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Beyond big data-style business intelligence, content analytics is driving auto-classification, content remediation, security correction, adaptive case management, and process monitoring and modeling. The first step for many analytic processes is capture and recognition—from paper and documents to other inbound channels. These other inbound channels can include information gathered through handheld devices, smartphones, and even devices tied into the information ecosystem via the Internet, like power and water meters and even medical devices like heart monitors. Considering this, where are all of the processes, and is business process management (BPM) still a play for the future?

The answer is yes: A recent report by AIIM titled "Process Improvement and Automation 2016 - A look at BPM" found that 55% of respondents say BPM is significant (38%) or imperative (17%) for their business.” Even though we do not see physical activity, due to the way information is collected, there are still related processes associated with the data being gathered. It is this data that serves as the process trigger, whether it's system to system or human actions taking place, the process is still there. What we have done is transfer the capture element even further upstream to a first touchpoint.

For example, where once utility companies used meter readers to document usage by looking at and writing down the meter usage positions, today, this information is transmitted in real time to the line-of-business applications for billing. Where once a patient was required to be in the hospital or wear a recording device to monitor heart activity, which then had to be returned for the data to be uploaded, the device now transmits that data at preset intervals, allowing doctors to be aware 24/7 of issues that are developing. This is where BPM, analytics, and the Internet of things converge to enhance processes, and yes, while it may eliminate some aspects of process, it also increases flexibility, efficiency, and productivity.

Consider this

Technology advancements are enabling businesses to move beyond traditional boundaries, opening up new potential applications that once were a passing thought. Wireless connectivity feeds data and information into businesses at an accelerating rate, on a global scale, and in a synchronized and consistent way. This inbound collection is identified, classified, and brought into the process for action, not at the speed of humans and paper but at the speed of digital business. The process is still there; it has simply transformed to a new level—one that benefits from the end result.

What to think about
When it comes to assessing the use of technology for process innovation, first look at the process itself to understand what is really happening, what actions and tasks are being performed, and what, if any, technology is available to perform that function. Design the new process identifying the data and information to be collected and how it could be captured further upstream—as close to the first touchpoint as possible. Using our previous example from utility companies and healthcare providers, this means directly from the Internet-enabled meter or heart monitoring devices. The point being, design is essential.

Once you have this in place, identify what corresponding processes are impacted and develop new ways of passing the information from one process to the next. This is where BPM can serve as that back-end mediator. Once the information is captured and identified, BPM, based on business rules, directs it to the appropriate workflows, systems, and, perhaps, individuals for processing.

In my view
We have the ability to take process well beyond its current state and to a new future state using distributed devices to monitor and capture vital business information at the source—and in real time. There is even a capability to track movement of raw materials and finished goods using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, down to the level of bin location, trailer number, and even geographical location using GPS tracking to follow the truck. There is even technology in place in restaurants, and now even in McDonalds, where patrons place their orders and pay using a credit or debit card through an iPad or kiosk and touchscreen, all without interaction between humans. In this case, the order and payment process is now managed systematically, triggering the preparation and delivery process still currently managed by humans.

It is not a matter of if but when more processes will transform in this manner. Forward-thinking organizations are taking steps to rethink the current state of operations and explore the possibilities that lie ahead. What about you? Are you ready to embark on this journey to the land of hidden processes?

Bob Larrivee is Vice President and Chief Analyst of Market Intelligence at AIIM and an internationally recognized subject matter expert and thought leader with over 30 years of experience in the fields of information and process management. He is an avid techie with a focus on process improvement and the application of advanced technologies to enhance and automate business operations. Follow him on Twitter @BobLarrivee.

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