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No way around digitisation

In this interview, the Business Process Management (BPM) expert Andreas Mucke explains how companies can deal with the challenge of vast quantities of data.

CeBIT is focusing this year once again on the burning question of digitisation, under the motto “d!conomy: join – create – succeed”. In an interview with Laura Bosselmann, Andreas Mucke, a BPM expert and CEO of Inspire Technologies, explains the impacts that it is having on companies in every sector and how a strategically aligned process management system can help to successfully address the digital change.

These days the subject of digital transformation is on everyone’s lips, and it is the key topic once again at CeBIT this year. Why is it becoming more and more important?

Andreas Mucke: Digital transformation is not a new issue in itself, but one which we in process management have been tackling with our partners for a very long time. The volumes of data in companies used to be certainly smaller than they are now. For example, a company’s key figures could still be processed and digitised in the old way, using Excel tables. But now there has been a change of emphasis. Increasing quantities of data need to be digitized and then further processed. A major reason for this is linked to the growth of eCommerce. It is an area where increasing volumes of data need to be processed and clients need to be looked after on the global level. So when talking of digital transformation the eCommerce sector is a major topic.

Online commerce is booming and is causing a change in consumers’ behaviour. Is that being reflected in a change of the software solutions?

Andreas Mucke: The rise of the online shop has led to an increase in the number of customers and, thus, the data that companies have to handle. The issue now is sheer volume. To cope with it, you need to connect the systems, customers, partners and existing solutions within a company. This is where the interface between digital transformation and business process management (BPM) comes in.

How are companies responding?

Andreas Mucke: The increase in data means that it is no longer a mere particular department for which companies need a software solution. You begin to look at the company as a whole. A business process management (BPM) platform helps to link business and technology so that business processes are automated. Using modelled process paths, new things can be incorporated into existing systems, automated, controlled from a central location and monitored.

How do the solutions for the digital transformation they look like?

Andreas Mucke: Good examples are embedding a BPM system in the company and sector solutions such as those our partners provide. Modern companies consist of many different areas and systems, including the eCommerce area with an online shop system. With digital transformation, the task now is to map the entire workflow while, nonetheless, picking up on the various departments and their differing needs. This can often create a great many synergies and opportunities to optimize, so that processes can be combined with one another and optimized.

Can you give a specific example?

Andreas Mucke: Let’s take a company’s contract management task. By embedding a business process management (BPM) system the relevant sales staff are notified, for instance, when a customer enters into a contract or when it expires.  The relevant contract details also flow automatically into invoice processing and are integrated into a CRM application. Apart from the billing department and sales, the legal section and complaints personnel also work with data from (customer) contracts. In this context, each member of staff has to know a customer’s entitlements based on their contract details. This example shows the interconnections between the different content and the input channels very clearly. But BPM systems go beyond this. You have the option to start with a conventional application such as contract management and then develop it by adding on other solutions so that, in the end, all the relevant corporate planning areas are taken into account. Finally, different company areas draw on a single item of information so that it automatically appears where there is a need to act.

What is especially demanded in the business process management area?

Andreas Mucke: Two trends are apparent in this respect. To start with, linked to the issue of digital transformation is the automated processing of large volumes of data. Alongside that, the bespoke process is currently playing an increasingly important role. As a software manufacturer we support our partners with process templates and fast prototyping so that end clients can get started quickly. Back in around 2000 process management was particularly an issue for large companies. At that time, medium-sized companies got started using process templates which we created as standard solutions. Now, though, they are working with their processes in ever greater depth. So what used to only be relevant to large companies is now also a feature of medium-sized firms. Moving away from anything standardised, towards bespoke processes.

How do you see the future, in terms of the interplay between digital transformation and BPM?

Andreas Mucke: A round-trip will be needed. This means end-to-end processing which involves both the business and the technical side. In the future, for example, the business angle of a process will need to be mapped while, at the same time, we ask ourselves what can be done in terms of automation and how we can bring it to life. Another major issue will be the anticipated response to the interplay of BPM and data. At the moment BPM can mainly respond to data. Deciding what data are actually important is something that will increasingly occupy providers from the analytics sector, in tandem with process management. An intelligent BPM system which helps to decide what data are actually needed and which then processes that data are going to become a major issue.

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