February 26, 2013

Real-time process analytics: improvement or innovation?

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Gartner says by 2016, 70 percent of the most profitable companies will manage their business processes using real-time predictive analytics or extreme collaboration. By making processes “aware” of a wide range of work interactions and their context, these processes can dynamically change their behavior through a feedback loop.

Looking at the clients I have recently worked with, I can see examples where process execution can benefit from such real-time analytics. For example, in the postal sector, the sorting and transporting activities could become more efficient when they are dynamically optimised for the current flow of incoming mail items. This may even improve the customer service and experience: as the logistic process becomes more dynamic, there is less need for planning, which increases the customer’s flexibility. Business process managers and architects should thus assess the trade-of between cost efficiency and customer experience.

This is an example of point-wise process improvement. However, in today’s fast changing world, the real challenge for many businesses lies in process innovation, along with product and service innovation. Improved mail operations will not protect the postal sector from the steep decline in snail mail usage in our digital world.

Gartner is probably right: we will see a rise in implementation and usage of tools supporting intelligent business operations (IBO). People often see tools as a solution for current or future challenges, SOA being one such example. History, however, shows that the return on investment is often poor when service orientation is implemented mainly from a technical or tool perspective.

That is the risk of this evolution towards intelligent business operations. Many businesses will take the more straightforward, tool oriented approach (select process, implement tool, hope things will improve) instead of, as a first step, really questionning their processes and services. A first step, more difficult, but oh so important.

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