From macros and bots and hyper-automation, BPM is an industry gobsmacked by hot-off-the-press buzzwords. Why reinvent the wheel if you can simply find a more jazz-handed slant to reinvigorate sales interest in an existing practice? In an endless pursuit of marketing ‘oneuppance’, BPM has undergone dozens of name changes in its 40 year history, while humans—an arguably more complex OS—have rebranded about five times. But have we grown tired by things manufactured to sound ‘new’?
Behind the scenes, BPM thought leaders infuse technology with artificial intelligence- machine learning, and robotic process automation—but this is just the natural evolution of business process management itself. After all, an indelible quality of the practice is its endless aspiration to improve. It’s a protean and intrepid technology, always riding the edge of the stellar disk, in search of new horizons and technical challenges to conquer next. Whether or not we pause to launch a marketing campaign espousing a sparkling new name, each new innovation is a brief stepping stone to the next.
Frederick Winslow Taylor glorified the benefits of a fully coordinated enterprise in 1911, laying the groundwork for the convergence of science and management in the aptly named, “The Principles of Scientific Management.” Factory floors were rampant with “rules of thumb,” managers self-siloed in laissez-faire watchtowers, and employees squabbled over hundreds of ways to perform one duty. Taylor continually iterated: analyzing processes, mapping each task, and documenting each step along the way in search of the right combination of precision tools and efficient movements. Knowing that his theory could revolutionize productivity, he chiseled away until he could find the best way to complete each task.
While Taylor whittled and sharpened shovels and other tools of the day to find the best method, delivery companies chip away at complicated algorithms to find the one out of quattuorvigintillion routes most efficient for a driver with 57 packages to deliver. Some beat down doors to find a new name for it, while others continue the tireless work to hone the digital shovels, on a constant mission to recast and remold our processes and toolsets to take on modern challenges.
Hyper-automation is the next natural extension of business process management. Evolutions in artificial intelligence and robotic technologies accelerate the communal drive towards the most efficient way of doing business. Once we’ve fashioned the right lock pick to break down the cloud computing power barriers between us and BPM’s next generation, we’ll be met with a fresh set of challenges. Instead of an entirely separate category, hyper-automation is just one stepping stone along the way.
But that’s the nature of technology: it’s a constantly moving carrot, greeting us with doors 10X bigger than the one we just crashed through. Technology evolves because problems evolve, where collectively we work to outsmart it with the next iteration of our last greatest idea.
For most organizations, convincing them to do things in a new way—no matter the advantages—is a taller order than peddling a set of renamed tools. Who knows if Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web or Relentless would have successfully woven their way into the zeitgeist. Under the hood, Yahoo! and Amazon’s spirit to continually build better remains. While some struggle to win out in the plight to beat the next re-namer—BPM continues to do what it does best—constantly evolve with the needs of your business.