Digital Disruption In The Business Process Management Industry

Tanmay Agarwal

Digital technologies—including mobile, analytics, social media, IOT, robotic automation, machine learning, AI, natural language processing and generation, virtual data warehousing, digital security, intelligence augmentation, cloud, and SaaS—combined with deep domain understanding of the business, is driving unprecedented disruption and transformation in nearly every industry.

All of these factors are not powerful enough to spur disruptive change on their own, but they can make a significant impact when they come together in the right proportions. The results can range from the complete transformation of an existing product or service line to creating an entirely new industry.

Although digital technology adoption across industries has been widely discussed, the business process management (BPM) industry has been slow to gain momentum in adapting to the full impact of digital transformation.

Here are a few observations on what’s plaguing digital deployment in the BPM industry:

  1. Too much granular data, but limited clarity and creativity in defining business problems.
    Most senior leaders and large organizations are grappling with defining the right problem statement and subsequently, translating large amounts of available data into appropriate answers. It’s truly a case of “water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” Most large organizations today have petabytes of consumer data but are unable to articulate specific problems and make effective use of that data to address them.
  1. Expectations for quick ROI instead of opportunities for possible disruption.
    Organizations sometimes choose a quick fix over a long-term, far-reaching disruption of customer experience or 10X improvement. Steeped in traditional evaluation measures, organizations remain averse to change, with a complete lack of ability to innovate and take calculated risks. More often than not, disruption or transformation is primarily driven by a creative idea that challenges the status quo or provides a radically different way of doing the same thing with technology and analytics as mere enablers. Organizations that achieve this level of disruption, in my opinion, are led by exceptionally strong visionary leaders. And while the culture may be widely different, the crux of the dissimilar strategies – such as Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors, and even Dion Weisler’s HP – is driving innovation and demonstrating the willingness to drive futuristic change to achieve success.
  1. Disconnectedness among those who understand business process, technology, and analytics.
    It is not unusual for someone who is adept in statistical modeling doesn’t understand the business context of the data being evaluated. An organization may have data scientists who work on projects, but what value do they bring if they do not solve a real business need? The same is true for technologists who can eloquently detail the advantages of natural language processing but cannot understand how it can be applied to business processes, operations, products, or services.

Organizations should therefore consider three things to overcome these challenges:

  1. Talent: Hire and coach (upskill) the right people who bring domain and business process depth, have a basic understanding of digital technology, and can connect the dots.
  1. Design-thinking principles: Enable problem-solving by redefining the outcome and considering customer experience.
  1. Culture-driven innovation: Establish an organizational structure that looks at driving next-generation thinking in the business.

The BPM market is gaining a fair amount of traction in robotic automation (RA), which includes automating repetitive manual tasks. The focus on RA is not just about ROI, but more about driving accuracy and reliability. While RA is now being augmented with machine learning and autonomic computing, it is yet to scale.

However, more than the maturity of the technology, the limiting factor lies in the business mindset to reimagine outcomes and use technology and analytics as mere enablers. Once BPM companies recognize this fundamental truth, they will benefit from the advantages of intelligent operations.

For more insight on managing a successful digital transformation, see Leading The Shift To A Digital Business With Determination.



Tanmay Agarwal

About Tanmay Agarwal

Tanmay Agarwal has 23 years of experience in manufacturing, finance, supply chain, and analytics in the consumer goods industry. He has worked with leading clients including Unilever, Kimberly Clark, RPG Group, and Genpact in various operational and strategic roles at a leadership levels. His visionary thinking, discomfort with mediocrity, results-oriented mindset, and passion and desire to improve and always challenge the status quo has seen him drive significant business impact and build and develop leaders over the years in various roles that he has played. He has won multiple recognitions in his career including the Unilever Chairman’s Award, Unilever Directors Award, Global World Class Finance Award, Genpact-Platinum Award, and, more recently, Top 25 Digital Thought Leaders in India award from SAP.