BPM'S expanding horizons

This article appears in the issue February 2013 [Volume 22, Issue 2]
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No longer the domain of large enterprises, business process management (BPM) is now also feasible for small and medium-sized businesses. And, new features such as social media and mobile applications are making BPM more robust and versatile.

Bank of Tennessee, a community bank, wanted to improve its procedures while providing a collaborative environment for workers. "We wanted to streamline and automate our processes, starting with loan origination, and to provide an enterprise social environment," says Will Barrett, senior operations officer. "At first, we looked at consumer social software products such as Jive and Yammer, but they did not address all our major concerns. We wanted a social environment that was tied to our processes and could directly impact our efficiency."

The company looked at regional and national banks to see what their approach was for addressing those concerns. "They have the same issues but on a larger scale," Barrett says. Given the modest size of the bank's IT department and other resources, taking a path identical to that of many large banks was not an option because it would have entailed considerable customization and a large financial investment. Instead, Bank of Tennessee sought a solution that already included its key requirements and was affordable to develop and support.

Thoughtful deployment

The search led to the selection of the Appian BPM Suite. "We felt they were ahead in the social offering," Barrett explains, "as well as having the robust rules engine that we needed." In addition, the suite included a mobile component. The bank decided to use Appian's professional services to develop the application. "We thought their knowledge of the product's capabilities and our process knowledge were a good combination," Barrett says.

The plan was to develop the application in the cloud and later move it on site. That would allow development and testing without disrupting the bank's existing systems. "The engagement started out with scoping the project," says Adrienne Hubbard, leader of the services team that assisted with the deployment, "and then we put together the high-level architecture, including the mobile and social aspects."

When Barrett was satisfied with the vision, the team began an iterative process of building a prototype of the application, adding requirements and then downloading the prototype to the Bank of Tennessee to test the loan application forms. "This was a very big institutional change for us," Barrett says, so we wanted to carry out thorough testing." Additional modifications were made to display the forms on mobile devices, because the flow needed to be changed to accommodate the smaller screens.

Another important element of the project was to integrate with other information systems. "A huge part of the initiative was to standardize the input forms so they contained the right information for multiple applications," Hubbard explains. As each form was developed, Barrett brought in the stakeholders to show them how it worked and how it would support the way they do business. "We have loan officers, underwriters, processors, all collaborating around the loan," says Barrett.

Shortening the timeline

Because of the collaborative nature of the work, the social element was considered very important to the application, and is tightly intertwined with the business processes. "Every time a new mortgage request is initiated," Hubbard says, "a post is kicked off that shows all of the steps. The loan officer is the focal point for that process and is notified anytime someone joins the conversation-for example, providing feedback about a customer."

Now in the pilot stage, the first processes will be migrated from the cloud to onsite at the bank within the next few months. Barrett is anticipating immediately shaving time off the loan process. "Our customers say the timeline is their priority, and the Appian application will enhance the customer experience because we can shorten the timeline and eliminate errors." In addition, once the application is on site, the bank will be able to easily change and improve its existing processes in house. "Between the increased collaboration and the streamlined processes," says Barrett, "we expect to improve our overall performance."

Work processes and enterprise social applications are more compelling than either one alone, according to Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian. "Work automation has not been adopted completely across the enterprise nor does everyone have access to the BPM interface," he says. "Social software is not always productive because it is not tied directly to business processes. When social functionality is linked to the work, it is much more effective." If the work processes and the social element are isolated from each other, neither can provide the enrichment that is possible when they are together.

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