Which platform to support core business processes?

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The burden of legacy environment is always cited as one of, if not the main one, hinder slowing organisations in their digital transformation journeys. And indeed, without successful rationalisation or retirement of old systems, faster time-to-market and reduction of the total cost of ownership remain unreached objectives. The banking back-office is a typical example of […]

The burden of legacy environment is always cited as one of, if not the main one, hinder slowing organisations in their digital transformation journeys. And indeed, without successful rationalisation or retirement of old systems, faster time-to-market and reduction of the total cost of ownership remain unreached objectives. The banking back-office is a typical example of this challenge. This applies equally to insurance or public sector.
 
When considering platforms to replace existing landscape, Core Industry solutions and Case management platforms (or iBPMS) emerge as relevant candidates to support the current and future business. So which option is the most suitable?
 
On one hand, core Industry solutions provide Out-of-Box ready to use capabilities
 
Industry solutions will usually come with most of core functions required to run business in the scope. They are per definition industry adapted and therefore likely appealing to business stakeholders who would see them as plug-and-play thanks to:

  • An extensive and extensible information model and data model encompassing the most common information needed by organisation;
  • Inbuilt components to handle core information such as ledgers, product management, or customer data management;
  • Generic processes pre-configured in a case management module with fit-for-purpose end-user interfaces.

 
When looking deeper into these solutions, one must carefully pay attention to:

  • Entry costs and risk for project failure as the implementation of several modules is often mandatory to start running the solution;
  • Dependence on the supplier and its product release cycle to evolve the business;
  • Painful integrations and customisation to local industry standards and legal constraints;
  • Challenge to follow-up end-to-end lead-time and waste in handover between systems. Processes will usually include steps before and after the parts that are covered by the solution: application in a portal or payment in an ERP.

 
On the other hand, Case management platforms provide high flexibility
 
Case management platforms will facilitate end-to-end process support though strong generic automation, operational steering and analysis capabilities. Market basics will typically include process simulation, business activity monitoring, integration utilities, and much more. They will supply:

  • Prerequisites for an agile start on a controlled scope in order to show value, limit risks and accelerate ROI;
  • Native support for an unified experience across communication channels;
  • Reuse and leveraging on the existing capabilities as well as data insights by encapsulating or listening to outcomes from other systems along the end-to-end flow;
  • Framework for continuous process improvement and adaptation to changing business rules and regulations.

 
Depending on the vendor and the industry, they may however come with:

  • Limited or poorly reusable industry frameworks implying additional implementation costs to rediscover established industry standards;
  • Missing core capabilities. Functionalities such as credit risk assessment models, payment management, or inventory management are unlikely part of these platforms, even in their vertical packaging;
  • Technical professional services with superficial industry knowledge requiring time to learn business specifics and missing ability to challenge practices.

 
Weighting strategic differentiation and in-house capabilities against market standard
 
The above differences tend yet to disappear as both alternatives are progressively taking steps towards each other:

  • Industry solution vendors have made significant efforts on increasing their modularity and enhancing their case management and integration capabilities.
  • Case management vendors have considerably strengthened their industry frameworks and progressively switched their focus from providing a toolbox to solving concrete business needs.

 
Before jumping into product comparison, taking time to start from strategic goals and to evaluate current capabilities against future process state will help to select the most suitable approach.

  • What business outcome is the solution meant to achieve: kick-starting a new business area from scratch, reaching better effectiveness and efficiency in an existing area?
  • Which role has the supported process in differentiating from the competition? Is market best-practice at low cost good enough?  
  • Where does the short-term and long term value of the initiative come from: decommissioning legacy applications, increasing internal productivity, generating income on existing or new products?
  • Where are the strengths and the weaknesses of the current application landscape?
  • What are the capabilities to keep, to replace, to add?

 
Surveys show that main reasons for failing are not choosing the wrong tool. Why not ensuring a strategy-aligned process development approach first rather than focusing on the tooling?

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