How Forrester’s Smart Process Apps Fit with Enterprise Request Management

Forrester Research recently published a report titled Smart Process Applications Fill A Big Business Gap. The title is certainly apt, since smart process apps as Forrester defines them are essentially specific business process workflows modeled in an enterprise request management (ERM) framework.

The analysts define smart process apps (SPAs) as “a new category of business application software designed to support processes that are people-intensive, highly variable, loosely structured, and subject to frequent change. Smart process apps fill the gap between systems of record and systems of engagement by automating both structured and unstructured work activities in support of collaborative processes.”

Task Map for an Employee Onboarding ProcessBreaking that down, an SPA is essentially software “plumbing” that enables functional department managers (in IT, HR, facilities, accounting, operations or other areas) to define business process flows, then manages those flows to accomplish a specific task (which can be as simple as changing a user’s security access settings or as complex as onboarding a new employee).

Because such processes are “subject to frequent change,” the SPA must make it easy to modify existing workflows as well as create new ones. Because the processes are collaborative, the SPA must be able to communicate with and between people through “systems of engagement” (online forms, intranet applications, or request management software like Kinetic Request) and “systems of record” (federated enterprise systems such as ERP software, financial and reporting applications, HR suites, email systems, etc.).

The Forrester report further states that “SPAs increasingly incorporate BPM (business process management)…mobile development frameworks…(and) business rules package integration”—all of which sounds much like the Kinetic Task workflow automation software engine—as well as “complex event management” (a function of the Kinetic Calendar online calendar tool).

Among the characteristics of such software, the report authors include, “SPAs make processes easier for employees to comprehend and interact with.” Within the context of ERM, the software should enable employees to not only easily request a business service but also to monitor the status of that request (much like online package tracking offered by major shippers); it should also make it easy for managers to create, review and adjust the processes required to fulfill the service request. In addition, SPAs will incorporate “advanced analytics (that) deliver just-in-time insight within context.” In an ERM strategy, the underlying system collects and reports on metrics regarding process and sub-task completion times and costs to support continual improvement.

Finally, the Forrester report predicts that “The next generation of packaged process applications will encapsulate…process models in these collaborative business processes yet make it possible for business people to modify the app to reflect continuous improvement in how collaboration, engagement, and interaction can occur.” The “next generation” of applications may or may not do these things—but Kinetic Task does much of this today.

Want to learn more? Download this white paper on our approach to enterprise-wide holistic  business process automation (BPA).

Upcoming Webinar: The Enterprise Request Management Approach to Reducing the Cost of Service Delivery

In survey after survey conducted by leading business publications and analyst firms, executives consistently rank “making business processes more efficient” and “improving the customer experience” among their top priorities. Yet organizations continue to struggle with inefficiencies and customer satisfaction issues.

Business process automation (BPA) software can help–but it’s only a tool. If processes themselves aren’t engineered to optimize the customer experience, the result is simply that broken processes get completed more quickly. Enterprise Request Management (ERM) is a strategy geared towards improving service, while reducing the cost of delivery in an scalable and risk-managed approach.

What’s needed is a different approach to managing service requests and delivery, an approach that:

  • makes it easy for customers (whether internal or external) to request services of any type from a single, intuitive interface (with the simple elegance of websites like Amazon.com);
  • enables business managers to define and continually refine their own automated processes and task workflows, with minimal assistance from IT;
  • leverages investments in existing enterprise software systems and federated data sources–while hiding the complexity from users; and
  • automates approvals, scheduling, costing, and reporting to support continuous process improvement.

You can learn more about the ERM approach in the upcoming webinar on May 22nd at 2:00 EDT. If delighting customers while decreasing service delivery costs sounds appealing, register for this webinar today!

How to Drop Notes without Missing a Beat

Lotus Notes is a venerable product with more than two decades of development behind it. But for many of our current and prospective customers, the product has run its course.

Several large enterprises, with dozens of Domino servers, hundreds of Notes databases, and thousands of Notes applications between them have directives in place to move off of Lotus Notes, but are looking for alternatives to spending thousands of person-hours on large porting projects.

Lotus Notes migrationFor many companies seeking to move away from Notes, Kinetic Request is a promising alternative. Though Request doesn’t duplicate all of the functionality of Notes, it can be used to rebuild business applications—often in much less time than with alternative approaches. For example, as noted in a previous post here last summer (Lotus Notes Apps Find a New Home in Kinetic Request), one large financial services company moving off of Notes rebuilt two critical business applications in less than 400 hours using Kinetic Request, versus the 2,000 hours it had estimated for custom development.

Compared to Lotus Notes, Kinetic Request is:

  • Built for the web;
  • Built to incorporate federated data (data from virtually any enterprise data source); and
  • Built with APIs in mind.

What’s more, Kinetic Request coupled with Kinetic Task provide the front-end and the backbone for an enterprise request management (ERM) strategy, in which virtually any type of service request (whether from human resources, IT, facilities, marketing, accounting or another function) can be entered in a consistent, user-friendly web portal with all subsequent approval, scheduling, and fulfillment tasks fully automated and tracked.

Many organizations using Notes may be comfortable staying with the platform indefinitely. But for those committed to making a move, Kinetic Request may provide a rapid and cost-effective method for rebuilding key business applications.

Lessons Learned for Successful Request Projects – How to Scale the Heights of Success, not Plumb the Depths of Despair

It is rather surreal doing this blog post. I feel as if I am in a re-run of “Back to the Future.”

I am putting the finishing touches on this post before I present the session KEG, but because my internal clock is still set to Australian time, I am really doing it on the day after. These are some of the problems in living life “Down Under,” or as we Australians think of it, “Up Over.”

Australia- Up Over

 

Other problems include the “two nations separated by a common language”  that I encounter every time I visit. Please don’t ask me what team I “root” for or whether I would like to buy a Denver souvenir “fanny-pack.” Be careful asking me the way to the “bathroom” as it will get the response: “I’ve got a bath in my room, haven’t you?” We only have loos, dunnies, lavs, bogs or, if in polite company, toilets, and I take great delight in directing any American visitors to the room in my house that has only a hand-basin, shower and bath and not the other small room that has the toilet pedestal and watching their faces when they return with cleaner hands but a slightly more distressed look.

But enough of the cultural differences.

A little about myself and why you may be sitting in this presentation (if so, please put the iPad away and look at me) or reading this alone in your office or home (I assume because you have come to such a boring moment in your life when reading a blog entry of mine adds some excitement).

Well, I discovered the other day—through an automated message sent by our internal version of Facebook called Yammer (hopefully I get something for the plug—but not another bloody t-shirt please) that I have been with Kinetic Data (hereafter, KD) for over 8 years! That re-assured me, because I thought it had been forever…

I also have to admit that I am the oldest person in KD—but of course this does not mean that I am the wisest—as this blog post is proving!

Prior to KD—I can dimly recall that there was such a time—I have been with a number of IT companies working with BMC Remedy and other applications (they do exist), many of which have now melted away like the snow flakes which may be falling outside, when the sun warms them.

So, I hate to admit it, but I have been in this industry for over 40 years, so probably before most of you in this room or looking at this blog post were even in “project initiation phase” and probably before “requirements gathering” and putting out the “RFI or RFP.”

Since then I have worked as a Consultant, Analyst, Designer, Project Manager, Developer, Trainer and even once, on the “Dark Side,” as a Client in this industry of ours.

So, I think I have a right to have a few opinions on this whole “Requirements” business. Hopefully these opinions will inspire some thought, maybe even controversy, and hopefully someone might feel interested enough to have bought me a drink (Single Malt Scotch over 12 YO) to get me to share a little more of my “wisdom.”

OK—here we go.

I was told my Power Point did not have enough bullet points, so I added a second Agenda page. Apart from these two pages, there will be:

NO MORE BULLET POINTS!  JUST PICTURES.

This achieves two things: 1) you might listen, and 2) I don’t have to think of another way to say the same things without using the words in the bullet points.

(For those reading this blog, who want to look at the pictures, someone will have posted my presentation somewhere on the KD website—so you could download it and enjoy the full experience of course, without the “gosh I like the way you Aussies speak” audio component.

Let me “share with you” my first EDP (look it up) job, programming a door opener. I got paid about $50 for it (in those days that would be USD25—now it would be USD60—how the weak become the strong). After the stunning success I had in fulfilling the requirements—door must open, door must stay open for a while, door must close—the requirements were expanded to encompass the concept of “small room – moving up and down in a controlled way,” so I programmed a bigger controller that incorporated all the great work I had done with the  “Project Door” and added moving a room up and down in a vertical shaft, stopping and then doing the door bit. We called this “Project Lift”—or in American—”Project Elevator.”

This was the first time I had been confronted with the idea of requirements analysis in the “real world.” I was obviously excited.

They were simple requirements. We did have a discussion as to whether the doors should open in an “organic, caring and cool way”—it was the 70’s—but we knew that person was a closet hippy, so we ignored this suggestion and just went for “slamming open and slamming shut.” A lot of people nearly lost limbs because of this —but I had the cheque (check) and had moved on to bigger and better things like the Traffic & Parking Infringement Notice system for my home state (Australians have the same urge to make an acronym of everything—that is, when they cannot add an “ie or y” to a name—and we called it the “Project Tin-Pins’.” Yes, there were nerds even in those days and we were they.)

So that brings me to the point of the is session.

How to achieve a successful Kinetic Request project—and—taking a leaf from the “Self Help and Actualisation Movement,” or as I like to call it, “SHAM”the path to success is:

Achieving Oneness with Request ManagementONENESS…

Normally the first interaction you have with any vendor is through the sales team.

Sometimes the interaction is like this…

Over-promise…Get the deal…Under-quote…Under-resource…Under-deliver

At Kinetic Data, we try to make sure that we do not do that.

At the heart of achieving this is ONENESS between the client and Kinetic Data.

INITIAL REQUIREMENTS

Without clearly stated initial requirements everyone is working in a fog of doubt and uncertainty.

Vendors build-in large buffers for this uncertainty and often still under-quote for the project.

Once you have decided on a vendor for your project, work with the internal and vendor teams to:

DEFINE AND REFINE THE REAL REQUIREMENTS

Things to consider when doing this:

  • You may not have all the information; consult widely with ALL stake-holders.
  • There is only  piece of clothing where “ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL”—a straight-jacket.
  • Trying to combine features of different offerings is rarely a success.
  • Just because it can be done, does not mean it should be done.
  • It may be a solution—but is it practical?

There is a reason why you are initiating this project, and it normally not just to:

  • Replicate the existing application
  • Change the appearance slightly
  • Bolt-on some new functionality
  • Get a more powerful application but restrict it to the old limitations

A successful project should deliver improvement. Not repackage the status quo!

To achieve this, all the parties have to be able to be flexible and willing to change expectations and requirements to deliver the BEST solution within budget and on time.

TIMING, EFFORT and BUDGET

Be realistic. Rome was not built in a day.

If you have been set firm dates  and budget to deliver, then make sure that the requirements are aligned.

LISTEN

We are now in partnership with you to deliver SUCCESS.

It is not a battle between two sides—one trying to get more than agreed and the other trying to do less.

Remember that in a difference of approach, the consultant will advise on the best solution, but at the end of the day—if the client wants it, we will build it.

DELIVERY

So we now have a project that has REAL, WELL DEFINED and ACHIEVABLE requirements.

So, let’s stick with them when we develop the SOW and during the delivery period.

Tacking on new requirements while development is going on does not work. It adds to costs and delays.

Importantly, it just shows that the requirements gathering was a failure.

Finally, remember the ultimate measure of success is the satisfaction of your users.

 

 

 

What’s New in Kinetic Task 3.0

Ben Christenson, one of the primary architects and developers for Kinetic Task,  is presenting “What’s New in Kinetic Task 3.0” today at the 2nd annual KEG (Kinetic Enthusiasts Group) Conference.  For those of you who couldn’t make it to the Denver event, here are  some highlights of his presentation.

One of the biggest questions we got during KEG 2012 was: “When can I use Kinetic Task to automate workflows outside of Kinetic Request?” The answer is right now with the release of Kinetic Task 3.0.

We’ve  always had the long-term goal of making the Kinetic Task engine a kind of platform- and application-agnostic enterprise “glue”  that provided a modular approach to workflow automation anywhere in  the enterprise where automation could deliver real benefits.  Our initial focus was on ITSM service request automation delivered through a Kinetic Request management portal.  (That’s why we bundled Kinetic Task with Kinetic Request.)  But interest at KEG 2012 in bringing  the power of the Kinetic Task automation engine to other parts of the enterprise was so strong  that we vowed to make Kinetic Task work with any application by the time KEG 2013 rolled around.

And I  mean any application. Or at least any application that can trigger a call back into Kinetic Task based on some event, like a new or updated field in an application database, and automatically launch a task tree.  The user experience won’t change. Task trees will still be built and processes configured in the same ways.  But now tasks can be triggered from any application, not just Kinetic Request.  That includes home-grown applications, which can be configured with Task Handlers and linked to  Kinetic Task through an improved  API.

So what can you now do with Task 3.0?   When  users learn of Kinetic Task’s radically expanded functionality, their imaginations ran riot.  Just think of it—simplified business process automation in any nook and cranny of the enterprise where, in the past,  the cost of the development effort couldn’t be justified.  In HR, facilities management, sales and marketing, finance, logistics, operations, and customer service (indeed, just about any area of the business), you can leverage your familiarity with  Kinetic Task to build automated  workflows.

Kinetic Task Workflow Automation Engine
Several other enhancements have been  made in Kinetic Task 3.0, including an improved API, easier installation, an improved admin console, and changes to Kinetic Security Language (KSL) to create a powerful new strategy for implementing business-logic-driven security policies. But the real difference is summarized by the slide above. Before, Kinetic Task only accepted input from Kinetic Request.  Now, Kinetic Task 3.0 , which is still packaged with Kinetic Request but also available independently, has  been opened up to allow any external source to start a task tree. That means it can backend any data source. And it can deliver process automation anywhere you want using the Kinetic Task knowledge and skills you already have.

Get in touch with me (Ben. Christenson[AT]KineticData.com) if you want to learn more.

Big BPA Versus “Lightweight” BPA

When you think about business process automation (BPA), you usually think about automating mission-critical or core business processes and long and expensive development efforts.  The benefits to the business usually justify all the time and money you spend, but its best to leave the details to IT experts, since they are the only ones in the enterprise with the knowledge and experience to pull off BPA.

But by making BPA such a big (and often scary) deal, businesses may overlook a relatively unexplored frontier of business process automation — automating the hundreds and often thousands of “small processes” that happen every day in a business and consume untold hours in emails, phone calls, filling out paperwork and manually entering data from one system to another.  In HR, facilities management, sales and marketing, procurement, customer service, finance and other areas, a lot of work gets done in such an inefficient manner. These processes are prime candidates for automation — if only  IT and business decision makers could shake off the “big” BPA mindset and look for ways to automate wherever and whenever it makes sense.

Task Trees for an Employee Onboarding ProcessKinetic Task has long been an fast and efficient way to automate processes triggered within an IT service management environment such as BMC Remedy. The new release of Kinetic Task 3.0 works with virtually any application or database, which  extends those benefits to virtually any part of the enterprise that can benefit from BPA. It takes advantage of the fact that most business workflow processes are started by a trigger, (record gets created) or often when a data field is updated in an application database or entries are made in a logfile. By monitoring these applications and log files, Kinetic Task can invoke predefined workflow steps, such as creating billing entries or initiating and enforcing  approval processes, that result in the process being completed with little or no manual intervention.

But unlike most other BPA approaches and products, Kinetic Task can be extended to non-technical users in any department or business area. It does so by the use of two key components:

  • configurable task trees, which allow non-technical users to easily define the steps in a process automation workflow; and
  • a powerful task engine, which automates the execution of steps in the workflow once it is triggered by an underlying application system or database.

Call it “lightweight” BPA if you like.  By taking such an holistic approach to BPA, larger enterprises can save thousands of hours a year in manual or semi-automated processing while improving the accuracy and quality of process execution.

Want to learn more? Download a free white paper on our approach to enterprise-wide holistic BPA.