Do You Have Digital Processes?

The current mini-survey running on the website asks about the way companies use information. Many commentators assume that we have entered an age in which organizations can achieve major process improvements by incorporating information capture techniques into our processes, analyzing that data in real time, and then modifying our processes in response to changing data.

Consider a simple example. For years airlines have monitored each flight to determine how many seats are sold. Months ahead of the flight a price is assigned to a seat. As the flight time approaches, if the seats to a given location are scarce, seat prices are pushed up. Similarly, if lots of seats remain unsold, then seat prices are dropped. This type of pricing is done automatically, based on real time changes in the number of available seats available to a given destination on a given day. The computer systems involved monitor the sale of seats on the airline’s planes and on competitor flights and adjust prices in response to demand.

Uber, a taxi service that customers contact from smart phones has attempted something similar, raising or lowering prices as demand grows and availability shrinks, and vice versa. This has raised the ire of some cities and passengers because this type of pricing is unfamiliar in the business area, although it is common in other areas. Once again, Uber relies on computer software that constantly monitors requests for taxis and the availability of taxis in the vicinity, and adjusts prices in real time.

Many think of the capture of real time information and its use in updating business processes as a major goal of BPMS applications, although, as we have frequently pointed out, most organizations do not really provide process results directly to managers, but simply use BPMS tools to develop software applications quickly.

In our survey this month, we asked BPTrends visitors to tell us how their organizations handle information. At one extreme we have processes, like the airlines seat pricing systems, that constantly monitor and adjust.   At the other extreme we have processes that don’t use data and don’t adjust in anything like real time.

33% of our respondents say their organizations have processes that don’t use data or adjust. 66% of our respondents say that they capture some information and analyze it, but that, in most cases information is dealt with via a separate management process.

If you haven’t responded to this survey yet, please consider going to and let us know what you do at your organization.

Meanwhile, this is a huge opportunity for business process people.  Even if your organization has a business process is thinks is well designed, it could probably be improved if you can find a way to capture information being generated by the process and use that information to automatically modify the process in response to changing events.  Finding situations in which one can modify prices to reflect changing demand is an obvious opportunity.  Changing product offerings to reflect special needs of particular classes of customers is another.  Making processes digital is an opportunity that shouldn't be ignored.



  1. Karl and Scott are both right. In one sense the adoption of BPM is a cuutlral embrace of continuous improvement. That transition requires a change agent who will sponsor and lead the program. It is important to have a roadmap that is well communicated and understood by the whole team. However when it comes to implementation, speed and agility are essential elements of a successful BPM program. The technology must be intuitive to learn and implement, rapid to deploy and easy to adjust. May organizations are running fast and lean today. Key associates have doubled their workload in the past 5 years. Learning to master new tools that change the way people work while maintaing day-to-day production is a challenge best overcome by rapid deployment and success. Start with a process that is a easily defined, and known to need improvement. It is important to measure, communicate and reward success. Success with small process improvement will lead to a culture that is less resistant to change and more engaged.

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