Part 3: Open Process Platforms as the Next Paradigm of the Cloud
For this blog post series I’ve teamed up with my colleague Lukas N.P. Egger, Head of Innovation Office & Strategic Projects, Business Process Intelligence, to share our personal views around business transformations and the future of business processes.
In the following is the third and last installment of our three-part series. You can find the other parts in the SAP Community as well. Part One: “The Future of Business Transformation are Processes” and Part Two: “Business Processes as a Service: The Reimagination of Businesses” .
The first post analyzed why business transformation is so important and referred to it as the new digitalization. The second post developed the argument further and concluded that Business Processes as a Service (BPaaS) are the best way to transform a business. The third and last part takes a closer look at BPaaS and what the future of composable enterprises processes might entail.
To start with, there is a famous quip by Mark Twain that it is tough to make predictions, especially about the future. This is equally true for BPaaS, which is a new B2B paradigm.
However, Jeff Bezos famously said that instead of trying to predict what will change, one should think about what will not change. In the case of Amazon and their customers, it is the desire for lower prices and faster deliveries. Generally, in the case of B2C customers, they too will always want their products faster and cheaper.
Translating this line of thinking to the B2B world, industry leaders always have a need for their businesses to run at greater efficiency and with increased agility. Every single business owner wants to do more with less and adapt faster to market changes.
BPaaS and its composability of business processes is the most promising contender to massively improve agility and in consequence efficiency. But how does the industry will get from here to there?
How to get from here to there – demystifying aforementioned BPaaS
In the following are the five necessary components to make BPaaS a reality:
- A set of robust enterprise applications
- A large customer base for aforementioned applications
- Access to process data and process profiles
- Tools to control and automate processes
- An open process platform
A set of high-quality B2B applications is the foundation from which businesses can start their transformation journeys. Just as you can’t assemble an airplane in flight, businesses need to have established, robust, and compliant processes first.
Providing best-in-class processes to a big audience is a good start. But it is only a start. If businesses can’t use their data safely, especially their process data and profiles, then they are hamstrung and won’t be able to create the feedback loops needed to learn.
It is obvious that having access to data is a huge advantage. But how does process data and process profiles create emergent properties that lead to new and better insights?
Process data all by itself does not help. Just like with any good recipe, multiple ingredients must come together.
The first ingredients are process-data volume and variety, to create representative samples for all participants across all industries. High data velocity ensures that information arrives timely, and the derived insights aren’t outdated. Data veracity, i.e., common semantics and quality standards safeguard the quality of insights. These are the four V’s that unlock the value of process related insights and the reason why process data on an aggregated level is so important.
But what is knowing good for if you can’t translate it into action? Monday morning quarterbacking doesn’t help. Business leaders want actionable insights that turn their game plans into wins. Thus, the ability to control and automate processes is inextricably linked to the analyses and making the concept of BPaaS work overall.
BPaaS is best served as a platform play
Finally, in what way can BPaaS be consumed? We believe that BPaaS is inextricably linked to the concept of a process platform.
But what is a platform anyway? A platform is a business service that creates significant value through the acquisition, the matching, and the connection of two or more customer groups, by enabling them to transact. A digital platform facilitates the interactions between businesses and creates network effects. Linking this logic to the concept behind BPaaS, it’s not about creating the best process, it’s about providing the best environment to run processes.
No single software vendor can solve every single business problem. Especially in a world in which business models become more complex, technical setups more heterogeneous, and the overall economic environment more volatile. However, software vendors can put every business into a position in which they can learn faster, react quicker, and adapt their business more confidently by themselves.
To achieve this and embrace a more complex and heterogeneous business world, systems need to become more agnostic and pluralistic. This means abstracting from the underlying systems their individual components and focusing on unified user experiences across applications.
In this way BPaaS is tied to the idea of an open process platform. It is an invitation to everyone to jointly develop the world’s best end-to-end processes.
The only constant about processes is that they are always changing
It is important to note that there never was, nor ever will be a single “best process”. As mentioned before, processes are the language of the intelligent enterprise, and every business has its own voice and its own story to tell.
BPaaS’ value proposition and the goal of an open process platform is to create an environment in which each business finds the set of end-to-end processes that best help to tackle the business’ current challenges.
Building a platform is hard and prone to failure. Software vendors need to attract both customers and partners at the same time by offering easy-to-use process modules, prebuilt content, and value-add services. All at the same time and in an environment that creates trust, facilitates collaboration, and makes the execution of business transactions more efficient and agile.
This is a long-term vision, and multi-year effort that requires focus and dedication to bring data, taxonomies, modelling, monitoring, simulation as well as other components into one cohesive, mutually beneficial process platform.
Connecting all processes
However, to truly thrive in this ever-evolving environment, companies must commit to transforming their business models continuously. Digitalization is a key piece in this bigger puzzle and paves the way to a cloud take-off. But the effort can’t end there. With BPaaS businesses can move fast and scale quicker to get ahead of the competition. Through increased business flexibility, companies can continue to deliver high value, cheaper and faster to any of their customers.
Certainly, there are barriers to be overcome to reach the state of modularized companies and processes but as technology evolves, the more mature SAP’s approach to BPaaS will become – and it all starts with process transformation and business process intelligence (BPI).
What is your take on the topics of business transformation, Business Process as a Service and the idea behind an open process platform? Please share your feedback in the comments below or raise your specific question in the SAP Community by using the Business Process Intelligence Q&A tag.