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IBM Process Summit 2016: Digital Transformation and the Business Process Imperative


Neil Ward-Dutton of MWD Advisors kicked off the day at IBM’s Process Summit talking about digital transformation and business processes.  Neil began with a key point – that “Digital Transformation” is more than just hype but that it is also a complicated and multi-faceted concept.

interconnectedCompanies are being digitally disrupted because the internet and mobile technology allow very small companies to compete on something of a level playing field. This disruption generally hits in employee engagement, external (customer) engagement, operations and strategy/products. Different groups see these different areas as critically important – HR think about employees, marketing about customer engagement, COOs about operations and IoT etc. But these areas are increasingly blurred and interconnected because it is all about the more efficient, more effective, coordination of resources. Technology allows these perspectives to be linked and integrated. And this is key as none of these pieces can be delivered separately – customer engagement depends on the engagement of the employees the customer interacts with, the operational environment and much more.

The focus of many companies facing this disruption focus on a future based on cloud, social, IoT etc. But the key is actually how to get to this future – how to instrument products and services (so you can understand what is going on) and create agility in your processes and business models (so you can respond and adapt as you learn).

Organizations need to “weave a digital thread” that connects an increasingly distributed value and supply chain to a cross-channel, customer-centric experience. This creates a need for true process transformation, creating processes that tie all these pieces together. Good process platforms, he says, create digital threads. They allow knowledge sharing and work coordination; make it easy to change behavior and policy; and track/manage business performance.

This distributed approach to value chains shows up in how large companies are valued – organizations own fewer tangible assets and intangible assets like brand now dominate. The knowledge of how to coordinate this becomes a critical asset and this knowledge is concentrated at the front-edge of a company. But this is where turnover and outsourcing has the greatest impact – and turnover is higher than ever. A digital platform must therefore do more than just ensure efficiency – it must make those people effective.

This is where the changes in how systems work, the use of cognitive and analytic technology, start to matter. In particular they allow systems to be developed that adapt themselves to the way people work rather than the reverse. Systems are shifting from explicitly programmed to learning and adaptive systems. Becoming more predictive, more able to make recommendations. This change in how decisions get made is matched with a change in how process platforms work – supporting more flexible, more dynamic workstyles too. Bring processes to where the work is by decoupling the process from the user experience so process can be embedded in different user interfaces.

A new platform is emerging that combines mobile, cloud, social and analytics to drive recommended decisions, tasks and processes while supporting collaboration, bringing customers into the process and extending the process out to the field. A new set of choices have to be made about how best to design the work of an organization. You need a digital platform that can support this – model-driven for agility, instrumented for measurement, open for varied deployment choices, and designed for broad collaboration across business and IT.