Recently Gartner highlighted a new trend combining BPM and internet of things (IoT). It advocated that the BPM groups within enterprises should play a role in managing the IoT. This is representative of organizations wanting more out of their BPM solutions. There was a time when the focus of BPM implementation was around automation of human tasks and streamlining workflows. While these issues still warrant attention, they are ignoring some of the more complex issues facing organizations. Companies have to continuously evolve to remain relevant in the face of changing social and technological trends. Take an example of intelligent homes, where smart thermostats and sensors monitor real-time weather forecasts and the actual activity in your home during the day to reduce your monthly energy usage by up to 30%. All this was unthinkable a few years ago. These trends has made enterprises wake up to the fact that IoT can play a pivotal role in improving their processes
Let’s take an example of a fire breaking out at a public parking lot. Someone in the security team would call the building administration who would in turn inform various agencies including fire tenders etc. If someone wants to take stock of the overall status or deliver a coordinated response, it could be days before the information is recorded and reviewed. Look at an alternate reality, the fire sensors in the parking lot detect a fire and immediately cause a fire hazard case to be recorded. This causes immediate email and SMS messages to various agencies including fire tenders and police. The latest pictures and location can be captured by the parking security to make it easier for agencies and administration. The various agencies can provide the latest updates directly via various mobile handhelds. At any point of time, everyone has a clear picture of what’s going on.
A certain flight from London to Dubai gets delayed by 2 hours. Today it would mean 2 frustrating hours of waiting in the lounge or randomly browsing through shops. However IoT could radically change this experience. It could turn into an excellent opportunity for airport retailers and a pleasant couple of hours for passengers. This is how it could work – the information on flight delays is relayed in real time, the retailer then offers a discount sale with details being sent to the passenger mobiles. The Airport Wifi could accurately determine the current location of the passenger (assuming the passenger logs on to the airport app to access free WiFi) and then guide the passengers to the right shop. Based on the passenger profile, the retailer could then offer him a large discount on his favorite brand of cigars.
Today repair and maintenance is one of the most difficult and complex activity in large manufacturing organizations. Consider the advantages of predictive maintenance. When a critical shop floor machine is fitted with sensors, it can know its current condition and wear & tear and, whenever necessary, initiate its own maintenance process. A combination of sensors and human operators monitor the environment continuously for hazards or damage resulting in reduced risks and maintenance costs.
Companies that take advantage of these “intelligent processes” stand to gain a significant advantage against competition. While some may say that these are futuristic scenarios and are not relevant today, but these nay-sayers should look at  organizations such as Philips, Rest Devices, and Bosch that are getting competitive advantage out of combining process management with the IoT. From Smart Grids and Smart meters in the utilities industry to telemedicine and smart hospitals in the healthcare industry to social shopping to monitoring factory operations, companies are changing the way they manage their business processes in an ever-connected environment. BPM can no longer only be about people but needs to interact and utilize the multiplicity of sensors, devices and channels that exist.
When interconnected devices are changing the way we lead our daily lives, should enterprise applications be any different? Isn’t it high time that enterprise software (ERP, CRM, BPMS etc.) change the way they utilize the interconnected world to deliver unique competitive advantages. The process management discipline should try to link the core processes, people and the plethora of sensors and devices to deliver true process excellence.