As many of you know, I have been pressing the metal to the floor on BPM in the cloud. So, I was interested to see the Appian Webinar last week (available on demand here). Some of you will remember that I developed a good chunk of process training for them to support users on the Appian Anywhere platform.
The session opened with the usual intro (not from me for once), pointing to all the usual reasons for doing BPM – efficiency, retain customers, compliance, etc. However, I was impatient to get to the SaaS opportunity, as I believe BPM delivered in the cloud enables a whole range of new possibilities.
Following the vendor neutral intro from Information Week, Samir Gulati Appian’s VP of Marketing, talked about their offering. Appian Anywhere has the same code based as the Appian Enterprise product, but deployed in the cloud and available on demand. AA has been out there for nearly 18 months or so (although I think it was only officially released earlier this year). It’s available in the Premium Edition where you get your dedicated server, SAS-70 type 2 application, etc., and the Standard Edition where you get shared (multi-tenant) access to an Amazon EC2-based service. From a pricing point of view, the Standard Edition is $35 per user per month. And while you are in evaluation mode, Appian provide a “Process Coach” to help get you up and running.
Samir talked about a few example customers of Appian Anywhere: ManuLife, who are using it to support their marketing function, driving better resource usage, managing interfaces to their third party suppliers, etc. The second example was Starbucks who are using AA to manage and track localised promotions, enabling visibility into what is going on.
The main part of the webinar was a case study delivered by John Cowles, Director of Operational Efficiency at Clayton Holdings. They are primarily involved in Credit Risk and Due Diligence work for the Mortgage industry (they don’t own assets, just provide services to others). Their customers are the Banks and Mortgage issuers. They could see the financial industry going in a downward spiral, and felt that things would get tighter. They realized that they needed to get better control of their own processes, and start monitoring/managing process performance. They also felt it was taking too long to get people up and running effectively.
Being a smaller company, they were a little nervous about getting into the BPM space, so thought they would try out the SaaS option. For them, it was a low risk; a low cost way to get started (John’s estimate was that it was only about 10-20% of the cost associated with buying a BPMS and installing in-house). And with limited IT availability, they felt the SaaS option represented the best way forward. They started zeroing in on Appian because they had the SaaS capability (at the time they were the only one out there with an On Demand offering). He liked their tenacity and the flexibility of the tool.
Once their instance was set up, it took just 6 weeks to get their first process up and running. He started developing a baseline of their current operation (always a sensible move). In his words, “you can’t improve anything unless you know where you are started. You could be wasting your time focusing on the wrong things.” Overall, he was looking for a 30% improvement in efficiency, while also seeking to reduce the variability in the way work was carried out. They followed a DMAIC approach, but it was a BPM project (not 6Σ). They were lucky in that they had the active involvement of a lot of senior business people (Executive Steering Group). Yet, their development and implementation team was small (2 people).
They have been doing a new release every month once they got their initial processes up and going. And ever since that first release, the business people themselves have developed more and more ideas on what they want to do. Initially, they actively avoided doing any integration at all. So it has only been very recently that they needed to involve IT.
I am not sure, but I think they are now addressing two areas of the business. John talked of having over 30 processes, with a lot of interdependencies between those processes; so I am guessing he was referring to the various sub-processes and chained processes that support the domain.
From a results point of view – they are now doing more with less. He cited a new operation in a remote city where they had thought they would need 14 people to do a particular role, now they get by with just three.
For a case study, I thought it was a good one. It was good to hear someone really getting into the lessons learnt.
- John quite rightly pointed to the need to “Focus on Change Management and Process Management early on … We had to prioritize, needed to step back and look at the bigger picture.” I found myself thinking that we could have had some interesting discussion over the Process Portfolio Management techniques that we have been working on with a Center for BPM Partner.
- His second point was I think a good one “Limited or no system integration in the first release” … indeed, they left the integration till nearly 6 months before they got into that.
- “Prototype everything” … sit down, work with them in design mode, and see what that looks like, prototyping all the time.
There were others, but those were the things that stood out for me. John also talked to the need for Process Visibility … “Need to step back and look at the metrics at a high level and then focus down on the critical areas … treat it like a compass.” I liked that last phrase as it gives a sense of what Process Visibility should really mean to managers.
As a BPM Case Study, I thought the session was a good one. However, I think it would have been even better if he had covered the game-changing capabilities of a SaaS delivered BPM solution in support of the process across the wider value chain. I think many managers are still stuck in the mode of optimizing their own processes rather than looking for the opportunities to support the wider problem. It’s a bit like stove pipes inside an organisation … but here, I am getting at the opportunities to radically improve the value chain, through the comprehensive integration of all the actors involved. Having said that, I am sure John is already thinking about the opportunities to deliver this sort innovation.