It’s exceedingly easy to think about the Internet of Things (IoT) as a hardcore technology play, but it really isn’t. The crux moves – the most difficult challenges of the next five years will be made in business process, including how new, faster data helps process gets analyzed, designed, deployed and executed in ever-faster cycles.
The reason business process management (BPM) will require the heaviest focus is pretty simple…the technologies that power the IoT aren’t really new and their deployment won’t be that tricky. Sensors have been with us a while as have mobility and the Internet. Sure, there will be more data and higher needs for bandwidth, but the real question will instead be whether business process can quickly be adapted to new sources of information, new decisions and their changing outcomes. Higher rates of change will cause unexpected levels of anxiety and disruption to businesses that haven’t thought through the true impact to the business model and the people who execute it.
Don’t Get Buried In The Tools
I had the pleasure of see the dry run of John Morris’ presentation for Interop’sInternet of Things Workshop that will happen this coming Monday in New York. One particular thing he said resonated strongly:
If you get buried in all of the powerful tools, you’ll lose site of why we’re here. The real opportunity is related to the decisions to be made and the challenges are where those decisions are delayed or clouded by poor process.
He cited examples like false positives from automated sensors that cause poor decisions. Over time, alarm fatigue sets in, creating cynicism or ignoring of the data, both of which delay or prevent important decisions. Increased automation and the insertion of machine and sensor data into the unprepared business model quickly brings chaos and creates risk for the business looking for the opposite effect.
Fast Cycle Business Adaptation
The real payoff from the Internet of Things is fast cycle business adaptation. Information streaming from sensors gives us the ability to adjust the model in short timeframes, but only if we have the process maturity to recognize and absorb the change. As John said in his presentation, “All you business analysts — your ship has come in.”
But unlike the business process focus of the past, which was heavily based on gaining small efficiency from incremental improvement (Lean, Six Sigma), the pressure will be on to show more significant gains from the deployment of technology that can speed up production, cut costs and create new services.
This pressure will eventually put the focus on process. Techniques and frameworks that have been bubbling along in the background, will become more valuable as businesses struggle to add data while avoiding information overload and alarm fatigue. As an example, OMG’s is a construct to model decisions in diagrams that work as easily for IT as for the business. The APQC Process Classification Framework is another great example of a brilliant starting point for redesigning how work is done and benchmarking against others who’ve moved the ball forward using IoT to automate. It won’t stop with new modeling techniques and frameworks. The stock of model-driven and dynamic BPM is going to rise as more and more companies realize that there’s no time to code and recode as automation shortens business adaptation cycles. The traditional concept of BPM as “plumbing” that is established and allowed to run for years is coming to an end.
The alternative, as John says, is IoT-led entropy. He has a great perspective and you’re welcome to join him on Monday at the Javitz Center in NY for the Interop Internet of Things Summit.