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Business Processes Are Not So Passe And Why?

Published on: Thursday, February 09, 2017

I can almost sense you frowning we’re way past that debate of need for processes. We should be, yes. Are we past that debate, probably. Then, why this piece? Because somewhere the ghost is still out there. Despite the fact that business processes were always supposed to be taken seriously, we’re still busy dealing with various moving parts in business while the market is moving faster than organizations can cope with.

The attention to digital or the digital distraction?

During 2016, conversations have been highjacked by digital with a dose of AI and robotics blended in it. Talking about processes feels passe. There’s probably a good reason to avoid that talk. People want to focus on results, and not processes. But, is that a reflection of reality, or just a gesture or intent?

Large enterprises still struggle with the big question around how to tie in the customer interfaces with backend operations. On the other hand, the upstarts or new age digital enterprises build their business around digital ecosystem, and yet, the moment they hit the growth curve, they have to deal with the age-old problem around connecting people, process, systems, and now, things.

The process question / The sustainable growth dilemma

Customer has obviously taken center stage in digital or the new age business ecosystems. The real question that enterprises of larger size or the ones undergoing that fast growth, really face is this – How do we balance Customer Experience, Innovation, and Efficiency?

Efficiency is spoken about so much that it’s lost its sheen, but it is the one critical aspect of any sustainably profitable business in long term. And, efficiency needs structure. As the COO of any fast growing or large business would concur, the processes and efficiency take more than just hiring right people and empowering them, and buying all the technology on the side. Structured processes are key to Efficiency.

However, at the same time, you want agility and flexibility. If you take customer complaints or incident management, think of any large or fast-growing organization that provides a great customer experience. It requires a mix of well designed process, flexibility in the process, empowered and motivated workforce, and of course, carrying the context through the process.

So, what is this about?

2017 will see the significant trends in process areas, albeit on the back of digital drive, all in the quest of balancing the demands of innovation, speed, customer centricity and efficiency.

1. The Rise of Machines. We hear about bots on daily basis today. These bots wear diverse attire, from industrial robots, to drones, to software bots and messenger bots. While robotics will play a major role in general, whats also significant is how Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will gather mass and help enterprises walk the last mile of process automation. In large voluminous operations, RPA can, and will free up knowledge workers from the routine, boring, mundane activities and let them focus on what they do best.

2. Resurgence of Knowledge Workers. Organizations have spent tremendous energies in past in tying up their resources to work in accordance with preset policies and processes. However, as they realize in the increasingly digital world, the real value comes from knowledge workers spending time making the decisions in the right context so as to serve their customers better. The ability to handle exceptions and flexibility to be able to re-route the process as needed are important elements that will gather more mainstream adoption in 2017.

3. Agility and Flexibility for Customer-centricity. The days of preset processes are gone. Customer experience is the fundamental expectation that are driving enterprises on to innovative paths of handling diverse situations. One-size-fit-all doesn’t work any more. Organizations would spend more time in the coming year in delivering the overall process experience to their customers. This requires various pieces of the processes to come together through a balance of standard processes and built-in flexibility.

Case Management to the fore

So, going forward, It is going to be about a process platform that will be able to support structured as well as unstructured aspects of processes in the same process domain, in the same process environment, and across start to end of a customer facing process. The real customer experience requires that your front-end processes driven by all digital interfaces, are not silo’ed from your back-end operations, and there’s customer centricity across. And, that quest does require you to think of structure and flexibility – blend thereof.

Traditional Business Process Management (BPM) methodologies and platforms will give way to a Case Management based approach. We will see a tying in of customer facing digital sensing technologies, with a fluid-yet-systematic case management capability, along with well integrated robotic process automation and content management. While digital trends drive the organizations ahead, the case management based process platforms will provide them the engine to propel ahead with sustainable growth.