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BPM works for business-Efficiency and insight are some of the benefits

This article appears in the issue February 2012 [Volume 21, Issue 2]
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The growth in use of business process management (BPM) software remains robust, as organizations continue to recognize the efficiencies that can be achieved and the products become easier to use. According to IDC, the market for BPM software and middleware grew over 9 percent in 2010, to $16 billion. Along with efficiency comes improved customer service, which benefits both the organization and its customers.

Automating workflow

Founded in 1935, Leo Burnett is a global advertising agency that has produced iconic brand images such as Tony the Tiger and Marvel Man, and more recently, the Allstate "mayhem" series of ads. The company delivers its products in many different forms, ranging from print to billboards, TV commercials and Facebook pages. It pioneered interactive ads such as those for Amnesty International, which allow individuals to sponsor space in support of political prisoners.

The process of preparing estimates for those projects can be complex because of the many elements that might be required, including actors, graphic design, Flash developers and written materials. In addition, each estimate typically goes through multiple revisions, and the sheer volume-thousands of estimates per month-makes the process a daunting one.

To move toward a more consistent and efficient estimating process, Leo Burnett decided to automate the workflow using a BPM solution. "We began with a well defined set of criteria," says Derick Africa, associate director for the agency technology group at Leo Burnett. "For example, we knew that we wanted a Web-based software tool with dynamic workflows and centralized administration. We also wanted a solution that was flexible and required minimal input from the IT department once it was deployed."

Through its own background research and input from analysts, Leo Burnett narrowed the options for a BPM solution to five candidates, and chose BP Logix Process Director. "Process Director had the greatest overall flexibility," says Africa, "including forms development and the ability to link to files from within e-mail notifications." In addition, the nature of Leo Burnett's business played an important role. "Everything we do in our company has to be visually attractive," Africa explains. "With Process Director, we could add our logo and other enhancements to give the application the right look and feel."

Leo Burnett began by using BP Logix Process Director to support the estimating process for eight of its largest clients. Although each project is unique and uses different resources, they all begin with a statement of work and identification of resources needed. Process Director allows visibility into each estimate's status as it moves through the process, and documents each change through multiple revisions. The rules can be set up by business users to determine routing, which is affected by factors such as the magnitude of the estimate or the product brand.

Knowing how long each step takes has allowed Leo Burnett to identify the lag time and make adjustments in its processes. "In some cases we have reduced approval time from days to hours," Africa says. Employees of Leo Burnett have also benefited from using BP Logix Process Director in additional ways. "We have received feedback that the graphical workflows have helped our employees gain a better understanding of our business processes," Africa says, "which allows them to operate not only more efficiently but also with greater insight."

The accountability provided by BP Logix Process Director also ranks high for the company. "We need to meet a lot of criteria in our selection of vendors such as television production houses, including diversity requirements," Africa says. "With Process Director, we can automate the process of validating each vendor's eligibility."

Leo Burnett plans to expand its use of BP Logix Process Director in a number of ways. "We will continue moving our existing clients to Process Director," says Africa, "and for all our new clients, it is part of onboarding." The company also now tracks the legal approval process for contracts and other related legal actions, and is planning to transition its invoice tracking to the new system. "We believe that Process Director has helped our company, our clients and our business partners," Africa adds.

BPM products do a good job of reporting on how long a process took, but are not generally able to predict future timing, according to Joby O'Brien, VP of product development at BP Logix. "Process Director in contrast uses a model based on how a process is being run, rather than a simulation. Therefore, it can alert users when a future delay is likely, based on a milestone that is not likely to be met," O'Brien says. That capability allows corrections to be made that help avoid delays.

BP Logix Process Director also integrates with other systems to provide a unified way of dealing with data and process, and the interfaces between them. "A customer with a CRM system can look at the process model as a data feed or use the process data and metrics as part of their analysis," O'Brien says. "The days of silos are vanishing because folks are demanding more integration among the applications. For example, the rules engines in Process Director are using information from other repositories to help drive processes."

Analyzing process

Cox Communications is the third largest entertainment and broadband provider in the United States, offering television, Internet and phone services. With more than 6 million customers in 23 states and revenues of about $9 billion, the company saw a need for automating processes required to operate its business. Looking for a BPM system that would integrate the analysis, design and runtime components and have out-of-the-box ability for monitoring, Cox chose Software AG as its platform.

Software AG's middleware offering called Business Process Excellence (BPE) delivers BPM and service-oriented architecture (SOA) expertise and brings together the capabilities of ARIS and webMethods. ARIS is designed for business process analysis and design, while webMethods is used for composition of services and execution of business processes. The SOA platform within the offering is designed to integrate multiple applications, and the products allow both an understanding of the business process and the ability to execute an automated workflow.

Cox Communications' first BPM project was the implementation of a "shadow process" that monitored and measured the company's problem management process. Also referred to as a "measure first" approach, the shadow process provided visibility and insight. "We wanted to understand the details of this process, so we first measured and modeled it without using the BPM to actually orchestrate or manage it," says Bruce Beeco, director of solution architecture, integration and services for Cox Communications.

Modeling the process upfront is Cox's standard approach for determining the appropriate level of automation for a given project. "We now use the webMethods modeling tool to model all new development efforts to determine if the solution should be managed, unmanaged or an orchestrated service," Beeco says.

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