Business process management data analytics

Providing a sensible, data-first approach to BPM

by Johan Steyn

In a globalised and highly competitive world all business leaders are trying to automate their back- and front-office operations, aiming for faster turn-around times and better customer service. Research shows that up to 70% of BPM initiatives fail to deliver the anticipated results. OQLIS is a significant player in the industry, utilising smart technology by interpreting data with real-time predictive analytics to ensure BPM initiatives deliver on their promise.

Business process management (BPM) refers to the activity of methodically and efficiently planning, executing, monitoring, and enhancing operational procedures. It is crucial to any organisation since it helps to maintain smooth and effective operations and to identify and eliminate potential impediments. In recent years, there has been a significant shift toward digital transformation, and BPM has been a vital component of it.

It is feasible that BPM will continue to evolve and develop over time. Increasing reliance on data analytics and artificial intelligence is one of the most promising next trends. Using these advancements, firms will be able to fully automate a vast array of processes, resulting in substantial benefits in efficiency and cost savings. 

However, despite these spectacular technological advances, many BPM initiatives fail or do not deliver the results business leaders anticipated. This is a particularly important topic in the South African context, with record-high levels of unemployment. How can executives maintain global competitiveness while remaining responsible with respect to how automation will inevitably affect their employees?

I was in a discussion on these difficult but important challenges with the co-founders of OQLIS, an SA-born technology company with a global reach. I sat down with Shawn Winterburn and Andrew Bosma to determine how they saw BPM play out in the real world and to unpack the challenges and potential of such initiatives.

Can we “automate everything?”

“Many organisations want to tackle complexity to achieve standardisation.” Shawn explained how he has seen companies struggle in the BPM space as they fail to take into account that people, and the work they do, are often in a state of flux and that human creativity can never be automated. “We need to encourage an environment where people work with purpose to bring the best they can offer through talent and experience to the enterprise.”

He explained how business process standardisation is often the Achilles’ heel in a fast-changing world, where firms need to move at speed and be able to pivot to market demands.

Andrew added by explaining the idea that in most companies many people perform the same basic repetitive tasks on a daily basis. “We have to remember that there are people behind the processes we try to automate. BPM initiatives often fail, in my experience, as we do not anticipate the desired need for effective change management in order to take our people on the journey with us.” 

He stressed the vital importance of understanding the human aspect of automation. People naturally fear that their livelihood may be impacted by automation and leaders need to pay attention to how their people may perceive the changes and therefore prioritise a people-first approach.

Data: the root of all good processes

In my experience, it seems that many automation projects fail because that real-time data is not available on how they are performing. Processes are in a sense living organisms, and as such exposed to constant change as the organisation evolves. I was keen to learn how the OQLIS BPM platform addresses this challenge. 

Shawn was quick out of the starting blocks to explain how process data should be visiualised in order to make sense to business owners. “You should be able to look at what is happening. You have to see how these processes are flowing and where the bottlenecks are in order to identify issues proactively in real-time.”

He explained that it is imperative to identify the key components in a business process that are potential outliers. These may be automated process steps that need to change or it may be tasks done by humans. “You need to have a view of the entire end-to-end process and the flow of data to identify issues before they occur.”

Andrew added that a major challenge is to determine the actual business benefit of automation. “It is fairly easy to automate most processes, but leaders rarely have a view of what is happening within an automated process. They do not have a summary dashboard that highlights, for example, the amount of purchase orders that are outstanding.

“The OQLIS platform enables real-time data analytics on automated processes, providing insights and statistics, enabling leaders to ensure on a daily basis that they are living up to plan.”

The automation “balancing act”

How do companies balance the need to compete with the moral and ethical responsibility toward the people who work for them? People are important, but so is profitability. When companies lack profitable returns the future of all their employees are at stake. 

Andrew highlighted that automation should not replace people, but maximise their output. “The future is about a hybrid approach. Automation should benefit both the organisations and the people who work for them. You can focus on the bottom line and on the people at the same time. Technology, if approached with care, should allow people to do their best work, leveraging their skills and experience.”

Shawn and Andrew made it clear that automation should be approached in a sensible way. It was clear to me that the team at OQLIS is highly experienced in assisting their clients to achieve high returns on automation through the effective use of data while advising them on the correct, people-first approach. 

You need a technology partner who is truly interested in your success and can take you by the hand on your journey from the data desert to the AI lake. 

Rated as one of the top 50 global voices on AI by Swiss Cognitive, Prof. Johan Steyn is on the faculty of Woxsen University, a research fellow with Stellenbosch University and the founder of