BPMG Toronto

Earlier this month was the second meeting of the Toronto BPMG chapter, following a successful turnout at the first meeting. Unfortunately, this one fell on a Friday after a large snowfall when the city had warned people not to travel unless necessary, which encouraged many people to take a snow day in spite of it turning out to be a sunny day with all of the snow melting. (For those of you who live in places where you don’t have snow days, try to imagine the pure delight of missing a day of school and spending it at the local park sledding down the hills, then apply that feeling to missing a day of work. Of course, everyone claims to be working at home…) The result: all the vendors and consultants struggled through the slush and made it to the meeting, and almost none of the “practitioners” (end-customers) did, resulting in an embarrassing total of three practitioners — including the speaker — out of about 25 people. It was funny to hear, however, that three people at the meeting said that they attended because they read about it on my blog.

As with the last meeting, Jim Baird talked about BPMG, then Ultimus (the meeting sponsor and the vendor to our speaker) gave a short overview of BPM without too much of a product plug. The main speaker was Jodi Starkman-Mendelsohn of West Park Assessment Centre, who I had heard speak earlier that same week at the Gartner conference in San Diego. Although I had heard some of the WPAC story, this was in much more detail:

  • One key business line for them was to assess injuries from auto accidents, with patient referrals from both insurance companies and lawyers.
  • The main driver for improved systems, including BPM, was 300% revenue growth over a 3-year period that basically broke their manual scheduling process. With increased numbers of double-booking and no shows, they were finding it hard to maintain their service levels and estimated that $3M/year in revenue was at risk.
  • They defined a strategic plan in 2001 with the objective to improve productivity and operating efficiencies by integrating multiple web-based applications together seamlessly to address their scheduling and financial management needs. They set a target of a 3-year return on investment.
  • In October 2002, they went live with a new scheduling system, a new financial system, a fax server, and Ultimus BPM for process management and to bind together the other components. Events in the scheduling system initiate processes, and there’s integration between BPM and scheduling throughout the processes. The fax server is kicked off at various points in the process to generate outbound documents. There are nightly uploads to the financial system (which is deemed adequate frequency), and occasional downloads of the master file.
  • Currently, they have 79 different processes, 29 active users, and 6,000 active incidents/month. I was surprised at the large number of different processes: maintaining 79 business processes that may be only slight variations of each other would be a significant burden, although I don’t know how similar the individual processes are.
  • They saw huge benefits: ROI in 3 years, reduced turnaround times, improved business efficiency, and reduced errors, allowing them to grow beyond their previous capabilities and meet market demands. They’re also adding value to customers by providing better visibility into processes, and have better agility of the business logic by externalizing it in the BPM rather than embedding it within financial or scheduling systems.

The big success story that Starkman-Mendelsohn talked about at Gartner and here was what happened to them when SARS hit Toronto in 2003. Although SARS didn’t affect most of us in Toronto all that much, it had a severe impact on health-care facilities, where all but critical services were cancelled. Although a private business, WPAC operates within a public healthcare facility, which meant that they were shut out of their own offices with very little warning. Prior to their new systems, this would have put them out of commission for the entire seven weeks of the lock-out, costing them $600K in direct revenue and untold damages in lost opportunity; with all of their applications available online via web interfaces, however, they were managing their business processes as usual by the next day, and two days later had outfitted space in a local hotel with examining tables and equipment to allow them to continue business as usual. Since they’re not capturing the patient files electronically, they still needed access to the paper files, but were allowed to send one person back into their offices once per day to fetch the necessary files.

I created a short course on business continuity planning last year, and I talked about exactly this issue: how having your business processes and other applications online can save your butt when disaster hits. If you have mostly manual processes, consider that that process is actually embodied within the worker’s heads, and likely in paper files on their desk or notes saved only to their local PC. Take away the physical desk, and they might have a hard time reconstructing a particular instance of a business process. Take away the specific worker as well, and you can forget about reconstructing that process instance until you can get access to either their desk or the person. If the business process is online, however, most of the notes and other instance-specific data is captured within the online process, making it possible to replace the original worker and/or remove them from their physical working environment with a minimal impact on their ability to complete the business processes, as long as they have access to the online systems.

Starkman-Mendelsohn talked about challenges that they are facing now due to recent deregulation in the auto insurance industry: first of all, one part of their business is likely to decrease because of changing rules around the use of assessment centres for resolving insurance disputes. Secondly, if someone is required to have an assessment, there is now a maximum distance that they’re required to travel. They were able to change their business processes to suit the new requirements and remain competitive — although the decreased business has resulted in reduced staff numbers — and set up four satellite locations, enabled by the ability to access the business applications remotely. In other words, the easy adaptability of the systems is providing them with the business agility that they require in a rapidly-changing business environment.

She finished up by noting that a BPM system needs to evolve over time, it’s not a one-time project — a big vote for not over-customizing your systems. She also said that involve their subject matter experts in process mapping and implementation was a big part of their success, and resulted in good staff buy-in.

And the final big win for them: the Infoworld 100 Awards named them as a winner in the health-care sector in November.

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