Smart process applications (smart process apps) provide a way for companies to manage both the structured and unstructured content surrounding their business processes. In this video, Craig Le Clair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, explains how companies can leverage these applications to transform the way their employees work.
I'm Craig LeClair. I'm a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, and as an analyst there, I cover things like enterprise content management and business process management. I did a lot of the early work and development of smart process applications and dynamic case management.
What are smart process applications?
These are lighter, more agile applications that are industry specific; deal with and coordinate the unstructured and structured world; and really leverage new aspects that are emerging into the technology space, meaning social, mobile, analytics and SaaS, really.
What are the components of smart process applications?
So the components based on that are…
- Certainly analytics is very, very important. What we call awareness - the ability to understand the context for whatever task or process is being performed by the smart process app is really, really important.
- The ability to have an orchestration or a process engine – to be able to coordinate the task – because you're coordinating a lot of human and system behavior, and you really need a process engine/case management type of business process management to really do that well.
- And of course you need capture, and you need multi-channel communications to round-it-out.
So really if you think of it, it's that the agile technologies have evolved over the years to provide that process architecture that's needed to be, you know, kind of variable on customer requirements for various complex processes, but now we're packaging them better and more discreetly for industry domains.
How do smart process applications differ from transactional content management?
These things all have some level of overlapping elements, so it is a little difficult sometimes to kind of tease them apart. But, the best way to think about it is that for years we've invested in the production worker; often to the detriment of production workers. We've invested in automation that eliminated the production workers, and that's really where the content management market started.
It started with large paper factories, and scanning in documents, and having people more efficiently review those documents. We're trying to keep production workers at very high RPMs – is really what you're trying to do; and that worked very well. A lot of the automation, when you look at corporate profits for example, over the last 10, 15 to 20 years, you know, they just continue to increase due to investment in that type of automation and technology.
How does case management fit in?
But, today we're in a different spot. You know, today we have fewer production workers (those that survive or perhaps have been outsourced to a lower labor arbitrage economy), so there's much more focus now on making the remaining workers, which are more knowledge workers and not quite lawyers or what I do, but they are somewhere in between the traditional production workers and a knowledge worker - and that's an underserved group.
So the reason there's interest in case management and the reason there’s an interest in smart process applications is that…
- We can now build applications that make those middle-tier employees much more productive.
- It's a new time where we're not focused on elimination of people but we're focused on making them smarter. And that's a really, it's a fundamental watershed time.
- These technologies, like case management and like smart process apps, recognize that we are underutilizing these workers today, that they have much more intelligence, that we're treating them like human beings plugged into point-of-sale machines in many cases.
And that for companies to differentiate in the future, they will need to leverage the human talent they have and provide them a new set of tools that deal with mobility and social, in talk context awareness, be able to drive personalized experiences – that's how you'll remember a company.
So that's why there's tremendous interest in smart process apps and dynamic case management.