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The resurgence of the business process



I've been working with four ex-CIOs recently, creating training for our software sales people. I've learnt a lot from them. But the one key message they have given me is that "it's not about applications - its all about the business process". 


They point out that while users see applications, the thing that does the end-to-end work is a business process. It's the complete business process that the business buys from IT. It's the business process that delivers products to customers, supports customers and takes payment from customers.


How Business Processes create differentiation

In broad terms, there are two types of business processes in any enterprise. There are non-core, or “context”, processes that are generic to anyone in the industry and don’t generate differentiation for the enterprise. Examples may include payroll, expenses, travel and email. By 2020, I believe that most "context" processes will be sourced from SaaS providers.

And there are core business processes. These are unique to the enterprise and do create differentiation.

But the concept of core and non-core (context) does not stop there. If we look into the steps in core business processes, we find that these too are made up of core, differentiated steps and non-core, generic steps.


For example, a European clothes manufacturer makes their clothes locally in Europe. They believe that the extra cost of doing so is offset by better responsiveness to the fast changing and fickle European fashion market.

biz process blog example.001.jpg

Their supply chain process contains generic steps like “materials purchase” and “shipping”.  But it also contains two key steps that they believe generates differentiation. The first step is the clothes design user interface and the second step is the link between the designs and setting up and manufacturing of the clothes in their factory in Portugal. 


I believe that by 2020, there will thousands of specialist cloud services available. These services will be created by enterprises.  For example, shipping companies will provide cloud services to do everything from simple package shipping, to multi-destination shipping requests, to detailed status information gleaned from RFID tag sensors. One or more of these would be used by our clothing company in their business process.


The user interfaces and back-end steps that differentiate our clothes manufacturer would be designed and possibly built by the manufacturer itself, however because they need to retain control of their IT-generated differentiation.  


So, a core business process is made up of non-core, generic steps and core, differentiated steps. It’s thru the core, differentiated steps that IT creates competitive advantage for the business. 


Create "throw away applications", but make sure the business process survives

As part of the crowd sourced vision of 2020 that HP is working on, we interviewed Dr. Robert Charette, a fellow with Cutter Consortium and president of ITABHI Corporation. He had a number of insights into the world of 2020 that we have incorporated into the CIO 20/20 vision.


One of these insights concernes "throw-away applications."  In the past, we assumed applications would last forever. OK, we never thought they would last for thousands of years, but certainly for 10 or 20 years. For example, when people put in place Siebel sales force automation solutions, they never assumed someone would replace them with, say, in five years' time.


However, throw-away applications are becoming more common. Rather than say, "let's create an application that will last forever, regardless of what technology changes occur," maybe we should turn it around and say, "let's assume applications will only last three to five years."


If we assume we are creating throw-away applications, how does our approach to application development change? The two things that survive from application version to application version are the business processes and the data.


For this reason, it's important that we abstract out the business processes from applications as much as possible.


Of course, we're fighting our ISVs and SaaS providers in this.  They want to embed our business process in their applications because it provides stickiness for their applications and stops us easily moving away from them.


But if we want to have applications that we can throw away easily, we must fight hard to have business processes sitting above applications.


The holy grail - create applications by modeling the business process

The CIOs I talked about at the start of this post say that the holy grail for them is to have IT analysts who are able to sit with the business and use very high level tools to create business processes. They would then like to be able to hit a button and have the business process created in IT systems. Project teams would then be able to quickly modify these processes as they figure out ways to improve them. The business processes would thus closely track the needs of the business.


We also talked above about how business processes in the future will be made up of cloud-based services from different sources. Our modelling tools need to be able to incorporate these cloud-based steps into our business processes


I believe that by 2020, this holy grail of easy creation and modification of such business processes will be a reality. 


What’s your vision for IT in 2020?

We talk about business processes, the use of business processes to glue together cloud services, and throw-away applications in our CIO 20/20 vision chapter on the Enterprise 20/20 web site. We talk more about the creation and modelling business processes in the Dev Center 20/20 chapter, which we have just released.


These chapters are our first cut at a vision for what the world will look like in 2020. Please feel free to add your ideas or comment on any of the Enterprise 20/20 chapters - it's the crowd's comments that will shape our final 2020 vision.


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 Author : Mike Shaw

Mike Shaw
Director Strategic Marketing

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About the Author


Mike has been with HPE for 30 years. Half of that time was in research and development, mainly as an architect. The other 15 years has been spent in product management, product marketing, and now, strategic marketing. .

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A variable to business process belongs to the scope in which it is declared. If it is created in the global process scope then it is a global variable, and thus visible to the process as a whole. Those that are created within nested scopes are called scoped or local variables, and can only be seen by objects within the scope in which it was created.


Business is never so healthy as when, like a chicken, it must do a certain amount of scratching around for what it gets. ~Henry Ford

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