Revisiting Business Agility through BPM

The recent economic turmoil has elevated the importance of “agility” for enterprises. The first few weeks of 2010 were great as we were hopeful that we were on a path to recovery. But we soon learned the recovery is rather tepid and slow moving. There are way too many systemic factors that are causing chaos and volatility. In this climate, agility – meaning the rhythm of rolling forward new solutions and rolling back current offerings – has to be synchronized with both market oscillations and anticipated market receptiveness. BPM suites are the critical enabler and catalyst for achieving such dynamic agility.

How? There are two interdependent and critical requirements for agility in business process management solutions:

  • The first is the ability for business stakeholders to quickly – and incrementally – introduce change. The change “delta” from business analysis to execution has to be almost seamless and instantaneous. What is required to change is what gets executed is the new mantra. This “change” spans creating new solutions for existing and new markets. It also includes deprecating or re-positioning existing solutions.
  • The second – and perhaps more important— is the ability to respond quickly and adeptly to a given situation. This “ability” to respond, based on a situation, applies to business functions, lines of businesses, as well as the enterprise as a whole. Here you have the execution of adjustable process machines that can maneuver, adjust, and respond for a given context.

Let me give an example. Recently scientists from Göttingen have created a robot that uses what is called “organized chaos” – to adjust its responses on a situational basis: a walking robot, which - depending on the situation - can flexibly and autonomously switch between different gaits. In regular, steady state movement, the robot can walk “normally.” When it is trapped, it can make chaotic movements, to free itself. The robot can adjust, move, change, respond, react – all depending upon the situation. It is dynamic. As mission-critical processes get executed, most of the time it is like “normal walking.” But then, within the context of processes at any granule, there will be “traps” that the process or any of its participants need to respond to, depending upon the situation. That is the essence of business agility with BPM. The intelligence and automation of the robot causes it to quickly respond and adjust based on the situation. New rules can easily be introduced that the robot can learn. The same should be true in a BPM solution. For it to be flexible, agile, and dynamic, it needs to adapt situationally, applying the best BPM asset (process, policy, etc.) for the given situation. Newly discovered processes or policies could be enacted. Others could be deprecated. The granule of the situation can be an entire mission- critical BPM solutions or specific user interactions. All this may sound a bit like process fiction. But it is actually achievable. More importantly, it is a fundamental requirement for true business agility.