Kofax Claims Agility SPA

Continuing with breakout sessions at Kofax Transform is a presentation on the Claims Agility smart process application that Kofax is creating for US healthcare claims processing, based on the KTA platform. They have built in a lot of the forms and rules for compliance with US healthcare regulations; I suspect that this means that the SPA would not be of much value for non-US organizations.

Claims Agility is still in development, but we were able to get an early look at a demo. The capture workflow is pretty simple: scan, classify and extract data fields from a form, then pass it on to a claims worker for their activities, presenting both the scanned document and the data fields. This is a pretty standard scanned document workflow application, but has the advantage of having a lot of knowledge of the US healthcare forms, data validation, rules and processes built in so that little setup and system training would be required for the standard forms and workflows. Incomplete or incorrect forms can be held, allowing the validated forms in the same batch to be completed. The final step in the predefined workflow performs the EDI transactions.

They will do updates for some components of the system, such as the CMS codes that drive the validation; they haven’t finalized the hot update capabilities, and it’s not clear that they will be able to do much more than update code tables.

We looked at the customizability of the processes and rules: customers can modify the standard processes using the graphical process designer, including building their own processes. Since the out of the box process is really simple — four steps — there’s no real issue of upgradability of the process at this point, but it’s likely that any processes provided should be considered templates rather than productized frameworks. Configuration for data extraction and validation is provided as part of the core package, but again, the customer can override the defaults. I was going to ask the question about the separation of base product from customizations with respect to product upgrades but a customer in the audience beat me to it; there are separate areas for custom versus core code, as well as versioning, so it appears that they have thought through some of this but it will be interesting to see how this plays out after the product is being used at customer sites through a couple of upgrade cycles.

There will be an initial release in June or July this year, and Kofax is looking for early adopters now; full release will be near the year end. Claims Agility is the fifth SPA that Kofax is offering on the KTA platform, and they’re learning more about how to do these right with each implementation, plus how to integrate the new technologies such as e-signature.

TotalAgility Product Update At KofaxTransform

In a breakout session at Kofax Transform, Dermot McCauley gave us an update on the TotalAgility product vision and strategy. He described five vital communities impacted by their product innovation: information all-stars who ensure that the right information is seen by the right people at the right time, performance improvers focused on operational excellence, customer obsessives who focus on customer satisfaction, visionary leaders who challenge the status quo, and change agents using technology thought-leadership to drive business value. I think that this a great way to think about product vision, and Dermot stated that he spends his time thinking about how to serve these five communities and help them to achieve their goals.

TotalAgility Product VisionTotalAgility is positioned to be the link between systems of engagement and systems of record, making that first mile of customer engagement faster, simpler, more efficient, and customer-friendly. It includes four key components: multichannel capture and output, adaptive process management, embedded actionable analytics, and collaboration. Note that some of this represents product vision rather than released product, but this gives you an idea of where they are and what they’re planning.

Multichannel capture and output includes scanning in all forms, plus capture from electronic formats including documents, forms and even social media, with a goal to be able to ingest information in any type and any format. On the processing and output side, their recent acquisitions fill in the gaps with e-signature and signature verfication, and outbound correspondence management.

TotalAgility Product Components and SPAsAdaptive process management includes pre-defined routine workflows and ad hoc collaboration, plus goal-based and analytics-driven adaptive processes. These can be automated intelligent processes, or richer context used when presenting tasks to a knowledge worker.

Embedded actionable analytics are focused on the process at hand, driving next-best-action decisions or recommendations, and detecting and predicting patterns within processes.

Collaboration includes identifying suitable and available collaborators, and supporting unanticipated participants.

AP AgilityThe goal is to provide a platform for building smart process applications (SPAs), both for Kofax with their Mortgage Agility and other SPAs, and for partners to create their own vertical solutions. McCauley walked through how Kofax AP Agility uses the TotalAgility platform for AP processing with ERP integration, procurement, invoice capture and actionable analytics; then Mortgage Agility that brings in newer capabilities of the platform such as e-signature and customer correspondence management with a focus on customer engagement as well as internal efficiencies.

TotalAgility Deployment OptionsHe walked through deployment options of on-premise (including multi-tenancy on-premise for a BPO or shared service center) and Microsoft Azure public cloud (multi-tenant or own instance), and touched on the integration into and usage of Kapow and e-signatures in the TotalAgility platform. They’re also working on bringing more of the analytics into TotalAgility to allow for predictions, pattern detection, recommendations and other analytics-based processing.

TotalAgility Innovation ThemesGoing forward, they have four main innovation themes:

  • Platform optimization for better performance
  • Portfolio product integrations for a harmonized design time and runtime
  • Pervasive mobility
  • Context-aware analytics

KofaxAgility Mobile Extraction InnovationHe showed some specific examples that could be developed in the future as part of the core platform, including real-time information extraction during document capture on a mobile device, and process improvement analytics for lightweight process mining; the audience favorite (from a show of hands) was the real-time extraction during mobile capture.

Kicking off KofaxTransform 2015: Day 1 Keynotes

I’m in Vegas for a couple of days for the Kofax Transform conference. Kofax has built their business beyond their original scanning and capture capabilities (although many customers still use them for just that): they have made a play in the past couple of years in the smart process application space to extend that “first mile” capability further into the customer journey, and recently acquired Aia, a customer communications management software company, to help round out their ability to support the entire cycle.

2015-03-09 08.20.47The morning keynote on the first day kicked off with introductions from Howard Dratler, EVP of Field Operations, then on to the CEO, Reynolds Bish, for a company update and vision. He’s been with Kofax since 2007, and led them through getting rid of their hardware business and building a more modern software organization including a number of acquisitions, and a public listing on NASDAQ. A key part of this was repositioning in the smart process application (SPA) area with their TotalAgility platform and the vertical solutions that they and their partners build on that. I suspect that there are still a lot of partners (and customers) with solutions built on the older technology; as other software vendors have found, it’s often difficult to get people to refactor onto a new platform when the old one is currently meeting their needs. Their core capture license revenue is still almost 60% of their revenue, but the new and acquired products have increased from zero in 2011 to over 40% They’ve increased their R&D spending significantly, as well as spending on acquisitions, and sales and marketing activities; given their strong cash position, they’ve been able to fund all of these expenditures using cash generated from operations. Overall, a good financial position and good repositioning from their traditional capture business to a broader part of their customers’ business processes, particularly in the systems of engagement.

Bish talked about the “first mile challenge” of getting from the systems of engagement to the systems of record, and how SPAs created with their TotalAgility platform can fill that gap, providing a range of capabilities including mobility, capture, transformation, collaboration, e-signature (via their recent acquisition of Softpro SignDoc) integration and analytics. Although they present TotalAgility primarily as a platform for partners and customers to build SPAs, they also offer vertical applications where they have experience: Kofax Mortgage Agility and Claims Agility. He went into more detail on how the Softpro SignDoc and Aia customer communications acquisitions provide new capabilities for handling signed digital communications with customers, allowing legally-binding transactions to be completed within applications built on TotalAgility: what he called digital transaction management. He also talked about their new mobile capture platform, available as an off-the-shelf capability as well as an SDK for embedding withing other mobile apps.

They’re really pushing to shift people onto the new TotalAgility platform, offering some good deals for customers to switch their KC/KTM licenses for TotalAgility licenses at a reasonable price point, but the effort required to refactor existing applications will still likely impede these migration efforts. There is no doubt that TotalAgility is a superior platform that offers new functionality, better flexibility, and faster development and deployment: the issue is that many customers find their current KC/KTM functionality to be adequate, and moving onto the new platform is a sufficiently large development project that they may consider looking at competitive solutions. I see this same challenge with other vendors, and it’s going to be a lot slower and less successful than Kofax likely imagines.

He summed up by stating that their short-term growth strategy is incremental rather than transformative. There’s also some sessions later today for the analysts to meet with Bish, so I’ll likely be able to expand on this further in later posts.

2015-03-09 08.58.41Next up was Guy Kawasaki, currently at Canva but well-known for his past gigs as an Apple evangelist and his other high-profile engagement gigs. His presentation was on customer enchantment: like engagement, but better. He laid out 10 rules for enchanting customers:

  1. Achieve likability, by being genuine, accepting and positive
  2. Achieve trustworthiness, by trusting others
  3. Perfect your product, because it is easier to engage people with good stuff than with crap
  4. Launch your product, by telling a story containing salient points, and planting the seeds of that story with many social channels
  5. Overcome resistance, using social proof or data to change people’s minds, and understanding who the true influencers are
  6. Endure, by enabling dedicated supporters and building an ecosystem
  7. Present, and become a great presenter by customizing the introduction to the audience, selling the dream of how your product changes people’s lives, and using the 10 slides/20 minutes/30 point font rule
  8. Use technology, removing the speed bumps to engagement and providing value in the form of information, insights and assistance
  9. Enchant up (that is, enchant the boss), by dropping everything else, prototyping fast and delivering bad news early
  10. Enchant down (that is, the people who work for you), by providing mastery and autonomy towards a higher purpose, and being willing to do the dirty jobs

He wrapped up with the three pillars of enchantment: be likable, trustworthy and competent. Great words to live by.

Kawasaki’s a very engaging and funny speaker, with some funny cracks at Apple and Microsoft alike, and good examples from a number of industries. Great talk.

2015-03-09 09.48.25

There’s an analysts session for the rest of the morning, looking forward to hearing more about Kofax’s plans for the future.

Case Management at TIBCONOW 2014

Yesterday, I attended the analyst sessions (which were mostly Q&A with Matt Quinn on the topics that he covered in the keynote), then was on the “Clash of the BPM Titans” panel, so not a lot of writing. No keynotes today, on this last day of TIBCO NOW 2014, but some BPM breakouts on the calendar — stay tuned.

I started the day with Jeremy Smith and Nam Ton That presenting on case management. They discussed customer journeys, and how their Fast Data platform allows you to detect and respond to that journey: this often includes semi-structured, dynamic processes that need to change based on external events and the process to date. It’s more than just process, of course; there needs to be context, actionable analytics, internal and external collaboration, and recommended actions, all working adaptively towards the customer-centric goal.

TIBCO addresses case management with additions to AMX BPM, not with a separate product; I believe that this is the best way to go for a lot of case management use cases that might need to combine more traditional structured processes with adaptive cases. The new capabilities added to support case management are:

  • Case data, providing context for performing actions. The case data model is created independently of a process model; the modeling uses UML to create relational-style ERDs, but also scripting and other functions beyond simple data modeling. This appears to be where the power — and the complexity — of the case management capabilities lie.
  • Case folders, integrating a variety of document sources, including from multiple ECM systems using CMIS, to act as the repository for case-related artifacts.
  • Case state and actions, allowing a user (or agent) to view and set the state of a case — e.g., received, in process, closed — and take any one of a number of actions allowed for the case when it is that state. This is modeled graphical with a state/action model, which also can apply user/role permissions, in a very similar fashion to their existing page flows capability. Actions can include social interactions, such as requesting information from an expert, accessing a Nimbus-based operations manual related to the current action, applying/viewing analytics to provide context for the action at that state, or providing recommendations such as next best action. Rules can be integrated through pre-conditions that prevent, require or invoke actions.
  • Ad hoc tasks, allowing the case user to instantiate a user task or subprocess; it appears they are doing this by pre-defining these in the process model (as ad hoc, or disconnected, tasks) so although they can be invoked on an ad hoc basis, they can’t be created from scratch by the user during execution. Given that multiple process models can be invoked from a case, there is still a lot of flexibility here.
  • Case UI, providing some out of the box user interfaces, but also providing a framework for building custom UIs or embedding these capabilities within another UI or portal.

Related cases can be linked via an association field created in the case data model; since this is, at heart, an integration application development environment, you can do pretty much anything although it looks like some of it might result in a fairly complex and technical case data model.

They didn’t do an actual demo during the presentation, I’ll drop by the showcase later and take a peek at it later today.

camunda Community Day technical presentations

The second customer speaker at camunda’s community day was Peter Hachenberger from 1&1 Internet, describing how they use Signavio and camunda BPM to create their Process Platform, which is in turn used by their clients’ developers for building and executing automated processes. His presentation was primarily about the details of their technical implementation of the platform; they have built some fairly comprehensive tools for monitoring and managing executing processes, many of which are facilitated by changes that they made to the core process engine, including retry behavior, process ID generator, multiple business keys, an asynchronous process starter API, an extended REST API and a few new commands. Since camunda BPM is open source, any customer such as 1&1 can take a copy of the code and make changes to it, optionally returning them to the community if they are valuable to others. There’s a bit of danger in this, in that if you make changes to core functionality (such as the engine) rather than create an extension or plug-in, and those changes do not end up back in the community version, you’re not only on your own for future development on those components but may not be able to upgrade to future versions.

We had a number of short (10 minute) presentations from community members to discuss extensions that they are working on:

  • Grails plugin to add camunda functionality to Grails applications
  • OSGi module extension for greater flexibility and configurability at runtime, including sharing process engines as services
  • Elasticsearch extension to write camunda BPM history data to an elasticsearch cluster to allow full-text searching, enabling more comprehensive analytics
  • camunda mocking extensions for process testing with mockito
  • Cockpit plugin to add interactive graphs and some statistical calculations (e.g., aggregation, regression, min/max) for process monitoring directly on the camunda history database

Some of these extension projects were done by camunda employees, but great to see the external community contributions as well.

PegaWORLD Gets Big

My attendance at PegaWORLD has been spotty the past few years because of conflicts with other conferences during June, so it was a bit of a surprise to show up in DC this week to a crowd of more than 3,000 attendees — definitely now the biggest BPM conference around. The opening keynote started with Alan Trefler (Pega’s founder and CEO) talking about change, and how organizations need to become digital enterprises with the power to engage, the power to simplify and the power to change. Interestingly, SAP used the same “simplicity” message at SAPPHIRE last week: typically, this translates to a combination of hiding complexity from the business (which is not really simplification, just better window dressing) and platform rationalization (which is actually technological simplification).

As Trefler described it, Pega sees three major contributors to becoming digital enterprises: case lifecycle management as an alternative to a pure process view for the complexity of real-world business operations; next best action to predict what a customer might do based on their engagement history; and omni channel to provide a consistent customer experience on multiple channels simultaneously in an integrated fashion. These three capabilities provide a digital context based on a unified architecture, bridging (internal) work and (external) customer.

Pega has reached a size now — 3,000 employees and over a half billion in revenue — where they are fueling some of their growth through acquisitions; this is likely to challenge their ability to avoid a “Frankenstack” of technologies weirdly bolted together. They’re hitting all the buzzwords: social, mobile, analytics, cloud and internet of things, with a story of how they’re addressing each. Incidentally, I found it interesting that they still have less than 100 cloud-based production customers, although many times more are using it for development and test systems; that’s going to have to step up if they’re going to really engage with increasingly diverse organizations.

Anette Bronder from Vodaphone’s enterprise delivery group took the stage to talk about their ongoing business transformation program: working to achieve simplification, standardization, digitization and globalization. They are improving their enterprise operations and infrastructure, with the goal of a set of standard products that can be delivered across all segments. Enterprise customers, making up almost 30% of their business, include big names including Amazon and Bosch; these include the communications required for logistics, manufacturing, fulfillment, the internet of things and much more, with the ultimate goal of putting a SIM card in pretty much everything. Transformation of their enterprise delivery processes is based on several factors: sourcing the right people both internally and externally; standardized processes with a common methodology leveraging best practices; governance with a single operating and delivery model across all markets with a consistent set of metrics; and common technology for order management, project management and product catalog. They are moving from manual to automated operations, and from local siloed approaches to globally standardized products and processes. They want to improve customer engagement through a case management approach, where all customer information is available for decision-making and pro-active problem resolution, while improving operational efficiency and business agility. Pega is one of their technology partners, but obviously there’s a lot more involved here, including significant change management. They’re two years into their journey; it will be interesting to see this again in a year or two when they’re starting to see some real results.

The Case For Smarter Process At IBMImpact 2014

At analyst events, I tend to not blog every presentation; rather, I listen, absorb and take some time to reflect on the themes. Since I spent the first part of last week at the analyst event at IBM Impact, then the second half across the country at Appian World, I waited until I had to pull all the threads together here. IBM keeps the analysts busy at Impact, although I did get to the general session and a couple of keynotes, which were useful to provide context for the announcements that they made in pre-conference briefings and the analyst event itself.

A key theme at Impact this year was that of “composable business” (I have to check carefully every time I type that to make sure I don’t write “compostable business”, but someone did point out that it *is* about reuse…). I’m not sure that’s a very new concept: it seems to be about assembling the building blocks of business capabilities, processes and technologies in order to meet the current needs without completely retooling, which is sort of what we’ve all been saying that BPM, ODM and SOA can do for some years now.

Smarter Process is positioned as an enabler of composable business, and is IBM’s approach for “reinventing business operations” by enabling the development of customer-centric applications that push top-line growth, while still providing the efficiency and optimization table stakes. Supporting knowledge workers has become a big part of this, which leads to IBM’s biggest new feature in BPM: the inclusion of “basic” case management within BPM. The idea is that you will be able to support a broader range of work types on a single platform: pre-defined “structured” processes, structured processes with some ad hoc activities, ad hoc (case) work that can invoke structured process segments, and fully ad hoc work. I’ve been talking about this range of work types for quite a while, and how we need products that can range across them, because I see so few real-world processes that fit into the purely structured or the purely unstructured ends of the spectrum: almost everything lies somewhere in the middle, where there is a mix of both. In fact, what IBM is providing is “production case management”, where a designer (probably not technical, or not very technical) creates a case template that pre-defines all of the possible ad hoc activities and structured process fragments; the end user can choose which activities to run in which order, although some may be required or have dependencies. This isn’t the “adaptive case management” extreme end of the spectrum, where the end user has complete control and can create their own activities on the fly, but PCM covers a huge range of use cases in business today. Bruce Silver

“But wait,”, you say, “IBM already has case management with IBM Case Manager. What’s the difference?” Well, IBM BPM (Lombardi heritage) provides full BPM capabilities including process analytics and governance, plus basic case capabilities, on the IBM BPM platform;  IBM Case Manager (FileNet heritage) provides full content and case capabilities including content analytics and governance, plus basic workflow capabilities, on the IBM ECM platform. Hmmm, sounds like something that Marketing would say. The Smarter Process portfolio graphic includes the three primary components of Operational Decision Management, Business Process Management and Case Management, but doesn’t actually specify which product provides which functionality, leaving it open for case management to come from either BPM or ICM. Are we finally seeing the beginning of the end of the split between process management in BPM and ICM? The answer to that is likely more political than technical – these products report up through different parts of IBM, turning the merging/refactoring of them into a turf war – and I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m guessing that we’ll gradually see more case capabilities in BPM and a more complete integration with ECM, such that the current ICM capabilities become redundant, and IBM BPM will expand to manage the full spectrum of work types. The 1,000th cut may finally be approaching. Unfortunately for ICM users, there’s no tooling or migration path to move from ICM to BPM (presumably, no one is even talking about going the other way) since they are built on different infrastructure. There wasn’t really a big fuss made about this new functionality or how it might overlap with ICM about this outside the BPM analyst group; in fact, Bruce Silver quipped “IBM Merges Case into BPM but forgets to announce it”. Winking smile

The new case management functions are embedded within the BPM environment, and appear fairly well integrated: although a simple web-based case design tool is used instead of the BPM Eclipse authoring environment, the runtime appears within the BPM process portal. The case detail view shows the case data, case document and subfolders, running tasks, activities that can be started manually (including processes), and an overall status – similar enough to what you would see with any work item that it won’t be completely foreign, but with the information and controls required for case management. Under the covers, the ad hoc activities execute in the BPM (not ICM) process engine, and a copy of ECM is embedded within BPM to support the case folder and documents artifacts.

The design environment is pretty simple, and very similar to some parts of the ICM design environment: required and optional ad hoc activities are defined, and the start trigger (manual or automatically based on declarative logic or an event) of each activity is specified. Preconditions can be set, so that an activity can’t be started (or won’t automatically start) until certain conditions are met. If you need ad hoc activities in the context of a structured process, these can be defined in the usual BPM design environment – there’s no real magic about this, since ad hoc (that is, not connected by flow lines) activities are part of the BPMN standard and have been available for some time in IBM BPM. The case design environment is integrated with Process Designer and Process Center for repository and versioning, and case management is being sold as an add-on to IBM BPM Advanced.

Aside from the case management announcement, there are some new mobile capabilities in IBM BPM: the ability to design and playback responsive Coaches (UI) for multiple form factors, and pushing some services down to the browser. These will make the UI look better and work faster, so all good there. IBM also gave a shout out to BP3’s mobile portal product, Brazos, for developing iOS and Android apps for IBM BPM; depending on whether you want to go with responsive browser or native apps as a front-end for BPM, you’re covered.

They also announced some enhancements to Business Monitor: a more efficient, high-performance pub-sub style of event handling, and the ability to collect events from any source, although the integration into case management (either in BPM or ICM) at design time still seems a bit rudimentary. They’ve also upgraded to Cognos BI 10.2.1 as the underlying platform, which brings more powerful visualizations via the RAVE engine.  I have the impression that Business Monitor isn’t as popular as expected as a BPM add-on: possibly by the time that organizations get their processes up and running, they don’t have the time, energy or funds for a full-on monitoring and analytics solution. That’s too bad, since that can result in a lot of process improvement benefits; it might make sense to be bundling in some of this capability to at least give a teaser to BPM customers.

In BPM cloud news, there are some security enhancements to the Softlayer-based BPM implementations, including 2-factor authentication and SAML for identity management, plus new pricing at $199/user/month with concurrent user pricing scenarios for infrequent users. What was more interesting is what was not announced: the new Bluemix cloud development platform offers decision services, but no process services.

Blueworks Live seemed to have the fewest announcements, although it now has review and approval processes for models, which is a nice governance addition. IBM can also now provide Blueworks Live in a private cloud – still hosted but isolated as a single tenant – for those who are really paranoid about their process models.

AWD Advance14: Product Strategy

I presented earlier today so I haven’t been doing any blogging, but I didn’t want to miss the repeat of the product strategy session with Roy Brackett, Mike Lovell and John Vaughn.

They’re hitting all the industry hot buzzwords – smart process applications, intelligent business operations, case management – but to be fair, they’re actually doing a lot of it. Although they’re just starting to bring in the dynamic and collaborative capabilities in recent versions, and their customers tend to drag their feet moving to new capabilities, AWD has long been a platform on which you build and deliver integrated business applications.

Their new(ish) case management, although based on the shared process and task engine as their structured processes, is based on research on how knowledge workers work, and they seem to be placing a lot of focus on evidence-based research into what they should be building, and Agile and SCRUM methods for building it.

A minor release (10.7.1) is due soon, and they have included some features that people in the audience were pretty excited about: variable timers (as opposed to having to define the timer duration at design time; multi-recipient outbound communications; AWD widgets, such as worklist and search, that can be deployed within other applications.

The next major release, 10.8, has a number of new features:

  • Processing work space updates, including worklist grid view that can be personalized by the end user, and adding attachments directly from the desktop
  • Communications content migration
  • Creating a case from capture
  • Tracking presentation flow time within monitoring
  • Technical server improvements around session management, batch processing and clustering

In 2015, they are focusing on a number of themes:

  • Dynamic processes for transactions, where process fragments may be assembled at runtime based on the specific conditions for that process instance
  • Milestones and timeline management for cases, allowing predefined process fragments to be easily triggered from case milestones
  • A new responsive user interface design tool that better accommodates what customers are actually doing with mobile apps – it sounds like they originally misunderstood how their customers would actually use presentation flows and mobile apps
  • Improvement to multi-channel servicing
  • Predictive analytics and services
  • Architectural refactoring, including splitting the process and content management capabilities so that they are still tightly integrated, but both are not required – 70% of their deals now do not include imaging, which is pretty amazing considering that AWD started as an imaging and workflow product

Some ambitious targets, and certainly not all to be delivered in 2015, but it gives an idea of how they’re moving forward.

AWD Advance14: Case Management And Unpredictability

I finished off the first day at DST’s AWD Advance conference with Judith Morley’s presentation on case management, which dealt with knowledge work and the unpredictable processes that they deal with every day. She presented last year about their case management, which was pretty new and a strong theme throughout last year’s conference. As I wrote back then, AWD case management is a set of capabilities built on top of their structured BPM, not a separate tool, that manifests through a user workspace that can be enabled for specific users. These capabilities include concepts of case ownership (including team ownership), tasks within cases, task and case prioritization, and collaboration. Their roadmap for case management includes some new mobile case views, more sophisticated case templates, more automation and better reporting.

They don’t have any customers live on case management yet, but some are pretty close. The applications that they are seeing being developed (or considered) at their clients include:

  • New retirement plan onboarding
  • Mutual fund corporate actions, e.g., new fund setup, mergers
  • Transfer of assets
  • Complaints, which involve both structured process and unstructured cases
  • Securitized debt
  • Health insurance appeals and grievances at their BPO operation
  • Immigration services

The key thing for them is to get some of these customers up and running on case management to prove their capabilities and the expected benefits; without that, it’s all a bit academic.

There’s probably not really anything groundbreaking compared to any other case management products, but the fact that it’s built on the standard AWD platform means that it’s completely integrated with their structured process applications, allowing for a mix of transactional workers and knowledge workers on the same piece of work, sharing the security layer and other underlying models. For the huge amount of work that lies in the middle of the structured to unstructured process spectrum, this is essential.

That’s it for day 1 of AWD Advance 2014 – I’m off to enjoy a bit of that Florida sunshine, but I’ll be back tomorrow. Blogging may be a bit light since I’m presenting in the afternoon.

AWD Advance 2014: A Morning Of Strategy, Architecture And Customer Experience

I still think that DST is BPM’s best kept secret outside of their own customer base and the mutual fund industry in which they specialize: if I mention DST to most people, even other BPMS vendors, they’ve never heard of them. However, they have the most fiercely loyal customers that I’ve ever seen, in part because Midwest friendliness and generosity permeates their corporate culture and is reflected in how they care about their customers. In 2012, I think I was the first industry analyst ever to attend their annual user conference, and now they invite a few of us to speak alongside their customers and their own team here at AWD Advance. They also have a lot of fun at the conference: last night they hosted a St. Patrick’s Day bash, and tomorrow is John Vaughn’s special treat for the customers: a concert where the band is masked in mystery (even to other senior management) until the event, although he apparently dropped a hint during the keynote and the conference hashtag lit up with guesses.

Although DST has made their mark in back-office transaction processing with origins in imaging and workflow, the functionality in the current AWD10 platform is more like what Forrester calls a Smart Process Application platform: dynamic and collaborative capabilities, analytics-driven recommendations and actions, integration with transactional systems including their TA2000 shareholder recordkeeping system, correspondence management, and more. For many of their existing customers, however, AWD is part of their “business as usual”, and they’re more concerned with keeping thing running smoothly than looking at new functionality; this is starting to change as the consumer market drives toward a more mobile and social experience, but it feels like the uptake for the new functionality is much slower than DST wished it were. One advantage that they have is their huge business process outsourcing business – back in the 90s when I first visited their operation, they processed about 1/3 of all mutual fund transactions in the US, and now they handle health insurance and other verticals – which is a ready recipient for field-testing new features. I had a brief chat with Mike Hudgins, who I heard present last year on microwork, on how they’re rolling that out in the BPO.

The opening keynote for the conference featured Steve Hooley (CEO), John Vaughn (VP Business Process Solutions) and Kyle Mallot (VP Global Insights/Analytics), with a focus on insight, action and results by using big data and analytics to inform processes. They pointed out that we’ve already squeezed out a lot of the inefficiencies in the back office, and that we now need to change the game by offering better customer experiences and deepening customer relationships.

After the keynote, I attended the AWD architecture session where Richard Clark outlined their technology updates: UI standards including jQuery, CSS3 and HTML5; portal functionality and widgets, including mobile support; server updates to allow for a more cloud-like elasticity; additions to REST services; and web services for check processing functions to replace some of their eStub capabilities. A lot of technical detail intended for current system administrators and developers, with a few glimpses of the continuing refactoring of their platform.

I moved over to the product track to see Kari Moeller, Joel Koehler (who provided the screen shots below – thanks Joel!), Brian Simpson and Laura Lawrence show off some use cases for the new(er) capabilities of AWD10. They’re doing a quarterly webinar on this as well, in part to address the issue that I mention above: a lot of current customers just aren’t using the features yet, even though they’ve moved to the new platform. We saw a self-service solution developed by the DST solution consultants based on their experiences with customers, driven by those customers’ customers’ needs: 55% of customers now prefer self-service over calling into a call center (myself included), and 85% will use online functionality to manage their account or relationship. The solution that they demonstrated allows customers to directly manage certain things in their accounts by linking that customer-facing portal directly to AWD: an action on the website such as an address change or account opening kicks off an AWD process to trigger back-office actions, set a timer event for future-dated updates, generate outbound correspondence, or hold for rendezvous with inbound paper documents that require a signature. In addition to allowing customers to initiate transactions, they can also track the transaction – much like courier package delivery tracking – which can significantly reduce calls to the call center. Customers are offered recommendations of other things that they can do, based on what they’ve done in the past and what similar customers have done, bringing analytics into play. The result: a customer online experience that improves customer retention and reduces the load on the back office and call center. Win-win.

Disclosure: DST is my client, and they have paid my travel expenses to be here as well as a speaking fee for my presentation tomorrow. They have not paid me to blog (or tweet), and they have no editorial control over what I write here.