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Why you need to put mobile BPM on the front burner in 2016

Customers are getting even more demanding, so it's time to make mobile BPM a priority. Expert George Lawton explains the process, the challenges and why it's so important.

Want to lose customers and disenfranchise internal users? Then, don't take advantage of the rise in new user and B2B interaction models. Users have great expectations of applications today -- a primary one being anywhere, anytime access. Meeting that demand when delivering mobile BPM applications, however, calls for architectural, user interface and workflow changes that will be tough for many businesses to accomplish.

"End users expect instant, personalized delivery of actionable information, without regard for the back-end system that is serving the information," said Mayank Mehta, product VP at Capriza Inc., based in Palo Alto, Calif. This will be seen most notably in the rise of voice interaction and push notifications, where users will effortlessly obtain hyperpersonalized, bite-size pieces of information almost instantaneously.

"In 2016, users will expect businesses to deliver on a large scale the time and efficiency gains in simplification layers that make outstanding enterprise app experiences," he noted.

Enterprise architects will need to leverage architectures that can easily customize how this information is delivered, according to Mehta. "They must optimize push notifications, smart sensors and fluid platform-agnostic design to make increasing productivity as easy as it is in the consumer app world."

But enterprises are facing significant challenges trying to bring in mobile business process management (BPM) in a practical way. Brian Reale, CEO of BPM and workflow independent software vendor ProcessMaker Inc., based in New York, said he sees mobile dominating most customer conversations today. "However, enterprises don't quite understand how to deliver their BPM services in a mobile format to their users," he said. This year, he said he expects to see most organizations testing mobile BPM in pilot projects.

Consider the degree of difficulty of deciding whether users want to approve processes from an email versus a push notification versus a native mobile BPM interface. "When IT is trying to make this type of decision for 40,000 users in an organization, it is not easy to do," Reale said.

Taking the cloud and API paths to mobile BPM delivery

Some businesses are looking to a new generation of mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) tools to develop and deploy more fluid business process applications, according to Reale. MBaaS offerings, such as Backendless and DreamFactory, typically blend software development and API management together. "Software vendors are now being pushed to expose everything that the software does through an API," he noted. As a result, for example, ESB and BPM suites are being supplemented by new tools for constructing business processes in the cloud, such as IFTTT, Zapier and MuleSoft. 

Dell Boomi GM Chris McNabb said he expects to see more organizations adopt a cloud-first strategy to achieve a competitive advantage in BPM this year. Those who do should beware of introducing performance and latency issues into business processes. He explained that it takes longer for on-premises business processes to access cloud data and vice versa. There are also governance issues to consider, as business process data crosses private and cloud data centers.

To address the challenges of the cloud-first approach, McNabb advised organizations to move from hub-and-spoke architectures to cloud-based integration services. The latter can smoothly accommodate various integration scenarios, including cloud to cloud, cloud to on premises, on premises to on premises, B2B and EDI. Be aware, he said, that distributed integration architectures are required to scale to meet high-volume requirements.

Different lines of business increasingly use a wide array of cloud-based tools for everything from quote-to-cash to inventory management, which often creates a heavy new administrative burden, as users have to manually input data in each system. "A connectivity strategy that brings all these programs together can streamline and automate business processes within departments and across the organization," said George Gallegos, CEO at integration applications vendor Jitterbit, based in Alameda, Calif.

BPM can come in to play in several ways, as businesses move their application strategies beyond mobile to Internet of Things (IoT) today, exploring revenue opportunities in connected devices, according to Setrag Khoshafian, chief evangelist at business applications provider Pegasystems Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass. For example, BPM can play an important role in IoT requirements testing. In BPM systems, user requests are resolved, and information about those interactions is used to elicit requirements for IoT applications development. This could set the stage for the foundation of more compelling services, Khoshafian said. He said he expects to see a new generation of CRM systems empowered by BPM as an essential link.

On the other hand, organizations may want to think twice before investing too heavily in BPM for IoT right now, as the IoT market is largely focused on vertical markets and not enterprise usage currently, according to some industry insiders. For example, E. Scott Menter, vice president of business solutions at BP Logix Inc., based in Vista, Calif., said he thinks connected-device application use will increase incrementally only in the near future.

"This will not be the year that the much-anticipated and much-hyped IoT will rush to the forefront," Menter said. "The products, standards and market are not yet ripe for explosion."

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