Business process management (BPM), streamlined and improved with analytics that leverage social media, is on the fast track in the enterprise market. But be warned: The "new BPM" can not only streamline a company's value chain, it can also change the nature of its business model.
As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.
In a recent blog in the Harvard Business Review, Brad Power, a business process innovation consultant, puts it thus:
Business model innovation -- often enabled by new technology platforms -- isn't new.... But the pace has been heating up with emerging social (Facebook), mobile (smartphones and iPads), 'cloud,' and 'big data' technologies that are creating new ways to compete, and, along with them, new ways of working.
Power gives a few examples: A business process improvement -- going online -- led publisher Forbes to create an entirely new self-publishing platform for contributors, which boosts their brands in return for publicizing Forbes. Partners Healthcare in Boston has undertaken the building of a $600 million system, Epic, expected to take a decade to complete, which will (hopefully) dramatically advance the state of healthcare for patients in Massachusetts by giving hospitals better control over every facet of their care. Procter & Gamble uses analytics to parse comments about its products from social networks, maintaining control over its PR that was previously unimaginable.
Power ends his blog coyly, hinting that dramatic changes can accompany these kinds of process improvements: "Do you see competition with processes heating up?" he asks. "What changes have you seen in the C-Suite when process changes jump onto the strategic agenda?"
One message board respondent was quick to catch on:
I see the future of work as a mix of enterprise social workflow applications and process change thats [sic] been adapted and evolved to grow with this pace of change. Traditional hierarchical operating models need to make way for more fluid and networked organisation, not rigid functional silos...
In other words, BPM could conceivably improve any C-suite executive out of a job, if a silo is eliminated or an organization flattened as a result of process changes.
The prospect of cultural and management changes isn't scaring corporate leaders off BPM. A recent announcement from research firm Gartner notes that "Worldwide spending on BPMS [in 2012] is expected to reach US$2.6 billion, up 6.9 percent compared to 2011."
BPM is being driven, Gartner said, by the "transformational benefits" of social networking, cloud computing, and mobility. It may take five to 10 years to integrate these features fully into BPM wares and services, but the momentum is underway.
Transformation may be gradual, but the "new BPM" will at least be full of surprises.
— Mary Jander , Executive Editor, Internet Evolution