Making digital work... flow
Today everyone is talking about digital transformation, but nobody seems to be quite clear what it actually means. What is fundamentally at the heart of this disruptive new phenomenon? The answer in my view is connectivity.
Connectivity is a great disruptor, opening up opportunities to make information flow in new ways that are more efficient, more convenient or simply more fun. Whether it is the connectivity that containerization brought to physical supply chains or the connectivity that the Internet has brought to digital ones, the ability to reliably and scalably connect things has allowed a long list of innovators to challenge the core beliefs underpinning a wide range of industrial and social activities.
Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) promises to further expand the scope of digital connectivity by enabling potentially billions of everyday objects to be integrated with our existing systems and processes. This will yield countless opportunities to transform customer experiences by combining information and actions which span both the digital and physical worlds.
But how do you safely and scalably leverage the power of connectivity to digitally transform business models, customer experiences or operating processes?
Connecting end-to-end flows
The first thing to understand is that connectivity has no value unless the opportunities it creates can be leveraged to make information and work flow freely across a wide range of different digital resources. People, on premise systems, cloud services and smart objects provide no value individually but must be combined to achieve transformational outcomes. It is not possible to deliver efficient new digital processes, for example, without connecting all of the people, software and devices necessary to transform the underlying workflows and make the right information available to the right person, in the right place, at the right time – wherever they are and whatever device they happen to be using.
Delivering and evolving at speed
The new connected digital environment is a highly dynamic and chaotic place. Customer demands change quickly, new competitors emerge from unforeseen places and processes increasingly need to connect a wide variety of in-house and 3rd-party resources to deliver value. Addressing these issues increasingly relies on an ability to visualize, deliver and evolve complex, connected workflows at a fundamentally different speed and scale. But if these workflows cannot be easily visualized and understood, then the ability to deliver business outcomes is seriously diminished. And if the way in which value flows isn’t clear, then change cannot accurate the speed necessary to stay competitive against organizations that can.
The challenges of pre-industrial IT
The problem is, delivering the IT infrastructure needed to connect distributed resources quickly and securely at web-scale – with explicit insight into the end to end performance of processes to support business evolution – is not a simple task. Today’s enterprise development practices are still dominated by a focus on infrastructure, low-level coding, heavy weight release management and siloed, high-touch operational responsibilities – all of which create delays and complexity. Even more importantly the complexity of delivering and managing siloed, low-level technology solutions undermines any hope of achieving the end-to-end visibility of flows necessary to support rapid, evidence-based evolution of connected digital businesses.
The cloud can make work flow
Becoming a connected digital business, therefore, requires a different, more business-focused and more industrialized approach to technology. Effectively, we must move beyond the development and management of low-level infrastructure and code and instead use technologies which provide higher order business views which mask complexity and enable us to control the way that information flows. To do this we must provide the business and IT infrastructures required to easily capture, control and visualize end-to-end connected digital flows at scale.
Modern cloud workflow platforms can be a highly effective way to address these issues - and the deficiencies of traditional IT methods as a method of delivery. By enabling workflows to be easily and explicitly created, deployed and managed within a scalable, central location they provide visibility and insight into the way that digital information flows across internal and external resources. By offering the capabilities to integrate different kinds of highly distributed resources – such as people, on premise systems, cloud services and smart objects – they help to automate and optimize the end to end delivery of digital value. And by packaging all of the capabilities needed to quickly build, deploy and integrate such systems – without the burdens of infrastructure, middleware and code management – they accelerate the delivery and evolution of digital business.
For these reasons cloud workflow platforms are increasingly becoming a critical pillar of any successful digital transformation initiative, enabling organizations to deliver, test and scale new processes faster and more efficiently than less sophisticated competitors who remain blocked by low-level infrastructure, middleware and code.