It’s happening again folks. Just when we thought the BPM versus Case Management discussion had been finally put to bed Forrester have gone round blasting their car horn and woke the debate up with their publication today of their Smart Process Application (SPA) wave. In this sequel the debate has moved to the cloud.
Forrester define Smart Process Applications as packaged process apps that encompass many of the characteristics we associate with case management business processes including collaboration and variability. SPA characteristics include ease of use with the ability to be modified rapidly in response to changing business and market conditions. Crucially they expect the cloud to be the primary delivery infrastructure for SPAs making them easier to deploy, support and continuously improve.
However an already established definition, BPaaS (Business Process as a Service) exists for business processes delivered based on the cloud services model. So what’s the difference between a SPA and BPaaS? Are they the same thing? Are SPA’s a subset of BPaaS? Or are we about to have another debate over transactional versus variable business processes, BPM versus Case Management?
Is BPaaS BPM in the cloud and Smart Process Applications Case Management in the cloud? Are BPaaS applications high volume, cloud based transactional business processes and SPA applications lower volume, variable, knowledge worker focused processes in the cloud? Do we really need another term added to the cloud services model?
In my opinion SPAs will be viewed as a subset of BPaaS, as enhanced BPaaS functionality in the same way that Case Management features are viewed as enhanced BPM functionality today. In the same way that some BPM suites offer case management today some BPaaS platforms will be able to offer SPA capabilities and others won’t.
(P.S. Click here if you want a free copy of the SPA Wave)
Is the future for BPM strategic or tactical? A recent client engagement has thrown into focus a debate that is beginning to emerge about the future of BPM. To give you some background, the client is looking for an expense management solution and is having an internal debate on whether to choose a prebuilt, off-the-shelf application or whether to build their own in house solution using a BPM suite. The accounting department, who will use the solution, are recommending purchase of the pre-built application, emphasizing speed of deployment and lower cost as their key motivating factors. The IT department, who hold the budget, are recommending acquisition of a BPM suite, motivated by the classic BPM reasons of process flexibility and extensibility into other departmental processes. The accounting department is thus looking for a quick tactical play; the IT department is looking at a longer term strategic play.
Is BPM Tactical?
BPM has for a long time been regarded as a strategic play. It’s often said that successful BPM projects require both cultural and strategic change within organizations. Establishment of BPM centers of excellence, back office integration and the optimization of processes that cut across multiple departments all require that the organization and its employees are in sync and are willing to review established practices. But all of this takes time, effort and significant cost, creating barriers for widespread BPM adoption, putting the BPM suite out of reach for many smaller businesses.
In our personal lives we expect to download an app and begin using it in minutes and with no training. Increasingly we are expecting the same user experience in business. Today this is most apparent in the increased trend towards BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and BYOS (Bring Your Own Software) and the exponential adoption of generic SaaS applications like SalesForce.com. It was inevitable that business process applications would follow this path.
Process On Demand
The growing demand for pre-built business process applications is a challenge and an opportunity for BPM vendors. A challenge because any organization with process expertize in a specific market segment can now quite easily set themselves up as a business process outsourcer (BPO). An opportunity because ultimately prebuilt business process applications extend the market for process optimization from medium and large organizations to smaller organizations for whom the cost of a BPM application, development, training etc. is prohibitive.
While the classic strategic reasons for deploying BPM suites will remain, increasingly organizations will deploy process solutions for shorter term tactical reasons. In this tactical scenario the role for BPM will be as a cloud based, on demand, process delivery engine. The future for BPM is tactical.
For a while I associated the term “internet of things” (IOT) with some pretty depressing applications such as fridges that automatically order food or televisions that recommend what to watch based on previous viewing behavior thus trapping owners in death spiral of both eating and watching rubbish. In the past year or so IOT appears to have left its teenage years behind and begun to develop some maturity..
From insurance to medicine IOT applications are starting to spring up and deliver some significant benefits to users. For example in car telematics devices which monitor driver behavior and adjust the insurance premiums accordingly are becoming widely adopted, especially as a way of reducing premiums for young drivers. Some telematics providers include an accident service with the black box device alerting the insurer in the event of a collision.
So how does all this apply to BPM? Fundamentally all of these smart devices are capturing data, whether it’s about themselves or their users. What’s the point of capturing all this data on whether granny has taken her pills, your driving performance or your personal health if it still takes ages for someone to find, analyze and route the data to the right person. As we can see from the telematics use case what is necessary is for the IOT device to trigger processes.
This is where BPM and the delivery of IOT process solutions come in. Just like with enterprise social networks the BPM tool has the potential to turbo charge IOT adoption. By taking the captured data and applying it directly to processes we can significantly enhance the value of IOT devices. What if the data from the heart monitor automatically triggered a new medical case or doctor’s appointment once a certain threshold was exceeded? What if the pill bottle alerted a carer or next of kin? Could we soon reach a point where an ambulance arrives to pick you up before you knew you were ill?
In reality IOT process solutions will be a mash up of multiple technologies from BPM and Case Management to Business Intelligence and Data Analytics delivered by multiple horizontal and vertical solution providers depending on their area of process expertise.
Once regarded as a back office application BPM is now firmly established in the front office through integration with CRM and ERP and increasingly through the delivery of mobile process applications BPM has also started to invade the customer realm. IOT integration simply represents the next phase in this journey.
Many organizations use variants of the same core process map. For example a multinational organization may follow the same sales process worldwide but have different products or employee sales targets per region. A Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) organization will deliver the same core process for many customers but will have for example different SLA agreements or use different resources depending on the customer and product.
Singularity defines a process skin as a variant of a core process map or template. A process skin changes the rules associated with the process but not the process itself.
“We believe that process skins will significantly reduce the operational cost of managing multiple business process variants and can transform the operational agility of BPO and multinational organizations,” said Peter Browne, CTO at Singularity.
Singularity clients can now define a process map as a ‘Process Template’ and quickly create different variants of that template map as ‘Skins’ based on operational parameters such as SLAs and resources.
Individual modification of process variants is no longer required when changes are made to the core process template, in some cases reducing an activity that previously took months to a matter of minutes. Organizations can dynamically modify multiple process variants simultaneously, without reliance on I.T., transforming their operational agility and allowing them to rapidly react to changing market conditions.
Process Skins includes the following features: Dynamically Modify Existing Core Process Templates Previously whenever changes to the core process map were required this change had to be replicated across all process variants representing a significant cost overhead to the organization. Now dynamically changed processes are effective within the skin immediately, including on any jobs that are live on the skin.
Users can customize the operational data for each skin, for example it is possible to define Red-Amber-Green (RAG) settings in a skin, which are different from the settings defined in the core process template.
Many organizational processes change temporarily, for example short term promotions or changes to approvals processes at financial year end. Users can now define skin rules based on which of the skins are dynamically selected at run-time.
Each release creates a new version of the skin (major versions only). The jobs created on a skin always use the latest skin version.