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

Onboarding of business customers was one of the processes the company opted to manage through webMethods. "Some onboarding for high-speed Internet or telephone is very straightforward," Beeco explains, "while others are complex, requiring easements, engineering diagrams and other resources." The request is now a self-service process, and the BPM process engine sits behind the portal that is the user interface. "Especially for more complicated installations, the BPM system has enabled us to keep track of the steps and run parallel tasks so that we accomplish the job in the most efficient way possible," he adds.

Another case where automation proved valuable is in the integration of third-party services such as the Geek Squad, which provides computer support for users. "We wanted to be able to enforce sequencing of the process when a customer has a computer problem," Beeco says. "We launched this process last summer in our residential service, and will be adding it for business customers in the near future."

Many organizations are embarking on business transformation initiatives during the economic downturn, looking to new markets for growth. "To achieve the agility needed for a changing business environment, companies need to leverage the IT systems in place. Software AG provides the agility layer that allows them to handle new initiatives without changes to these systems," says Subhash Ramachandran, SVP of product management at Software AG.

The 2011 release of webMethods provides content integration, so that document-centric workflow is now supported within enterprise BPM, and documents related to transactions can be readily viewed from within webMethods. "The role of unstructured documents in BPM is critical," Ramachandran says, "and the content services platform serves as a repository for these resources."

Process intelligence provides a complete view of how the processes are running and to identify the bottlenecks. "You cannot improve what you cannot measure," Ramachandran says, "and Software AG's measure first approach ensures that you achieve the goals of your process improvement initiative." Once the process is executed, dashboards show key performance indicators (KPIs) to allow ongoing monitoring.

BPM gets social

Although BPM software is a mature technology, it continues to evolve. A recent development is the inclusion of social elements in BPM. "Social is a new center of gravity," says Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian. "It is easy and enjoyable, and people tend to contribute their input via social media rather than picking up the phone. As a result, there is an audit trail of commentary that has never been available before."

The benefit of social media when it is a part of BPM as opposed to other environments is that it is within the context of work. "The burden of proof on social is to see whether it can advance work," Calkins explains, "but when you are involved in a work process, the content can more readily be applied to tasks." Without the organizing structure of a process, the snippets of a discussion can be lost.

An example of how social media can contribute to a structured process is in the handling of exceptions. A question could be tagged for a particular case, and then linked to it when a response comes in. In a social environment, the question could be broadcast as widely or narrowly as the user chooses. "The answer becomes part of the record," Calkins says, "and then there is an audit trail of what might otherwise be a casual, undocumented decision."  

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