I’m starting off the BPM2019 academic/research conference in the workshop day attending the session on BPM in the era of digital innovation and transformation, organized by Oktay Turetken of Eindoven University of Technology. Great to walk into the room and be greeted by a long-time acquaintance, Wasana Bandara, who is here from the Queensland University of Australia to deliver several papers in other sessions later this week.
The opening keynote in the workshop was by Maximilian Röglinger of Universität Bayreuth, Fraunhofer FIT on BPM capabilities for the digital age (also covered in a BP Trends article by the authors). He and his research team have a focus on inter-disciplinary process-related topics with a management focus, closely collaborating with industry. Their main interest in recent research is on how BPM is changing (and needs to change) as organizations move into the digital age, and they performed a Delphi study on the question of what’s next for BPM in this new environment. As with all Delphi studies, this was done in rounds: first identifying the challenges and opportunities, and the second phase on identifying and ranking capabilities. This was based on the six core elements of BPM capabilities — strategic alignment, governance, methods, information technology, people and culture — identified in Michael Rosemann’s research from 2007.
Röglinger made some interesting points about specific capabilities that were considered important by industry versus research participants in the study, and presented an updated BPM capability framework that included merging the methods and information technology areas. Only three of the capabilities from the original framework are identical; the other 27 are either new (13) or enhanced (14). Many of the new capabilities are data-related: not new in research or practice, of course, but newly recognized as fundamental BPM capabilities rather than something that just happens to occur alongside it.
They have a number of results with both theoretical and managerial implications, a couple of which I found particularly interesting:
- Industry and academia have different perceptions about the challenges and opportunities for BPM in the digital age. This seems obvious at first glance, but highlights the disconnect between research and practice. The first time I attended this conference, I recall writing about ideas that I saw in the research papers and wondering why there weren’t more BPM vendors and other practitioners at the conference to help drive this alignment (thankfully, now there is an industry track at the conference). Of course, there will always be academic research that has no (obvious) immediate industry use, and therefore little interest until it becomes closer to practical use, but we need to have better collaboration between industry and academia to inspire research and promote adoption of new ideas.
- The scope of BPM needs to expand to other disciplines and technologies, and not be completely focused on process-centric technologies. There’s a blockchain forum here at BPM 2019, and in industry we’re seeing the inclusion of many other technologies in what have traditionally been BPM suites. I’m giving a short presentation later in the workshop on BPM as the keystone of digital/business automation platforms, in which I discuss some of the practical architectural considerations for these broader capabilities.
Following the keynote, we had a paper presentation from Ralf Laue of Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau on The Power of the Ideal Final Result for Identifying Process Optimization Potential. He had some interesting comments on customer journey modeling and other techniques based on an existing process, in that it typically only results in incremental improvement, not innovative results (which is similar to my views on Lean Six Sigma for process improvement). Based on ideas from TRIZ methodology for pattern-based design, Laue stressed that it’s necessary to “not stop thinking too early” in the design process. Applied to customer journeys, this means including not only customer touch-points, but the “non-touch-points”, that is, other things that the customer does that are not (currently) involved in their interaction with an organization. Modeling the entire customer process, rather than just their touch-points with the organization, allows us to look at process optimization that is centered on the customer.
Next was a paper on an empirical analysis to understanding the need for new perspectives on BPM in the digital age, presented by Christian Janiesch from Technische Universität Dresden. They looked at a number of questions about BPM, such as whether BPM is still the driving force in digital transformation projects, and interviewed companies that had deployed BPM successfully — possibly a perspective that would tend to support the central positioning of BPM in digital transformation. They have found that the emergence of digital technology has led to organizations having less overall process control, although I would posit that the amount of process control is the same, just that some previously manual processes (uncontrolled but also unobserved) are now managed with digital tools that don’t use explicit process control. They found a need for a funded BPM CoE for coordinating process improvement activities, and for the inclusion of more than just the automation/management of core processes. Two interesting conclusions:
- At present, BPM isn’t seen as the driving force for successful digital transformation initiatives. My presentation after this shows how a BPM engine is a keystone for a digital automation platform, but I agree that BPM is not necessarily front-of-mind for companies implementing these projects.
- BPM needs to expand its focus on core processes to encompass more processes and a more universal involvement. This is being done in part by the low-code “citizen developer” products that we’re seeing from BPM vendors.
The last paper was presented by Anna-Maria Exler from Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (where we are hosted this week) on The Use of Distance Metrics in Managing Business Process Transfer, that is, migrating a business process from one organization to another, as will happen when one company acquires another, or a centralized process is rolled out to branches of an organization. This is still fairly early research, and is looking at factors such as the acceptance of the processes by the target organization. They consider six factors and are mapping their interaction, such as more stakeholder integration having a positive impact on acceptance. They have also derived some proximity/distance factors that will impact the process transfer, such as geographic, cultural and technical distance, and visualization of dimensional proximity using a network diagram. Future research will include additional organizations to help derive measurement and weighting of the distance factors.
The workshop finished with a short presentation by me on BPM systems as the keystone for digital automation platforms, which covers a small bit of the material that I’ll be presenting next week at CamundaCon, with some additional bits that I thought would be more interesting for this audience.