Sunday, July 17, 2016

BPM and Case Management Meets SharePoint

At the end of June, the BPM and Case Management Global Summit kicked off at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City.  This conference is relatively new and is run by Nathaniel Palmer, the organizer of BPM Next and well known BPM and automation leader.  Once again this was a very well run conference.  There were a lot more people at this one compared to BPM Next (around 200 compared to the 60 or so at BPM Next).  If your used to SharePoint and Microsoft Conferences, this had a very similar feel to it.  The only difference was everyone was there to talk about BPM and Case Management.  Clay Richardson of Forrester Research had a particularly impactful keynote address on customer experience and BPM.

CX and BPM

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Clay and his team do a lot of research on BPM.  The choice of joining the relationship between BPM and Customer Experience (CX) is particularly impactful because of how BPM is often times ignored because it focuses on back office process and operations.  CX is a hot topic and the importance CX has on your business cannot be understated.  Showing how BPM is really part of the entire customer experience from start to finish really shines a light on the importance of good BPM.  The more COO’s and CIO’s understand this, the larger the BPM market will grow.  Personally I have always felt the deep importance of good process and applications to support those processes from an operations stand point.  I’ve never understood how companies think they can create good customer experiences when their internal processes are in shambles.  Especially with how business units tend to silo themselves, BPM is the answer to not only bridge the gaps between business units, but extend that collaboration and good process to the customer in the form of a good experience.

SharePoint and BPM Presentation

I had a tough job at this conference.  I had to convince people that SharePoint can compete in the Business Process Management (BPM) space.  SharePoint is not your traditional BPM software suite.  SharePoint does a lot of different things and often times it only gets used as a place to throw documents or a new company intranet.  What I needed to show was that not only is SharePoint capable of handling BPM but you can create great solutions to meet your business process needs.  Before we go any further lets clear the air and understand what BPM isn’t.

BPM isn’t workflow

Workflow capabilities are merely a component that supports BPM engagements.  You can be really good at process modeling and completely bomb a BPM project.

BPM isn’t an application

BPM generally utilizes applications to support the management of business process. There are often times multiple applications and architectures than can support large BPM efforts.  This can make BPM engagements a little more complicated than your regular software project.

Case Studies to support SharePoint’s BPM Capabilities

I had to think of the best way to articulate why and how SharePoint can handle BPM.  Case studies are particularly effective at helping people understand real world problems.  I chose to highlight two recent BPM projects Rightpoint has done that I have had to chance to personally lend a hand in the development.  One case study was more or less straight forward and the other was much more complicated.  Because a demo accompanied the more complicated case study, I will only cover the more straight forward case study so you don’t have to read a 35 page blog.

Product Assets in Manufacturing – Current State

A mid-size electronic controls company had always developed its assets and marketing materials for its products (brochures, packaging, manuals) through email.

  • This was a manual email process that spanned across their engineering, sales, and marketing departments
  • Multiple levels of approvals and redesigns happened over the course of each product asset

The first step to developing any BPM solution is capturing what the process NEEDS to be, not necessarily what the process currently is.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, however.  Generally companies that have an undocumented process let the process grow organically and there is much to be uncovered if you expect to develop a software solution around it.  At first glance, the diagram below accurately depicts the state of their current process.

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After reengineering the process above, I determined we needed the following to properly support the process:

  • SharePoint list to capture project data, attachments, and project team roles for approvals
  • Document Library for projects pending approval
  • Document Library for projects that have completed
  • Workflow Task list for approval tasks
  • Nintex workflow due to both the size/complexity of workflow and the need for lazy approval
  • Nintex forms were used to replace infopath or the need to custom develop forms
  • Custom jQuery dashboard to manage and access all aspects of the projects (documents, tasks, new requests, etc)

Product Assets in Manufacturing – End State

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After re-engineering their current process, modeling the workflow in Nintex, and developing the rest of the architecture to support the workflow activities, the company ended up with a single dashboard to manage the entire process.  The workflow and documented process diagrams not only provided the company with a clearly defined process that is documented, but gives everyone on the project teams a 360 view into the life cycle of each of these projects.  Outside of the use of Nintex and some JavaScript, this project utilized mostly OOTB SharePoint features.  One of the most important aspects of this project was the low-code nature of it.  Because of the rapidly changing nature of business, changes to business processes will happen and using something like Nintex makes it really easy to make a change to your process without incurring massive costs.  The BPM industry as a whole is moving towards low-code solutions because of the rapidly changing nature of business and its highly advised to take note of this when deciding on the next application to support your BPM project or initiative.

Question about BPM and SharePoint?  Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]