Workflow for Outsourcing

Outsourcing Sign

There’s no question nowadays that the majority of work is being off-shored overseas, with the largest areas being customer service, bookkeeping and computer support.

Outsourcing is a strategic move that has become more common and favourable for many organisations, in order to cut costs and gain a competitive advantage. It provides the opportunity for organisations to utilise skills and expertise that were not available internally, without having to invest high amounts of money in recruitment or local expertise.

It provides important benefits of being able to outsource back end tasks such as data entry to overseas service providers to save money and resources, and then concentrate on core business activities.

Most organisations deal with a large volume of paperwork every day. With the increasing amount it can become difficult to manage, which often leads to errors and loss of information causing inconvenient delays and re-work. Especially in a large scale organisation this is an inefficient use of time, equipment and staff resources which can result in significant financial loss.

Workflow automation software can assist with this. It provides a structured, centralised system with data storage in the cloud, allowing you to effectively track business processes as they are completed and sent internally and to outsourced vendors.

Workflow software is ideal to assist with outsourcing work such as form processing. An example is a large scale insurance organisation that had implemented workflow software to replace their previous system.

Their previous arrangement involved handling insurance policies which were sent to various staff, brokers and other organisations through email and phone. The tasks involved staff making decisions, transferring documentation, communication and follow ups, all done through multiple communication channels making it difficult to monitor.

After implementing the workflow system, it allowed them to efficiently outsource back end tasks to service providers in Mumbai. The dozens of staff involved in processing the policies could then concentrate on other important issues, and the work was carried out by brokers in India to complete.

Main benefits of workflow for outsourcing:

  • Lower costs – compared to Australia, labour costs are typically less in countries such as Asia and India.
  • Better quality – access to the world’s skilled expertise at a lower cost. You don’t have to invest in finding, training and managing employees.
  • Free up resources – allows you to free up internal resources for core activities, to grow the business instead of wasting energy on back end operations.
  • Time difference – the difference in time means that work can be completed while your business is closed, keeping the productivity continuously flowing.
  • Risk reduction – having an offshore partner means in the event of disaster, recovering their backups means you haven’t lost everything, which will assist getting your business back on track.
  • On demand – temporary booms, seasonal or simply ad-hoc work, you can choose to employ more or less staff depending on your businesses situation.

Workflow for Compliance

compliance

Why comply?

Ask yourself this. How would you feel if an organisation that held your personal information was poorly secured and managed? What if a security breach meant that all of your private details, passwords, addresses and credit card details were leaked, and the company refused to be held responsible for the loss of personal and valuable information?

This is why compliance is critical in all businesses and we will explain how workflow can assist with managing compliance.

Compliance management is a critical component of the internal control process for any organisation. Whether it is compliance to meet internal corporate procedures or external regulatory requirements, effective compliance will aid the organisation to avoid criminal charges, build a positive reputation, higher productivity and generate a positive working environment.

Workflow for Compliance

The overall purpose of a workflow is to divide business processes into smaller steps which can be passed to different people within (or outside) the organisation. This usually involves creating a document, submitting to a reviewer, pass back for amendments and so on. These steps may repeat several times before the reviewer is satisfied to move on to the next stage.

Workflow software can ensure that all necessary steps are undertaken, enforce control processes and verification of information. Tracking and monitoring of processes and approval checkpoints ensure that steps and information are not overlooked, missing or incorrect.

Quality Checks

Quality Checking involves reviewing all of the factors in the workflow. The purpose is to review for completeness and accuracy.  It helps to identify and remove incorrect tasks early on; so that only the correct tasks are progressed and additional time is not wasted.

The reviewer will analyse the information to ensure that the details were completed correctly. The overall aim is to check that the provided information meets the set requirements.

Requests for information, send backs, and approvals with any comments or instructions can be communicated via alerts. The advantage is that each task can be immediately actioned when received and no time is wasted on follow ups.

Approvals

The Approver will inspect that all information is correct and complete before passing the information forward to the next process. Approvers can make decisions on whether to progress, request further information or reject altogether.

Workflow provides Approvers with the ability to request additional information, and approve or decline if it didn’t meet the requirements and provide reasons.

The Approver has the opportunity to evaluate the staff based on their experience and skills. From their analysis of the staff, they can then allocate the tasks to the most suitable individuals, which will ultimately increase the likelihood that the tasks will be carried out correctly.

Auditing

The audit log keeps record of all transactional events that occur within the system. An audit log can store all data entries including create, update and delete information.  It can store the timestamps of the transaction along with the user who performed the transaction.

These can be permanently stored so that every transaction captured can be reviewed at any time by the administrator. The logs can be used to trace the proof of origin, changes, inserts or deletions and who, when and how they were actioned.

 

Workflow follows a consistent approach by requiring frequent approvals after important tasks and at major checkpoints. Workflow can guarantee that new employees follow the procedure and don’t make costly mistakes.

It also ensures that employees cannot  cut corners, provide false or inaccurate information, or bypass procedures in the workflow.

Textiles, Clothing, and Footwear Small Business Program

If you’re in the Australian textiles, clothing, or footwear industries, you may be eligible for government funding for business process improvement and automation through the Small Business Program.  You can find out more about this program here.

If you’re looking for assistance to improve or automate business processes, Web and Flo may be able to help you, and you may be eligible for funding through the program to utilise our software and services.  To find out more about Kontinuum and The Celsus, visit our website or give us a call on (03) 8456 8999.

Albert Einstein’s Other Theory

einstein

Albert Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome is the true definition of insanity.

Ok, so maybe Einstein wasn’t specifically talking about the industrial world.

But his “other theory,” does apply to business.

Consider This

AND you continue to do it hoping to see a significant rate of return on your investment — not only might it be a bit crazy, it’s just not profitable.

Think about which processes are being used every day in your company for work to flow from start to finish, in the hope of yielding huge profits.  As a key decision-maker in a company, you need to find the workflow process duplications and overall inefficiencies.

If Einstein were a businessman, he probably would have defined another theory of relativity:

Low Profit

Don’t let this equation be the sum of your business’ value!

Einstein’s theory states the underlying reasons for why workflow software is important for any organisation. Many of the core benefits have been previously discussed in the post 10 Benefits of Workflow. So if you’re not already using workflow software and are considering it, then it’s probably the right time to seriously start looking into it.

If you’re interested in more information about our workflow software please visit Web and Flo.

SaaS, Security and the OWASP 10

intruderWhen considering a SaaS-based solution, people often wonder whether their data will be safe “in the cloud”.  Security is a major advantage to a SaaS solution.  In most situations, security attacks are caused because of the behaviour of legitimate users. According to a recent Forrester Research Report, 70% of all security breaches are caused by internal sources.  By locating the system outside the organisation, security risks can be significantly reduced.

Software as a Service is provided to a customer as a subscription based service that is delivered over the internet. SaaS can eliminate high upfront establishment costs and IT maintenance and support. Security measures are required to keep unauthorized people out of your system and prevent them from reading your data whilst it transmitting. More importantly, measures are used to protect internal users from vulnerabilities, and control their accessibility to ensure they only access what they’re meant to.

The OWASP Top 10 identifies the most dangerous security risks that occur on the internet. It provides a framework for evaluating a SaaS application’s security. The major security mechanisms in a SaaS application can include TLS & SSL, PGP, User management, Password & Passphrase requirements and storage, SAML and Audit Trails.

If you’re interested in finding out more, please download the free security white paper from www.webandflo.com/resources.

10 Benefits of Workflow

Toy car

There are multiple reasons to consider using workflow in an organisation, as it can automate and improve processes in all areas of a business.  The most notable example of workflow being the assembly line (as previously presented), helped to shape the standard of workflow, not only for car manufacturing but for all industries.

The Toyota car company adopted Ford’s assembly line in the 1950s to develop their own lean production system. Over the following years, the benefits of their system resulted in:

  • Productivity increases between 300% to 400%.
  • Labor productivity increased an average of 25% a year.
  • Defect rates reduced from over 2000 to less than 50 parts per million, and in many to less than 10 parts per million.
  • Cost of quality cut by over 60%.
  • Work-in-process inventory cut by more than 80%.

So here are 10 good reasons for how workflow can benefit any business:

  1. Workflow can help by identifying and removing the unnecessary steps/processes.
  2. Modifying the order of the steps can make the process more efficient. For example, some steps could run simultaneously as opposed to sequentially.
  3. Tasks can be assigned to the people with appropriate skills to perform the task, rather than allocating to anyone who needs work to do. This is a compromise in quality!
  4. Management can concentrate on strategic business oriented activities, rather than the day to day operational tasks, such as task allocation and monitoring progress. This means the organisation can grow as a business.
  5. Workflow has provisions to answer all possible questions that arise when deciding on or actioning a task. This helps an individual’s work confidence level, which in turn reflects in the quality of the outcome.
    It answers question like: What actually needs to be done?, Who am I doing this task for?, How long should I take to perform this task?, Who else is involved in the process?, What will happen after I action this?
  6. Workflow follows a sequential order. It ensures that all steps have been completed correctly (especially areas typically prone to human error) and checkpoints met before moving forward.
  7. Paperwork and paper chasing is eliminated thus reduces wastage and saves time. Automatic routing with no paper handling and fast travel time will significantly cut time. The constant movement of the workflow means once a person has finished their part, they can immediately pass it on, so it doesn’t sit around where it can get forgotten or lost.
  8. It improves visibility. Tracking can allow a staff member to instantly check the status of the item. It allows the key people to see the critical processes at every point, identifying problems, and bottlenecks, and monitor end to end performance throughout.
  9. Decisions that were determined by people can be made by the workflow, based on businesses rules that can be made to represent human decisions.
  10. Since the workflow is linked to a database, it keeps a record of what occurs in the system. An audit trail shows who, what, when and what actions were performed.

In summary, workflow provides major benefits for any organisation. The ten identified are just some of the many benefits of workflow. It makes an organisation become more efficient by helping to save time, remove wastage, cut out unnessecary work, better use of human resources, which overall saves money and will help an organisation to grow and improve.

What we’ve been talking about for the last 6 years

Workflow Tag Cloud

By looking at the tag cloud in the side bar of this blog, it was interesting to note the keywords that were frequently being used in the context of workflow.

It got me thinking – apart from ‘workflow’, why do all other tags appear to be of equivalent size, which would indicate they are of equal importance?  I was not convinced because how could ‘random ramblings’ be considered as equally important as ‘business process management’!

If you are not already familiar with tag clouds, the way they work is by grabbing the keywords from within a website to create a visual representation by arranging them according to their importance. It emphasizes the key tags by making them larger and typically darker in color.

Although the existing tag cloud served its functional purpose, could it be improved to make it appear more interesting and the important tags to stand out more noticeably?

I was able to stumble accross Tagxedo, a tag cloud generating website that allowed you to submit your website to generate a tag design. It automatically identifies the key tags and allows you to customise the appearance of the image through various settings. After a few attempts, this is what I was able to come up with.  This appears to be a much more accurate representation for this blog’s content!

As suspected, it identified ‘workflow’ as the largest tag since it can be found in almost all of the blog posts since the the first in 2006. Other closely related tags include business, process, software and web which are agreeably far more valuable than ‘random ramblings’.  Which raises the question – what are we not posting about that we should be?  I’d be interested to hear your thoughts…

On naming software…

As mentioned in previous posts, we’re going through a process of launching a new product specifically designed for SMEs – which has gotten me thinking a lot about naming.  Many of our clients white-label Kontinuum – they develop workflow solutions within the Kontinuum engine, and give the configured solution their own branding which they then use within their organisations, or when re-selling the solution to their clients.  Sometimes, these names are brilliant – concise, catchy, and explain the app well.  So while I’m thinking about it, here are some things we consider when coming up with names for products:

1. Keep it simple – short, easy to remember, and easy to spell

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” – Albert Einstein

2. Make sure your name is unique – particularly in your industry (for all concepts), or across the board for all software.  This will help you to differentiate your offering without confusing the market or redirecting your users elsewhere.  This will also have the benefit of meaning you don’t have to compete with other companies or products for getting to page 1 on search engines, if you’re looking to re-sell your software

3. For the same reason, don’t name your product something too generic like a dictionary word – chances are you’ll need to add additional words (and therefore break rule 1) to explain what you do.  You’re also likely to end up low on any search ranking, at least for a while (notable exception – Amazon)

4. If possible, use the Meg Whitman rule and come up with a name that might be used as a verb (as in, “I’m going to google this”, “Can you xerox this for me”, etc)

“When people use your brand name as a verb, that is remarkable” – Meg Whitman

5. If you can’t get the .com; choose another name.  It’s just going to be too hard for users to find your site.

6. Don’t name your product something too specific that you may need to to change as your product evolves or pivots (Roses Only is a great brand, but I wonder how many of their gift baskets and fruit baskets they sell?  The name would detract anyone looking for those products, as you would assume they don’t sell them)

I’m wondering if anyone has any notable examples of, or exceptions to, the above rules – or any more to add.  Please comment if you do!

Workflow for SMEs

In Australia in June 2011, there were 230,638 business with between 5 and 19 employees; and a further 81,006 employers with 20-199 employees; according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  Businesses of this size struggle with process – they are large enough to deal with increasing specialisation of work; but the costs of specialised solutions (HRIS systems; Case Managment Solutions; Sales systems) can be prohibitive.  Often, this results in continuing with paper or spreadsheet-based systems well beyond the point at which they are efficient for those businesses.

The economies of scale to build and deploy workflows for an organisation means that it is typically large organisations who have the process knowledge, skills, and time available to undertake a process mapping and development process and to get the full benefit of a workflow automation process.  On the other hand, all organisations use workflow – the nature of work is that any process involving multipe steps or people can benefit from going through review and automation.  In many cases, this means that Small and Medium enterprises don’t get the benefits of workflow… despite being the largest category of employer.

Web and Flo, having worked with large and multinational organisations for over a decade, and an SME ourselves; have decided that enough is enough – and have started developing a library of best practice workflows that we will make available to SMEs for free, or on a subscription-model.  The idea is to consolodate the process information we’ve gathered over many years, and make the available to organisations that until now haven’t been able to benefit from BPM and Workflow Automation.  We’d welcome any input into what processes are the most painful for business as the outgrow their paper and spreadsheet-based systems.  Please feel free to comment in the blog or reach us at the Web and Flo website if you’re interested in learning more, or in registering as a Beta client.

Nice to meet you…

Hi,

It’s been a while between posts here at workflow.wordpress.com, and Craig, who started this blog, has invited some people from Web and Flo to post here.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing some new posts to bring you up-to-date news about the kind of things we’re working on and researching here at Web and Flo.

Feel free to let us know in the comments if there are any topics you’d like to discuss with us!

Say it aint Silo

Much of what we do in the BPM/Workflow space has to due with bridging the gap between business silos within organizations. All businesses of a certain size have them, and in the majority of cases they contribute to inefficiency. However since all businesses have them, are business silos not always a bad thing. Therefore what should you look for to determine when bridging a silo is just, a bridge to far.

Silos come into being for a number of reasons like: companies or generally hierarchical in nature, they may have had mergers and acquisitions, poor planning or just different requirements. Sometimes silos are formed instantly but generally they form over a period of time.

So when is a silo a good thing or at least not all bad?

Well in some cases similar IT systems may be replicated in various degrees within an organization but due to different requirements these may be a requirement. This could be related to the general cultural or geographic requirements of a silo.

Silos provide a level of security. They intrinsically act like firewalls.

Finally there is the possibility of information overload. Putting all the information in one place when the majority of information and features might be visible but inapplicable across the business silos is unwise.

It is important to consider when developing BPM applications what the negative effects will be for technology with respect to silo bridging. It is also important to consider the political effects as well but that is a blog for a different day.

Two things about Workflow Software Practitioners

I came across this Idea in the blog world. It was that every occupation could be summed up as knowing two concepts and then just applying them.

Some of them are for example:
Trading:
1) Buy Low
2) Sell High

Computer Programming:
1) Idiocy Increases faster than Idiot Proofing
2) All compiling errors boil down to a missing semicolon

Public Relations
1) There’s no such thing as bad press
2) It could always be better

Star Trek
1) Don’t beam down in a red shirt
2) You can always talk evil computers into destroying themselves

So what would be the 2 things about working as a BPMS developer? Well might would be:
1) Make it as configurable as possible
2) Make it as simple as possible

I would be interested in hearing other BPM practitioners describing what there two things are.

SOA Dead?

In a controversial blog post Anne Thomas Manes of the Burton Group asks the question “Is SOA Dead”?

http://apsblog.burtongroup.com/2009/01/soa-is-dead-long-live-services.html

Well I personally don’t really think so. It may not have been the end all be all that various people have touted it to. That does not mean it will not continue to have its own niche. With the economic downturn a lot of things are heading south and a lot of SOA projects have been put on hold or cancelled. That doesn’t mean they won’t be back. Maybe not with the same wide eyed enthusiasm they once had, however that has been a theme consistent with all new technologies that are introduced.

A final point is that while there may be a lot less SOA activity and there is also a lot less motor vehicle production but it is hardly the time to call the automobile dead.

My Christmas and a Happy New Year? (2009 BPM predictions)

Well it is time to say good bye to 2008 and hello to 2009. Will it be a happy new year in IT for all? Will the global economic crisis play scrooge? Here is what some of the experts have to say:

Gartner
http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=10403

Forrester
http://www.networkworld.com/includes/ads-pre.html

IDC
http://www.russoft.org/docs/?doc=1581

All of them see a slowing of growth but not a contraction. As for my prediction well I am a little bit hopeful that BPM which is viewed by many purchasers of BPM products as a cost cutting technology/exercise will be spared the wrong of the economic turmoil. Well thats it for me for 08. I hope everyone has a happy holiday season.

More Workflow and BPM Trends using Google

Every now and then I do a little playing around with Google Trends to find out how the BPM industry is tracking.  I typed in the following search terms:

workflow

Business Process Management

BPM

bpel

bpmn

software (used software just to get a base line) 

If looked at only by themselves workflow, BPM, and Business Process Management would seem to be contracting. Google does not create these charts against total searches but as a percentage of total searches. If we use the term software as a baseline it would seem that these terms are relatively stable. The interest in the BPEL and BPMN languages seems to be increasing and fairly dramatically. I guess this may be expected due to the relative youthfulness of these terms as compared with the others. Additionally BPM may not be a very valid search term as many people might be searching on “Beats per minute”

The problem with workflow software

I have a problem as I am sure many of you do.  It is telling people what I do for a living or what kind of company I work for.  Invariably I start talking about what workflow software is and all the benefits of Business Process Management.  Somewhere along the line they come to the conclusion that “He works with computers”.  I guess the problem is that I don’t really have succinct way of describing the industry and thus my role in it.  Here is the best definition I have come up.

Workflow or Business Process Management Software is set of software tools which are aimed at maximising all the benefits of performing business processes while reducing their costs.

BPM today is so function rich that above definition doesn’t scratch the service and as such any short definition is a disservice.  However every long definition is confusing to the layperson.  If anyone has a better definition please post a comment.  Until then I guess I will just have to keep telling everyone that I “work with computers”.

The Size of the BPM Market

So what is the size of the BPM market and how fast will it be increasing?  Well the answers vary a little bit so I will try and average it out a little bit.

In 2007 Gartner said the size was $1.0B and would grow to $2.6B in 2011

In 2007 Forrester said the size was $1.6B in 2006 and would grow to $6.3B by 2011

In 2007 IDC predicted a market size of $5.5B in 2011 at a 5 year growth rate of 44% therefore they had the 2007 market size pegged at $1.28B

In 2007 Datamonitor said the market size was $1.4B a predicted a 14.5% growth rate.

In the below table I have extrapolated the yearly market size based on the end points and a constant growth rate.

Analyst 2008 2009 2010 2011 Growth %
IDC 1.84 2.65 3.82 5.50 44.0
Forrester 2.70 3.61 4.77 6.30 32.0
Gartner 1.26 1.61 2.05 2.60 27.0
Datamonitor 1.60 1.83 2.10 2.40 14.5
AVERAGE 1.86 2.42 3.20 4.20 29.5

 

So as you can see the current size of the market is not that different but the expectations on growth are fairly significant.  Also please keep in mind that these estimates were done pre financial crisis.  It will be interesting to see in which way the crisis effect the BPM industry.  I know the company I work for has actually experienced a sharp spike in customer enquiries since the down turn.

BPM Standards (Here we go again)

There is a debate going on about BPM standards.  Two most recent articles were written by Ismael Ghalimi and Rhashid Khan.  They discuss the merits of having a BPM Ecosystem.  This ecosystem is based on interoperability standards that span across vendors and BPM related technologies and applications.  The ecosystem provides “a natural unit consisting of all plants, animals and micro-organisms(biotic factors) in an area functioning together with all of the non-living physical (abiotic) factors of the environment.”

In these articles (http://www.bpmlab.org/2008/11/07/developing-a-true-bpm-ecosystem/
http://leadershipbpm.wordpress.com/2008/11/10/the-bpm-ecosystem-2/) they discuss what the ecosystem should be and its use of standards.

The thing about standards in IT is that they are very hard to agree on.  There are a few reasons for this:

1) There is no central organisation akin to the IEEE like there is for Electrical Engineers that governs the industry.  In BPM the organisations that come up with these standards are loosely defined.  If we had a central figure with near dictatorial powers then perhaps they could make this happen.

2) In engineering standards are the key to everything they do.  The same amount of discipline is not installed in the average IT professional.  There are many “cowboy coders” but there are not cowboy engineers.  Due to it being a less regimented culture to begin with there will be less standardisation and fewer people who follow the standards.

3) There is no real punishment for not observing standards like there is in engineering disciplines.

4) It is very simple for someone to invent a new “standard”.  They can also easily modify an existing standard and call it something else. 

5) Microsoft (the company who provides alot of the underlying technology on which many BPM vendors rely) will always follow standards but only upto a point.

Mr Ghalimi and Khan seek to illustrate how the use of standards or lack of use of standards will improve the industry as a whole.  However I think that without a very strong governing body in place and strong cultural shift this simply will not happen so the argument is a bit academic.  If there is to be a standard that everyone agrees on it is a long way off and may only come about through consolidation and not agreement.

Revenge of the Workflow / BPM keywords

A while ago I went through the list of several Workflow / BPM vendors homepages.  I listed a few of the words that were often found among them.  I figured this was a somewhat unscientific was to determine what were the types of things that potential clients would be looking for in BPM products.  I have since gone back to my survey and added a few more sites.  Here are my results for key words that appeared on 30% or more of the websites.

achieve
application
automate
based
better
BPM
business
capability
change
collaborate
compete
complex
control
cost
customer
define
deploy
design
efficient
enterprise
environment
execution
fast
finance
help
implement
improve
information
integrate
intelligent
management
modeling
monitor
optimise
performance
process
productive
project
rapidly
resource
service
software
solution
streamline
system
task
time
user
work
Workflow

One thing I noticed absent from the list was acronyms for things like BPMN, BPEL or OMG.

The Great IT and Corporate Divide

I went to a BPM Trends seminar a few months back. It was filled with a lot of interesting information and if you want to find out more about how the BPM industry is segmented I highly recommend you drop by for a session. One of the most interesting and somewhat comical things that they said at the session was there was a list of the top concerns/issues from CEO’s and CTO’s. The lists were both very different with only one commonality. Both groups felt that the IT and Finance sides of the business did not work very well together. It got me thinking as to why that could be. Two possible reasons stood out.

One reason could be that there are simply not enough people in the world who have a good understanding of both skill sets. There is some much terminology today that either group could listen to a conversation the other group was having and not make any sense out of it. It is also very difficult to become and expert in both as many people would not seek to attend university for a period of between 10 and 15 years.

The other reason is perhaps the concept of what a business is differs greatly between the two camps and thus they have difficulty communicating. The IT person might view the business as a series of multi-directional interconnected people, systems and processes. To them the business is conceptually a network.

The CEO might view the business as a people and systems belonging to business units which are part of divisions which make up the company. In their mind reporting paths and org charts most clearly define what the business is. To them the business is conceptually a tree.

Please keep in mind that I am for the most part and IT person and I am approaching this from an IT bias.

How safe is the BPM vendor Market from the follow on effects of the Credit Crunch

To be honest I really don’t know the effects of the credit crunch on BPM but I am just going to state some reasons why it may be a little less susceptible to the credit crunch and some reasons why it may be a little more so.  Again these are just my musings.

Less susceptible

BPM is often purchased because it is a cost savings measure.

BPM may be seen as a saviour to so many issues and may be looked at out of a sense of economic desperation.

BPM offers greater business agility which could be very important to respond to businesses that are in a great state of flux.

More susceptible

Usually a visionary is responsible for getting the momentum going for BPM.  I believe that in times of economic turmoil their ideas may be overlooked as Management is more concerned with key business fundamentals.

For most BPM vendors there is a large initial capital outlay.  This is where BPMSaaS vendors may have an advantage.

My father once told me that historically the best thing to invest in during an economic crisis is waste removal.  Everyone has to have their garbage taken away.  While you could argue that BPM eliminates waste it is not a necessity to the same degree.

When BPM meets World of Warcraft?

I came across the following blog article today:

http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/09/29/how-to-make-business-more-interesting-video-games/?mod=googlenews_wsj

According to the article a San Francisco State University professor is intending to teach students about BPM by immersing then into a virtual world where they can study tasks and use technology to improve them. 

I think anything that gets more people involved with BPM is a good thing.  Currently there does not seem to be enough human resources capable to deliver all the BPM work that is required and I feel we are still in the early days of BPM adoption.  BPM spending is suppose to double over the few years depending on who you believe (Gartner, Forrester, Butler etc) and this will mean we need a lot more BPM practicioners in a very short amount of time.

I still don’t think the guys at Blizzard have much to worry about.

BPM Maturity

Here are some of the more common questions I ask clients when trying to find out where they are in terms of their business process management maturity

Do you know what all your critical business processes are in your department or organisation?

Do you know what all your non-critical processes are in your department or organisation?

Is there a document that lists all the critical (and non-critical) business processes?

For each of these processes is there a process owner?

For each process is there a high level design document that outlines which steps are performed and by whom or what system?

For each process is there a low level design document that details what is required to perform each step?

For each process is there training material?

For each process are there defined and documented KPI’s?

For each process how often are the KPI’s measured?

For each process are they as automated as they can be?

For each process are they as integrated with other systems, and processes as they can be?

For each process what is its value and its cost to the business?

For each process how agile is it to change?

For each process how aligned is it with the needs or direction of the organisation?

For each process are management or users of the system given a oppurtunity to contribute to the increased efficiency of the process?

For each process are there scheduled periods to review the process to search for inefficiencies?

For each process is there significant reporting to highlight errors and exceptions, inefficient tasks, people and flows (preferably in real-time)?

Is there a methodology put in place for when changes are made to processes?

There are a lot more questions out there but these ones I find are usually a good place to start and obviously if they answer no to some of the early questions it means the later ones are usually not applicable.

KPIs

Much of the success of any workflow project is judged by how it compares with key performance indictors.  These KPI’s can be almost anything but a lot of the more common ones can be found at:

http://kpilibrary.com/

It is a handy site that can help you judge success.  I recommend ascertaining what KPI’s that will be used to measure project goals before implementing any workflow project.

Workflow/BPM Key Words

I was bored one day.  I mean bored.  So I decided to run a little experiment and find out what are the key words most commonly shown on the homepages of various BPM / Workflow vendors.  I picked 10 vendors based on their location in google for the terms workflow software and Business Process Management.  I did not survey any sites that were not BPM pure plays.  I ran a script to get all the words off these pages then I removed all conjunctions, common words etc.  I also combined derivations of words so manage = management = manager etc.   I came up with over 400 words.  The results of the key words most likely to appear on the homepages were:

Management: All 10 sites

BPM, business, process: 9/10 sites

Solution, Workflow: 6/10 sites

Efficient, Implement, Optimise, Service, Software, Task: 5/10 sites

Automate, Change, Compete, Customer, Design, Fast, Model, Monitor, Project, Streamline, System, Time: 4/10 sites

25 Words were on 3 sites

64 Words were on 2 sites

Over 300 Words were only listed on one site

What does this mean?  Well probably not a whole lot.  But it might give some clues as to what vendors feel are the words best suited to catch potential BPM clients.  It also gives a limited insight into what some purchasing motivations might be.