Uncertainty: The Business Survival Game

Business uncertainty is the unknown in the organization and in the field of business relevant to company operation. While uncertainty cannot be measured, a business can take steps to protect the future of its employees and customers.

The Business Environment and Evolution

With the on-going – or should I say, never-ending? – Brexit debate (…end October 2019 was not it, after all!), and the uncertainty in the way this story is yet to evolve, it is no surprise that markets dealing with British business environments are somewhat cautious. But of course, this is only one aspect of current affairs we have all heard about, that is a cause for uncertainty.

Moving on to the business environment, regularly changing operational and market demands, updates to regulations and legislation, changes in public or enterprise policies, changes in the leadership of organisations, and other similar situations bring on the need for a constant catch-up game.

In response, organisations need to review strategies and objectives, and subsequently process activities. Some of these changes are responded to reactively, other organisations try to be smarter and tend to treat this more proactively. This turmoil and demand for evolutionary development only make matters more difficult to manage.

One of the typical symptoms is that people get scuffled in keeping up with what is expected of them. A few identified risks are an inevitable deterioration of performance and an experience of difficulty in keeping up; leading to potential frustration…perhaps also the resignation of key personnel. This no doubt creates voids and weaknesses within the structure. That is when competitors get on the strike! When your organisation is drained of the right resources (and the expertise they carry with them as a result of years of loyalty and experience building).

Organisations need to maintain a rolling, constantly reviewed plan of action. Perhaps a five-year plan may be too long reaching? A shorter-term plan that is more plausible? A plan which is regularly reviewed and updated to ensure it is continually aligned with ever-changing requirements.

The Effect of Gen Y in the Workforce

One of the more concerning issues being identified by local entrepreneurs is the knock-on effect of the Gen Y and expat culture in terms of job-hopping opportunities being sought.

Deloitte surveyed 10,455 Gen Y – born between 1983 and December 1994 from 36 countries – and found that 43 per cent of millennials plan to leave their current jobs within two years and only 28 per cent have plans to stay beyond five years.

Today’s workforce is becoming highly diluted, unlike in the past where training employees would span a few weeks, but employers knew they could possibly retain them for years, if not decades. Most Gen Y abandons their employer before they had the time to return the maximum value. Hence the importance for companies to have processes and systems that can adapt to the high turnover, retain knowledge and guarantee business continuity.

With the exodus being a constant battle to fight, possible mitigation is to seek ways to retain business information and to make tasks as independent of an individual as possible. In an ideal scenario, a new employee could seamlessly resume the work of his/her predecessor almost instantaneously.

The keywords here are process simplification and standardisation. As a result of this trend business managers should no longer rely on the loyalty of employees but on the soundness of their internal systems.

Uncertainty, fluidity and transformation

Immaterial of the executional model of the business, the value and quality of the ultimate service/product offering must not affect the customer experience. Maximising on efficiency and effectiveness of the operations are significant factors for success.

With the constant factor of change and turnover of workforce discussed above, acting against sustained stability, the uncertainty and fluidity status within the business environment calls for careful management of the situation at hand.

It is high time that organisations realise the need to transform their business model, not only to one that is more aligned with the current demands, but furthermore: a model that is capable to evolve to the other unknowns brought about by the future state. Holding on to the traditional business model is a fate that sees its days being counted out fast.

Top management needs to accept the fact that operational activities need constant review and evolution to the everchanging environment. We feel that the simplification of processes and restricting these to the core value-adding activities simplifies the effort of evolution. When it comes to the technology component, legacy solutions may be a challenge to move around, make changes or adaptations. However, through the application of more flexible technology tools, a mixed integration model may facilitate the automation of specific activities and tasks. With simplified methodologies, fully defined and streamlined processes to optimise execution effort, and with the right level of technology to facilitate the operational aspects, future organisational survival stands a better chance.

At BEAT, we believe in bringing value where it matters. Through our approaches and methodologies, we work with the clients to introduce the right level of transformation best suited to the business.

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by Ing. Joseph Micallef, Chief Operations Officer / Partner at BEAT Limited

Leveraging blockchain for competitive business models

It is safe to say that to date, the success of most blockchain applications in the international market has proven elusive.

Over the last years, thousands of coin offerings have plunged to their death sucking in millions of dollars in investment, in what can easily be referred to as bogus concepts. One might, therefore, be forgiven for dismissing blockchain technology as the latest fad destined to lose its lustre in the foreseeable future.

However, nothing is further from the truth. Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt not only the fundamentals of how business is done but also the basic building blocks of civilisation.

Let’s take a step back and remind ourselves what blockchain is really about. Essentially, blockchain technology uses distributed (not decentralised – which are two completely different things) ledger technology to create a trust-based network that greatly minimises transaction costs, flattening layers of hierarchical decision-making to bring the process in line with the highly dynamic external environment that organisations face.

Unfortunately, most blockchain applications have failed to exploit this basic and phenomenal opportunity to undertake such a paradigm shift. Many applications claim to ‘disrupt industry’ while doing nothing more than applying the same business models using a different technology.  In fact, parallels are often drawn with the dot.com bubble experienced in 2001, during which several internet models failed simply because they emulated brick and mortar business models in an electronic format. It was only after a considerably painful shakeout that successful on-line businesses, such as Amazon and eBay, emerged as winners in the Internet revolution.

I believe that it is only a matter of time until we see similarly successful business models maximising the benefits of blockchain technology to create a competitive advantage. This will only happen, however, if businesses are open to viewing things from a completely different perspective.

In my opinion, the best blockchain applications of the future in business will be those that create a genuine democratisation process amongst customers, suppliers and employees of the company. Such applications will essentially devolve power to these stakeholders in order to transact business without significant intervention from the centre.  Take as an example a basic traditional health care business model, wherein a patient calls up a hospital for a doctor’s appointment: nowadays, the hospital schedules the appointment, the doctor retrieves the patient’s data from a central database, visits the patient, and registers the visit in the system.  The hospital then charges the patient for the visit.

Through distributed ledger technology, this concept can be literally turned on its head, wherein the personal data would be owned by the patient, who would schedule an appointment with his doctor of choice and share the data solely with the doctor. Fees would be settled directly. This process essentially gives power to both the patient and the doctor to transact business and share data between them. All of this would be carried out within the framework of a trusted network, without the intervention of an expensive intermediary, whilst guaranteeing confidentiality and the ownership of patient data throughout the process.

When could all this happen? The pace of transition from centralised to distributed systems remains in question, with limitations being more of a cultural nature as opposed to technological factors. Is management ready to concede power to its employees, customers and even suppliers, thereby creating a distributed decision-making process that is faster, closer to source and less exposed to corruption (due to a lack of single point of failure)?  More importantly, can organisations trust an algorithm – in the form of a smart contract – to process a complex maze of transactions without the intervention of a ‘big brother’ overseeing the entire process?

Only time will tell whether human nature can overcome its urge for emphatic control, long embedded in our DNA since the birth of civilisation, and adopt unprecedented democratic decision making processes that will yield significantly faster and more effective decisions. Processes which could lead to the creation of agile, highly innovative and closely knitted organisation ecosystems, enabled by distributed ledger technologies and smart contract applications.

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by David Galea, Chief Executive Officer / Founder at BEAT Limited

Digital transformation starts with people, not tech

Whenever I engage in a discussion about digital transformation with a business owner or top-level manager, nine times out of ten their response will veer exclusively towards technology, investment, and computer systems. Fair enough, I say, digital is all about technology… but surely any successful transformation needs to be understood, accepted, implemented and indeed utilised by people?

Digital transformation is sweeping through various industries, as businesses try to use technological advancements to stay competitive. However, many businesses striving for digital change do not appreciate the holistic nature of the change which digital transformation implies; that it is about a multi-dimensional interaction involving clients, employees, and any other stakeholders involved in their business transactions or operations. Hence many businesses striving for digital change fail to realise that any transformation in that direction also requires considerable investment focused on the people concerned.

The ultimate scope of digital transformation is to harness the power of technology to improve customer experience and enhance the competitiveness of one’s business. However, managing the digital transformation process is vital for success. This is because going down the digital transformation route is a cultural evolution in itself, and any respected business leader will tell you that one cannot dictate or direct culture. Change has to come from within the business, making sure that your people buy into the vision, strategy and the impact which this strategy will have on them as individuals, and their work. They must be convinced that the technology will be there to supplement and support the change process, making tasks simpler, or enabling them to handle the more complex tasks more efficiently and effectively.

Let’s take a step back here, and ask ourselves why we would be going for digital transformation in the first place. Is it to hop on the latest business or technological bandwagon, and to show people that we’re on top of things? Are we trying to use new technology simply to try to replace human activity, rather than as a tool for increased efficiency and improved performance? Are we really committed to making significant changes to long-used legacy systems? What is our strategy?

Quoting Peter F. Drucker, “there is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Plugging technology into processes that are not well thought out, designed and explained, will only generate what lean management terminology refers to as muda (waste and uselessness) at more efficient rates; increase mura (irregularities and unevenness) in operations, with uncontrolled variations in performance; and cause muri (overloads and unreasonable expectations) at bottleneck points. The end result – employee absenteeism, physical and mental illness, and breakdowns of machines and systems!

In this regard, I recently came across a scenario where a bank, as part of a pseudo-process of digitalisation, converted a never-ending series of mundane, paper-based forms into kinky-looking e-forms, which only managed to reproduce and automate inefficient manual processes which have been in place for the best part of the last decade! A classic case of digitisation… but certainly not digitalisation!

Someone once remarked to me that in the rush to transform everything to digital we often forget that employees and customers, i.e. human beings, are essentially ‘analogue’ creatures. They have daily variations in their feelings and behaviours. They are prone to personal perceptions, distractions, distortions in what is heard, deletion of large amounts of information received. Amen to that! And it is these very human traits that dictate that everything we do must be communicated effectively, that our employees have to be trained, and that clients and other stakeholders should be supported along the way.

At BEAT we guide you through the thought process leading to an appropriate digitalisation strategy for your organisation. We also assist you in planning the transformation journey which will see you reach your goals, and provide support along the path towards implementation.  In the meantime, our specialists will work with you to help redesign your processes with the right level of technology backing. All of this will lead to a change in your business model, thus enabling new revenue and value-adding opportunities, simplifying effort, and empowering all players in the process.

Click here to learn more about our advisory services or send us an email.

by Ing. Joseph Micallef, Chief Operations Officer / Partner at BEAT Limited

Business evolution: the need to survive

Throughout the millions of years of its existence, Nature has demonstrated that evolution is a mandatory element for survival.

It, therefore, comes to no surprise that man, and the activities he manages, need to relate to this phenomenon too! …extending across to ‘business organizations’.

Immaterial of the size or type of operations, any organization must be well prepared for carefully undertaking an evolution process to reflect the ‘sign-of-the-times’.  Some degree of flexibility and agility are therefore key ingredients to sustainable success.  Generally, larger (more mature) organizations may find it more difficult to cater respond to such flexibility needs when compared to smaller (younger) organizations.

This need to evolve swiftly is generally brought about by our selves – us, as consumers.

Consumer trends are clear: we want more, faster, cheaper, and above all, to higher expectations.  The net result is that we, as consumers, have become pretty much like ‘monsters’: hungry, wanting more of everything, better specification, higher quality, immediate!

…the challenges for competitiveness become a nightmare.  Failing to keep up means you risk driving your business into mediocrity, very fast.  What is worse, social media makes it so easy for people to say just “how bad you are”!

Business evolution is, therefore, a mandatory success factor.  If the evolution process cannot keep up with the demands, then we may need to consider even more aggressive approaches. At times, radical transformation becomes necessary for an organization to re-align itself with trending business demands.

Business ideas need to be generated, developed and materialized through innovative and creative initiatives, drive, funding and empowerment.

What Makes Your Organization Tick

There are a number of elements upon which any organization is generally dependent for it to operate as a whole.  Each of these elements plays a vital role in its smooth operational activities, and need to be managed with care and attention.

Defined Methodologies – No organization can sustain success if it operates in a state of randomness.

Proper Tools – So much can be jeopardized if attempting to do work with the wrong tool set.

Setting (physical environment, social) – Physical and social environments are two elements that make the setting.  The tangible physical setting may generally be regulated by the business sector (for example: pharmaceutical, electronics, food & beverage, aeronautical, marine, oil & gas, etc.), and therefore more controllable.  The social setting may not be an area that any sector can regulate too easily, but the happiness and wellbeing of employees can make or break the whole setting.

People (skills, knowledge, capability, happiness, motivation, wellbeing, cared, belonging, ownership, understanding) – The capability to match the right skills for the activities, and maintaining an empowered workforce is an achievement in itself.  Some organizations may struggle when it comes to communicating their vision, mission and strategic objectives in a clear enough manner to reach all of their people – endangering full engagement.  Ownership is a big word.  Encouraging your people to own their job responsibilities is a formula for success.

Lifeblood (data/information, physical material) – We can generally visualize that the flow of material, data and information are what energizes any organization.  Just like blood drives oxygen through our bodies.  Interrupt this flow, and you are in big trouble.  Introduce pollutants into the stream (biased or non-factual data) and get ready for some serious consequences.

Performance Measure – Know where you are, where others are and where you want to be.  Get there through initiatives based on the right level of information and analysis.  Enable decisions to be taken based on uncluttered facts.

Getting There

Whilst evolution is generally gradual are more controllable, often, undertaking a transformation of any type or size, can be considered rather risky, and fearful by many – and this includes executive management.  One cannot entirely blame this anxiety.  We have seen so many organizations fall because they were not well prepared to undertake transformation.  The changes brought about by organizational transformation can be quite significant.

Organizational transformation is not only about organizational restructuring, or process reengineering.  That may well be the easiest, and most fun part, of the project!

The more delicate factors may be less tangible than reorganizing the definition of the structure, or process redesign, reengineering or streamlining.  We must be highly sensitive to matters that are typically related to people, culture, skills-matching, and timing.

Bear in mind that any transformation initiative will at some point or other affect the way people do things, the way people need to think, reason and act.   With people, comes culture – what works for one company may not work for another.  Every organization (and department, in each organization!) has its own distinct ‘culture’, which needs to be factored in when managing the transformation process.

People also mean skills by which they get their activities done.  Getting through the evolution may generally also mean reviewing the talent-mix and capability of your people.  Whilst many may be prepared to learn and broaden their proficiencies, others may be less receptive – and we have seen this resistive effect also being demonstrated by the most senior of executives in some organizations.

Rushing changes into place may not quite be the right approach at times.  Psychologists state that, unlike popular belief, man can actually handle a high level of change.  Two factors that work against this statement are generally the way the change is presented, and the timing allowed for the change to be undertaken through.  Allowing the change to happen gradually over a suitable period of time generally works well in favour of organizational transformation – planning is key.

We generally find that change managers often overlook this factor.  This may be the symptom of haste and pressures that may be coming from other directions, thereby forcing any planning to be squashed into, occasionally, ridiculous time frames.

Making It Happen

Evolution and transformation initiatives need careful and up-to-date strategic planning.

However, clever planning and exhaustive strategies alone will not deliver results.  Implementation and execution of the plan is what does!

This demands the will to get things done, appropriate resources, sufficient funds, sensible time, the right tools and equipment, and so many other interdependent elements.

Any plans drawn need to be maintained as living documents.  We need to be capable of revising these plans in a controlled and agile manner in order to accommodate situations arising along the way.  There is no point in implementing a rigid plan that, 3 years down the line, produces out-of-date deliverables.

Lean and agile project management techniques play the trick in successful achievement of desired results, which are current at the time of implementation.

BEAT has many years of experience managing transformation within different organizations, and manages projects of large dimensions.  We have successfully seen projects start off from nothing more than ideas.  These concepts have been incubated and seen through materialization into successful ventures.  We have seen private and public organizations undertake the challenge of evolution and transformation – resulting in successful turnarounds of the business activity, improved quality service levels and better profitability.  Over the years, each case has been a learning experience for all parties, and possibly that is what made us who we are today.

The individual needs of the various organizations we work with vary greatly.  But the concept remains one: we are passionate about making business concepts and processes work out for our clients.

Click here to learn more about our advisory services or send us an email.

by Ing. Joseph Micallef, Chief Operations Officer / Partner at BEAT Limited

The Individual as the Driver of Change

Change remains one of the most topical – and in many ways, still controversial – aspects of organisational management. The tortuous process involved in recognising and acknowledging the need for change certainly remains a central issue in this regard. As does the fact that every business entity has its own, unique ‘persona’ – reflecting the people who lead and work within it, as well as the competitive environment in which it operates. These preliminary considerations should be more than enough to deter thoughts of one-size-fits-all solutions. Simply stated, both the stimuli for change and the way change is perceived and handled, will vary dramatically from company to company.

Of course, the ability of individuals to change will determine the success of change at the organisational level. Organisations don’t change, individuals do. No matter how large a project one is taking on, the success of that project ultimately lies with each employee doing their work differently, multiplied across all of the employees impacted by the change. Effective change management requires an understanding of and appreciation of how one person makes a change successfully. Without an individual perspective, we are left with activities but no idea of the goal or outcome that we are trying to achieve.

We also know that change can scare a lot of people. And in viewing change-related challenges from an organisational perspective, we often tend to overlook the fundamental role of the individual. Are today’s executives open to, and primed to deal with change? Do they understand the pivotal role they have in helping their organisation evolve along the path of long-term, sustainable success?

From a professional standpoint, there is no doubt that, at an individual level, the ability to manage change will determine one’s relevance within the workplace, whatever the role and responsibility. Today, executives at all levels are expected to manage change effectively. Innovation is becoming more than a buzzword. It is making its way into job descriptions and performance reviews. And producing results is simply not enough; one needs to be able to show that one can make the results more sustainable, and profitable.  The new reality is that executives at all levels must be adept at leading and/or coordinating some kind of change at various points in their careers.

In my professional experience, I find that an increasing number of top executives embrace the significance of change management – the tools and structure meant to control the change effort – and understand the concept of change leadership, which is concerned with optimising the effects of the change effort. However, many still tend to seriously underestimate the importance of selling effectively the importance of change within their organisations, and empowering their people to deliver change.

Corporate leaders and executives at all levels need to be aware of this issue and tackle it head-on. They need to promote the idea – the reality, as it is – that change is one of the most powerful professional development tools available to individuals, and ultimately to the organisation. And they need to pursue this objective through a formal, dedicated training programme.

Our executives must be trained to think of themselves as individual agents of change. Among others, they need to be aware of their company’s business realities, in order to recognise that there is indeed a need for change. They need to have a concept of timing – knowing when the time is ripe to recommend and push for change, with minimal disruption. They need to know how to package and promote sustainable actions towards change, with attainable objectives. And they need to be prepared to have the overwhelming desire, and the mental toughness, to withstand and overcome resistance.

At an organisational level, on the other hand, we need to evaluate what tools we have to help individuals make changes successfully. While change happens one person at a time, there are processes and tools that can help facilitate this change across groups and organisations. All this has to be done within a strategic perspective, encapsulating the essential components of successful change management.

At the end of the day, as a result of this focused, structured approach, the organisation will be gaining a crop of executives who will not only embrace the idea of change but who will also turn out to be credible, reliable and enduring leaders. This will also ensure that change within your organisation will be part of an evolutionary process, and not merely short-term, piecemeal substitution.

Learn more about our advisory services

Original article published on The Malta Chamber of Commerce website.

by Ing. Joseph Micallef, Chief Operations Officer / Partner at BEAT Limited. 

AI is no longer a futuristic notion, it’s here right now

Software that senses what we need, supply chains that “think” in real time, and robots that respond to changes in their environment. The essence of the AI paradigm shift is the transformation of all business processes within an organisation. It is changing all the rules of how companies operate

There’s no doubt that the manufacturing sector is leading the way in the application of artificial intelligence technology. From significant cuts in unplanned downtime to better-designed products, manufacturers are applying AI-powered analytics to data to improve efficiency, product quality, and the safety of employees.

Today, humans and robots collaborate to produce breakthroughs, thanks to the “marriage” of advanced manufacturing techniques with information technology, and data and analytics.

Let’s have a look at key revolutions AI brings to the manufacturing industry:

Computer vision

Computer vision is used to optimise production lines and digitise processes and workers. In manufacturing, the application of ‘machine vision’, which automates image analysis and directs the robot workforce on the shop floor, is a growth area. On the production line, the most prominent use cases are for inspecting parts and products, controlling processes and equipment, and flagging ‘events’ and inconsistencies.

The trick is to take what would seem like the next logical step—sending those images to a person to make judgments and corrections—and hand that over to the machine as well.

Generative design

Artificial intelligence is also changing the way we design products. One method is to enter a detailed brief defined by designers and engineers as input into an AI algorithm or “generative design software”. The brief can include data describing restrictions and various parameters such as material types, available production methods, budget limitations and time constraints.

The algorithm explores every possible configuration, before homing in on a set of the best solutions. The proposed solutions can then be tested using machine learning, offering additional insight as to which designs work best. The process can be repeated until an optimal design solution is reached.

Digital twins

Although digital twins have been around for several decades, it’s only been since the rapid rise of IoT that they’ve become more widely considered as a tool of the future.  At its simplest, a digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical product, process, or system allowing it to be understood, analysed, manipulated, or optimised. Digital twins act as a bridge between the physical and digital worlds by using sensors to collect real-time data about a physical item.

Digital twins are getting attention because they also integrate things like artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring data, algorithms, and context together, enabling organisations to test new ideas, uncover problems before they happen, get new answers to new questions, and monitor items remotely.

Predictive maintenance

In manufacturing, ongoing maintenance of production line machinery and equipment have a crucial impact on the bottom line of any asset-reliant production operation. Studies show that unplanned downtime costs manufacturers an estimated US$50 billion annually and that asset failure is the cause of 42 per cent of this unplanned downtime.

Predictive maintenance—as opposed to preventive maintenance—eliminates the guesswork as the machines report their conditions on an up-to-the-minute basis. It also saves businesses valuable time and resources, including labour costs, while guaranteeing optimal manufacturing performance. As with digital twins, sensors and advanced analytics embedded in manufacturing equipment make it possible. They enable predictive maintenance by responding to alerts and resolving machine issues.

You’re still on time, but the clock is ticking…

Missing the AI wave in manufacturing could mean getting stranded.  If you’re stuck to the traditional way and don’t digitalise manufacturing processes, your costs are going to rise, your products are going to be late to the market, and your ability to provide distinctive value-add to customers will decline.

Yet it’s not too late to adopt the changes already taking place in the manufacturing sector, and run your business like a digital leader.

Learn more about our digital transformation services

by Ing. Joseph Micallef, Chief Operations Officer / Partner at BEAT Limited. 

BEAT awarded ISO Quality Management System certification

BEAT Limited has been awarded the prestigious ISO9001:2015 certification for its Quality Management System.

Commenting on this milestone for the Group, BEAT Chief Operating Officer Ing. Joseph Micallef explained that the third party certification audit of the firm’s Quality Management Systems by SGS Italia S.p.A., “follows months of intensive work, during which all mandated and required systems were laid out and subsequently implemented as part of our daily operations over a period of time.”

BEAT Limited’s CEO, David Galea, stated that “This formal acknowledgement of the high standards of our Quality Management System – something which is relatively rare in the consulting and advisory sector – further sustains our reputation as a leading provider of dynamic, innovative, and value-driven solutions. Having a Quality Management System certified to an internationally acclaimed standard demonstrates the commitment to quality, as well as consistency in delivery through well-defined and structured organisational processes and operations.”

The evolution of Business Process Management

Despite the uptake of Business Process Management across the business spectrum around the world, there is still some confusion on how BPM works and what is expected of it. Over the past years, the term Business Process Management has become somewhat of a buzzword, and we do hear a lot of different definitions of what this discipline should be about. Some may define it as automation, others as process mapping, still others may be something different altogether.

Rather than restricting BPM to the confines of an ‘improvement method’, a ‘software system’ or of ‘knowledgeable people’, we should see BPM in the light of its capability to combine these three (and more) to produce value for the organisation. As to what BPM does, we can then move on to specify that BPM is a capability that identifies, designs, documents, monitors, optimises and assists in the execution of an organisation’s processes. And how is this capability achieved? For BPM to take root and be effective, one needs enabling policies, methods, metrics, roles and technologies. This is a tall order indeed, and that is why doing BPM well is challenging, takes time, and requires particular skills and managerial qualities from those who lead it.

Intelligent Business Process Management

In recent years, we have been seeing the emergence of the concept of Intelligent Business Process Management, otherwise known as iBPM. Again, we are in the presence of another evolving concept. The differences between BPM software and iBPM software are few, as one is the extension of the other. BPM is a tool used for designing and executing business processes, whereas iBPM is a subcategory of BPM that leverages BPM’s analytics and intelligence capabilities. What renders iBPM more complete as a concept, however, is that it combines BPM with a decision management strategy that allows for rules-based and analytical decision-making to be embedded in a process, adding in the ingredients of analytics and big data to established BPM methodologies, and giving BPM that added dynamism.

The evolution of BPM

How did this evolution occur? By the mid-1980s, the business world was witnessing two important developments that gave a jolt to process thinking. First, personal computers were heading towards widespread use as a tool that would greatly decrease the cost of producing and conveying information. Just as importantly, we saw the emergence of Total Quality Management, or TQM, which led to the widespread adoption of quality improvement initiatives within organisations.

In the 1990s, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, and the discipline of Supply Chain Management, once again changed the process landscape. ERPs led to the embedding of transactional processes into computer programmes, and Supply Chain Management led to thinking about planning processes that required communications in data flow across organisational boundaries. By the beginning of the new millennium, both the Lean Six Sigma methodology, that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste and reducing variation, and the concept of Operational Excellence, with its envisaged rigorous attention to processes, would have a strongly positive impact through the following decade.

The latest pieces of the BPM puzzle began coming together with the introduction of commercial BPM software products. The evolution of BPM technology, like most technology, has happened quickly. Within the industry, we have seen great strides and early adopters who have undertaken the exploitation of such ‘capability building blocks’ and have come along on that journey to see truly revolutionary advances. Meanwhile, BPM and BPM tools, or BPMS as they are commonly known (Business Process Management Suites) continue to evolve as a result of organisational demands to increase process definition flexibility, rapidness to evolve, and to meet ever-increasing quality demands in a timely and proactive manner. As more enterprises look at streamlining processes and building leaner, more efficient business models, so must BPM technology become more effective and responsive to such changing demands

Looking ahead

Finally, we need to keep in mind what does not represent the totality of BPM. BPM is not just automation and it is not just about technology. It certainly isn’t something that should be confined to the IT Department. Essentially, effective BPM requires bringing together the people who will be driving the change, with the methodologies and BPM tools, including technology, which will facilitate the process. All this should be spurred by a vision with clear goals and strategies, with a BP champion to lead the effort within the team or the company.

These champions, or leaders, need to ensure that the right transformational, operational and technical competence is in place across the BPM programme team, in order to improve cross-functional performance and achieve the set goals. They also need to communicate effectively how BPM projects will dovetail with strategic business outcomes, so that process participants can understand and appreciate the benefits. Ultimately, these champions and BPM practitioners will prove critical towards crafting a discipline with the same characteristics of flexibility, transparency and adaptability that corporate businesses wish to establish by utilising BPM.

Many of today’s management veterans remember the days when processes were stored inside people’s heads. Apart from the inherent inconsistency in execution this generated, time was wasted creating and conveying information. Work got done, but productivity was much lower than it is now, and unfortunately, more undesirable incidents such as errors, injuries and other ‘mishaps’ occurred. Since those early days, we have seen great strides in new technology and approaches to management that have transformed the ‘process landscape’. These spurred the evolution of a customer-centric and process-centric approach to improving business results that has come to be known as Business Process Management (BPM).

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