Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Process Automation vs Process Management

There is a lot of buzz around Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and there are those that would try to convince you that RPA replaces Business Process Management (BPM). There are others that would have you believe that BPM can be leveraged to do what RPA does in most cases. Let's examine this issue. Right now RPA works on specific tasks and BPM works on orchestrating all kinds of tasks that involve RPA or not while dynamically delivering changing business outcomes. Over time they will have more overlap as both leverage more intelligence through AI and Algorithms.





What Does BPM Do?

BPM manages tasks and the sequences in an end to end style while monitoring results and making necessary adaptations to keep goals and business outcomes on point. BPM is a task or event coordination/orchestration capability that makes sure the best sequencing (flows), even in parallel streams, are chosen at any point in time. BPM applies to simple or complex system and human tasks intermixed and dynamically optimized for SLAs.  Processes are great at exception handling and are often supported by decisioning capabilities (usually visual rules). Processes and process snippets (smaller sequences of tasks) are great a delivering best practises and emerging better practises recognized in cases.

What Does RPA Do?

RPA is great at automating manual tasks and stream lining some parts of an overall process. RPA, today is very task focused and operates with the boundaries of a existing process. As processes flex, this relationship may change. The scope of RPA today are much more focused and limited to single tasks. Though there may be a large number of specialized bots, their power is leveraged by the sequencing that process give them today. This may change over time.

What Can They Both Do?

They both help streamline processes for better efficiency and cost savings. They both support rapid deployment and ability to implement change in an incremental fashion. They both can start out with a low cost approach and grow to value over time. They share many of the operational improvement benefits. Over time as processes and bots increase in intelligence through AI they will both increase the customer, employee and partner experiences to create better journeys. Imagine a bot or a process Cog (AI) assisting you with your job!!

Net; Net:

BPM and RPA are better together for sure and they both will get better as they add smarts. As control moves to the edge, those tasks sequences will likely be short running and smaller in scope putting the advantage to RPA over time. Task sequencing is important in a great number of cases, so process will be there, but not as the BPM of old that many know today. In the future as the bots become more intelligent and are able to anticipate and negotiate, then maybe there will be less pre-built processes.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Is Digital Transformation Reengineering in Sheep's Clothing?

There seems to be an awful lot of parallels between business reengineering, which focused on helping companies radially restructure their organizations by focusing on the ground-up design of their business models, and the way Digital Transformation is being touted by some. There are some "Chicken Little's" out there saying the sky will fall in on you. There are some visible examples in some industries, but radical business model change won't happen all at once in every industry simultaneously. On the other hand, nobody should ignore opportunities to leverage digital opportunities. This is a bit of a tightrope walk, but a necessary one with a safety line whenever possible 





Industries Under Siege:

When your industry is being attacked by better business models that are digitally enabled, then you may forgo the safety line and play it a bit riskier. Make no mistake digital will influence most industries by providing a better customer experience that includes faster, better, cheaper with more visibility. However, rarely is it a situation that requires turn key solutions yesterday. Yes, digital will increase the pressure, but organizations do not have to get out of the business model they have successfully rode for years.  They will, however,  have to pick up the pace of change and innovation. Whenever possible industries under siege should be working with parallel solutions to keep the lights on while trying new ways of doing business (better customer journeys, dynamic value chains or new markets). 

Most Everyone Else:

If your industry is not under siege, organizations should be taking steps to leverage digital in the best way possible to enhance and leverage the strength of your existing business model. If you are in the mortgage business, you better underwrite easily in the context of what the buyer complete journey might entail. You might start with a better data collection, but might end up guiding buyers and sellers through their whole experience, not just the loan process. Incrementally adding crucial and customer pleasing capabilities while being operationally effective and efficient on top a proven business model is a beautiful and profitable thing. If your organization is not working with several proven digital methods and technologies, there is lost opportunity. If your organization is not experimenting with a digital approach that could leap-frog themselves over the competition, there is also opportunity loss .

Net; Net:

There are some who are hiding radical change under the cover of digital transformations, but it isn't always necessary at the speed they demand. It's in their best interest to scare you into working with them to guide your through the dangerous territory of digital. While it's true there are dangers, risk can be lowered and incremental can work with digital. This is why there are many paths to the top of the mountain that can be taken one base camp at a time. 




Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Timing of Customer Journey Mapping

When should organizations practice customer journey mapping? Should it be done before the customer experience is built? There is a case for mapping the actual experiences after the fact and using the lessons learned to adjust the customer experience is strong. There is an emerging possibility of using real time emotional measures to adjust the customer experience based on the customer's reaction to the customer experience so far, which may include multiple touch points over time.



The Planning Approach:

Organizations that want to understand their customer experience and plan a better approach will use customer journey methods and technologies to actively create a better customer experience. This approach really works well with new systems and planned augmentations. The trick here is not to over-analyze, but to practically involve real customers, organizational representatives with a good dose of independent thinking.

The Audit Approach:

Organizations that want their analysis of the customer experience to be reality based, will use a measurement approach that gleans data from systems and people to create a near realistic view of the customer experience in context of the customers goals and persona. The challenge here is to think out of the box and imagine situations beyond the expected "happy paths" when designing a better customer experience. 

The Real Time Approach:

Organizations that want to adapt inflight, will gravitate to use technologies and techniques to measure the real time moods of the customers. This "on the fly" approach requires some newer emerging technologies such as AI enabled by emotion detection embedded in voice inflection, real time images and gestures or natural language understanding. This allows organizations to customize responses to individual customer situations in context. The challenge here is that the costs could get out of hand without creating some common responses over time.

Net; Net: 

The obvious answer is to use all three approaches, but that is easier said than done. The real time approach is still emerging and maturing. The planning approach might be too late if an organization has a legacy base that requires significant augmentation or change. Measuring what's going on might require significant instrumentation to gather the data. The answer depends on the situation at hand, but doing nothing is not an option. A customized mix is probably a solution, but this is not a "one and done" circumstance. We can't depend on getting lucky like the squirrel pictured above as we will all get wet with customer experience issues.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Dawning of Digital Disappointment

We have been seeing one article after another about how organizations are getting frustrated with Digital. It boils down to setting expectations. If you fell for the "digital will change your business model overnight", then I can understand why. Not every industry can expect a wholesale business model change overnight at this point in time. If your organization took an incremental benefits and learn approach as you progress digitally, you probably are still pretty happy even though you are not quite sure what the actual end game will be with digital. It may not matter because your organization is growing skills and competencies that will bode well for better customer experiences while creating greater effectiveness.



Let's Look at Rocket Mortgage:

Did Quicken Loans expect their product name to become more popular than their organization? Do they mind laughing all the way to the bank as they drew in more business even though they didn't really transform the mortgage business model while legacy applications of old still churn away under the covers? They added a very customer compelling front end leverage the best that digital offered at that time and put their muscle behind it. Customers received speedier and more visible results, but Quicken still does loans baby. This is practical application of digital in a focused way.

Let's Look at Taxi Service:

Many of  the taxi companies inspected themselves after the dawn of Uber & Lyft. They couldn't understand why customers would take a chance with unlicensed drivers just because there was an easy and visible app that linked you with drivers where you were. Once the traditional organizations realized they were in the transportation business that needed to wrap themselves around a better customer service model, many launched successful car services. Will it be enough to survive the jump start lead that Uber and Lyft have gotten? Time will tell

Let's Look at Industry 4.0: 

While the appeal of dynamic and customer adaptable supply chains whose complexity is buffered from the customer is great, there are incremental steps for new kinds of automation that do not require redesigning it all at once. More humanity laced automation in any piece of the supply or value chain will deliver benefits. Imagine a production line that watches workers and coaches them to better performance even if they are deep in the linked Industry 4.0 adaptable supply chain. While an end to end flexible supply chain that delivers custom product to the customer in the best way possible is still the goal

Net; Net:

Let's still keep our eyes and ears open for opportunities to disrupt with digital, but let's not forget that is not all "Turn Key". There is incremental value to mini-digital journeys that deliver benefit while making progress towards the ultimate digital destination. Maybe expectations need to be changed to match emerging reality.

Read more about incremental mini journeys and digital on ramps by clicking here



Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Value of a Decision Management Framework


An organization’s ability to make excellent decisions will be a huge differentiator in today’s ever changing business environment. The days of leisurely decisions are numbered because of the speed and momentum of business. Also the amount of data, information that is available for any one decision is multiplying in an exponential fashion. More and more decisions will require the assistance from data science and combinations of algorithms with AI assistance. Aragon Research introduces it's Decision Management Framework(DMF). Click Here for the Research note. The basic dimensions are below. Click here for a free webinar on May 11th, 2018 with more details. 








While organizations will depend on people to leverage their experience and intuition in the best possible decisions, more and more decisions will be leveraging automated assists for human decision making. In the new digital world more decisions will be made in an automated fashion with significant consequences. In fact some decisions will be made at the edge without central control, so learning to manage these kinds of decisions that may be happening in an instant is essential.


Another factor being introduced in the much faster and smarter digital world is the ability to decide on making changes in the operational reaction. These changes could be implemented in procedures/processes, which in turn will help humans change. The ramifications of decisions and their downstream effects require a higher level of decision management.

Decision Management is an emerging discipline that needs a common base architecture, a shared methodology and a set of technologies. This research will seek to define a DMF that works for the large majority of decisions that will occur today and the foreseeable future. The resulting DMF will likely be used as a shared communication device for both business and IT professionals to describe the decision context, the decision components and the potential actions. The big reason is for better decisions consistently. 

Net; Net: 

Decision Management is an important emerging discipline so learning how to leverage a decision management framework will be well worth the effort. While decisions can’t always be purely methodological and scientific, having an organized approach is not only helpful in many situations and necessary in areas where there are lot of unknowns. This Decision Management Framework is important to keep in mind when making decisions and used as a communication device minimally. Technology markets are emerging to support these very frameworks and will be gain significant attention in the near future. 










Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Priority on AI Transparency?

Should we back off on AI to make sure it is transparent? Is there a way to balance exciting progress enabled by AI with the visibility necessary to make sure AI is not doing something wrong or immoral? AI is kind of a black box and what's happening inside is not only mystery to those using, but it is to the developers as it gets more sophisticated. Let's look at the some of the aspects of this issue.



The Case for More AI Visibility: 

How can we allow a black box to make important decisions? Can we really trust AI to make ethical decisions in a fair way? With programs, we can look at the coded logic and see the paths that can be chosen and watch the outcomes. With Decision Modeling Notation (DMN), we can see the decision and the results like programming. With AI we can't see the possible paths, reasoning and alternatives chosen from. Who can make sense of the inner workings of AI? Who do we hold responsible for the outcomes and ethics of AI? Would you trust AI with your life? AI is not flawless, so let's watch it closely.

The Case for Full Speed Ahead on AI:

Why should we slow down the benefits of AI while we wait for complete transparency? By a long shot AI algorithms are more accurate, by far, than human counter parts. AI can detect illnesses faster and can assist doctors with treatment plans. While some decisions are life impacting, there are a goodly number of decisions that are not life critical. Many AI investigations and actions can be logged and leveraged. AI should be tested like any other computer programming for a large number of possibilities. While the test beds for AI are difficult and sometimes near impossible, over time near perfection can be approached.

Net; Net:

Since AI will be involved with many decisions going forward, transparency will grow as an issue. If you want to hear more about decision management, AI driven or not, please sign up for a free webinar by clicking here  I believe that we can strike the balance by using AI to mine the audit the logs and actions generated AI activity. Let AI watch AI.

Monday, April 23, 2018

bpmNEXT 2018 Demonstrates Next Gen Processes

bpmNEXT aims to the definitive showcase of next generation processes (BPM) and it certainly did that this year. There were some interesting and intense demos of how process would change over time. We all saw process linking with decision management, customer journeys, IoT, process mining, advanced analytics, AI, RPA, Robots, Blockchain, voice and image recognition. There were many dimensions of process evolution practically demonstrated in 30 minute segments.



It was clear that process will be involved with significant innovation in the evolving digital world and that transformation is doable in increments. While most of the participants were vendors, there were notable visionary end users like Quicken Loans (the designers of customer journey called "Rocket Mortgage"). The hot topics were around decision management with DMN, linking with emerging technologies and automation of various kinds including AI, RPA, Mining and Robots. While one would expect a collegial environment surrounding the love of process, there was significant controversy with the powerful audience that bpmNEXT attracts. One was around DMN versus AI around transparency. Another was around Digital Business Platforms DBP being a market versus an architectural construct. I will take the blame for the later and will be creating a post for both controversies down the line.

The Digital Business Platform is a Destination for Digital Transformation:










Highlights:

The highlight demonstrations, for me, were the demos that showed the promise of voice and video based digital assistants tied to BPM. The best one in this category was given by Francois Bonnet of ITESOFT where he demonstrated the interaction of a Robot, BPM, Voice and Video Recognition working together somewhat seamlessly.

Another significant highlight came from Denis Gagne, from Trisotech, who not only demonstrated Decision Model and Notation (DMN) in modeling mode, but showed decisions in action with their associated test beds. This demo showed the full range of DMN in action. For a free webinar on Decision Management and DMN on May 11th, click here

The last, but not least, of my top three demos came from Pieter Van Schalkwyk of XMPRO where Pieter showed us process at work at the edge of an IoT network in place today. The demo focused on finding that important event or pattern at the edge with a critical part of a critical piece of safety equipment. The piece of equipment was crying out that it was at the end of it's life and needed an intervention. This involved looking through tremendous volume of events, most noise events, to find the key action trigger.

Bottom Line:

If you want to see the latest and greatest that process has to offer as it plays a key role as a digital choreographer, bpmNEXT is the place. bpmNEXT is not for beginners, but maybe it should open it's offer to show process as the true collaborator for digital transformation.