I had a nice vacation in August, visiting a variety of old friends, but now its fall and, as I've though for most of my life, “its time to go back to school.” Which, a this point, means reading and reviewing business process materials of various kinds to learn what's happening.
The process market, as everyone knows by now, is in a slow period. Some companies are still actively working on process change — although some would rather call it business transformation or digitalizing the business. Some are lost in the weeds, focusing on rather unproductive things, like business capabilities. Most are simply working on small scale process improvements, waiting for some new “hot idea” that will get management excited and ready to spend money on process change. As many of us have learned, process improvement comes in cycles. The older among us have experienced Six Sigma (80s), Business Process Reengineering (90s), ERP (00s), and Lean and BPM in the past decade. Each in turn generaed courses and conferences and lots of enthusiasm. Between each was a lull before a new set of ideas and books get business executives excited again. At the moment the excitement about Lean and BPM have wained a bit, and we wait to see what will generate the next round of excitement.
I rather think the next round will be some kind of cognitive (AI-based) business process improvement, but I could be wrong. Perhaps, instead, business executives will get excited about modifying business processes to deal with the growing environmental challenges we face.
At the moment www.bptrends.com is running a quiz. We asked if companies were modifying their processes to accommodate recycling, reducing emissions, or becoming more self-sustaining. We've only had a little response, suggesting that most companies aren't there yet. But climate change continues — China's cities are becoming more smoggy and the ocean level is rising in New York and Miami. Sooner or later businesses will begin to be affected and governments will begin to legislate and companies will need to modify their business processes to deal with the changes that will just keep coming.
We don't worry too much about what will drive the next round of process work. Something will. The need is perennial, so its just a matter of what excites executives and starts the money flowing again. Meanwhile, as we return from a pleasant summer, we begin to work with those who continue to struggle with the many miscelanious process problems that always challenge organizations.