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Chief Operating Officers: Are you ready for your close-up?
To the architects and stewards of the processes that drive our organizations and, more broadly, our systems of interaction, Robert LeBlanc issued a challenge, then a warning.
To harness these systems of interaction and the internet of things to build the next generation of business processes – and the next source of business value. To operate with integrity and at internet scale. Harnessing these new systems means exposing the information within your back-end systems of record (HR, CRM, ERP) to interact with dynamic systems of engagement (social networking) located in the cloud and deployed and accessed through mobile apps. Further, it means transforming your processes, data and business rules into services made available through APIs to build new systems that deliver what he called a “continuous client experience.” It means reuse, modularity, loose coupling, and open standards.
Doing this, said LeBlanc, means putting services-oriented architecture (SOA) at the heart of your process design. “SOA is simply good design,” he said. “The principles are absolutely sound. Good design will be what takes you to the next level.”
Innovate now or be left behind. Innovate for today with an eye on tomorrow. As he observed, the software industry itself continues to innovate at such a relentless pace that there is now more processing power in your iPhone than in the Apollo rockets that put man on the moon. There's also no sign of stopping. “You need a design that can permeate and last. The investment you’re making today needs to last through the innovations that are coming. What we cannot afford to do is rebuild your infrastructure every two years because something new comes along.”
The principles to do this today are there, as is the technology.
There are also examples to learn from. Peppered throughout the session were concrete examples of IBM clients who’ve followed the principles and leveraged the technology to realize dramatic improvements in their business performance. For example:
On your iPod: Its value chain may begin with a single song, but it’s merely the first link in music rights leader BMI’s revitalized value chain that spans registration, licensing, distribution (through services like Pandora) and measurement. This value chain is comprised of business processes and rules, deep analytics, data integration and reusable components. The result? A 75-year-old company has survived massive disruptions in its technologies, audiences, channels and business model to emerge a global services hub for the industry. Now, members of the BMI label – songwriters, lyricists, composers and performers including Carrie Underwood, Usher and Adele – can understand what’s selling, who’s buying, where and why. Now, not only has BMI adapted to the pace and scope of change, it can help its members understand and thrive in it. As member John Williams has remarked, "music and technology are inseparable partners."
On the court: Through its “Slam Tracker” mobile app, the USTA provides real-time analytics and predictions on each player’s chances of winning the point and the match – after every shot. And it delivers these at internet scale – some 136 million views over its mobile app alone.
In the store: VISA Europe provides handles 8 million transactions per second from 4 thousand members across 36 domestic markets. Its combination of reusable components and flexible business rules means it can do this all seamlessly - and in full regulatory compliance - without maintaining 36 separate infrastructures.
“The world of transaction is now a world of interactions,” concluded LeBlanc. “A car is only as fast as its driver, and a business is only as smart as its processes. It’s time to take advantage of what the technology can enable.”
LeBlanc ceded the stage to Marie Wieck, who presented powerful examples of what is indeed possible when organizations take those words to heart. For example: by placing their customers at the center of their new processes:
In Portugal, Banco Espirito Santo can link its internal operations to services in the cloud and cut the time to open a new account by 88 percent. In Australia, health insurance provider HCF can cut straight through processing of claims from three weeks to one day – a 93 percent improvement that’s among the reasons the 80-year-old company last year increased its market share by 56 percent without increasing the size of its claims processing team.
These are blisteringly fast times, yet they are the new level of service and responsiveness that customers now demand. Combined with the low cost of switching – be it a mobile phone provider or a financial institution – business process reinvention is an essential imperative. “Your customer satisfaction depends on it,” said Wieck.
To help organizations respond, Wieck referenced Smarter Process, the IBM approach to reinventing business operations. Smarter Process is a social, flexible, mobile data-driven approach that helps organizations reinvent their core business processes into new sources of value and competitive advantage. Smarter Process isn’t about adding an app,” said Wieck. “Its about taking business processes to new places, bringing data to bear in an instant, seamless and insightful fashion.”
“You need to ask yourself,” Wieck continued, “What are the table stakes for my industry? What are the benchmarks and KPIs that we need to achieve?" From there, you need to identify the functional aspects and assets that differentiate you.
The key, Wieck said on her closing note, is to operationalize that advantage for mobile, in the cloud using big data. “It’s about integrating the right data into your processes using SOA and open standards to deliver and extend existing and new services.”