Driving business agility

Samantha Perry
By Samantha Perry, co-founder of WomeninTechZA
Johannesburg, 11 Nov 2014
Lenore Kerrigan, Opentext, says a CIO's dilemma is delivering solutions that meet, and preferably exceed, the demands of business.
Lenore Kerrigan, Opentext, says a CIO's dilemma is delivering solutions that meet, and preferably exceed, the demands of business.

Business process management (BPM) is a discipline rather than a technology. It drives performance by optimising processes, says Stuart Macgregor, CEO of Real IRM. "This is enabled by technology like workflow systems. Technology isn't enough on its own, though ? many processes are people-driven, and need to be managed and optimised."

Says Opentext country sales director, sub-Saharan Africa, Lenore Kerrigan: "Processes are a key part of every organisation and the successful merger of process, people and information empowered with an appropriate technology creates a BPM capability that is able to address multiple tasks. These include digital asset licensing, fraud investigations, HR benefits enrolment, insurance claim processing, mortgage/loan processing, and IT service management."

BPM has evolved rapidly in the past few years, she says. "We live in a world where speed, accessibility and flexibility are core requirements of most businesses. The CIO sits with the dilemma of how to deliver solutions that meet, and preferably exceed, the demands of business.

Tech trifecta

"Digitisation is at the heart of providing the baseline for businesses to accelerate activity in an agile manner and thus drive innovation while maintaining compliance," she states. "Business interaction is driven by employees, with suppliers and customers. The positive experience of these three stakeholders is dramatically increased if processes are effectively digitised and supported by the presentment of immediate and relevant information."

"To stay ahead in today's rapidly changing business environment, organisations need agile business processes that allow them to adapt quickly to evolving markets, customer needs, policies, regulations, and business models," comments Craig Nel, sales consulting senior manager at Oracle Fusion Middleware. "The convergence of a trio of technologies and business practices ? social computing, mobile computing and business process management (BPM) - is opening up interesting avenues for business.

"Social and mobile business models have already contributed important new frameworks for collaboration and information sharing in the enterprise," he continues. "While these technologies are still in a nascent state, BPM and services-oriented architecture (SOA) solutions are well established, providing a history of clear and complementary benefits. This is not surprising, given that BPM and SOA have arisen as the natural result of business and IT users striving to work together more efficiently and effectively."

Vision and strategy

"BPM can help an organisation become more agile in response to market changes. However, technology is not a silver bullet," cautions Saurabh Kumar, MD South Africa and global sales head, IN2IT Technologies. "BPM is not a one-time exercise, and software alone will not solve business challenges - it's simply an enabler that supports people and processes. For BPM to provide the value required, the people involved need to formulate a vision and strategy and manage the change.

Processes are a key part of every organisation.

Lenore Kerrigan, country sales director, Opentext

"IT decision-makers should firstly identify quick wins for process improvements within the organisation," he advises. "This creates a level of confidence in the initiatives, and helps to foster support for further ventures. They should also look at process-driven application optimisation, which will assist the organisation in adapting to rapidly changing business conditions."

Future present

Recent research conducted by Coleman Parkes on behalf of Ricoh found that 87% of employees believe that, with the right processes, technology can positively impact profitability.

Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents said by 2036, the workplace would be transformed by technology and processes that don't exist today.

Respondents stated the top benefits of a tech-evolved workplace include:

* Optimising core business processes;
* Having better access to information; and
* The ability to get their job done faster.

"Our advice to clients is always to start small," says Itec ECM solutions architect Greg Lock. "By using a phased approach, you can get the highest priority functionality up and running, train users and drive much better user adoption. It also allows users to buy into the process psychologically. Once they're ready, you can move onto the next phase.

"In today's already complex business environment, CIOs are looking for easy-to-use solutions," he adds. "These solutions must not only meet the technical requirements of the organisation, but must also bear in mind user requirements to ensure that you have user buy-in across the entire organisation. They also require a solution that is cost-effective, showing a clear return on investment to justify initial outlay, while maintaining high levels of accuracy for reporting purposes. Scalability is an inherent requirement, allowing them to start small and get ongoing buy-in from the users, while still giving them the capability to add processes and functionality to the system."

Comments Ernst Dill, senior consultant in BPM Practice at Ovations: "Local CIOs look for BPM solutions that can be implemented quickly, maintained easily, are scalable and feasible. This usually translates to a BPM solution that supports a component-based design/development environment that also supports open standards and a services-oriented architecture.

The convergence of a trio of technologies and business practices ? social computing, mobile computing and business process management (BPM) - is opening up interesting avenues for business.

Craig Nel, sales consulting senior manager, Oracle Fusion Middleware

"It's also desirable to have a single solution that provides functionality from design through to production analysis. This includes functions such as process modelling, screen design and development, integration, execution, debug and simulation, all in one tool. What you essentially want is to reduce the handovers and duplication between resources.

CIO BPM priorities - Stuart Macgregor, RealIRM

* Determining which processes should be automated;
* Deciding which technologies should be embedded in the business;
* Aligning technical architecture with adoption of open standards, thereby reducing vendor lock-in; and
* Distinguishing between the responsibilities of business, and of IT, in the quest for business process improvement.

"Nowadays, some vendors also provide BPM solutions hosted in the cloud and provided as a service. The software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. This is attractive, especially for smaller companies, as they don't have to invest in all the hardware and associated skills required to run BPM solutions," he states.

Blurred lines

"Ultimately," says Real IRM's Macgregor, "the CIO needs to play an ever-more active role in driving business transformation. The modern world is characterised by greater levels of competition, more complexity, rapidly-evolving technologies, and the blurring of lines between industry verticals. It's only with an established enterprise architecture (EA) practice that an organisation is able to act nimbly enough, to survive and thrive in this kind of environment. Quality BPM, which is informed by quality EA, is therefore absolutely fundamental to the principles of sustainable innovation, change management, and true transformation."

Four challenges that need to be addressed by any BPM system - Lenore Kerrigan, Opentext

* The dilemma in that process automation takes many forms, from the simple elimination of manual tasks through to extremely complex intelligent processes that may be context-sensitive.
* The need to address the 'new' users of today, eg, Gen Ys and millennials that have changing expectations and those that have arisen from the technology consumerisation process where social media is involved, instant responses are required and everything is on a 24/7 basis from a multitude of devices.
* The impedance mismatch between business needs and the differing life cycles of requirements and strategy, and the often different life cycles of the supporting technologies.
* The extension of the system of record as many core systems are not agile enough to meet the changing needs of the business, which now includes smart products, customers, partners and employees.

"BPM has evolved substantially over the last few years and has become the baseline of the effectiveness of enterprises and government entities alike," says Opentext's Kerrigan. "If it's done correctly, organisations increase business performance and gain competitive advantage.

"What's needed," she notes, "is a single system to build a broad variety of process and case management applications with support for cloud, on-premises, or hybrid deployment, which incorporates social and mobile, provides access to a broad array of enterprise information management services, and allows the organisation to develop solutions the way they want. In summary, cutting the time-to-value and increasing operational agility."

"As the technologies and business practices surrounding social, mobile and BPM mature, IT and business stakeholders are discovering new ways to work together and engage customers via dynamic business processes that address several important business imperatives such as delivering consistent experiences, increasing revenue and ensuring compliance," concludes Nel.