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It’s About Process (or the Ability to be Responsive) -- Part V

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: October 17 2008

Part IV of this blog series further analyzed Webcom ResponsAbility, the on-demand workflow automation and business process management (BPM) solution. Anyone interested can take the product for a free trial test drive here. The vendor just released the ResponsAbility p4 release.

Competitive Offerings Do Exist

Still, Webcom’s first-to-market (or close to) BPM on-demand advantage has already been challenged by the solutions from Skemma, Appian [evaluate this product], Lombardi [evaluate this product], Colosa ProcessMaker [evaluate this product], Pipevines, and The Process Factory (powered by Cordys), to name only a few.

Even the likes of QPR Software, although not necessarily multi-tenant software as a service (SaaS)-based, have an enticing approach to providing BPM solutions, which allows a phased approach for BPM suites’ adoption. The major benefit of this approach is that a company does not have to commit a large amount of resources to "make or break" a BPM project. Instead, this flexible BPM adoption approach allows customers to implement BPM in-house at a pace that suits them best.

As counter moves, Webcom is pondering about offering the product in different editions (tiers), whereby the current largely case management capabilities would constitute the ResponsAbility Basic Edition. The upcoming fall enhancements that were mentioned in Part IV would then create the Professional Edition, as a “BPM Lite” product of sort.

Once the Web Services application programming interface (API), mobility support, case and task interdependencies are incorporated too, Webcom plans to release the Enterprise Edition, as a fully functional BPM suite. The pricing details for these are yet to be articulated. There is also a temptation for viral marketing and offering a ResponsAbility Free Edition, of course with some significant limits (e.g., in terms of the number of users, cases, modifications, etc.), whereby companies can at any time opt to switch to the full edition for much more functionality (and a fee).

ResponsAbility’s Value Proposition

ResponsAbility’s benefits, reported by the early adopters (and touted to the hypothetical customers), revolve around process automation, simplification and acceleration. For one, an increased reported-to-resolution speed comes from elimination of time delays associated with customarily forever collecting feedback, clarifications, or comments from the many parties involved.

Within ResponsAbility, at any point in time every case is somebody’s, well, responsibility and their input is immediately accepted and rendered within a case. It becomes much easier to identify, manage, resolve and follow-up on any issue. In other words, no issue can slip through the cracks, since the issue status and history will indicate exactly where it is in the process, who has it, who has had it and for how long, what was done, etc.

Improved internal and external customer satisfaction is the result of allowing customers real-time access to information about what is being done to each one of their cases. In addition, companies can improve their products and/or services by collecting and analyzing feedback from their customers, users, sales, etc.

This dovetails into improved transparency and collaboration, whereby team members can share access and work in the same space across departments, divisions, and enterprises. The use of powerful search, sort and filter capabilities within the system serves to capture and access the so-called "tribal knowledge" within an organization.

Increased productivity comes from the elimination of the time so often needed to find the information across multiple places such as emails, voice mails, file servers, web pages, etc., given that all relevant information is now contained in a particular case within ResponsAbility, and is a click away. Last but not least, all of the above benefits lead to reduced business process costs.

Dovetailing Into General BPM Benefits

In general, workflow/BPM should result in significant return on investment (ROI) when applied to “taming” dynamic processes that change frequently (e.g., adapting to regulatory compliance changes, or to a new organizational structure). The good use of these solutions would also be towards business processes that involve human interaction, and typically, cross many business units, divisions, departments, entire enterprises or other functionally organized groups of people.

The same holds for complex, multi-step processes that require the orchestration of a variety of staff members from different functional departments using different software applications and/or data to accomplish their tasks. The same would hold for processes with exceptions that are currently handled manually but that still require quick turnarounds.

We should not forget here about those processes that are exposed to the trading partners in a value chain, and where delays or mistakes can damage partner relationships. Conversely, high-volume transaction processing, processes with little or no user interaction and that can be simply and cheaply automated with other tools (e.g., task scheduling systems), would not be the best use of workflow and BPM tools.

From a bottom line perspective, adding workflow/BPM to business processes should save money and time, increase customer satisfaction, get results quicker and largely eliminate things getting lost in the shuffle. Thus, success with (or payback from) workflow and/or BPM deployments should be measured with a clear and simple business metric, such as: reduced number of returned shipments, reduced lead time for special orders, increased consistency of task completion, or reduced time required to onboard new employees. Each company should tailor its individual metrics to those of importance to the business.

Some BPM benefits reported by users and/or market observers (that should also keep the project team focused and the business owners engaged) would be:

  • Reduced product design time by 50 percent;

  • Reduced order time by 80 percent;

  • Increased call center efficiency by 60 percent;

  • Cut inquiry response time by up to 90 percent;

  • Increased inventory turns by 35 percent; and

  • Cut manufacturing cycle time by 40 percent.


Conclusions

In addition to the obvious processes for bug resolution, new feature requests and special service requests, which were mentioned in earlier parts of this blog series, some other potential “low hanging fruit” deployments for ResponsAbility could be a case management for insurance claims and a variety of processes that involve approvals as a step (e.g., processing of sales orders or handling purchase order requisitions).

Prospective users might want to evaluate this solid, and yet inexpensive and rapidly deployable on-demand workflow/BPM functionality that they can set up and configure to implement standardized business processes in an automated fashion. Users can configure and manage workflow in the ResponsAbility’s rich and self-explanatory user interface (UI), while both users and administrators can quickly create complex business rules without needing to have any programming knowledge.

Users can create workflow rules for most of the entities in WebSource CPQ (or any other system of record for that matter), including custom entities. By using workflow rules, companies can specify criteria and business logic for how the system should execute the rule. In addition to configuring the workflow trigger event, users will soon be able to insert sophisticated conditions and actions in each rule. Workflow rules follow the Webcom’s security model, so that users can configure the rules and security roles for their organizations to restrict user access.

Again, your comments, thoughts, suggestions or individual experiences with workflow/BPM tools are more than welcome. How do you handle your processes, manually, in an automated way or somewhere between (only some processes are automated)?
 
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