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Reinvent Your Business With Business Process Mining

Illustration: CSA images/getty images

In August 2011, the Wall Street Journal published a widely noted article by Marc Andreeson called “Why Software Is Eating The World.” In the article, this prominent venture capitalist listed various industries where software has wreaked havoc, killing off long dominant competitors and raising new winners in their place: books (Amazon), entertainment (Netflix, Pixar, iTunes), advertising (Google), recruiting (LinkedIn), travel, retailers, transportation, finance, energy and so on.

In a similar vein, Michael Saylor, CEO of MicroStrategy and author of “The Mobile Wave,” offers the idea that mobile technology and the worldwide computing platform are dematerializing both products and services: the destruction of paper, the diminishing role of hard currency, everything related to photography, replacement of physical showrooms with virtual, shrinking and more transparent supply chains, medical care and education delivered remotely, etc.

The reinvention of business is under way on a mind-boggling scale, and technology is enabling enterprises to satisfy customers in new ways that are better, faster and cheaper. So, before you reinvent software to reshape your business and industry, ask yourself a simple question about the essence of your existing software: How many business processes does it support?

That one question is a stumper for most, since few people actually know. Yet with the emerging forces of change at work, any company that’s not aggressive about managing and reinventing its business processes is at risk of being forgotten in the disruption bin of history.

Greenfield systems development, done right and funded well, often begins with business process analysis and leads to business rule development, resulting in more adaptable systems. But the opportunities for such grand projects on mission-critical processes are few and far between. More likely, you’re struggling to keep legacy systems running for mission-critical business processes. These legacy systems were typically not explicitly constructed around business processes and rules, and often have little, if any, such structure or vocabulary.

How can you retroactively induce legacy systems into a business process model? And how can you extract the business rules that drive those processes?

Steve Kilner is the creator of several software products and methodologies for the IBM i world. He writes a regular blog ( Steve can be reached at



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