Solving the legacy conundrum with BPM
Business process management can help companies leverage their investment in legacy technology as part of their digitalisation journey.
Most companies embarking on digitalisation are not starting with a clean slate. Unless a company is new, it will have a considerable investment in legacy applications, which contain business processes refined over years, as well as company and customer data. These legacy applications constitute vital institutional memory, and represent a treasure house of intellectual capital.
When companies want to implement technologies of the digital age, and access leading-edge capabilities - such as skills-based routing and tracking, native mobile access, social collaboration, robotic process automation and predictive analytics - they have to accommodate the legacy applications somehow, or risk losing what they contain.
An additional challenge: these legacy applications tend to exist within silos of the typical corporate structure. In the emerging, connected digital world, the data and functionality in these legacy applications need to be available to the new era's enterprise-wide applications and business processes.
The question is how to adapt the legacy applications in order to facilitate the adoption of new applications and technologies without losing the intellectual property refined over many years and embedded in the legacy applications.
Too often, companies take a short-term approach by exposing the functions of the legacy applications as services that can be accessed by new processes.
However, this approach ignores the reality that these services do not exist in isolation; each one has several dependencies (explicit and hidden) with other parts of the system.
In short, to leverage the full benefit of the legacy system, these dependencies have to be integrated into the new system. Today's business environment is extremely dynamic, with constant change as companies react in real-time to volatile markets; incorporating the Web of legacy dependencies into new applications and processes is simply not possible within the short time-frames that now prevail.
Top-down approach with BPM
BPM offers a solution because it is a top-down approach that allows legacy applications to be modernised holistically and iteratively. From translating business objectives, goals and capabilities to enabling services-oriented architecture through to process-driven workflow and execution, BPM is a smart way of redeveloping and managing legacy applications. It allows the business to collaborate with IT in defining the processes that will govern the use of the legacy functions by abstracting the business process from the underlying code, and allowing loose coupling with other aspects of the legacy code.
BPM is a smart way of redeveloping and managing legacy applications.
Crucially, BPM reduces risk because it fosters an incremental, iterative approach rather than a big-bang one.
By making hard-coded business rules and process flow explicit, BPM supports business and IT collaboration on an ongoing basis for augmenting and evolving business processes.
BPM thus also enables process automation by facilitating process redesign, minimising human intervention by means of rule-based exception handling. BPM can help companies identify human interface requirements and automate exception handling through intelligent routing, tracking and task assignment. Whether the legacy application runs a transactional process or is event-driven, BPM can simplify the architecture of it by encapsulating legacy functions into services. This provides a standard interface and easy access for new requirements, plus re-use of a well-defined library of services.
In this way, BPM enables companies to leverage legacy functionality across the enterprise in next-generation, composite applications that combine business logic and data from multiple legacy applications; add newer applications and technologies that extend the usefulness of the legacy systems. These composite applications also enable a rich end-user experience that is fed by several back-end legacy systems.
This BPM-enabled composition approach can also be applied to transactional Web sites or portals to facilitate collaboration with external stakeholders such as suppliers, agents, dealers and customers.
Improving and enriching
By enabling a process-level view of the company, BPM allows businesses to identify process inefficiencies. In turn, this facilitates a business view of critical business processes in order to identify bottlenecks relating to people, systems and technology. Companies can use the BPM platform to review and redesign their processes to support new business objectives, engage internal and external stakeholders to establish a common understanding of key performance indicators (cycle time, volume of tasks per user, escalations, time per task) - all with the aim of business improvement.
And, because BPM enables ongoing monitoring and optimisation, it supports continuous process improvement, driving down costs and reducing inefficiencies. Furthermore, it also enables agility by assisting the business to respond to change through rapid prototyping, development and deployment.
Modern businesses are increasingly reliant on data-driven decision-making.
BPM has a growing role to play in this area by improving systems of engagement with customers, suppliers and partners and connecting them with records and content repositories. It can also speed up standardisation and automation adoption of machine learning and artificial intelligence by leveraging a single view of key information assets (customers, products, inventory, etc) for generating actionable real-time insights throughout the entire supply chain. This facilitates companies benefiting from robotic process and automation.
BPM makes it possible for companies to integrate legacy applications into next-generation systems, preserving intellectual capital while enabling process automation. It has a crucial role to play in the effective digitalisation of existing businesses.