a greater role in driving process change than the actual process modeling and analysis aspects of process improvement.
Outside of BPM, one of my other passions is mentoring college students through the process of launching new startups. I enjoy helping students tighten up their business ideas and seeing them build business plans that can attract the funding they need to stand up and implement their ventures.
Recently, after reviewing and providing feedback on a student’s business plan, the student responded, “I can launch my business without a business plan; all this planning seems like a waste of time.” At first, I thought he was joking. However, I could read by the look on his face that he was serious. I am sure you can imagine the conversation that followed.
The next day when I reflected on the conversation, I had a moment of satori. I could see that startups share the same risk/reward profile as business process management initiatives. Just like startups, BPM initiatives promise huge returns to investors and stakeholders. Additionally, just like startups, BPM initiatives are fraught with risks such as inadequate funding, low adoption, and difficulty attracting skilled resources.
My conversation with the student about the importance of business planning seemed to parallel conversations I often have with enterprise architects and business architects launching or retooling their BPM initiatives. Most tend to overestimate the BPM’s potential rewards and downplay — or do not fully understand — the risks involved with launching a BPM initiative. However, for the most successful BPM initiatives, I have found that their leaders tend to have a “lean startup” mentality.
What does it mean to have a “lean startup” mentality?
Arguably, mobile is currently the hottest trend driving both business and technology strategies for executives. If you need any additional evidence, just look at all of the enterprise buzz Apple has generated with the iPhone 5 launch. Unfortunately, today’s business and technology leaders continue to respond to the mobile opportunity with the wrong answers. Business leaders respond to mobile with, “Let’s build a really slick mobile app, put it up on iTunes and we’re done!” Technologists respond to mobile with, “We need a strong BYOD policy and to put device management tools in place!” Both of these responses completely overlook the fact that underlying legacy applications and business processes need optimizing for the mobile experience.
We run into examples of this “lipstick on a pig” approach to mobile all the time. In fact, I ran into a perfect example of this recently when I needed to order a pizza for my family after a very hectic Saturday afternoon. When I picked up my mobile phone to call the pizza delivery place, a light bulb went off over my head. Instead of dialing the pizza delivery company and waiting on hold for 15 minutes, why not download its mobile app in two minutes and order my pizza within another two minutes. I figured I could shave off ten minutes of wait time by simply downloading the pizza delivery company’s mobile app.
I recently finished reading Moneyball, the Michael Lewis bestseller and slightly above-average Hollywood movie. It struck me how great baseball minds could be so off in their focus on the right metrics to win baseball games. And by now you know the story — paying too much for high batting averages with insufficient focus where it counts —metrics that correlate with scoring runs, like on-base percentage. Not nearly as dramatic — but business is having its own “Moneyball” experience with way too much focus on traditional metrics like productivity and quality and not enough on customer experience and, most importantly, agility.
Agility is the ability to execute change without sacrificing customer experience, quality, and productivity and is “the” struggle for mature enterprises and what makes them most vulnerable to digital disruption. Enterprises routinely cite the incredible length of time to get almost any change made. I’ve worked at large companies and it’s just assumed that things move slowly, bureaucratically, and inefficiently. But why do so many just accept this? For one thing, poor agility undermines the value of other collected BPM metrics. Strong customer experience metrics are useless if you can’t respond to them in a timely manner, and so is enhanced productivity if it only results in producing out-of-date products or services faster.