Appian Forum: Archstone

The next presentation was from David Carpenter, Director of BPM at Archstone, a residential apartment investor and operator with about 2,600 employees. One of their main challenges was a high employee turnover rate, and the necessity to reduce the learning curve for new people. They wanted to move away from paper-based forms and manual workflow to a more automated workflow with dynamic online forms, with the goal of processes becoming more consistent and coordinated. At the same time, they needed people to be able to use the system with little or no formal training.

They selected Appian because it is a completely web-based solution, has dynamic forms, and requires a minimum of IT resources since there was more configuration than coding involved in the implementation. Their first focus was a broad but shallow implementation that supported their 2,200 field associates, and have settled into 90-day development cycles with the goal of delivering 3-6 new processes in that time. They have done this with a team of three non-IT staff, supported by in-house IT resources and Appian’s professional services.

They rolled this out to the field by going on a country-wide road show to present what they were doing and collect feedback, then rolled that feedback into the implementation — he sees this constant communication and integration of the users’ ideas as a key part of the end-user acceptance of the system. They signed a contract in November of 2006, and rolled out 3 critical processes to their 2,200 field associates by the end of April 2007. As of the end of July 2008, they’ve implemented 25 processes, representing 2,000 process instances per month, plus a customized portal for each community, and a central forms repository containing 300 standardized forms.

They’ve just delivered phase 4 of the project, targeted at both community and corporate users, and are planning for phase 5 and beyond: truly a continuous improvement model of change.

Carpenter sees Appian becoming one of their core applications: just like users login to their email first thing in the morning, they login to Appian as well, since that drives their work processes each day.

Like Nokia Siemens, they’re using a non-IT group since IT just doesn’t deliver fast enough (that’s my assessment, he didn’t say that): in my experience, this is a very common problem when BPM projects are run by IT, and a product like Appian that can be selected and implemented by non-IT resources has a huge advantage as long as the corporate culture supports business-led technology implementations (most don’t).