My upcoming webinar on Financial Services and the need for flexible processes to weather a crisis

It’s a busy time for webinars, and I’ll be doing two more in the next two months sponsored by Signavio. On April 15, I’ll be talking about financial services, and how flexible processes are even more important now because of the current pandemic situation:

The current pandemic crisis and resultant market downturn has customers scrambling for safe investments, and financial services companies being forced to support remote working, all while legacy platforms creak precariously under the strain. Now, more than ever, it is critical for companies to understand their end-to-end processes and apply intelligent automation just to survive. Market leaders with flexible processes will be able to adjust quickly to the rapidly-changing environment, and even offer new business models and products suited to the uncertain times ahead.

I just had someone in financial services reach out to me and say “new automation strategy initiatives are the furthest thing from my leadership’s mind right now”, but I agree with other analysts that this is the perfect time to be pushing innovation in your organization. Regardless of your industry, you’re in the middle of a massive disruption; you can either respond to that disruption and innovate to stay ahead of your competition, or you’re going to be one of the many economic casualties in the months ahead.

Interested in hearing more about this, and participating in the conversation? Register for the webinar at the link above, and feel free to send me your ideas and experiences in advance to discuss during the webinar.

DIY face mask for techies

I’m calling this a DIY Mask for Techies because the basic materials are something that every techie has in their drawer: a t-shirt, a couple of conference lanyards, and a paperclip. Of course, you don’t have to be a techie to make one. 🙂

I realize that this is way, way off topic for this blog, and for me in general, but unusual times lead to unusual solutions. This is a long, DIY instructional post, and if you prefer to watch it instead of read it, I’ve recorded the same information as a video. Click on any of the photos in this post to see it at full resolution.

There’s a variety of recommendations on whether or not to wear a mask if you are not exhibiting any symptoms of illness. In some countries that have had success in reducing infection rates, they have a general policy of wearing a mask in public regardless of symptoms, since carriers can be asymptomatic.

I’m choosing to wear a mask when I leave home, or when I greet people who come to the door. Since it’s very difficult to buy medical-grade masks now, I’ve opted to make my own. I’ve also made a few for friends, especially those who have to walk their dogs, or work in an essential service that requires them to leave home.

I’m going to take you through the method that I used, with photos of each step, so that you can make your own. Although I use a sewing machine here, you can sew these by hand, or you could even use fabric glue or staples if you don’t have a needle and thread, or are in a hurry.

Design considerations

I did a lot of research before I started making masks, but my final design was based on these two references.

First, a Taiwanese doctor posted on Facebook about how to make a three-layer fabric mask, with two layers of fabric and an inside pocket where you can insert a filter layer. This is the basic premise of my design.

Second, there was a study published that compared different readily-available household fabrics against medical-grade masks to see what worked best. Believe it or not, a double layer of t-shirt material works pretty well.

Materials

I went through several iterations to try and make the materials something that a lot of people would already have, since it’s hard to get out shopping these days. Based on the suggested materials, I started with a large t-shirt from my husband’s collection of the many that I have brought home to him from conferences. To all of you vendors who provided me with t-shirts in the past, we thank you!

Next, I needed something to make ties, since these work better than elastic, and I didn’t have a lot of elastic on hand. Remember all of those conferences I went to? Yup, I still had a lot of the conference lanyards hanging in a closet. I provide a hack at the end of these instructions to use the bottom hem of the t-shirt if you don’t have conference lanyards, or you can use other types of ties such as shoelaces.

The paperclip was added in the third-to-last design iteration after I went out for a walk and found that my glasses steamed up due to a gap between the mask and the sides of my nose. It’s sewn into the top edge of the mask to create a bendable nose clip that can be adjusted for each wearer.

Caveats

Just a few caveats, since these are NOT medical-grade masks and I make no specific claims about their effectiveness:

  • They do not form a tight seal with your face, although they hug pretty closely.
  • They do not use medical-grade materials, and are not going to be as effective at filtering out the bad stuff.
  • In general, these masks may not provide complete protection. If you have medical-grade or N95 masks at home, you could use those and they would be better than these, but I recommend that you donate the medical-grade and N95 masks to your local healthcare organization so that front-line doctors and nurses are protected.

All in all, not perfect, but I believe that wearing a DIY fabric mask is better than wearing no mask at all.

Getting started and installing the nose clip

Let’s get started with the basic measuring and installing the nose clip.

Here’s the fabric pattern: it’s a 20cm by 37cm square cut from a t-shirt. Depending on your t-shirt size, you may get four or five of these out of a single shirt.

If you are using a double-knit material like a t-shirt, then you don’t need to hem the edges because it doesn’t ravel at the edges very much. If you are using a different fabric that will ravel, then cut slightly larger and hem the edges. I like to optimize the process so opted for the t-shirt with no hemming.

Next is our basic standard-sized paperclip. I don’t have a lot to say about this, expect that the first paperclip version used a larger paperclip and the wire was too stiff to easily bend while adjusting.

Next thing is to straighten the paperclip. Mine ended up about 10cm long, but plus or minus a centimetre isn’t going to matter.

Putting the paperclip aside for a moment, here’s how to fold the fabric to prepare for sewing. The 20cm length is the width of the mask from side to side on your face, and the 37cm length allows you to fold it so that the two ends overlap by about 1cm. In this case, I’ve overlapped by about 1.5cm, which means that the total height of the mask is 17cm, or 37/2 – 1.5.

I used these measurements because they fit both myself and my husband, so likely work for most adults. If you’re making a mask for a child, measure across their face from cheekbone to cheekbone to replace the 20cm measurement, then measure from the top of their nose to well under their chin, double it and add a centimeter to replace the 37cm measurement.

This next part is a bit tricky, and hard to see in the photos.

This is where we sew the paperclip into the top fold of the mask to create a bendable nose clip. What you’re seeing on the right is the fold at the top of the mask with the straightened paperclip rolled right up into the fold.

To prepare for sewing, I pinned the fabric below the paperclip, pushing the paperclip right into the inside of the fold. In the photo on the left, the paperclip is inside the folded material above the pins.

Now we move to the sewing machine, although this could be done by hand-stitching through the edge of the fabric and around the paperclip. In fact, after having done this a few times, I think that hand-sewing may be easier, since the feed mechanism on most home machines don’t work well when you have something stiff like a paperclip inside your fabric.

If you’re using a sewing machine, put on the zigzag foot and set the width of the stitch to as wide as it will go, so that the two sides of the zigzag stitches will go on either side of the paperclip. Start sewing and guide it through so that the fabric-covered paperclip tucked into the fold is in the centre, and the zigzag stitches go to either side of it: first to the left on the main part of the fabric, and then to the right where there is no fabric but the stitch will close around it.

That may not have been the best explanation, but here’s what you end up with. The straightened paperclip is inside the fold at the top of the fabric, and the zigzag stitches go to either side of it, which completely encloses the paperclip with fabric.

If you have fabric glue, you could definitely try that to hold the paperclip in place instead, although I haven’t tried that. You could also, as I mentioned before, hand-sew it into place.

And here’s why we went to all that work: a bendable nose clip. This is looking from the top of the mask, so you can see that the paperclip is completely sewn into the fold of the fabric, and when you bend the paperclip, it’s going to let you mold it to fit your own nose.

Now here’s what you have, and the hard part is over. You have the folded fabric like we saw earlier, with a straightened paperclip sewn inside the top fold. Lay out your fabric like this again for the next steps.

Adding ties and stitching sides

We’re now going to add ties and stitch the sides to create the mask. I used a sewing machine, but you could do all of this with hand sewing, or you could  some type of craft adhesive such as a hot glue gun or fabric glue. You could even staple it together, although if you opt for that, make sure that the smooth (top) side of the staples are facing inwards so that they don’t scratch your face.

Here’s where the conference lanyards come in: who doesn’t have a couple of these hanging around? You’ll need two of them, and I’ve selected two from past vendor clients of mine where I’ve also attended their conferences: Camunda and ABBYY. Thanks guys!

Cut off all that cool stuff at the end of the lanyard and throw it away. Cut each lanyard in half. These will be the four ties that attach to each corner of the mask, and tie behind your head. If one set is slightly longer than the other, use it at the top of the mask since it’s a bit further around the back of your head than around your neck where the other one ties.

To prepare for sewing the edges I’ve started with the right side, and you’re looking at it from the back side, that is, the side that will touch your face. Slide about 1 or 1.5cm of the tie into the fold of the fabric (that is, between the layers) at the top and bottom, and pin in place. I made mine so that the logos on the ties are facing out and right-side up when the mask is on, but the choice is yours.

Also put a pin where the fabric overlaps in the middle of that edge to hold it in place while sewing.

Now, it’s just a straight shot of sewing from top to bottom. I went back and forth over the ties a couple of times to make sure that they’re secure, then just stitched the rest of the way.

Once it’s sewn, if you flip it over, it will look like the photo on the right. This is the outside of the mask, now with the ties sewn in place and the entire edge stitched closed.

Now, pin the ties in place on the second edge, and pin the fabric overlap at the centre to prepare for sewing, just like you did with the first edge.

Sew that one just like you did the other, and you know have an almost completed mask. The photo to the right shows the side of the mask that faces outwards, with the nose clip in the edge at the top.

Some of the fabric designs that I’ve seen online stop with a simple version like this, but I find it leaves large gaps at the sides, so I wanted to tighten it up like what the Taiwanese doctor did by adding tucks to his.

Adding side tucks

There are other ways to do this rather than the tucks that I’m going to show you. I did a couple of masks using elastic, but I don’t have a lot of elastic on hand and thought that most people wouldn’t unless they do a lot of sewing or crafts. If you have a shirring foot on your sewing machine, you can definitely use that. If you don’t know what a shirring foot is, then you probably don’t have one. I recall a hand-shirring technique that I learned in Home Economics class in junior high, but that part of my memory was overwritten when I learned my 4th programming language.

Basically, I wanted to reduce the 17cm height of the mask that is required to stretch from nose to chin down to about 10cm at the edges. I added two large-ish tucks/pleats, angling them slightly in, and pinned them in place. This is shown from the inside of the mask, since I want the tucks to push out.

You’ll see what I mean when we flip the mask over, still just pinned, and you can see that the two tucks will cause the mask to pleat it out away from your face towards the centre.

Sew across the two tucks to hold them in place. There’s not going to be a lot of strain on these, so hand-sew them if that’s easier. The photo on the right shows what it looks like on the inside of the mask after stitching the tucks.

And when we flip it over, the photo on the left is what it looks like from the outside after stitching.

Do the same on the other side, and the mask is essentially done. This is the completed mask with ties at each corner, and a bendable nose clip at the top:

Filter insert

We’re not quite done. Remember that open fold at the back of the mask? We’re going to insert an extra layer of filter material inside the mask, between the two layers of t-shirt fabric.

The mask would work just fine as it is, but will work better with an additional layer of a non-woven material inside to stop transmission of aerosolized particles. The doctor from the original design said that you could use a few layers of tissue that had been wet and then dried, so that it melded together. I was also talking with a friend about using a paper coffee filter. Use your imagination here, as long as it isn’t embedded with any chemicals and air can pass through it sufficiently for breathing.

I found a great suggestion online, however…a piece of a Swiffer Sweeper cloth, cut to fit. It’s unscented and likely contains little in the way of harmful chemicals, although I might try out a few other things here.

With the inside of the mask facing up, open the pocket formed by the overlapping edges of the fabric that we left across the middle of the mask. This is where the filter is going to go, and then the fabric will close around it.

Push the filter into the opening, flattening it out so that you’re only breathing through a single layer of it. It’s going to be a bit harder than usual to breathe through the mask anyway, so you don’t want to make it worse.

Now the filter is all the way inside the mask. Flatten it out and push it up into the corners for best coverage. If it’s too big, take it out and trim it rather than having rolls of extra filter material inside the mask.

If you just tug gently at the sides of the mask, the opening closes over the filter, and you’re ready to go. I did one model that put a snap in the middle so that the opening was held closed, but it’s not necessary and the snap pressed up against my nose in an annoying fashion.

Adjusting and wearing

Time to finally put the mask on. Before tying it on the first time, put the nose clip up to the top of your nose and mold it to fit over your nose. Once you’ve done this once, you probably only need to make minor adjustments, if any, when you put it on again.

On the left, you can see how I’ve bent the nose clip down the sides of my nose, then flattened the ends of it to follow the edge of my cheek. This closes most of the gap between the mask and my face at the top edge, which reduces the opportunity for aerosol particles to get in, and also means that my glasses don’t fog up every time I exhale.

Next, tie the top tie around your head. Make it nice and high so that it won’t slip down. This should be fairly snug but not uncomfortably so. Readjust the nose clip, since tying the top tie will usually pull it up a bit.

The bottom tie goes around and ties at the back of your neck, and can be fairly loose. Notice how the tucks conform to the side of my face so that the mask fits closely there. I’m thinking in the next version to add a tuck right in the middle of bottom edge to have it hug the chin closer, but this is pretty good.

General wearing instructions

A few tips about wearing, then I’ll show you a final hack in case you don’t have a conference lanyard.

  • Always put a clean mask on with clean hands.
  • Try not to adjust the mask once your hands may no longer be clean. In general, put the mask on before you leave home, and take it off when you come back.
  • Since the outside of the mask may have picked up something, be sure to wash your hands after you take it off. If you have to take it off while outside, you can untie the top tie and let the mask hang forward over your chest while it’s still tied around your neck, then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before touching your face. To put it back on, just pull up and tie.
  • There are a few different ways to clean the mask.
    • If it’s not dirty but may have contacted the virus, you can just leave it for 24 hours. I’m basing that recommendation on the time that it takes for the virus to deteriorate on a porous material such as cardboard.
    • You can wash it in warm soapy water while you’re washing your hands. Rinse in clear water, squeeze out and hang to try.
    • You can also do the equivalent of a medical autoclave, and steam it over boiling water for 10 minutes. Obviously, don’t put it in the microwave because of the metal paperclip.

Here’s the final hack. If you don’t have a conference lanyard, or a pair of bootlaces or the drawstring from your pajamas, you can create ties by trimming the bottom (hemmed) edge off the t-shirt and cutting it to the right length. If you trim it a little bit away from the stitching, as you can see at the bottom, it won’t even need to be hemmed.

You can also fold and sew strips into ties, but probably you can find something already made to use instead.

That’s it for my DIY mask for techies, made from a t-shirt, 2 conference lanyards and a paperclip. I don’t plan to start any series of DIY coronavirus supplies, but if you’re interested in business process automation and how our world of work is changing in these changing times, check out some of my other work.

Stay safe!

Catch me on a @SoftwareAG webinar next week talking about operational excellence

With so many cancelled conferences and people working from home, this is a great time to tune up your skills through online courses and webinars. I’ll be presenting with Eric Roovers, business transformation leader at Software AG, on a webinar about operational excellence next Wednesday, April 1, at 10:00 Eastern (16:00 in Central Europe, 07:00 Pacific).

We are doing this as a conversation rather than a presentation, so be prepared for Eric and I to riff on our opinions about the key issues today in achieving and maintaining operational excellence. This is the first of a series of webinars that Software AG will be hosting on operational excellence, although the only one where I’ll be speaking.

The webinar is sponsored by Software AG, and you’ll need to register at the link above. If you can’t make it at that time, go ahead and register and you’ll be sent a link to the on-demand version later.

Free COVID-19 apps from @Trisotech @Appian and @Pega

Yesterday, I passed on a link to The Master Channel’s free e-learning courses that you can use to start skilling up if you’re on the bench right now due to COVID-19. I’m also aware of a few companies in our industry who are offering free apps — some just to customers, some to everyone — that can help to fight COVID-19 in different ways.

The ability to build apps quickly is a cornerstone in our industry of model-driven development and low-code, and it’s encouraging to see some good offerings on the table already in response to our current situation.

Appian was first out of the blocks with a COVID-19 Response Management application for collecting and managing employee health status, travel history and more in a HIPAA-compliant cloud. You can read about it on their blog, and sign up for it online. Their blog post says that it’s free to any enterprise or government agency, although the signup page says that it’s free to organizations with over 1,000 employees — not sure which is accurate, since the latter seems to exclude non-customers under 1,000 employees. It’s free only for six months at this point.

Pegasystems followed closely behind with a COVID-19 Employee Safety and Business Continuity Tracker, which seems to have similar functionality to the Appian application. It’s an accelerator, so you download it and configure it for your own needs, a familiar process if you’re an existing Pega customer — which you will have to be, because it’s only available for Pega customers. The page linked above has a link get the app from the Pega Marketplace, where it will be free through December 31, 2020.

Trisotech is going in a different direction by offering several free online COVID-19 assessment tools based on clinical guidelines: some for the general public, and some to be used by healthcare professionals.

As a founding member of OMG’s BPM+ Health community, Trisotech has been involved in developing shareable clinical pathways for other medical conditions (using visual models in BPMN, CMMN and/or DMN), and I imagine that these new tools might be the first bits of new shareable clinical pathways targeted at COVID-19, possibly packaged as consumable microservices. You can click on the tools and try them out without any type of registration or preparation: they ask a series of questions and provide an assessment based on the underlying business rules, and you can also upload files containing data and download the results.

My personal view is that making these apps available to non-customers is sure to be a benefit, since they will get a chance to work with your company’s platform and you’ll gain some goodwill all around.

Free online digital transformation courses from @TheMasterChnnl

E-learning platform The Master Channel (which inexplicably has only 8 Twitter followers after I followed them, so get over there and connect) is offering free courses, exams, certificates and downloads to anyone affected by COVID-19. That is pretty much everyone on the planet by now. You can find out more details at the link above and in a recent LinkedIn post by Jan Moons, and he writes in more detail about e-learning in the time of the current pandemic in another post.

There’s a very real possibility that a lot of people will be “on the bench” in the near future: either their work requires travel, or their company has to make tough decisions about staffing. This is a great time to consider skilling up, and The Master Channel has courses on process and decision modeling, business analysis, analytics and more. I have never taken one of their courses so can’t vouch for the quality, and I am not being compensated in any way for writing this post, but probably worth checking out what they have to offer.

Their current offer is only until April 5th, although it’s clear to most people that our period of confinement is going to last much longer than that. Get them while you can.

If you know of other e-learning companies making similar offers, please add them in the comments of this post (including a link if you have one). I know of several universities that offer free online courses for related topics although they tend to be longer and much more detailed — I had to dedicate four weeks and relearn a lot of forgotten graph theory to get through the Eindhoven University of Technology’s course in process mining, which is more than a lot of people have time (or patience) for.

Snap! @Celonis offers free process mining in the cloud

I attended a webinar today where Celonis showed Snap, the new free tier of their cloud-based process mining platform. It can work with flat files (CSV) or manually connect to ServiceNow, Google Sheets and a few other data sources directly, plus it supports teams for collaboration. You’re limited to uploading 500MB of data (which is a lot of records you’re uploading just case ID, activity name, resource, start and end time), and there’s no continuous data integration for event collection the way there is with their full-blown IBC Enterprise version; additionally, several functions from the main product are visible but not enabled. However, if you want to dip your toe into process mining with real-sized datasets, this is a good choice.

The process mining functionality is similar to what you see with competitive products, plus some nice dashboard capabilities for visualizing not just the overall discovered process flow, but for drilling into problem areas to do root cause analysis.

You can sign up for a free Celonis Snap account on their website. It self-deploys within a couple of minutes, creating a team account and setting you up as the admin, with the ability to add other users to the team. It doesn’t support everything in the paid platform, but definitely a good way to get started with process mining. There’s also an online community to ask (and answer) questions.

They are also offering free online training (not sure if that’s just now or if they will do this on an ongoing basis) that covers their full paid product suite; if you’re using Snap, the parts of the training related to process discovery and analysis will be relevant. They are launching free Snap-specific training next week, and adding new features to the product such as connectors to SAP Ariba. Obviously, they’d like to leverage free accounts into paid accounts, but this is more than just a 30-day trial or non-functional demo account; you can do some real work with the free version and move to the paid version when your data or processing needs exceed that.

My new post on the @Trisotech blog: the case for a business automation center of excellence

I’m doing a series of posts on the Trisotech blog, and this month I’m digging into the concept of a broader center of excellence (CoE) around business automation because I’ve seen a lot of problems when CoEs are implemented around a specific methodology, technology or tool, e.g., a BPM CoE, or even worse, a [insert vendor name here] BPMS CoE.

In addition to my consulting practice, where I see CoEs in practice and help organizations to create them, I work with a lot of vendors. I included a diagram of how most vendors see themselves relative to their market:

Head on over to the Trisotech blog to read the entire article.

Tune in on March 10 for my webinar on intelligent insurance processes

I’ve been sponsored by Signavio for a short webinar series. The first, on intelligent banking processes, was last month; this month on March 10, I’ll be presenting on intelligent insurance processes:

With customer churn rates approaching 25% in some insurance sectors, insurers are attempting to increase customer retention by offering innovative products that better address today’s market. The ability to create and support innovative products has become a top-level goal for many insurance company executives, and requires agile and automated end-to-end processes for a personalized customer journey.

I’m focusing these webinars on very real use cases that I’ve observed in my years working with financial and insurance customers, linking up the top-level goals in organizations with process tools that can help to achieve those goals. There’s such a confusion in the landscape of intelligent automation tools, and many of the vendors don’t help this much by obfuscating the differences between product categories (not just differences between products in the same category). I’ll try to bring a bit of clarity to all of that, plus walk through an insurance use case to see how different types of process tools can be applied.

Head over to the link above to register for the webinar; even if you can’t attend next week, you’ll get a follow-up link to the recorded webinar for viewing later.

Replay of my webinar on banking processes with @Signavio

I did a webinar last week, sponsored by Signavio, that focused on banking processes. In particular, I looked at the top-level goals such as revenue, costs, compliance and competitive differentiation, and lined those up with some of the departmental goals and the process-related tools that can help to reach those goals. As usual, you can find my slides on Slideshare:

The replay is up, you can find it on the Signavio website (registration required). If you registered prior to the webinar, you will have already received an email with a link to the replay.

OpenText Analyst Summit 2020 day 2: content services

Fred Sass, Marc Diefenbruch and Michael Cybala presented a breakout session on the content services portfolio. OpenText has two main content services platforms: their original Content Suite and the 2016 acquisition of Documentum, both of which appear to be under active development. They also list Extended ECM as a “content services platform”, although my understanding is that it’s a layer that abstracts and links Content Suite (and to a lesser extent, Documentum) to exist within other business workplaces. I’m definitely not the best source of information on OpenText content services platform architecture.

In many cases, their Content Suite is not accessed via an OpenText UI, but is served up as part of some other digital workplace — e.g., SAP, Salesforce or Microsoft Teams — with deep integration into that environment rather than just a simple link to a piece of content. This is done via their Extended ECM product line, which includes connectors for SAP, Microsoft and other environments. They are starting to build out Extended ECM Documentum to allow the same type of access via other business environments, but to Documentum D2 rather than Content Suite. They are integrating Core Share in the same way with Salesforce, allowing for secure sharing of content with external participants.

They discussed the various cloud options for OpenText content (off cloud, public cloud, managed services on OpenText private cloud, managed services on public cloud, SaaS cloud), as well as some general benefits of containerization. They use Docker containers on Kubernetes, which means that they can deploy on any cloud platform as well as an on-premise environment. They also have a number of content-related services available in the OT2 SaaS microservices environment, including Core Share and Core Capture applications and the underlying capture and content services. Core has been integrated with a number of different SaaS applications (e.g., SAP SuccessFactors) for document capture, storage and generation.

The third topic covered in the session was intelligent automation, including the type of AI-powered intelligent categorization and filing of documents with Magellan. We saw a demo of Core Capture with machine learning, where document classification and field recognition on the first pass of a document type were corrected manually, then the system performed correct recognition on a subsequent similar document. A second demo showed a government use case, where a captured document created a case management scenario on Extended ECM that is essentially a template-based document approval workflow with a few case management features including the ability to dynamically add steps and participants. As we get a bit deeper into the workflow, it’s revealed to be OpenText Process Suite, as part of AppWorks.

Lastly we looked at information governance, with a renewed interest due to privacy concerns and compliance-related legislation. They have a new solution, Core for Federated Compliance, that provides centralized records oversight and policy management over multiple platforms and repositories. It’s currently only linking to their own content repositories, but have some plans to extend this to other content sources such as file shares.

There’s another breakout plus a wrap-up Q&A with the executive leadership team, but this is the end of my coverage of the 2020 OpenText Analyst Summit. If something extraordinary happens in either of those sessions, I’ll tweet about it.