The opportunities to use technology to automate processes through the elimination of manual work are dwindling. Humans are essential elements in the remaining business processes and activities. Smart process apps and vendors help make these people smarter and more effective.
Th e smart process app market is evolving as it grows, shifting from improving case activities to tackling more complex, multi-person projects and operations.
In a transactional process app, the end goal is as little human involvement as possible. The ideal is a fully automated process. People may of course initiate the transaction (such as a purchase) or be a recipient of the results of a transaction system. They may also be involved in handling exceptions, though the goal there is to minimize that over time. Examples would be applications for core human resource management, eCommerce, sales force automation, invoice automation and procurement, core financial management, and the like.
In a smart process app, people are an inherent and desired part of the process or activity. The end goal is to make people more effective and productive participants in a business process, not to reduce or eliminate their involvement. These human-based processes or activities range from relatively simple cases involving one to three people in handling and resolving a case, to service delivery situations involving similar numbers of people handling less predictable and structured service problems, to some or many people working on a project over time, to many
people working on a complex operation in unstructured conditions. Software to improve this range of human-based activities or processes is what we include in smart process apps.
In reality, there is no bright line that divides transactional process apps from smart process apps. That’s because there is a spectrum of business processes that ranges from those with minimal human involvement to those with intense human participation.
Straight-through processes at one end. At one end of the spectrum, processes and applications like order processing or vendor-managed inventory that provide straight-through-processing will be transactional applications. Processes where the human involvement is limited to actions like a purchase or receiving financial results output like a financial management system are also transactional apps. Transactional apps also include applications where human involvement is to deal with exceptions that the system could not handle, because a design goal for these
applications is to reduce the number of exceptions that require human involvement.
Collaborative activities at the other. At the other end sit highly collaborative activities like the operations of firefighters at a fire scene, a medical team responding to a disaster, or teachers and school administrators preparing a high school class schedule. Applications to support services delivery or projects would also be collaborative applications.
A gray area in between, where the boundary line can be fuzzy. The gray area is for applications like sales force automation or talent management where people are involved as both initiators and recipients of information on a case-by-case basis. Sales force automation is a transactional application, because the human involvement is almost always one person putting information in (e.g., a salesperson entering the results of a sales call) and one person pulling information out (e.g., the same salesperson looking to see all interactions with a client in the past month). Talent management applications have those aspects as well, but they also involve collaboration between employee and manager to discuss ratings and potential improvements, as well as collaboration between managers to assess top performers and their career paths.