As many businesses embark on the journey of becoming process-centric, and excel at sharing, implementing and improving processes consistently across their global manufacturing base, the question one can ask is what happens when the business becomes too efficiency-focused? What if the business wants to intentionally deviate from standard processes in attempts to discover more effective ways of manufacturing a new product? To do this, they might want to encourage open debate between engineering and manufacturing, between purchasing and quality and amongst other groups. A key capability of next-generation manufacturing is the ability to respond to changes in demand or changes in consumer and market trends, with speed.
Dr. Michael Grieves, in his book “Virtually Perfect,” includes innovation and the other unstructured “practices” that an organization wants to encourage, as a critical part of achieving corporate goals and developing an agile culture. To help organizations engage in unstructured practices, IT groups often introduce social collaboration and content management tools. The opportunity here for BPM is what role to play in supporting such unstructured practices? Would not BPM help accelerate the transition from new engineering or manufacturing innovations to well-documented and cost-effective processes during the ramp-up stage of a new product introduction?
Today, there are significant opportunities for introducing novel approaches in content and human-interaction management within a BPM. Under content management is the ability to retrieve, create, update, modify, and correlate unstructured content around the context of a process; support for video, audio, text, and social streams; and content organization around the processes to which content relates. Under human interaction management is the ability to manage shared work queues, advanced visualization, individual and group collaboration and support for virtual communities. BPM’s innate ability at enabling a user experience that is role-based and providing presence and managed notification services is a perfect fit for allowing humans to interact in unstructured ways to improve their processes.
Where the Future of BPM May Lead Us
With BPM technologies generating billions of dollars annually in revenue, one can readily conclude they pose a significant and growing threat to the traditional market for software development tools. And although the technology can be considered distinct from developer tools – as it targets non-developers – this is a nirvana yet to be achieved. Although most BPMs automatically generate a user interface in some form, to deliver a responsive user interface that satisfies today’s demanding user on the wide-range of fixed and mobile devices available, requires developers skilled in Web 3.0 technologies.
Yet certainly the technology has delivered on one of its key promises, which is the ability to take an initial and continually changing model of a business’s processes, and keep that model synchronized with an executable form. When that executable form consumes business logic from a library of pre-configured SOA components and a consistent model of business data, BPM can deliver solutions capable of satisfying a wide range of business contexts such as manufacturing operations management. The introduction of business intelligence, big data, social, and other emerging technologies into a BPM will allow this technology to remain a viable foundation for any process-centric business that has embarked on the journey from being single-plant, efficiency-focused, to demand-sensing with the ability to adapt at the speed at which their markets change. Furthermore, incorporating unstructured activities natively within a BPM has the potential to make a significant impact on the future of manufacturing innovation.