Adam Deane has set off a discussion on his blog on BPM Visions Of The Future.
My own view is that we are witnessing a revolution in process thinking. It’s similar to the transformation that took place around 3000BC when humankind moved from hieroglyphs to phonetic writing. It is that breakthrough which makes possible this blog – and poetry and tax returns.
That transformation – the adoption of phonetic writing – too was driven by business needs. The emerging societies of that time needed governance. Writing was simply the most efficient way to record and report, to establish the bureaucracy upon which control depended.
It was also a global transformation. Writing seems to have emerged independently in Egypt, China and Central America – but the best evidence we have today comes from Mesopotomia, simply because they used baked clay tablets, which have lasted far better than paper or bamboo. This tablet from Mesopotamia, from the British Museum collection, records the allocation of rations to workers (in the form of beer, an early local currency).
Process is undergoing a parallel transformation. Until recently, process has been about technical symbols, focussed on automation, and intended to be used only by a few.
In the future, process will surely be the universal business language. But it will be holistic, not just focussed on systems. It will be integrated, not just process fragments stored in a common repository. And it will be in the language of the business, so that everyone can understand it – and get involved in continuously improving it.
In short, process will become a polite term. Folks with MBAs won’t feel embarrassed to use it. We’ll no longer have two terms – process and value chain -for the same thing. And it will be inclusive, stimulating a richer and ongoing collaborative dialog: the CIO will sit down with the business user.
And the essential enterprise enabler for all this – the 21st century equivalent of the bureacracy perhaps – will be the process management platform:
- it will integrate process with documents, KPI metrics, risk and controls, quality and compliance, training and task support.
- it will provide the collaborative framework and governance that enables process stakeholders, and Lean and Six Sigma teams, to drive performance improvement.
- and it will deliver all this to the desktops and smartphones of people doing real work – in the form of Storyboards and a personalized intelligent operations manual.
Which is why I count myself thankful to work in such an exciting area. Phonetic writing gave rise to enormous creativity. You couldn’t be reading that blockbuster on your Kindle without it. As enterprises become more virtual, more outsourced, more socially responsible, more complex and with ever more global supply chains, we will need ever more creativity in the workplace. And business process management will be a crucial enabler.
credit: inspired by A History Of The World In 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor.
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