The Business Process Management (BPM) discipline is in the midst of a revival. In my recent analysis, entitled Will BPM Experience a Renaissance of Its Final Fall from Grace, I examined the state of the discipline, and the fate its practitioners face as the world around them is shifting. But what is unquestionable is that the need for BPM has never been greater—just not in the way it began. As I examined in my previous article, BPM started as a way of documenting and optimizing business processes to extract every ounce of efficiency possible from them. While optimization and efficiency remain relevant, they’re not what’s driving this renaissance in BPM.
Instead, it’s the now-critical need to create organizational agility, drive rapid innovation, and execute customer-centric digital transformation. As I examined in a recent article on CIO.com, these are now top-of-mind issues for every IT executive, and “the ability to deliver them in an organizational context is why BPM is starting to take a central role in some transformational efforts.”
For all of these reasons, BPM is—or at least should be—on your radar as you look to accelerate your transformational efforts and increase your rate of automation. But there’s also a good chance that struggles with past BPM efforts that led to bureaucracy and bloat, but little positive business impact, may be leading to a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s a legitimate concern, but one that new approaches and technology advancements are rendering unnecessary.
Transforming BPM with low-code
While business demands have been transforming the discipline of BPM, the technology supporting it has been revolutionized by a new software class: so-called low-code development platforms. Traditional technology approaches to BPM focused on the documentation of business processes. But this new generation of BPM-centric low-code platforms is all about the simultaneous documentation and automation of those processes.
Moreover, the nature of low-code platforms, which enable nontechnical users to model business processes and create applications using a graphical interface, means that organizations can push both BPM and automation activities closer to where they need them most. This democratization of development, which enables those users closest to the point of customer engagement or the improvement opportunity, is a transformative act. Making it possible for these nontechnical users to rapidly create applications, test ideas, and iterate improvements allows them to take an entirely new approach to BPM.
Rather than using BPM merely to document existing processes and solve efficiency problems, the advent of these low-code development platforms enables these nontechnical users to imagine all-new possibilities. In doing so, they can create new technology-powered processes that may have been otherwise impossible or caught up in the IT development backlog.
This leveraging of low-code tools, which allows IT and business users to collaborate in the BPM and development process, enables organizations to leverage the discipline of BPM to create organizational agility and drive innovation that creates competitive advantage. The combination of BPM principles and low-code platforms enables IT leaders to bring a wealth of capabilities into their organizations, including:
Rapidly experiment, develop, and adapt highly targeted applications.
Enable business users to dynamically document, adapt, and automate business processes.
Quickly identify opportunities to improve customer experience, using all-new business or operating processes, and then automate them.
A new generation of AI-powered automation
The essence of digital transformation has always been about the customer. And it’s those organizations that can excite their customers—often using technology to do it—that are disrupting and reshaping entire industries. In the beginning, simple customer-facing innovations were enough to create an advantage. Today, however, that’s not the case. Now it requires the wholesale transformation of business models and operating processes, which is yet another reason why BPM has once again become so critical. But even that won’t be enough for much longer.
Increasingly, customers demand that organizations leverage data and artificial intelligence (AI) to create immersive and transformative experiences. “We all know that artificial intelligence is playing a huge role in how businesses operate. AI programs and services are helping transform everything from data collection and processing in the marketing department to onboarding in the HR department,” explained Daniel Newman in a recent Forbes article. “While AI and automation hold tremendous value in terms of time and cost savings internally, there is another area in which AI promises even bigger, more meaningful returns: customer experience.”
Until recently, however, this application of AI into customer-facing business processes has required an entirely new—and costly—technical capability: data science teams. But here too, low-code platforms are starting to change the game. Many of the most modern and advanced examples of these platforms, such as Zoho Creator, are now democratizing the integration of AI into applications, making this technology accessible for non-business users. The ease in applying this now-essential technology will be a critical enabler, as organizations seek to transform both the customer and employee experience. Interestingly, however, AI may also play another central role in unleashing BPM’s transformative power in an organization.
In a recent article for CMSWire, Michael Wu explains that organizations have mostly used AI to assist humans in the decision-making process. As AI continues to improve, and as organizations begin to leverage it to take on more direct decision-making responsibility—whether customer-facing or with internal processes — they’ll need to make massive changes to their business processes to accommodate this shift. Here again, leveraging the BPM discipline and low-code development platforms will be critical in making this transition happen quickly and without disruption.
The Intellyx take: Powering your transformational engine
While the hype around digital transformation is palpable, the underlying market drivers pushing organizations of every size to transform themselves to meet new customer demands are very real. Customers, partners, and employees all now expect that organizations leverage modern technologies to deliver intelligent and personalized experiences. But the specifics surrounding those expectations are in a continual state of flux, making this an ongoing challenge, rather than a one-time technology project to implement.
These shifting experiential demands will require the near-continual adaptation of an organization’s business processes for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the need to continually adapt is why IT leaders need to build a lasting capability—a transformational engine, if you will—that will deliver the agility and continuous innovation they need to create and sustain competitive advantage.
And it will be the combination of the BPM discipline coupled with low-code platforms, like Zoho Creator, that will power this transformation engine.