The Core of the Digital Business Transformation

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Recently, when I was building my presentation for the Gartner BPM Summit, I pulled one of my favorite quotes by management legend (and one of my personal business heroes) Peter Drucker to make a point. I had an epiphany while re-reading the following quote. At its core, this institutional shift is exactly what the transformation to a digital business is all about.

peterdrucker“The most important, and indeed the truly unique, contribution of management in the 20th century was the fifty-fold increase in the productivity of the manual worker in manufacturing.

The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century is similarly to increase the productivity of knowledge work and the knowledge worker.

The most valuable assets of a 20th century company were its production equipment. The most valuable asset of a 21st century institution, whether business or nonbusiness, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity.”

-Peter Drucker
Management Challenges for the 21st Century, 2009

This shift in focus from physical assets and supply chains to intellectual property and information as a business’ most valuable resource is the seed that starts a company on the path to digitalization. There are several more layers on top of it, but we will save those for other blogs.

Over the last few years, I have been witnessing the results of this shift in the process world and didn’t know it. In the past, I have talked about how operational efficiency and cost cutting will always be important to BPM, but they are no longer the only games in town. I hadn’t given much thought to why this was the case. Insert epiphany here! It felt like there should have been a cartoon light bulb turning on over my head.


20th-century businesses were focused on physical assets and supply chains. This is what begat methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma. One of the main points behind these EXTENSIVE process exercises was to standardize a business’ process and avoid change and variance. Meanwhile, 21st-century businesses that are focused on information, knowledge workers, and intellectual property require processes that promote and encourage change and innovation. These are completely different animals that require completely different approaches.

Becoming a digital business doesn’t happen overnight, it is a process in and of itself.  As a result, for the next few years many businesses are going to be implementing both types of processes: those that are meant to standardize, and those that are meant to adapt. TIBCO’s business process platform, ActiveMatrix BPM + Nimbus, is bridging this gap to help you on this journey.

Stay tuned for more on this topic after the Gartner BPM Summit! If you are attending, be sure to stop by TIBCO’s session to hear me speak on this and several other changes happening in the process world.

TIBCO Software Inc.: Confessions of a Process-holic: A True Story
10 September 2015 | 3:30pm | Maryland D