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Integration and usability raise the bar for BPM

This article appears in the issue May 2016, [Volume 25, Issue 5]
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Although business process management (BPM) systems initially functioned as a way to improve efficiency in various transactions, they are now central to digital transformation that includes seamless access to documents and data, use of machine learning and development of models to improve performance across a broad range of enterprise activities. Many processes are focused on customer relationship management (CRM), and it is here that BPM systems that can integrate more fully with content management have had one of their more profound impacts.

“In traditional CRM systems, customers can access services either through a call center or self-service,” says Setrag Khoshafian, chief evangelist and VP of BPM technology at Pegasystems, “but the problem is linking the customer to the rest of the stove-piped enterprise.” No matter how well trained the agent is, if the problem of the customer is not resolved, a company cannot make the most of customer interactions. Successful interactions usually depend on accessing data. “Process and data are two sides of the same coin, and given the explosion of data from customers and sensors, it is vital for BPM systems to readily operationalize and act upon the discovered or mined knowledge,” Khoshafian explains.

One example of new data, some of which would fit the definition of big data, is that created by millennials. “The new generations, millennials and younger, interact with data in a transformative way,” he says. “Their data comes through in short bursts of chatty information, and enterprise software has to make sense of it.” After sifting and sorting that information, analytics applications can deliver it to customer support representatives (CSRs) at certain stages of transactions. “When BPM software can access the information, the CSR can understand more about the interests and context of a customer and respond appropriately,” Khoshafian adds.

The Pega 7 platform allows for business rules and predictive modeling that analyze and put into operation whatever is discovered from the data for next best decisioning actions in a particular context. It also supports adaptive machine learning decisioning. “It can be brought into the BPM system or other strategic applications,” Khoshafian says. “This provides a feedback loop about choices and priorities or what is the probability of a successful outcome given a particular situation and a variety of possible actions. If the first action does not work then another one can be tried.”

Internet of Things (IoT) data has value on its own, but the real business value will come when all the information is viewed as part of a system, according to Khoshafian. “When an incident occurs in a city that has sensor data available, the software needs to integrate all kinds of information, such as traffic flow, the impact on buildings and data about hazardous materials,” he says. “If all this information comes together properly it can launch and track processes such as actions by first responders. The business value of IoT comes from the intelligent process orchestration of devices and people for specific business outcomes. A successful outcome may also depend on accessing information in documents and databases. This systems approach will support a new category of knowledge-assisted workers who rely on software solutions to bring together the information they need for real-time decision making.”

Content meets process

Document management systems have incorporated review workflows into their applications for a long time, but now the BPM capabilities are much more extensive. Alfresco Software provides the open source enterprise content management (ECM) solution Alfresco One and BPM software called Alfresco Activiti, which is also open source. Alfresco recently announced tighter integration of Alfresco Activiti with Alfresco One as well as with other ECM systems such as Box and Google Drive.

Usability

“The early ECM systems were very complex,” says Paul Hampton, director of product marketing at Alfresco, “and did not have good user acceptance. We designed one that was an open source product for the 21st century and attracted a large number of users who developed products that were much easier to use. In 2010, we decided to do the same thing with BPM—create an open source product that was simple to use and easy to extend and deploy.”

Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust provides services for women’s health, including maternity, neonatal and fertility care. The organization was using complex BPM software that dated back 20 years to manage patient processes. It needed to explore options for a BPM system that was effective and easy to use. “We sent a BPM expert over to demonstrate Alfresco Activiti,” Hampton says, “and when they saw how easy it was to use, they said they did not need the expert and just took over the design process themselves.”

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