TECH TALK: As India Develops: ICT (Part 4)

Even as thin clients, server-centric computing and open-source software offer the foundation for building out Indias digital infrastructure, there is a need for an ecosystem of application developers which can create specialised solutions for different verticals. India needs the equivalent of a digital hand to transform its manufacturing small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The challenge for Indian manufacturing SMEs is to adopt the new technology and process innovations simultaneously. The field of business process management (BPM) holds a lot of promise. Write Howard Smith and Peter Fingar:

The first wave of business-process management, outlined in Fredrick Taylor’s theory of management in the 1920s, suggested that processes were implicit in work practices, tucked away in policy manuals. Process management was called “methods and procedures analysis.”

The second wave, ushered in over the past decade, suggested that processes could be manually reengineered through a one-time activity. Changes were made, but essentially cast in concrete in software, such as the feature-rich but rigid ERP applications. Even with document-centered workflow added to financial-management systems, for example, these applications rarely gave business managers full control over the process life cycle.

The third wave of BPM enables companies and workers to create and optimize new business processes on the fly. Change is the primary design goal. Through agile business processes, value chains can be monitored and continuously improved. The third wave is not business-process reengineering, enterprise application integration, workflow management, or another packaged application-it’s the synthesis and extension of all these technologies and techniques into a unified whole. The third wave of BPM becomes a new foundation upon which to build sustainable competitive advantage.

The essence of the BPM innovation is that we now understand data, procedure, workflow and distributed communication not as apples, oranges and cherries, but as one new business information type the business processNow, we can develop with processes as well as manage with processes.

BPM provides enhanced business agility, control and accountability. It will streamline internal and external business processes, eliminate redundancies, and increase automation. It provides a direct path from process design to a system for implementing the process. Its not so much rapid application development; instead, its removing applications development from the business cycle. BPM supports top-down and bottom-up process modeling, right across the value chain. BPM has the potential to automate the discovery of business processes arising naturally in the course of business operations, as readily as a database naturally fills with business data during use.

BPM puts processes at the centre of business. In the Indian context, where there is still plenty of scope of improvement, BPM can perhaps help to bring forth higher levels of efficiencies in operations. Even as face the twin prospects of competing with Chinese companies and the eliminating of trade barriers, Indian companies need to look at innovative new ideas to achieve competitive advantage in the future. Affordable computing technology combined with process-driven ideas like BPM can perhaps make a difference.

Tomorrow: ICT (Part 5)

TECH TALK As India Develops+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.