Conferences about business process management (BPM) are normally sedate affairs. But Gartner's 2014 BPM conference in Sydney kicked off with a stark warning: if you don't embrace digital technology rapidly and accept that conventional business processes no longer work, you will end up on the scrapheap. Also: why nudist colonies need Bitcoin.
"Every industry will be digitally remastered," Gartner analyst Janelle Hill said during the opening keynote. "It is not optional. It will happen to you whether you like it or not, so your opportunity is to lead it or fall behind. You cannot escape. This is not something you have a choice about."
"No industry will escape profound digital disruption. It is a disruption. It is not a planned change that you have a choice about. Those disruptions will comes in waves. Innovation becomes in many ways a simple matter of programming. it will be easier to continuously innovate through new technologies. Because it's technology-driven you may be surprised and you may not have the same early warning systems."
Analyst Diane Morello cited camera manufacturer Kodak as a clear example of what would happen to businesses who ignored potential digital challengers. "It's the near-death corporate example of how to rethink digital. It was highly successful in its domain but it wasn't paying attention to the signals. No CEO or board wants to see the hold that they had on an industry disappear by not paying attention to the signals out there around emerging technologies."
Hill noted that developing a digital strategy requires a lot more than applying existing technologies to your existing business model. "We've done a good job of digitising business processes, but what we haven't done is apply technology to the core product we produce. We're talking about using technology not just as an enabler, but as the core product itself. Today any product can be re-imagined with digital capabilities."
Amongst the numerous examples of businesses that were transforming their approach the Gartner team highlighted, one stuck in my head: the Bare Oaks Family Recreation Naturalist Park, which is now accepting Bitcoin payments. "A virtual currency is perfect for people without pockets," the site notes. Indeed — but actually the real transformation would be selling nudity itself as a digital service. That may have been done already, come to think of it.
Kodak picture: Getty Images