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Process automation gets the job done!

This article appears in the issue May 2013, [Volume 22, Issue 5]
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Business process management (BPM) systems can touch the entire range of enterprise information systems, supporting an organization's strategic goals such as expanding into new markets or improving customer service. More limited workflow products can be used to support focused, tactical objectives such as expediting IT services or onboarding new employees. Those applications typically can be implemented quickly and empower the organization in significant ways.

Airrosti Rehab Centers is a healthcare provider group that specializes in delivering quality, outcome-based care for all soft tissue-related injuries or musculoskeletal pain. A fast-growing business operating in four states, Airrosti recognized the need to start automating its business processes. At the top of its list was onboarding new offices, because that process was integral to its growth. With that goal as a catalyst, the company started investigating BPM software products.

Airrosti identified a number of candidate products, primarily  through online research. "We took part in webinars and spoke with the vendors to understand each product," says Lindsay Graap, a financial analyst at Airrosti and one of the primary decision makers in the selection process. "One of our top criteria was ease of use, because we do not have a large IT staff. In addition, we wanted the option of viewing the process in either a graphical flowchart format or in the form of a text description." As a small business, Airrosti also wanted a product that was within its budget and was well supported by the vendor.

SaaS option

Airrosti selected Integrify 5.5, a process management software product that has a visual task flow designer and allows configuration with no coding required. "We opted for the SaaS version rather on-premise because we wanted the immediate upgrades and lower maintenance requirements," Graap explains. "In addition, it was easy for us to start off with a small group of users and then expand as needed."

The first process Airrosti implemented was not the one that had prompted the search for a process management solution, but a simpler process of onboarding new employees. "This process was fairly straightforward and allowed us to learn how to use the system," Graap says. "Integrify proved to be very easy to use. The hardest part was figuring out what the process should look like, since many of our processes had never been formally documented." Another process that has been automated is that of IT-related requests, such as obtaining new cell phones, computers and laptops.

Onboarding of new offices is now being implemented in Integrify, with ongoing changes to make that process more efficient. The tasks associated with onboarding offices include obtaining contracts, licenses and supplies and fulfilling many other requirements. One piece of the process that will soon be in place is automatic notification to the corporate bank that the new office needs an account set up. "The system automatically sends information to the bank that allows them to set up the account," explains Graap. "Automating the whole onboarding process will be very helpful and save us a lot of time."

Integrify provides a unified interface that has the ability to manage complex processes behind the scenes, but also provides a simple user interface, according to Dave Willsey, CEO of Integrify. "Many companies use Integrify as a unified front end for a wide variety of internal facing systems such as asset management or identity management," he says. "We get a lot of traction with businesses that are faced with tackling process-related problems and implementing an easy-to-use solution that focuses on rapid end-user adoption. Integrify can provide anything from a very simple request interface to a dashboard of reports for management."

Open architecture workflow

CSX, a rail company with 21,000 miles of track in the United States and Canada, replaced a collection of different systems that were being used throughout the company to track union grievances with the Labor Relations pre-configuration of entellitrak from MicroPact. The application is integrated with IBM FileNet, which stores documents related to claims. The reporting module of entellitrak provides information on daily activity, claim status and trend data.

Entellitrak drew inspiration from MicroPact's icomplaints solution, which was developed to enable federal agencies to track and manage equal employment opportunity complaints and cases, and to report their results to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). MicroPact subsequently used many of the same concepts when it created the entellitrak case management and BPM platform, which can be adapted to a broad range of business processes, including regulatory case management, investigative case management and human resources.

"Our architecture is completely open," says Growson Edwards, senior VP at MicroPact. "We have no proprietary components. We expose all of the layers, including the database, application and user interface layers. This allows us to easily integrate with other products and systems." Entellitrak is also available with entellidoc, its own document management system that includes versioning, search and the ability to store digital assets such as video and images.

The platform is available preconfigured for more than 20 common repeatable business applications such as personnel security background investigations, but can be adapted to any process. "One unique aspect of entellitrak is its ability to work either from a traditional business modeling approach or start out by modeling the case data and add rules later," Edwards explains. "This adds an element of flexibility that is not present in many BPM products."

Because process improvement generally entails process change, entellitrak was designed for business users to be able to easily modify the route of the workflow. "We are trying to move that line between IT and the business user so that the businessperson can own more of the territory," Edwards says. "The process is going to change and adapt, and the platform has to do the same."

Smaller-scale automation

Service catalogs automate business processes, but are not on the scale of full-fledged BPM solutions. "BPM platforms are very broad and deep," says Eveline Oehrlich, principal analyst at Forrester. "They are part of larger business processes and require dedicated teams, infrastructure and major integrations." In contrast, service catalogs automate smaller pieces, such as a password reset or an HR action such as onboarding or offboarding.

AAA of Northern California, Nevada and Utah (AAA-NCNU) provides services to more than 4.5 million members in those areas. Its staff of 7,000 was using an IT ticketing request system developed in house, but it was difficult to use and lacked the features the organization wanted. After evaluating proposalsand comparing vendors on a shortlist, AAA-NCNU selected the PMG Service Catalog.

Within eight weeks, AAA-NCNU had automated the workflow for more than a dozen services, and eventually expanded that list to over 300 services. The organization credits the PMG Service Catalog with helping it move forward with better management of its IT services and data-driven decisions about how to use its IT resources.

The PMG Service Catalog Suite provides automation for IT, cloud, HR and other services. It includes iDeliver, a business process management suite; iRequest, an e-commerce webstore interface; and iCollaborate, an enterprise content management suite that provides content for the Service Catalog. The Service Catalog Suite integrates with leading IT service desk products such as HP Service Manager, CA Service Desk, and BMC Software's Remedy.

Collaborative too

"Facilitating interactions with IT is a critical part of business enablement," says Joe LeCompte, principal at PMG, "and an IT service catalog helps accomplish this." PMG's iDeliver allows users to design the workflow in drag-and-drop mode using a palette that includes human action, integration, database calls and other options. The design process is easy for business users to master and helps promote their participation.

Like BPM implementations, service catalogs are collaborative and require attention from a variety of stakeholders. "Ideally, the process owner and IT will model the process using our tool and build the paths," says LeCompte. "This can be done in just a few hours." Sometimes the customer prefers to produce a written document after interviewing the stakeholders, which is then used to define the processes. "In any case, the design is always an iterative process," he adds.

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