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meme1Iot is all the buzz right now. But what does that mean for Enterprises and, in this case, to the Enterprise’s BPM practitioners? Traditional BPM integrations within an enterprise ecosystem are generally handled through an old fashioned SOA layer, and thus very brittle in terms of adapting to the new trends and new ways of gathering data that flows and relates to a company. These integrations, typically based on stable (and proven) technologies and practices, were not modelled for a fast paced world of change like we live in now. So what is actually the Internet of Things? It is the multiplication (by multiple orders of magnitude) of the network of gadgets and smart devices that are being developed as we speak. You’ve seen this happen already with smartphones (think more powerful smart devices) and recent advances in wireless communication (think speed and data). Everyone is on board now, even the big vendors like Apple, Samsung et al with their smart watches and smart things. In the midst of all these connected devices and the torrent of data that they generate, everyone will need to adapt and ride one of the waves of the future and adopt IoT. Most notably, businesses and enterprise architects will need to brush up their academic expertise, freshen up their knowledge and tailor the Enterprise’s systems to harness that data in order to find new fields of interest and new avenues for their company’s business. Businesses will need to be transformed. The revolution will be social, mobile, in the cloud and it has already started. That, amongst other things, means that even some modules of the enterprise architecture, like BPM, are going to have to look at everything through a whole new perspective and not rely on stable (and sometimes even stale) data and systems for their business process decisions, improvements, metrics and self improvement. More agile ways of introspection processes (process mining) and related practices like agile development workflows, are needed. Lastly and also very importantly, business analytic’s needs to drink from the Fast Data fountains, and IoT is one of them. Essentially, there are two levels in which IoT can benefit a company’s business and consequently, BPM systems:

  • Business model – meshing business models is a reality today. Nowadays, even a company’s business keeps shifting shape and absorbing and letting go of new and old concepts. With connected things, the services and solutions a company can offer can and must be complemented and change over time at a greater pace and scale. Even if you start your company selling product X, you might as well keep your eyes open (and your processes, for that matter) to new ways of satisfying your customers. BPM systems offer the agility to adapt to rapid changing business requirements and complementing services by incorporating brand new businesses into the mix. If you model your processes in BPM systems, as your company changes, so must your processes.
  • Business process: Through process digitalization, product and service improvements, IoT speeds customizing solutions and improves customers experiences overall. Also, if you implement a culture of continuous improvement, you’re one step ahead of your competitors that do not react quick enough to new trends and opportunities. You’ll also be more able to detect upcoming ones and even influence new opportunities for yourself.

This brings us to the question: How can we tap the flow of information, especially coming from IoT, and use that data in our BPM Processes? Because, surely in the future, one cannot exist without the other! meme2 There is no single answer. A combination of Complex Event Processing, Machine Learning and Fast Data, should be expected. Vendors are starting to follow what visionary’s developed and are starting to supply complete solutions that answer this shift driven from the consumers themselves. With Fast Data, CEP and ML you have the ability to have insights on massive and rapidly changing sets of data, and IoT just fits that bill perfectly. A device that emits data (and it’s corresponding application, or in this case, a Fast Data system) does not know the whole story of the customer. If a company sells connected medical devices, like a bracelet, for example, it might want to have the bracelet’s data analysed in the context of the wearer’s history and better tailor it’s offers in the context of it’s own processes, say for instance, a discounted medical check-up, if a certain threshold of high heartbeats are detected. Where should you model this if not in a BPM system, especially if you need approvals and all those BPM related events? BPM, with its workflow, orchestration, User interface capabilities, KPIs and BPMN modelling is a perfect fit and allows companies to adapt even their existing processes to a brave new world of constant change and massive amounts of data. Finally, besides the massive amounts of data, there are also other challenges, mainly:

  • Extremely private data, like Healthcare information. The ability to assure proper and fine grained access control needs to be imbued into existing solutions that are missing this critical feature.
  • Security. With such a large attack surface, taking into account the “sexiness” of breaching security barriers, with more data that you manage, more responsibilities you have.
  • Geographically distributed flows of information. This will put a strain to the company’s existing distributed data infrastructure (at least, the ones that have it) and will make it hard to guarantee quality and insight on BPM processes.
  • Monitoring will have to scale.
  • Optimization and re-engineering of processes will have to be even more agile to change.

Amedar Consulting Group’s case study shows already this need to handle the incoming “everything connected” wave from the processes perspective. The solution by Amedar Consulting Group answered the following challenges:

  • Decomplexify and automate the flow of information in an Healthcare environment.
  • Implement an IoT ecosystem for personal and medical historical data.
  • Implement reporting and documentation required by a government organization.
  • Manage the organizational aspect of the process flows.
  • Model the normal processes related to admission, discharge of patients, doctor visits, etc.
  • Implement a task dashboard.

Most interestingly, the team also shared a number of lessons learned (IoT and BPM related):

  • Agile methodology. This or some other form of rapidly reacting to change will be paramount, specially with IoT in mind.
  • Tackle the link from IoT universe to the Enterprise’s systems as early as possible.
  • Mobility, the future will happen on the go.
  • Work with the stakeholder’s more closely.

meme3More and more, companies processes and Business is on the line. Decades ago, when change occurred now and then, there was time to go up and down the hierarchy to get things done. Today that spells the death of a company. This conjugation allowed, firstly, the ability to better monitor home patients through IoT devices, medical staff to collaborate and visualize telemetric data using BPM suite abilities, and finally paving the way for process and business improvements. In recent years, a new initiative called BPM Everywhere is being thought and developed by leading practitioners building on traditional Business Process Modelling with Process Mining and Analytic’s to speed up and automate process introspection.

JOÃO ESTÊVÃO

BPM Consultant at Polarising