Borderless processes for the extended enterprise
Enterprises are connected to the world
Companies are made up of people and tangible and intangible resources, brought together to accomplish a set of missions, the heart of their business: health, education, security, manufacturing, services, agriculture, automotive, aeronautics and space, logistics, etc.
Far from being in a bubble, they are subject to a set of external forces, which are sometimes classified according to the so-called “PESTEL” model which distinguishes six categories:
Politics: government stability, fiscal policy, social protection, foreign trade, etc.
Economic: economic cycle, evolution of GNP, interest rate, monetary policy, inflation, unemployment, disposable income, etc.
Sociology: demography, income distribution, social mobility, consumerism, level of education, attitude to leisure and work, etc.
Technology: public spending and private investments, patents or discoveries, technology transfers, obsolescence rate, etc.
Environment: environmental protection, waste processing, energy consumption, etc.
Legal: laws on monopolies, the environment, labor law, health legislation, safety standards …
The search for speed of execution, fueled by the generalization of digital transformations and the search for ever greater economic, social or environmental efficiency, involves more numerous, rapid and demanding interactions with the business ecosystem.
The core is hooked, but not always well connected
Business applications have been around for a long time, depending on the business and the priorities of the company. This is the world of acronyms:
ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) for information central to the operation of the company; among other modules, they often include HR and Finance functions;
MES (Manufacturing Execution System) to manage production operations;
WMS (Warehouse Management System) to manage stocks and warehouses;
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to control customer relations and manage sales and marketing operations;
CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) to optimize the use of infrastructure;
BMS (Building Management System) for… buildings;
We must now connect the core to the broader business environment:
Better involve the different teams, business experts, operators and management;
Collect information from the “digital world”: the Internet – it is incredibly rich and inexpensive;
Exchange with partners without whom nothing is possible: points of sale, logistics, customers, suppliers …
Finally, integrate new data from sensors, meters, trackers and other connected machines (IoT), and activate them when necessary (lighting, openings, watering, etc.)
View of Delft (Vermeer, 1660-61) – As early as the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) was a mainstay of Dutch trading power. A public limited company issuing shares and bonds, it has developed a multinational model operating within a vast geographic and business ecosystem.
Some examples of extended processes
A predictive maintenance process requires perfect synchronization between:
Physical data sensors (temperature – noise – vibration – engine torque, etc.)
Applications capable of anticipating faults from physical data and optimizing maintenance planning (anticipation of the nature and date of breakdowns; management of spare stock; planning of machine use; schedule of teams …)
Stakeholders who decide and then carry out the repairs (support office; maintenance and production team, partners, etc.).
A water management and distribution service requires collaboration between a large set of systems:
Smart meters of different technologies (remote reading);
Technical data sensors: pressure, flow, physico-chemical data, etc.
Control systems for pumping and water treatment stations;
Irrigation management systems on behalf of agricultural clients;
Third-party information: weather forecast, pollution episodes, flood alerts …
Service production and facility maintenance teams;
Customers: individuals, industries, farmers, artisans, etc.
An air quality measurement service in a city will involve:
A set of physical data sensors measuring the composition of the air;
Other sources of information to enrich the data: road, air and port level of traffic, weather (current and forecast), wind, pollen concentration, etc.
People concerned by this information, either in notification (alert on crossing of thresholds, daily bulletin, etc.) or in real time interrogation (preparation for a sports or family outing), such as hospitals and clinics, sports clubs, schools and people with chronic respiratory failure.
Conditions for expanding workflows
We propose here some ingredients allowing the extension of core business processes to a larger ecosystem:
Valuing business experts: they have the know-how, and these new processes are an opportunity for them to prove to the company that they can amplify their impact;
Make life easier for users: insufficient consideration of the quality of interactions with users is the main cause of failure of transformation projects. The new tools supporting the processes must be simple and lighten the tedious part of the work of the operational teams;
An open architecture so as not to create a new silo and easily modify the composition of the ecosystem;
Give priority to agility: the processes are not defined forever, their deployment will give rise to new ideas, good practices will emerge that must be applied quickly;
Reuse the existing as much as possible to speed up projects (nothing more demotivating than an endless project), minimize costs (do not change what works) and ultimately achieve a rapid ROI.
Collaboration as a guiding principle
Setting up an information system represents a significant amount of work and considerable budgets: choice of solution, technical integration, settings, training of support teams and users, implementation of new business processes, etc.
On the other hand, advances in technology (IoT, 5G, I.A.) and changing needs and constraints (competition, regulations, etc.) are pushing companies to innovate: new products, new methods, new services.
The tension between a well-functioning existing system and the necessary changes presents formidable challenges to project managers:
How to maintain technological mastery while encouraging new uses?
How to avoid the complexity in heterogeneous environments?
How to reduce implementation times?
How to minimize the risks?
How to ensure the scalability of new devices?
How to minimize costs throughout the life cycle of projects?
To cope with these challenges, project managers need to combine, interact, encourage collaboration between entities that were not designed for this. Deploying projects, supplementing them with the company’s applications, using the communication services already in place, makes it possible to multiply the uses and functions while making the most of the existing infrastructure.
If you were interested in this article, you could also read The curse of the last mile.
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