New features ease BPM planning

Installing business process management software is just one part of setting up an enterprisewide workflow. Prior to installation, agencies need to devote time to mapping out exactly what business processes it follows. Once a form is generated, where does it go? What data gets included? Where are exceptions routed? This information must be captured before the processes can be automated in code.

Not surprisingly, BPM vendors are working on ways to make mapping processes easier.

Ultimus Inc. of Cary, N.C., is adding a new feature called Adaptive Discovery to its Business Process Management Suite to let users start a form through a workflow process without the system knowing the full path the form will take.

“About 95 percent of our clients change their [electronic] processes within the first month, because of new things they discovered after it was implemented,” said Hank Barnes, vice president of marketing and product management for Ultimus. Adaptive Discovery will allow a planner to sketch out a process and add additional steps later. When a process has stalled, the software alerts the process manager, who can define the next step.

Prince William County, Va., is testing a beta version of the new feature for its travel authorization reimbursement.

A reimbursement form “may have to be approved by either one person, two people or five, depending on the dollar amount,” said Maneesh Gupta, information systems chief for the county.

Another new aid in establishing a business process is simulation. Last October, BPM software provider Metastorm Inc. of Columbia, Md., added to its BPM suite a tool called e-Work Envision that can help visualize a complete process in operation. The software can estimate how long a process will take, how many it can execute at once and what resources it will use, according to Greg Carter, chief technical officer for Metastorm.

Users create a working model of the process, one that incorporates all the steps the process will eventually entail. They can then change the parameters by varying such factors as the number of personnel or computers assigned to complete a task within a specific process chain. This approach allows agencies to evaluate the trade-offs between cost and performance of an individual process.

“There are a variety of ‘what-if’ questions that organizations are asking as they expand their processes,” Carter said.

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