I am a stickler for doing things *in context*. Ask my wife – she’ll be cooking and ask me to fetch the cooking wine and I’ll ask her “why?”. That’s right – asking for context when her stir-fried shrimp are already turning color is simply unnecessary – and annoying.
But when you’re doing business activities like B2B integration, e-commerce or Cloud computing, understanding context is important – lest you get distracted by technology (“Web 2.0 — wow, cool”) and your day-to-day tasks (“please send me that file!”) and you lose sight of the whole point of why you’re doing such things.
Which brings me to my take-away observations from the Gartner BPM Summit here in Orlando that’s just winding down. I gave two presentations on the role of BPM technology in B2B / Ecommerce projects. Here’s a few bits of wisdom from conversations with our attendees:
Consume B2B in the form of processes!
Whatever you think you’re doing – “B2B integration”, “e-commerce”, “Cloud computing” – remember that you’re implementing PROCESS. Thus, if you’re implementing the procure-to-pay process for a supply chain look for solutions that are process-aware, e.g., pre-configured with the right B2B documents, maps for translation, process visibility rules and dashboards. One way of consuming B2B processes directly is in the form of “business process networks” (BPNs) – in his own blog David McCoy briefly mentions BPNs and here’s our formal definition of BPN’s for Gartner clients (login required). Though not available for all projects, BPNs are a direct way to implement B2B processes, increasingly available for e-procurement, financial services, logistics, etc.
Selectively model B2B processes!
Janelle Hill and I had a great conversation with some nice folks of an international B2B / Ecommerce services provider that attended my session and wanted to explore options for their increasing need of BPMS technology (including process modeling and a rules engine) specifically so they could deploy configurable ecommerce projects with scale for their customers. We agreed that for complex, high-value and fast-changing processes that can be leveraged across multiple B2B communities, BPMS technology would be a great addition. But that for more static, less-complex processes that traditional application development is still fine. Its important to apply BPMS technology judiciously — I’ve blogged before on the issue of when — and when not — to use BPMS technology.
Instrument the process!
Once you’ve automated a B2B process across your community don’t miss out on the opportunity to “mine” that flow of messages and transactions to expose key performance indicators and drive process improvement. I had great discussions with a few clients about its benefits – such as sharing multienterprise process insight amongst your B2B peers – and challenges – such as plugging a potentially CPU-intensive BPM rules engine on top of your high-throughput B2B traffic! But regardless, nearly everyone agrees that one way or another IT users are long overdue to benefit from the decade-long oft-failed promised of “mining” B2B / ecommerce (and now Cloud) traffic! I have recently spoken to a few reference customers that specifically cited the valuable impact that process visibility has on their B2B projects.
I welcome your thoughts on all this!
As I post this I’m preparing to head back from the BPM Summit. The event has come to a close, but its impact will endure. Look to me for more on the role of BPM technology and discipline in the domain of B2B, e-commerce and Cloud computing!
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