Blockchain enables BPM beyond an organization’s boundaries

Business Process Management (BPM) software suites enable automation of business processes within an organization to improve its overall efficiency. On the other hand, Blockchain can be thought of as a distributed database where encrypted transactions are recorded publicly and chronologically. When BPM is coupled with Blockchain, business processes can be coordinated across multiple organizations. In the context of multiple organizations, Blockchain technology guarantees that even a transaction that is recorded in the Blockchain outside of your organization’s boundary cannot be tampered with. Such tamper proof audit capabilities offered by Blockchain establishes authenticity of recorded transactions, and paves the way for collaboration between multiple parties across multiple organizations. Another aspect of Blockchain that makes it capable of managing inter-organizational processes is the ability to execute defined scripts as smart contracts. Smart contracts controls transactions between participants ensuring contractual conditions are met.

Let us consider an example of shipment tracking. The shipment tracking process involves sharing of multiple documents such as purchase order, invoice, letter of credit, shipment bill and insurance declaration generated from various related business processes carried out by multiple parties across organizations. BPM technologies can be used to orchestrate related business processes such as requisition approval, purchase order issuance, goods delivery, receipt notice, invoicing, and payments. Documents and transactions generated over the course of such related business processes across multiple parties can be recorded on the Blockchain thus providing transparency and trust to all relevant parties involved in tracking of shipments. Such a combination of BPM and Blockchain can enable managing business processes across multiple organizations.

In summary, BPM and Blockchain can be combined for interesting applications spanning multiple organizations. Should you be interested in learning more about how BPM and Blockchain can be coupled to manage business processes spanning multiple organizations, please contact us at info@polariseme.com.

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Choosing your first BPM Project

One of the key questions organizations implementing Business Process Management (BPM) often ask is “Which project should be implemented as the first project?”. The answer to this question is very important since the first project is the initial proof point for the entire BPM initiative. Organizations should select the first project carefully focusing on delivering measurable results in a short span of time since it can set the pace for the entire BPM implementation. Here, let’s explore few do’s and don’ts for choosing the first BPM project.

DO’S:

Measurable: The first project can be referred as a benchmark to understand the business value of future projects. Hence, the first project should provide measurable business value that can justify further investments.

Quick: The first project is a good place to demonstrate the end results in short span of time. So, the first project should deliver in quick turnaround time with limited time scope to achieve the business value quickly.

Address the pain point: Make sure the first project solves a pain point that BPM addresses easily rather than just replacing an existing system. It will be good to focus on addressing a pain problem and show immediate return of investment to move quickly into BPM.

Focus on featuring capabilities: It’s a good practice to focus on featuring the capabilities of the product selected for implementing the BPM in the first project. This will help the key participants to understand the major features of the product that helps to build the base for future projects.

DON’TS:

Complex integrations: Avoid complex integrations with external dependencies. This can cause delay in delivering the first project on time perhaps due to technical difficulties such as integrations that are not well defined or that do not follow open data exchange standards.

Projects without a clear vision:  Avoid projects that do not have a clear vision or have poorly defined requirements.

Projects with large data transformation: Avoid projects with large data transformations or migrations. These projects may be quite time consuming for a first implementation and might not add any new business value to the organization.

Don’t just replace the system: Don’t just replace a system without improving it. If an application simply replaces a system that already exists, then it’s hard to demonstrate the business value of BPM implementation. Always make sure that the first project is adding value and improving the existing system and not just replacing an older way of doing something.

To summarize, it is important to choose the first BPM project which can provide a measurable success story and it can be a foundation for future projects. The above Do’s and Don’ts can serve as good guidelines to choose your first BPM project. Should you require expertise for your first BPM implementation, please contact us at info@polariseme.com

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Transform or Die

42 percent of CEOs have already begun business transformation according to a recent Gartner survey of 388 CEOs across the globe. Today’s world is changing at a very fast pace due to many factors such as technological advancements and regulatory change. Organizations that fail to transform with this pace of change are facing declining prospects and struggling to stay afloat. More than 52% of Fortune 500 companies from a decade ago are no longer on the list because they weren’t able to adapt. Nokia’s CEO has been famously quoted as saying “We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost”. Such admission drives home the importance of business transformation and continuous improvement. Equally, if not more, important is to ensure that any business transformation initiative is heading in the right direction. Top factors to ensure a sustainable and successful business transformation include:

Clear, Concise Vision: In order to transform a business successfully, you need to have a clear, concise vision of what you are trying to achieve. Through business transformation, are you trying to achieve a competitive edge in the market or are you trying to achieve overall changes in the mission, vision, and values of an organization? Also you need to make sure that you have addressed the primary operational excellence challenges driving this initiative such as linking process improvement with top level business strategy, sustaining change, and cost/budget limitations.

Clarity on the path forward: You need to have a good plan and approach on how you want to execute the change. You need to make sure that you have a responsible executive ownership to execute the plan. Also, you need to make sure you have considered leading solutions and methodologies that can be used to achieve business transformation such as Dynamic Case Management, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Make the case for change internally: You need to make the case for change internally. The message should be clear to understand for all from top management to grass root. Each individual should be aware of why you are changing, what you are achieving because of this change and what preparation internally you need to make to adopt the change.

To summarize, a clear vision, clarity on path forward and comprehensive internal communication plan play an important role in achieving a successful business transformation. We have more than a decade of experience in leading successful business transformations. Should you require expertise during your next business transformation initiative, please contact us at info@polarseme.com.

*References: Global state of process excellence 2017 by Process Excellence Network (PEX)

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How Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Business Process Management (BPM) can be used in harmony for digital success

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a form of clerical process automation based on software robots that replicate the actions of a human being interacting with a computer’s user interface.  According to Forrester, the RPA market that was approximately $250 million in 2016 is expected to reach $2.9 billion by 2021. On the other hand, Business Process Management (BPM) is a systematic approach to improving an organization’s performance by automating and optimizing their business processes. The global BPM market that was $6.96 billion in 2016 is expected to reach 13.52 billion by 2021 according to an analysis by Markets and Markets. Since both RPA and BPM markets are expecting a reasonable growth in the upcoming years, it will be interesting to see how a combination of both will make an impact in the market.

Here, I would like to discuss how RPA and BPM can complement each other and be used harmoniously to achieve digital success in an organization. To structure this discussion, I will use APQC’s Process Classification Framework (PCF) that provides a holistic view of any organization’s entire value chain, business processes, and procedures by classifying these across five hierarchical levels. Level 1: Process Category, Level 2: Process Group, Level 3: Processes, Level 4: Sub processes and Level 5: Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)/Tasks/Work Instructions. BPM is especially well suited in optimizing an organization’s value chain and business processes categorized between Level 1 and Level 4 in the PCF hierarchy. BPM makes available graphical modeling languages such as Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), and Value-Added Chain Diagram (VACD) to document, optimize and automate business processes spanning between Levels 1 and 4 using industry standards and best practices. Whereas work instructions and SOPs making up Level 5 in the PCF hierarchy are typically rote activities carried out using step-by-step instructions to achieve quality, uniformity, and compliance. RPA can be a great fit for automating such rote work instructions and SOPs. To demonstrate how BPM and RPA can work in harmony, let’s consider the use case of a global insurer managing customer requests for new policy coverage. In this scenario, BPM can be used to optimize and automate business processes such as new business policy underwriting, asset management and payment processes. RPA can be used in harmony with BPM to eliminate costly manual processing steps and time-consuming integrations by providing a scalable, accurate, and secure digital workforce. There is already evidence that major BPM players are partnering with market-leading robotic process automation offerings with a view of attaining higher synergies in achieving client’s digital success. Some examples include Appian’s partnership with Blue Prism, IBM’s partnership with Automation Anywhere, and Pegasystems acquisition of Openspan.

To summarize, RPA can be effectively used in harmony with BPMS by focusing each technology’s strength for the appropriate use case to achieve much greater end-to-end automation. In case you’re interested in using RPA and BPM to achieve digital success for your organization, please feel free to contact us at info@polariseme.com

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Speeding up Appian Implementations through DevOps Automation

DevOps is a set of practices that ensures speedy and reliable delivery of business requirements. Popular use of Agile delivery methodologies such as SCRUM and Kanban requiring faster and more frequent release cycles can put a strain on release management processes. Adoption of DevOps practices can greatly ease this strain by improving collaboration between development and operations teams, and by automating key aspects of the development and delivery process.

Appian, a leading low-code platform, makes it easy to build enterprise grade apps at least 10x faster than traditional approaches. Agile methodologies such as SCRUM and Kanban are especially well-suited as the delivery methodology for building applications on Appian’s low-code platform. We discuss below some of the DevOps practices across the Appian development and delivery processes.

Continuous Integration (CI)

Continuous integration is an approach that advocates developers to check-in or integrate their developed objects into a common repository several times during the development stage, which are verified by an automated build. The benefit of continuous integration is that by integrating regularly, we can avoid the potential for cumbersome conflict resolution arising from larger less frequent check-ins and also detect errors quickly.

Appian provides a tool, Appian Versioning Manager, which enables frequent check-ins of developed objects into a common repository such as SVN or GIT to avoid the potential for cumbersome conflict resolution. Appian’s recent releases also provide a number of out-of-the-box capabilities to prevent conflicts that may arise from multiple designers editing the same object such as notifications about other edits taking place on the same object, and warnings before saving a new version of an out of date object. These intelligent features are especially helpful to manage shared development objects that are a part of multiple features marked for delivery on the same timeline. If shared objects are a part of multiple features marked for delivery on different timelines, then too conflicts can be managed through feature toggles with conditional logic to control visibility of not yet released features.

Appian’s Versioning Manager can also be used to create a consolidated build package either encompassing all developed objects in the specified branch or trunk, or encompassing a subset of developed objects typically only corresponding to the features ear-marked for delivery. A tool such as Jenkins or Bamboo can then work with Appian’s Versioning Manager to automate package builds based on pre-defined triggers.

Continuous Delivery (CD)

Continuous delivery is an approach in which teams produce software in short cycles, ensuring software can be reliably released more frequently.

Appian provides a tool, Appian Import Manager, which can be used to automate the deployment of package builds comprising application and patch contents to any environment. A tool such as Jenkins or Bamboo can then work with Appian’s Import Manager to automate deployment of builds into a target environment such as Test or Production environment, and enable continuous delivery.

Release Management and Automation

Once development has been completed, and code has been reviewed using Appian project implementation best practices checklists and Appian’s automated Health Check utility, a build can then automatically be delivered to Test environment using above described CI/CD practices for further testing and validation. Appian supports multiple automated testing approaches such as use of FitNesse Tool for automated end-user, system, integration, and regression testing, and automated testing of Appian Rules by executing a library of test cases. In case test results fail, necessary changes can be made to resolve identified defects in the development environment, and another validation cycle for a new build package can then be triggered. After tests are successful, the package can be marked as eligible for release to production, and all corresponding changed objects can be merged from branch to trunk in the repository. A build from trunk can then be released to the Production environment.

This overview is intended to provide an insight into how DevOps practices can ensure a more reliable and speedy development and delivery of applications built on the Appian platform by implementing practices such as continuous integration, continuous delivery and release automation using various tools. For a more detailed understanding of how DevOps practices can speed up your next Appian implementation, please feel free to contact us at info@polariseme.com.

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