I have recently returned from a highly successfully Ultimus Americas User Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Rather than recap on the specific events of the conference itself (Sandy Kemsley at http://www.column2.com/ did a great job of this), I thought an interesting perspective of the conference would be analyzing who our conference attendees were and what they were able to take away from the conference itself.
First, I was surprised to see a diverse blend of attendees including, existing customers, prospects, and new and seasoned Ultimus partners. Moreover, I was excited to see attendees from outside the Americas here at the conference (as they made specific plans to come from across the world to attend). I think this blend of conference attendees is a credit to the exciting things we are doing from all aspects of our company. As I was preparing my presentations for the conference, I was careful to ensure my messaging had relevance to the listener (no matter their status). I had the responsibilities of presenting Ultimus' product road map on day 1, and then presenting a number of varied business-level and solutions-level presentations on day 2.
I was excited to see that those new to us were eager to ask questions regarding what Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite could do for them today (from a features / functions perspective) and also from a business excellence perspective. The questions I received ranged from the "What can Ultimus do to help me with my company's business challenges" to "What is Ultimus planning to do to support the latest new technologies soon-to-be released".
In today's financial market, I was shocked to see the great turn out that we had (and I believe the cross-section of people we had were excited to hear from our numerous keynote speakers). Gartner's Janelle Hill's message was one that every person (Ultimus customer or not) was able to embrace and return back to their companies with new insight on their current-day execution of processes. Sandy Kemsley's message on the "Future of BPM" was exciting to hear, as the mash up of common BPM practices with the viral use of social technologies provides a great foresight to the next generation of BPM platforms. Finally, Dave Ridley, SVP of Marketing Southwest Airlines, made everyone take a deep breath and re-think how we all treat our employees and even ourselves and proved to be a perfect complement to the process story.
I look forward to Ultimus' 2009 Americas User Conference, as I think offering invitations to the blend of people we did provided great value to everyone in the following ways:
- New opportunities heard first hand stories of current customers who are experiencing successes with Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite
- Existing customers were able to meet some of the faces of Ultimus they had not yet met in person as well as meet one another
- New and existing partners had a great session on achieving continued successes with selling Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite.
VP of Product Marketing and Management
As I continue to monitor the activity in the BPM space, I see many new software vendors touting their new software applications as Business Process Management Suites (BPMS) where many times their offerings are just workflow automation tools. I am also seeing many existing software application providers incorrectly introducing new pieces to their applications as new "BPM" capabilities. All of these workflow applications provide the basics of a design environment where business processes can be conceptualized, but one of the key concepts to a BPMS is the ability to model processes before the processes are automated.
Today's business analyst has a plethora of software applications to conceptualize his/her company's business processes. As with any application today, careful and judicious decisions need to be made regarding which software applications are to be utilized. The following are just some of the specifics to pay mind to when choosing a process mapping application:
- Is the software application difficult to understand / hard to use without formal training?
- Does the software application provide just mapping functionality or does it also include vital modeling capabilities?
- Are you able to extract / export the data in the software application (i.e. reuse it easily in other applications?)
- Can you to import data from other applications?
- Does the software application adhere to the standards in the BPM space?
The above questions are more vital today than ever before in the BPM space. If the data and work you have invested in your existing modeling application cannot be ubiquitously applied to other modeling applications, then you run the risk of creating a "silo" of vital process data. If you choose to invest in another modeling application, you will be forced to spend the time and effort to recreate the business processes from scratch. Ideally, you want to invest in a business process modeling application where your work is being performed in an open architecture, industry standard format. Moreover, after you have taken the time to map out and conceptualize your company's business processes, a quality BPA application will include modeling capabilities (so that you can analyze and measure the efficiency of your existing business processes).
As a final point, not every process that merits mapping needs to be automated. But it is important for your company to at least map your processes so that they are documented and formalized. And rather than just stop at the conceptualization stage, you should invest in a mapping application that provides modeling capabilities. A quality BPA and/or BPMS product provides conceptualization and modeling functionality without requiring formal training in business analytics. If you do plan on automating your processes (once they are mapped out), again, you should invest in a modeling application that is a native extension of a BPMS to ensure the most rapid deployment time possible.
VP of Product Marketing and Management
So, you have decided to automate your process with Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite? Ideally, this means you have settled the following basic questions:
- What exactly is our process aimed to do?
- Who are the participants in our process?
- What integrations do we need?
- Is the routing logic defined?
- What possible exceptions are there and how are they to be handled?
With these questions addressed, you might think you are ready to begin the automation initiative. But before starting the effort of drawing and mapping your process in Ultimus BPM Studio Client, you should first check Ultimus' Process Templates repository. In this repository, you will find working examples of business processes that may be exactly what you are attempting to build yourself. Ultimus has assembled numerous business processes from the past that cover some of the most common business processes being automated today, including:
- HR processes
- Employee Roll On / Roll Off
- Vacation Requests
- Finance processes
- Expense Report Request
- Purchase Order Request
- Expense Reimbursement
- Request for Information
- Request for Quote
- Account Termination
- IT Service Request
In many cases, utilizing an Ultimus process template as a starting point may save you 60% of your total design effort (as these processes already include basic process layout, forms design, and rules) compared to building the process "ground up".
Even if the way your company handles these common processes differ than the Ultimus process template, you may still gain value in understanding how others have designed Ultimus form logic, rules and routing logic, and integrations with common third-party technologies. By leveraging the information in these process templates, you will have the extra knowledge and expertise to build a business process that best suits your company's needs.
VP of Product Marketing and Management
In the customer service space, CRM applications are essential in providing the quality of service customers expect. Without a quality CRM application, customer service representatives are separated from the vital, up-to-date information to provide the best service to the company's customers. Take for example Salesforce.com (http://www.salesforce.com), the worldwide leader in on-demand customer relationship management (CRM) services. Salesforce streamlines customer relationship management and boosts customer satisfaction by providing an easy to use, zero-footprint application for client users. By using Salesforce, companies can not only manage their customers, prospects, and opportunities, but also streamline their sales and revenues.
But how do you leverage this valuable CRM information inside your company? Who in your company needs to know when key information in Salesforce changes? And how does the data in Salesforce relate to the other data you have in your legacy systems? This is exactly where business process management comes to the rescue, as true customer satisfaction cannot mature without end-to-end process improvement.
Consider the example where a company acquires a key new customer. Of course this information will be recorded in Salesforce, but there are many other systems that require updating as well once the customer has been "won" in Salesforce (and there is a specific order in which these updates must be done). By leveraging a BPMS, once the new customer is recorded into Salesforce, the following additional activities should occur in an organized automated way:
- Sending alerts to key people in the company (sales manager, finance, manufacturing, distribution) informing them of the new customer
- Creating a record of the customer and key financial data in the company's Accounting systems
- Informing the right people in the company to send a "Welcome Packet"
- Finally, updating Salesforce itself that all of these actions have happened (to ensure the most up-to-date information regarding the customer activity is recorded)
As you can see, by using a BPMS like Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite, not only are the lines between CRM and BPM blurred (thus virtually creating a single cohesive solution), but also the company is able to provide a high level of service to their new customers by quickly and efficiently on-boarding the new customer.
Vice President of Product Marketing and Management