Note: I am not associated with any digital business platform vendor. All information shared in this article is based on my experience and research.


Customer experience, operational process, and business model are the three key areas of digital transformation 1, 2. Regardless of which areas an organization focuses on, it needs a technology platform that will support its digital transformation goals. The term being used to define such platforms is Digital Business Platform (DBP) 3, 4.

Adeel Javed - Digital Business Platform

Figure 1: Key Areas of Digital Transformation

According to Jim Sinur, DBP is a convergence of best of breed approaches 5. The list below shows key components that constitute a DBP 6.

  • Process Management
  • Decision Management
  • Integrations
  • Data & Analytics
  • Internet of Things
  • Artificial Intelligence

Adeel Javed - Digital Business Platform

Figure 2: Key Components of a Digital Business Platform

All these components might not be available as part of a single unified platform. A single unified platform, of course, is preferred, but if your organization is heavily invested in some of these components already then you can always add-on to create a logical DBP of your own.

DBP vendors have taken different approaches as well to create their offerings. SoftwareAG, for example, had an integration platform, and over time acquired other products for their DBP offering 7. While Appian had a business process management software, they built additional features from scratch for their low-code application development platform 8, 9.

Now let’s take a deeper dive into each of these components.

Process Management

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing. – W. Edwards Deming

Processes are everywhere, they are what make organizations unique, they can make or break an organization. A process management component allows organizations to orchestrate the flow of work between people and systems. It provides tools for automation, execution, monitoring and optimization of processes.

All three key areas of digital transformation i.e. customer experience, operational process, and business model heavily rely on process management. A great looking website, mobile app or a digital product is required, they will (likely) result in great customer conversion rates, but in all cases, they will trigger or interact with some internal process. An organization will be able to acquire new customers of course, but customer retention will heavily depend on the quality of its internal processes 10.

Take for example the most common and relatively simple process of expense claims. It involves at least three sets of people and multiple systems. It can be done on paper or via email, but then you have no insights into the process. By automating this process, you can bring all the data into a single place, reduce data errors, provide visibility, and reduce cycle time.

Adeel Javed - Digital Business Platform

Figure 3: Expense claims process

Decision Management

Management manages by making decisions and by seeing that those decisions are implemented. – Harold S. Geneen

Business users have traditionally been dependent on technology teams for implementing and maintaining business rules in applications. This dependency can be a cause of incorrect implementations and more importantly slow down any response to changes that are needed. A core component of DBP is decision management. Decision management provides a convenient way for both technology teams and business users to capture, automate, test and govern business rules 11.

Consider a simplified version of account opening process. Once an applicant submits new account application, the very first step is to check their credit score. Keeping this rule in the application will cause issues later on when changes are required. For example, organization policy changes, and now the new credit score requirement for opening an account is 725 instead of 700. If this rule was built into the application, then this update will require changes to the application. What if the same rule is used by multiple applications, then multiple applications will have to go through the same upgrade cycle.

On the other hand, if these rules reside outside of applications and are accessible to business users, then any change in organizational policy can be easily applied without involving the technology teams. Another benefit of keeping rules outside of applications is that you can have a single organization-wide rules repository that all applications can access, this ensures that organization policies take effect across applications without going through a long project of changing rules in each and every application.

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Figure 4: Model of an account opening process


A process cannot exist in a silo, in order to deliver real value, it has to integrate with other systems.

In most organizations, especially the ones that have legacy systems or have gone through mergers and acquisitions, there are a lot of systems that do not talk to each other. In absence of any system integrations, standard operating procedures are born that require people to do useless repeatable tasks. These tasks do not create any value for the organization but are necessary just to make things work. People end up filling gaps in technology instead of it being the other way around.

Integration component is a must-have for DBP. Two ways a DBP can reduce these useless human tasks and fill gaps in technology are by providing system integration and robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities.

  • Integration Platforms: Integration platforms are specifically designed to handle different types of integrations. Not only do they support most protocols and have a large repository of pre-built connectors, they also have powerful mapping, transformation, and routing capabilities. All of these capabilities are necessary to build complex integrations. Another advantage of using an integration platform is that they prevent integrations from becoming point-to-point, so any changes in source system do not have a huge impact on client systems.
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA): RPA is not the traditional type of integration. RPA tools allow you to train software bots to mimic human actions e.g. open browser, log in, copy-paste data etc. So, in cases where integrations might take a while to build or are difficult to build e.g. legacy systems, RPA provides a great alternative 12.

Adeel Javed - Digital Business Platform

Figure 5: Integrations platform architecture

Data & Analytics

If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. – Lord Kelvin

From acquiring new customers to winning elections, data has become the key. Answers to following and many other questions reside in the data.

  • Where are different bottlenecks in the process?
  • How are different rules performing?
  • What are the common integration failure points?
  • What is the most popular product?
  • What other products did the customer look at?
  • Can we recommend any other products to a customer?
  • How many complaints have been received for a certain product?

Data and analytics capabilities of DBP should include features such as:

  • Sourcing of data from different systems (ETL)
  • Creating unified views of entities (DWH)
  • Building reports, drill down, slice and dice (BI)
  • Identifying key metrics (BI)
  • Mining data to find patterns (Data Mining, Process Mining)

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Figure 6: Data sourcing flow

Internet of Things

Analysts are forecasting that by the year 2020 there will be more than 20 billion connected things (devices) and the total revenue from the internet of things (IoT) will easily surpass $2 trillion 13.

A DBP needs to include capabilities of an IoT platform. An IoT platform allows developers to build, deploy and manage IoT applications from one central location in a secure manner. It provides necessary infrastructure and development tools so that developers focus on building applications and not waste time on setups 14.

To better understand how IoT can help organizations, consider the example of a Fleet Management company. Here are a few questions that a Fleet Management company might be interested in answering 15.

  • Drivers: How are drivers performing? Are they making unnecessary stops? Are they driving over the speed limit and wasting fuel?
  • Vehicles: How is a vehicle performing? Are there any issues that might need immediate attention e.g. low battery?

Without a connected fleet, all this data would come from drivers (which cannot be reliable), or by doing inspections only after a vehicle is back or something breaks down. Now, if the entire fleet was connected, then the vehicle would be transmitting this data automatically and using analytics all these questions and more could be easily answered.

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Figure 7: Sample Fleet Management Dashboard

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is usually defined as the science of making computers do things that require intelligence when done by humans 16.

AI is going to have a huge impact on our future, but AI is not just a single technology, it is a combination of different research areas such as machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing etc. To better understand why AI capabilities need to be part of DBP and how it can help organizations, let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

Medical Treatments: Daniel Kahneman a famous psychologist did a lot of work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making. In one of the experiments, his team worked with doctors to identify seven factors that they used to diagnose if an ulcer was malignant. Based on these factors, his team developed a model that could render diagnoses. Next, they fed both the doctors and the model same data, 96 different stomach ulcer images and asked for their diagnosis. In some cases, without telling the doctors they showed the same image twice at random to the same doctor. The resulting data was very interesting, not only did different doctors have different opinions but even the same doctor had different opinions for the same image. The model, on the other hand, had a better prediction rate. 17

Machine Learning (ML) does the same thing, it can consume huge volumes of data to create a model. If we look at medical treatments, the model can use all the data to recommend a course of treatment. We do not have to replace a doctor, but it can augment and help make better decisions.

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Figure 8: Medical treatment recommendation

Customer Service: To keep existing customers happy and acquire new ones, a good customer service is extremely important for organizations. But depending on an organization’s size, customer service department can be a huge cost center. Natural Language Processing (NLP) has improved a lot, now computer programs can not only understand standard sentences, but they can also interpret slang and tone used in the sentence.

As a result, the idea of chatbots is becoming extremely popular in the world of customer service 18. Chatbots can be trained to understand what people are asking and provide relevant responses. For cases where the question is outside of a chatbots training, it can simply redirect them to a specialized human representative. Chatbots can augment customer service representatives, and reduce cost by taking care of the standard queries.

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Figure 9: Chatbot sample interaction


It’s so much easier to build code with objects, like Lego blocks, than it is with lines of code. – Matt Calkins

We looked at six key components of a DBP, but before I close this post, I would like to take a quick look at different characteristics of a DBP.

  • Unified
  • Low-Code
  • Cloud-based

Characteristics listed above result in agility, smaller learning curve, reduced support and maintenance costs, reduced time to market and simpler licensing plans.

Organizations need to have Digital Business Platform in their toolbox if they not only want to survive but thrive in this fast-paced and disruptive digital world.


  1. The Nine Elements of Digital Transformation by George Westerman, Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee (MIT Sloan Management Review) 
  2. What is Digital Transformation by Adeel Javed
  3. Is the Digital Business Platform the Future of BPMS?
  4. Is the Digital Business Platform What BPM Has Been Aiming for All Along?
  5. Creating a Digital Business Platform by Jim Sinur
  6. bpmNEXT Keynotes by Keith Swenson
  7. SoftwareAG Digital Business Platform
  8. Appian Low-Code Application Development Platform
  9. Why Use Low-Code Application Development Platforms? by Adeel Javed
  10. Why Digital Transformation Can’t Proceed Without Operational Process Transformation, by Adeel Javed
  11. A Realistic View of Business Rules Engines
  12. How To Make BPMS And RPA Work Together
  13. Gartner Says 8.4 Billion Connected “Things” Will Be in Use in 2017, Up 31 Percent From 2016
  14. Building Arduino Projects for the Internet of Things: Experiments with Real-World Applications, by Adeel Javed
  15. 5 Ways The Internet Of Things Revolutionizes Fleet Management, by Jay Krishnan
  16. What is Artificial Intelligence?, by Jack Copeland
  17. The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis
  18. Ultimate Guide to Leveraging NLP & Machine Learning for your Chatbot, by Stefan Kojouharov