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Business Process Management is Like Digital Photography – An Industry Transformation Analogy!!

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When was the last time you had a roll of film developed?

Film – is actually a technology that had been slowly improved and perfected over years  – was replaced in less than a decade by a much faster, cheaper, and more convenient technology approach.

Here, will try to outline, some of the parallels with the shift from analog to digital image processing, and the effects it had on the industry as a whole.

 Comparing Film Roll Cameras with Primitive Business Process Modeling Methods

There are a lot of similarities between the Business Process Design Methodology we followed earlier and the First Photo we took ages back (close to more than 2 decades)

Costing!! :

Purchasing a film and getting pictures processed has become very expensive very quickly. Only a small minority of professionals could afford it and take as many shots as they wanted – but the general public had to be choosy about our each shot.

Similar is the case, if we are trying to build Business Processes Solutions using native languages and Architecture.(i.e Java, Spring, Sturts etc following the primitive 3-Tier Architecture Model).These are very complex and expensive  when it comes to organization from the revenue and resourcing perspective. As a consequence, the projects have to be ruthlessly prioritized(choosy) based on the project worthiness tradeoff

Dynamic Planning!!

In order to get the best results, we have to know in advance what kind of thing we are going to shoot. Want to take a landscape shot? An action shot in a cricket/football match ? A colorful tropical scene? .. based on the mood and the location the requirement of the Lens, Saturation Level, and daylight or flash. Settings differ. With the Film Roll having just 24 or 36 captures – we cannot just click where ever we want for the heck of it!!.. Tough Call!!.

Similar is the case when we are designing or drafting our Business Processes. The Customer wants us to decide upon the futuristic Process Flows, Data Model, Performance Checks, Monitoring, reports every damn thing!! at the very 1st instance. Which is really impractical. For a small change in the business logic Or the data-type, we need to trace back to the source data and reload it with different transformations.

Slow Feedback Loop:

What we saw through the eye-piece was very different from the resulting picture. By the time we get the film back and realize that the exposure was wrong, or the framing a little off, there wasn’t that much you could do about it. The slow feedback loop meant that lots of good pictures were missed, and that you had to take more pictures than you needed. Want a great shot of a high-contrast night scene? You needed to take multiple long exposures (with the associated high costs) in order to have a hope of getting what you wanted.

By the time business people have had a chance to access the process, data, reports, and dashboards in your business process solutions, we’ve already put in huge amounts of efforts – and the business has moved on, and now has different needs.

Fluence Knowledge

With enough training, skilled photographers understand all the variables involved in getting the right picture, and were able to get more consistent, reliable results. But even they had to rely on specialized film processors to actually get the results.

Because of all the factors mentioned above, even core Java-J2EE today requires lots of arcane knowledge to be successful and tune the process appropriately with minimal performance issues. It is very important to have a clear picture as to what exact changes and configurations have to be done for a successful implementation.

Digital Cameras Compared to Latest Trends in the BPM Arena and related Technologies

Cheap, Easy, Iterative Learning and Experimentation

The screen shows us exactly the shot that we are going to take, and digital cameras don’t require film or processing, so the marginal cost of another picture is effectively zero. Things can be experimented and if does not meet the purpose and needs, necessary correction can be made for a retake.Quck changes in focus can be done, in an intuitive way rather than dwelling into the mathematics behind it.This provides a good ground making every owner of a SLR or a digi-cam feel like a professional photographer.

A similar thing can be felt from the features provided by the BPM(Business Process Management) Products in the market. A Business Process Solution can be quickly and iteratively prototyped,  rather than having to try to rigorously plan everything in advance. Wireframes, Implemetation Methodology, Data structure everything can be modeled and simulated at ease. Also Real-time/Predictive analytics and past process case data can be leveraged for suggesting the Next-Best-Action. It provides a lot of flexibility as a solution for better development and experimentation.

Faster Innovation

The combination of photography and computing has transformed what we can do with photos. Here are just some of the things that were almost unimaginable with analog film:

  • Multiple  camera angles. Replacing the small eye-piece with a screen made it easy to get a new view on what you were looking at
  • High dynamic range. The human eye sees more shades than any current camera. But the latest cameras automatically take several shots and provide  a full range of shades, and we can choose the exposure afterwards.
  • Selective focus. The multi lens and digital processing helps us to achieve focus and take a perfect snap.

We’re just at the very start of what we will be able to do with BPM systems. The recent developments in the BPM Arena like Mobile, Social and dealing with Predictive Analysis of structured/unstructured data is a great leap in making life easy for the designers, developers, end user and   at the same time making the enterprise processes accessible and reachable on the move.

 Morals of the story

  • Digital photography transformed an industry by eliminating obsolete layers. Latest BPM Trends and related technologies* will do the same.
  • The change from analog to digital photography didn’t happen overnight. The digital cameras were relatively expensive compared to film, and some kinds of pictures made more sense, and in particular it took a time for the new digital cameras to rival the effective picture resolution of larger-format films. “Old-style” data warehousing won’t vanish overnight, but it will inevitably be relegated to particular types of tasks as in-memory analytics becomes more robust and takes on larger volumes of data.
  • Today, many Workflow and Business Process implementation projects end up in failure – unable to catchup with the Customer’s Agile moves on Requirements, just like most of your old photographs. Latest BPM Trends will improve the quality and success of BPM projects.
  • Some people jumped on the early limitations of digital cameras and insisted that the answer was to tweak the existing methods (buy scanners, etc.) – which missed the bigger picture.

Some people try to insist that BPM is “just a Workflow Process”, its much much more than just “a workflow” it can even act as the entire enterprise solution  catering to the business needs along with the latest trends in the business/market and a high CSAT score!!.

Inspiration for writing this Analogy : http://timoelliott.com/blog/2011/09/why-in-memory-analytics-is-like-digital-photography-an-industry-transformation.html

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy Learning!! 🙂

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1 Comment

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