Workflow Management is certainly not a new concept. Automated workflows have been around for 20 years or more. The concept has certainly evolved, however, I’m anxious to see where it heads next. At one time, workflow management focused entirely on building efficiencies into processes such as invoicing, reporting and keeping track of expenses and travel. We needed to find ways to reduce the time to payment—and nothing more. Today, we have cars that drive for us. That’s workflow management, as well. complex algorithms make sure the car can brake when the person behind the wheel wants to brake. That’s amazing—but it’s essentially a system that is based on set parameters and complicated algorithms designed to duplicate human instinct. Artificial intelligence is closer than we think—and the definition of workflow management will continue to evolve alongside the concept itself.
Often, even customized solutions are seen as standardized once adopted by those who use them. I believe workflow management solutions appeal equally to users of customized or standardized processes. Everyone welcomes new thoughts based on proven best practices.
Challenges Faced By CIOs
Trying to keep infrastructure current is a real challenge as the pace of technology evolution increases. Cycle times continue to get shorter between hardware refreshes and every CIO worries about the capital investment required to back sustainable growth. There is a point at which having capital tied up in computer equipment doesn’t make good business sense anymore. We’re seeing the shift to hosted arrangements and services in the cloud.
If you view IT through the lens of business operations first, the IT strategy will never fall out of alignment with the business strategy
Technologies Impacting Enterprise Business Environment
I see two trends that will have major impacts on our business environment.
In healthcare, there has been a big reluctance to move to the cloud because of the need to protect PHI. Now Microsoft, Amazon, and others are offering cloud based solutions that meet healthcare’s PHI security needs. Healthcare is quickly taking full advantage and incorporating the cloud into their IT strategies.
I expect the next major disruption in healthcare will come from wearables, as more and more medical sensors are added to these devices. The global medical wearable device market has been quickly accelerating in recent years. The market was estimated to be worth more than $3.2 billion in revenue in 2015 and is projected to near $8 billion by 2020. That’s a project compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.8 percent, which is an opportunity that every forward-thinking company in the world is trying to seize.
The leaps in technological innovation continue to propel this trend, and investors are picking up on the true potential. Where wearable fitness trackers have encouraged increased rates in exercise, wearable medical devices have the potential to actually reduce medical costs. This comes at a time when our nation’s medical spending continues to soar. A study showed the U.S. spent 17.1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare in 2013. That topped the next highest spender by nearly 50 percent (France, 11.6 percent of GDP) and almost doubled that spent by the U.K. (8.8 percent). Though spending has begun to slow, the demand for innovation that promises to reverse the trend has not.
Imagine a wearable device that provides your doctor with complete bio telemetry wherever and whenever it’s needed. What if a device could sense that you’re having a heart attack and could call for help, just as some cars today can call for help when the airbag deploys? Devices are already in the proof of concept stages that monitor body temperature, oxygen levels, and pulse. The speed of innovation and time to market depends heavily on the FDA. Its current rules for medical devices are notcompatible with the agile development processes in wide use today.
Advice for Fellow CIOs
As I said earlier, Artificial Intelligence will drive major changes in how the definition of workflow management expands and how quickly innovation occurs. The safest play is to make sure IT strategy is closely aligned with the business needs and is based upon a deep understanding of business processes.
I may not be your ordinary CIO because I was a Chief Audit Executive with work experience in technology, accounting, and audit. That’s a much different path than most CIOs, so I bring a slightly different perspective. I think that most businesses are changing their view of the background needed to succeed in the CIO role. Clearly, they are looking for the CIO to have a deep operational understanding of the business but you don’t necessarily get that if your work experience is restricted only to IT. If you can build that deep knowledge of business operations within your organization and always view IT through the lens of business operations first, the IT strategy will never fall out of alignment with the business strategy.