The enterprise is drowning in apps. According to Tonkean’s 2021 State of Business Operations Report, more than 82% of IT leaders surveyed believe their organization uses too many software apps.
This is in part because today we turn to apps—either those custom built by IT, or purchased off the shelf—to address every operational problem. But whether built or bought, apps often don’t improve our operations in the way we want them to. They may improve the ability of individual employees or teams to complete a set of specific tasks, but they prove challenging to use in concert, and in turn create process gaps.
We don’t need more tools, in other words. What we need is a way to use the tools we have better, smarter, more strategically.
That’s what process orchestration software is designed to do.
What Is Process Orchestration?
Process orchestration software, as the name suggests, helps operations teams better orchestrate—meaning execute, monitor, and manage—entire business processes across teams and existing systems.
Meaning, process orchestration platforms help you more strategically use what apps you already have.
Process orchestration platforms sit a layer above your apps—including automation tools designed to automate specific sets of tasks, such as RPA tools, which can be used to automate repetitive, manual tasks—as well as your data systems and employees. This is to allow more holistic management of them.
Ultimately, process orchestration platforms allow users to orchestrate and optimize workflows that involve many steps across multiple entities in a way that extends the capacity of existing tools; connects formerly siloed technological environments; and enables users to focus on high-value work for which they’re uniquely qualified… as opposed to having to spend so much time working manually bridging the technology gaps and delivery issues the apps we rely on force them to do today.
One way to think of process orchestration is as a tool for the conductor of your company’s operational orchestra. That conductor doesn’t actually play the instruments, but they make sure the right instruments are being played at the right times. (Automation, on the other hand, is as if you had a robot playing a particular instrument instead of a human.)
Integral to this functionality is, indeed, automation capability. But process orchestration software—which incorporates automation—differs from pure task automation software (think: RPA) in several important ways.
First, task automation is more limited in scope, designed to do things such as connect individual systems (iPaaS) or automatically complete specific, singular and typically simple tasks (RPA).
RPA is in fact perhaps the most common example; it specializes in automating tasks that were previously done manually. It’s immensely useful in auto-handling for users repetitive work.
Task automation tools are generally incapable, however, of automating processes predicated upon multiple steps, more complex business logic, or that require interfacing across several different kinds of systems and departments.
That requires a more sophisticated and comprehensive approach. Enter: process orchestration.
Process orchestration platforms allow ops and IT teams the ability, finally, to manage—harmoniously and with strategy—all of a company’s various moving parts. In effect they allow you to streamline and optimize entire processes end-to-end, in part by incorporating functional elements from across your available tech stack, from the integration capacity of iPaaS to the repetitive power of RPA.
That said, an important note: while process orchestration platforms combine elements of other automation platforms, they aren’t focused on building new apps (like iBPM platforms) or automating specific tasks (like iPaaS, RPA). Since process orchestration platforms can also come with native connectors and capabilities like OCR and NLP, they can be used to handle business processes standalone, but they can also be used in conjunction with other automation platforms to add more flexibility in defining and managing the process logic.
Overall, process orchestration software empowers users to make more strategic decisions and execute more efficiently with not only their other automation tools, but all of their operational infrastructure’s unique mix of moving parts. They also grant you more dexterity. In effect, through more holistic control, these tools help to facilitate entire business processes across systems and teams, making sure that the right action is taken at the right time, whether that’s updating a system or following up with a person, and managing items throughout the lifecycle of the process.
Read “The Difference Between Automation and Process Orchestration” blog post for more detailed insights on the differences of the two approaches.
Benefits of process orchestration software
Key benefits of deploying process orchestration software include increasing your operational efficiency, reducing cost, supercharging your company’s innovative capacity (by empowering users to make more strategic use of their talents), and freeing up valuable IT resources.
Here are a few other key benefits:
Improve processes end-to-end. Process orchestration software can provide a holistic view of existing processes and systems. In doing so, process orchestration helps users connect previously siloed systems and better orchestrate people and tools. Ultimately, process orchestration platforms allow you to finally actually begin improving processes end-to-end. They turn process designers, ops, and IT teams, in this sense, into directors of an orchestra. Whereas before, you could equip your people with powerful instruments, but not truly help them play better together, with process orchestration platforms, you can do it all.
Increase adaptivity. Process orchestration solutions accomplish the aforementioned in part by knowing how to work with both systems and people, maintaining a human-in-the-loop capability to allow people to step in and take necessary action to steward processes along, or make key decisions, when needed. Such functionality ensures teams are always able to take the right action at the right time, which increases flexibility and adaptivity.
Integrate with native connectors. Process orchestration solutions work on top of existing solutions, allowing integration to existing tools via native or custom connectors. Some also have advanced capabilities like OCR (optical character recognition) and NLP (native language processing) to handle a wide range of business processes.
Begin the transition to a Composable Enterprise. Finally, utilizing process orchestration is integral to making the transition from a traditional operational structure, to a composable operating structure. Process orchestration platforms allow enterprises to better use capabilities within their existing tools in a discrete and modular way that allows for more flexibility in how these capabilities can be “composed” together—like building with Lego blocks. Read more about how in our Introduction to the Composable Enterprise.
Overall, enterprises that deploy process orchestration platforms are better positioned to increase the efficiency, adaptivity, and performance of their processes.
Tonkean Case Study: Hopper
Let’s take a real-world business example of how Tonkean’s process orchestration software helped a company overcome their operational challenges.
Hopper, an AI travel-booking service, helps consumers find flight options and deals. This can be a complicated undertaking, especially when support volume—on account of canceled flights, or other disruptions, is high. That was certainly the case for Hopper at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopper’s support agents were, at the time, manually analyzing and tagging every support conversation that entered their queue. Additionally, they had to navigate and work across multiple systems and teams, including the customer service teams of individual airline partners, to collaborate and close tickets. This, all told, required tons of manual effort and operational complexity.
After Hopper teamed up with Tonkean, however, they were able to optimize their customer support workflows. Tapping in, at one level, to Tonkean’s NLP functionality—and using Tonkean’s process orchestration tools on a layer above—Hopper created new processes that auto-handled analyzing and tagging conversations. These new processes likewise automated some routine requests completely, along with the initial information-gathering elements of more complex processes, too. All told, they were able to reduce the amount of manual work support agents were required to perform; increase the efficiency of their support apparatus as a whole; and optimize their operational infrastructure for greater flexibility and adaptivity moving forward.
Read the full case study here.