Rethinking process reinvention with Mobility and Internet of Things

Mobile Process Reinvention in Mobile Business Process Management


  • Mobile apps are quickly emerging as integral pieces of core processes enabling participation from any where any time.
  • Business processes have not only become smarter offering visibility and actionable event reports but also accessible through use of mobile devices.
  • The smarter apps and smarter processes are now coming together in a reinvention ring to synergistically innovate using device capabilities and mobile life styles.
  • The reinvention is able to leverage things as well as mobile experience to optimize processes more comprehensively.

Business Processes are traditionally viewed as repeatable practices or procedures that produce desirable outcomes. As these processes became diverse due to resource availability variations and unplanned exceptions and as their visibility & management at any point in time became necessary, BPM (Business Process Management) took birth and evolved to its present form. Soon after, focus shifted to efficiency while at the same time mobile applications have emerged opening opportunities for improved resource involvement. The availability of data , mobile and social analytics began to reshape the BPM pushing the capability envelope to appeal to information leaders in every industry. In parallel, mobile devices started to appear in peoples’ palms supplementing and in some cases replacing their wired counter parts such as desktops and lap tops. Given that on average 60% of enterprise communications are in fact with people away from their wired appliances, mobility and the use of mobile apps became inevitable realities. The mobile apps (app) differentiate themselves from one another and from the wired counter parts in usability and usefulness. First generation of mobile apps essentially provided the wireless extensions and convenience alone. The second generation promoted the use of mobile device features to bring new levels of interaction and information augmentation. Use of camera and use of augmented reality are two of several examples that differentiate mobile app capability from the wired alternatives. As an emerging trend, the mobile apps began to become part of previously known processes in a way to bolster the main functions of the core processes existing in eCommerce. For example, receiving an activation code on one’s mobile device and then using it to prove own identity in a transaction on another digital engagement channel protects the user from compromised credentials. However, as BPM embraces mobile app and as mobile apps cleverly participate in the every day BPM, there is often a hit & miss situation. This is because many are yet to realize that a truly far reaching app is in fact a living, knowing and remembering process and a business process is in fact a series of connected mobile apps. Basically, processes have several touch points involving people who are available much more on their mobile devices. Incidentally, the apps have a business context and more the context is known, the better the usefulness and usability an app can offer to its users. Simply put, we need to elaborate the placement and participation of an app to secure its purposeful place in the information economy and similarly, we need to surgically break down and mobile amplify process smarts to achieve progress in all times and in all places by its users. Result is an always live process app looking for and servicing its users wherever they may be and whenever possible.



Internet of Things (IoT)

Just as processes are inter-related and people are interconnected, intelligent devices a.k.a things are emerging to provide better context and reusable history by placing themselves in and around processes and people. Things could recognize their target users via the devices they carry, could communicate progress of movement and thus offer better visibility. While defining the physical environment as accurately as possible by the surrounding sensor type things, IoT could dynamically influence the mobile app and the over arching process the user is directly or indirectly involved in. Result is intelligence at the point of engagement and thus a better quality of decision support for the user. Recognizing thing as the third concept added to the mobile app and process duo, it will be possible to truly reinvent all essential and useful people processes. The interplay of the three will create room for differentiated innovation in time.



Interplay: things, processes & apps

Threads through business eco systems and cross industry practices define new or extend existing service processes. Increasing needs for information access and manipulation define new or extend existing mobile apps delivering business or enterprise services. Sensors and actuators define new or extend existing things improving context for the mobile user of the new enterprise services. The interplay must consider how business processes leverage things and or mobile apps as there could be none to many types of both. Likewise, horizontal third party apps may get adapted under BYOA to become integrated into a customer enterprise’s core processes which eventually employ things for better visibility. Finally, things themselves are adaptable for countless applications and enterprise vertical processes.


Process of Reinvention

First step in process engineering is process discovery for which several established methods exist. If a formal BPM is not in place, some sort of process discovery is typically employed. Next process documentation comes under focus. This is where the reinvention begins. A necessary step is to segment the discovered process into clearly discernible pieces such as one that is automatic or one that is handled by people.



In fact, we propose that a well defined segment can either be assimilated as requiring no change or can be thing integrated (thingfied) or mobile integrated due to its people engaging element. Separating each segment into one of the three (thingfy, assimilate or mobilize) is referred to as categorization in this article. Regardless of the category the segment is subjected through, the result is fedback into the process manager for validation. Once all segments are processed, we will have arrived at a reinvented process. There is a part of detail that we skipped in the reinvention process we described so far. This has to do with how we mobilize a segment which may be as simple as adding mobile accessibility or could be as innovative as a list of video thumbnails that refine the sub-process for the segment using device features. To see this clearly, a table is offered mapping, the process verbs to practical examples as follows:





The various touch points are handled in different ways based on the available technology at the time. The first two columns capture many of the typical actions by people involved with a process where as the columns 3-5 describe the play of the major innovations of the time. The call centric era relied heavily on CRM based on call driven customer service and web site culture leveraged standardized web based forms and practices. The right most column captures the new tools and techniques offering digital experience. For example, how people discover the process evolved from trial & error to the more recent organized social networks. Next level of reinvention involves standardizing the digital experience which can be simply added with drag & drop in a mobile BPM tool set.