An Ontology for BPM in Digital Transformation and Innovation

An Ontology for BPM in Digital Transformation and Innovation

Silvia Bogea Gomes (INOV INESC Inovacao, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal), Flavia Maria Santoro (University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and Miguel Mira da Silva (INOV INESC Inovacao, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/IJISMD.2020040103

Abstract

Technologies are being incorporated continuously into day-to-day life, introducing new shapes for all businesses. Nevertheless, it is interesting to notice that most novelty is based mainly on processes, rather than on technology. Although the literature seems to agree the digital transformation and innovation (DT&I) and business process management (BPM) connection is almost mandatory, there is not a clear and precise conceptualization of the relationship of these two domains. Therefore, the authors argue that a conceptual model is needed to organize the knowledge raised on these subjects structurally. This article presents an ontology to provide a formal and explicit specification as a common understanding basis of this topic. This research contributes to leveraging the BPM in the digital age, exploring their relationship, investigating to what extent the BPM characteristics initiatives affect—and are affected by—DT&I. The authors evaluated the proposal using a public domain business case to confirm the model requirements and assess whether it adequately addresses the research problem.
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Introduction

Digital technologies are being incorporated into people’s day-to-day lives, introducing contemporary habits, novel ways of living together, new cultures, further shapes for the traditional businesses, and new kinds of businesses. In this scenario, novel companies are arising, and existing companies are transforming themselves. These companies are continuously offering various digital products and services to their consumers as fast as possible. In many of these successful businesses, the processes are as important as the technologies.

In some cases, the process makes the difference for the innovation provided. Some examples include digital companies like Amazon, eBay, and LinkedIn, and Facebook and others include traditional companies, like airlines (online ticketing) and banks (online banking) where the newness that comes through the process reviewed (Kirchmer & Franz, 2017). Another beyond-technology highpoint is when the innovation uses new combinations of already existing components.

Perhaps because of this, Henfridsson, Nandhakumar, Scarbrough, and Panourgias (2018) affirm that recombination is at the heart of Innovation. Novel products and services derive from the carrying out new combinations of components. Additionally, it is fundamental to take into account that “businesses are simultaneously affected by the new forms of consumption associated with these digital technologies” (Hagberg, Sundstrom, & Egels-Zandén, 2016).

The Information Technology (IT) incorporation into business processes is not enough to allow organizations to be innovative and remain competitive in the Digital Age (Brocke, Zelt, & Schmiedel, 2016); instead, it is essential to identify relevant contexts for adequation of the Business Process Management (BPM) approach. The BPM and Digital Innovation are joint directions for organizations to change and improve (Van Looy, 2015).

However, although the literature seems to agree that the connection between Digital Innovation and BPM is almost mandatory for companies, there is not yet a clear and precise conceptualization on these joint topics. A survey about “a positive relationship between BPM and digital innovation” opens the discussion whether the role of BPM needs to change and whether the BPM-related capabilities need to be re-interpreted for the digital future (Van Looy, 2017). Based on these issues, the authors understand the relevance of examining the interaction between Digital Transformation, Digital Innovation, and BPM perspectives. Motivated by the previous arguments, the article supports the need to investigate to what extent the characteristics of the BPM initiatives are affected by, and affect, Digital Transformation and Innovation (DT&I).

Conceptualization is an abstract, simplified view of the world that one may wish to represent for some purpose (Guarino, Oberle, & Staab, 2009). It can be represented by the objects, concepts, and other entities and the relationships that hold them as a model (Gruber, 1993). According to (D. Karagiannis, Bork, & Utz, 2019), modelling is a proven method for the conceptual representation, and in this context, a metamodel, which is a “formalized specification of the syntactic nature of the domain under consideration”, is core for this activity. The authors explain metamodels as a conceptual structure that aims to support the complexity in fast, changing environments. In this sense, the research goal of this paper is proposing an ontology as a conceptual metamodel to share concepts and support companies in aligning their digital business processes in DT&I initiatives.

An ontology involves concepts, relationships, definitions, properties, and constraints. It is “an explicit specification of a conceptualization” (Gruber, 1993). A domain ontology can be a reference ontology that is a special kind of conceptual model, or an operational ontology that is a machine-readable implementation version of the ontology (Falbo, 2014). In this article, the authors propose a reference ontology for DT&I domain.

In doing so, the authors aim to share a common understanding of this theme. Moreover, the authors aim to enable the reuse of domain knowledge for organizations and other groups of researchers interested in DT&I, either for integrating or extend them with other ontologies.

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