After ten years in my current house, I am looking to move. Through the years, I have upgraded various features (backyard landscaping, kitchen, household fixtures, etc.). Without much thought about it, I listed my house with one of the largest real estate agencies here in North Carolina. With their broad network of listings, numerous agents, and ability to network, I figured I would have showings several times a week.
Here I am a, year later, in the same house. After only a few showings over the year (of course one was in the middle of winter with five inches of snow on the ground), I revisited exactly what services were provided to me by the agency. Besides the sign in my yard and my house in their large catalog of houses for sell, I found myself wondering what exactly is being done for me.
Last week, I changed to a much smaller brokerage firm. Immediately, I can see the differences. My house is listed on numerous media channels including Facebook and Twitter. I am delivered color mini-brochures that I can leave wherever I wish. I get weekly reports on inquiries. I finally feel like someone is working for me and going above and beyond the norm. And I look in the mirror asking “Why didn’t you go this route in the first place?!?!?”
Like everything in life, I relate this back to my position with Ultimus and being in the BPM space (aka “mental problems”). I like the fact that we have a care and advocacy program in place. This program ensures we check in with our customers constantly, and many times for no other reason than just to talk to them. While license and software sales to brand new customers provide companies the largest margins and can attribute to bottom line revenues the quickest, it does not define total success.
Why are we all surprised today when we get good customer service? When the grocery person does not throw my apples into the bag, but carefully packs them, why is this so remarkable to me? What software companies forget is that there is “hidden revenue” in your existing customers. Good customer service directly results in up-selling and cross-selling opportunities. Moreover, with happy customers, the “word of mouth” effect takes over and you find that people start calling YOU for your business.
I do not think I could ever work for a large company again where my identity equates to a social security number. I like the fact that I know my customers by their first name. I like the fact that I can drive to their offices, have a Diet Coke with them, and simple ask, “How are things?” In this case, the smaller company, one-on-one customer approach is the ideal way to do business.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Expanding on Process Improvement
Business Process Management + SharePoint = Customer Success
VP Product and Technology
In the past few months, I have come across quite a few articles and blog posts as to why the majority of BPM projects fail. First of all, I don’t believe that the majority of implementations fail, but a lot of them do. Organizing a BPM implementation project is comparable to many other software implementations, but it does have its peculiarities. We have seen hundreds of successful BPM implementations throughout the world.
Here are ten commonalities:
- Have a BPM Excellence Center lead by a BPM champion. The team needs to be composed of both business and IT experts. The BPM champion needs to believe in business process management, know both business and IT aspects, and be very good at mediating. Because IT and business professionals often speak “different languages”, it’s important that someone is readily available to close the communication gap during the project.
- Use Professional Services on your first project or projects. This will ensure that the initial implementation goes smoothly and that knowledge transfer occurs between consultants and team members. After your first process you can start to cut down on the dependency of external consultants and only use them for the most critical aspects of the projects.
- Provide adequate resources to ensure success: technology, time, and budget.
- Plan for managing project documentation. Make sure that team members review and understand all aspects of the project before starting.
- Insist on high quality and specific technical documentation from the development team; include documentation time and resources in the budget. Do not take legacy system integrations for granted – investigate thoroughly and include time for the investigation in the budget.
- Provide a change management plan for handling modifications to the fundamental requirements or project specifications.
- Include adequate time and resources for process map quality assurance in the budget.
- Invest in a thorough and complete project discovery, including well-documented use case scenarios for use in development, Q&A, and troubleshooting.
- Be vigilant in avoiding “scope creep”.
- Take the necessary steps to provide the team with proper training.
Notice that none of the items above are highly technical, as they mainly incorporate planning and management. If you have the right team in place, a good budget, a solid documented plan, room for change, unblocked communication and proper monitoring, you are on the right track.
Though not all best practices can, at all times, be implemented in all projects, the more you adhere to best practices, the more likely there will be significant and measurable results for your organization.
Monitoring and Managing Your Business Processes
A BPMS, Alone, Cannot Improve Your Company's Processes Alone: BPM Initiatives Are Yours to Drive
BPM a Sustainable Strategy for Your Company
Director, North America Product Management
There are many compelling reasons why automating processes is important. Sure, improving processes before automation is always important, but it doesn’t avoid all the pitfalls of paper based processes.
Let’s evaluate a single process, Expense Reimbursement - a simple process to illustrate how automation can save you big bucks.
You may think, this is simple… it should only take three or four days, correct? What can go wrong with it?
Below are ten examples of the typical impediments and the delay that each one can potentially generate:
1. Employee forgot to add one of the receipts – 4 hours
2. Someone along the process can’t understand the cursive writing of an employee – 4 hours
3. The postage truck delivering the paperwork from the employee’s location to the manager’s location delivers it
to the wrong place – 5 days
4. The manager contracts the flu and cannot complete the paperwork that is sitting on his desk - 3 days
5. The finance reviewer fails to see that the bank account number for the employee is missing from the
reimbursement sheet – 1 day
6. Finance is closing the month and can’t get to it till next week – 7 days
7. Paperwork gets lost and an employee has to resubmit – 10 days
8. Money wire doesn’t go through and the bank fails to notify the finance clerk – 5 days
9. The employee changed banks and forgot that the reimbursement process was in transit – 10 days
10. Someone in Finance, tired from burning the midnight oil the previous week, spills coffee in the paperwork and
makes some of it unreadable – 1 day
I guess by now you get the point. If you add all those potential delays above, that is a whopping 42 days plus! A paper based process that should take 4 days could potentially take over a month due to inefficiencies inherent to being paper based.
Now let’s look at the same process after being automated:
How would automation deal with each one of the issues listed above?
1. By using process attachments, the employee can be prevented from submitting the process form until all required receipts are attached.
2. It’s an electronic form with automatic calculations, but if there is a typo, anyone along the process can return the form to the employee (who would be automatically notified of a new task by e-mail).
3. No trucks anymore, it’s automatic so processes can move from person to person, ignoring geographical barriers.
4. The manager can still get sick but if the task goes late, it can be automatically re-routed to someone else within the finance department.
5. Electronic forms can have intelligence built in, even checking if an account number is actually valid. It can also be automatically retrieved from the finance or ERP system
6. No loss of paperwork to do…no paper.
7. Approving electronic forms is much easier because one can do it through a mobile phone. Remember that after automating there is no more “deciphering hieroglyphs” along the way.
8. The money wiring is now an automated electronic transfer. If something goes wrong the finance clerk can be notified.
9. Again the money transfer will fail. The finance clerk is notified that the account doesn’t exist and may even call the employee to sort this out. But, now everyone has visibility as to where the process is.
10. Lastly, nothing prevents the finance clerk from spilling coffee in their keyboard. In which case they may complete the task from someone else’s workstation or their own mobile phone.
These are just 10 compelling reasons why you should not wait to automate your process.
Workflow Automation - Remembering Where BPM Came From
Don't Just Consider Complex and Complicated Processes for Automation
Director, North America Product Management
Upcoming webinar featuring Kevin Smith, IT Director at Pentair Water Pool and Spa, and Chris Adams, VP Product and Technology at Ultimus, will highlight and discuss the various ways companies are using Ultimus’ Business Process Management (BPM) Solution to extend the value of their Microsoft SharePoint environment. This allows an organization to gain efficiencies and increase productivity with the tools they have today and without further investment in IT resources. Kevin will give details on his experience integrating SharePoint with Ultimus BPM Suite and the outcome of this integration.
Other topics include:
- Strengths and limitations of SharePoint as they relate to your corporate process improvement strategy
- Where SharePoint ends and Process Automation begins in the process life cycle
- How Ultimus Process Automation can drive your business in a positive way by interfacing with SharePoint and integrating with other enterprise applications
- Real-life examples of SharePoint deployed in conjunction with Ultimus Business Process Management to achieve significant productivity gains and cost savings
You are invited to attend the webcast “SharePoint & Ultimus: A Customer Success” to learn from the experts how Business Process Management can cost-effectively integrate with and extend Microsoft SharePoint for process improvement and efficiency.
DATE: Thursday, November 4th, 2010
TIME: 11AM EST
All registered attendees will receive a free copy of the video webcast.
Getting Started With Your BPM Project
BPM as a Foundation For Business Transformation
Here at Ultimus, we make it our goal to build lasting relationships with our customers and partners and have find that they have the greatest success in starting small, automating one business process at a time. At the Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, SCIO Gerry Young observed the need process improvement and after a great deal of industry research, he came across Ultimus. In our latest customer video testimonial, learn how the Commonwealth of Massachusetts went about first choosing a business process management solution and then expanding the solution within other state departments.
As Ultimus has expanded into numerous departments in the Commonwealth, we’ve gotten great feedback from the SCIOs.
Gerry Young, SCIO
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Gerry goes on to discuss the BPM industry and thought leadership. He reveals that the big industry players are not necessarily the place to go for the leading edge thought, as well as his experience being an Ultimus customer, stating “Ultimus has always gone the extra mile to provide whatever support we’ve needed. They’re response time, they’re response to our business needs, have been fantastic.”
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has successfully implemented several key processes to date. They are embarking upon a major expansion project to build and implement new processes as well as extend the current processes into various state agencies.
If you are interested in learning more about the business process management success at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, visit the Ultimus case studies page.
Process Optimization in Government and Healthcare
The Prevalent Need for Process Improvement
Today, rapidly changing technology and complex business needs demand Business Process Management software: software that is designed to encapsulate and adapt to unique requirements over a broad range of customers. BPM software must be designed with a forward-looking approach so that it can adapt to the unknown, with the idea: I don’t know who my next customer is and I don’t know what their requirements are going to be. It must be flexible enough to handle requirements such as different database providers, a variety of document types (like Word, Excel, InfoPath, PDF), as well as interface with SharePoint, ERPs, HR, accounting and legacy systems.
Another instance where BPM software must be flexible is handling customer-specific software components. A quality BPM product should be able to interface with software components developed by the customer. For example, imagine a company with a series of web services or an existing framework of software services (i.e. service-oriented architecture, or SOA) that provides access to business layer functionality. If the company then needs to access these services within a process, there needs to be an easy way for BPM software to hook into this data at any point of the process lifecycle. Ultimus does this through its out-of-the-box integration via web services, .NET, database, SharePoint and other Flobots and process level integration wizards. Data can be both pulled and pushed from (or to) external systems.
Ultimus provides support for all of the above and more and the BPM Suite is a platform for creating solutions which optimize, automate, and make existing (paper-based or partially automated) business processes more efficient. It is designed with an open-ended architecture and can adapt to a broad range of existing customer requirements.
Eliminate The Black Screen: Your Company's New Year's Resolution
BPM, the "Glue" Connecting Disparate Systems
Those of us in the BPM vendor space (aka “process gurus”) regularly and routinely opine on the ideal definition of what is a process. We tweet, write blogs, and post to forums on opinions of process theory and practicality. Arguments are often written on whether workflow, BPM, ACM, or ERP is the best process platform. But we should remember that we live in a small part of the universe compared to global business space. Process gurus are different from 90% of the people in the workforce today. Company employees who are responsible for driving the company's day-to-day success strive to complete as much work as they can as fast as they can utilizing any and all technologies that are needed. Interestingly enough, still today, the primary tool used to manage daily work is the email inbox.
Fellow process guru, put yourself in their shoes. Think more about all of the emails in your inbox and how hard you work on your inbox emails. Admit it - you feel good driving home in the evening when you have put a major dent in your email inbox. Who doesn't? Think about all of the different subject matters of those emails. Think about how many varying work subjects are in all of your emails... all of which collectively define your vital role in your company. In an abstract sense, if each type of email was associated with a color, our email inboxes would look like a piece of mosaic art.
Now think about you selling the concept of "process" to these people who wear so many hats and are involved in so many worker threads. Despite the holistic value of what each singular business process provides, it is nothing more than a collection of tasks (human and automated), defined or undefined, dynamic or routine. In fact, the modicum of the process concept is the individual step or task. It is easy to believe that when introducing the process concept into an existing workforce that is already at 100% capacity, you will most likely be faced with these questions:
- How do I “log into” the process application?
- Are you seriously telling me I have to learn another new application?
- Why can’t I just keep on doing what I do already?
- How many tasks will I get a day?
- Will this replace some of the 1000 other tasks that I already perform?
When injecting the new concept of “business process” into a workforce, do not forget the people who are to execute the process. Do not let the theoretical concept of process get in the way of how people actually work. In fact, if your process is not an extension or refactoring of how people are already working today, then it is highly likely your process solution will become shelf ware. While the company executives who bought your process solution believe in the concept of process, they are not the ones executing the process. The process workers will get their work done, one way or another… it is the responsibility of the BPM solution provider and implementer to ensure the “process” concept is not a foreign one.
BPM, ACM, ECM... At Its Core, Your Company Simply Has Process Needs
Looking at The BP Oil Situation From a Process Perspective
Strategies For Choosing Which Process to Automate: The Ultimus Process Prioritizer
VP Product and Technology
I borrowed the Latin quote Quo Vadis to this title as it means “Where are you going?” And where is Business Process Management going as it matures as a “teenager” discipline?
When evaluating a Business Process Management (BPM) platform, companies get bombarded with information. Many times information overflow proves to be overwhelming and the overuse of acronyms by vendors and analysts can make the whole thing sound like a science fiction movie. But does it really have to be this way?
The figure above displays more than 20 terms commonly used in the world of BPM.
It’s no wonder that people are confused and frustrated when trying to select vendors. Mr. Customer, your BPM needs are the most important part of your BPM Suite decision. While it is important that your BPM Suite allows you to grow and is also flexible as your needs change, it is important that you to not get caught up in the feature hype.
What are organizations really looking to achieve when selecting a Business Process Management platform? Is it better productivity, visibility, and reporting? Is it reduction of human and system errors while using its current IT systems?
When evaluating a BPM platform, what questions should you really ask?
Here are some suggestions:
1. Does the BPM platform get the tasks to my users on time?
2. Does it help to remind users that they have tasks to tend to?
3. Does it provide managers with visibility about what their team members are working on?
4. Does it provide connectivity to existing data in various systems in the company?
5. Does it provide flexible reporting tools?
6. Is it secure? Encrypted?
7. Does it play well with existing technologies within the organization?
If all the questions above are answered, then the next step is to know how it achieves all of the items above.
Finally, beware of vendors that add “checkmarks” to each of these items. Try to learn how each one of these is addressed by the platform and if it is in line with how your organization conducts business and manages technology.
This whole process doesn’t really have to be rocket science.
Remember that there is no need to spend the money for a Porsche if your primary needs are to get your large family safely and securely around town. Schedule an Ultimus Test Drive today!
Better, Faster, and Cheaper BPM
Director, North America Product Management