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Process Digitalization: Just More Automation?

by Bruce Robertson  |  July 28, 2015  |  Comments Off on Process Digitalization: Just More Automation?

No, it’s worth distinguishing new capabilities that go beyond just getting the work of of paper (or in manufacturing, out of human hands). If you don’t change the work really, what’s the point? Well, there IS a point to the automation phase — greater visibility and control, and maybe more agility. Maybe. Given that most of us focused our BPI or BPM efforts early on efficiency and cost reduction, the main emphasis was on standardization, not enabling much change.

At Gartner, we use the term “digitalization” to signal another level of process transformation capability, one beyond what most think of as automation.

First, there are more things in the process — IoT augments OT (operational technology, like manufacturing lines) as part of the process. Humans are not the only resource available to solve problems.  A machine can do it’s own data entry now.  Doesn’t that sound different?

Next, there’s way more agility:

  • business rules are easier to change
  • beyond business logic (or rules), there is process modeling to change the flow without deep programming, easier customization of user or customer experience
  • case management style behavior changes rote standardized execution assumptions to enable more flexible execution, even ad-hoc and dynamic
  • you can add just enough variation to experiment literally with different transactions (or cases) being handled in different ways to see which way works best or to offer a variety of approaches to match customer journey variation

Plus, we add analytics to support the real time execution of the process.  This enables deeper business rules context but it also increasingly provides new predictive and cognitive computing (smart machine) capabilities to make better decisions about what actions to take next.

Consequently, we like to differentiate digitalization from automation. It helps to focus key stakeholders on the bucket of key new capabilities that we need to market better.

Do you make this distinction as well? Do you do process automation or process digitalization?

Come join us for a discussion on “Digitalizing Processes With Smart Machines” that I’ll lead at our upcoming Gartner BPM Summit just outside Washington DC Sept 9-11, 2015.  My colleague Janelle Hill also discussed this recently in a Smarter With Gartner posting.  Gartner clients can get more related research starting with my research “What Does It Mean to Digitalize Work?” published earlier this year — and now this as well: “Beyond Automation: Digitalization Changes Business Process Design and Execution.”

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Category: bpm  business-transformation  smart-machines  strategic-planning  technology-and-emerging-trends  

Tags: automation  bpi  bpm  business-process  business-transformation  digital-business  digitalization  iot  smart-machines  

Bruce Robertson
Research VP
15 years at Gartner
27 years IT industry

Bruce Robertson is a research vice president at Gartner in the Business Process Management (BPM) group, formerly in the Enterprise Planning and Architecture Strategies (EPAS) group. Read Full Bio

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