2 min read

The Powers of Persuasion - Atlassian and Business Process Management

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 26, 2012 11:00:00 AM

During our last Atlassian User Group meeting a few attendees asked us for pointers on how to convince their managers to implement or expand upon the Atlassian product suite as a Business Process Management Tool. To us the task seemed easy, especially since Process Optimization and Management are some of our founding principles.

After doing a bit of research we were a bit surprised by what we found. According to a study conducted by the Journal of Information & Management71% of executives had negative feelings concerning IT as a source of competitive advantage.

This is especially shocking since exploiting current capabilities while simultaneously developing new ones is a common theme among organizations. This idea serves as a baseline for strategic management and is crucial for adapting to changing environments. It’s through this delicate balance of business activities that the notion of Business Process Management (BPM) was born.

As BPM continues to be considered an important way for organizations to achieve a competitive advantage, senior management should be aware of IT’s ability to facilitate these processes. However, as the study pointed out, this isn’t always the case. In many organizations senior management’s reluctant to promote the strategic role of IT and instead, consider it just an automating tool.

This notion’s not only outdated but it also negates the entire philosophy of BPM, and the idea of developing new organizational capabilities.

So how can you overcome these seemingly insurmountable sentiments, standing in the way of cost-cutting, Business Process Optimization? According to the study, executives were most likely to be convinced of the almighty powers of IT when provided with substantial evidence of the following outcomes:

  • Assurance in the success of process re-engineering
  • Greater simplification in business process
  • Increased efficiency by at least 50%

So whether you are attempting to convince a coworker, boss, or yourself, being well armed with relevant examples of the above will come in handy.

Looking for relevant examples? Try the following case studies:

Topics: atlassian blog automation bpm business management practices process tips tricks continuous-improvement lifecycle operations
1 min read

Information Economics and Confluence: Putting the I Back into IT.

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 27, 2012 11:00:00 AM

When it comes to IT, why do most organizations focus more on the T in technology than the I in information? The purpose of a good IT infrastructure’s to prevent information asymmetry and the implications that come with it. By properly managing your company’s information network you can create value through better decision-making.

Information asymmetry occurs when one party has more or less information than another. This can result in bad decision-making, and at times, unethical decisions. Regardless of the industry you operate in, treating information as an economic resource allows your business to yield higher than expected payoffs, resulting in a competitive edge.

The need for better collaboration both within and across business processes is a problem our clients come across often. Luckily the solution’s one we pride ourselves on offering.

Atlassian’s Confluence serves as an organizational wiki, connecting employees to information and each other. Confluence allows users to create, share, discuss, and discover documents, ideas, Jira issues, specs, mockups, projects – anything. By connecting your entire business in one place, Confluence allows for better integration. We love it and so do our clients!

Topics: atlassian blog bpm business confluence enterprise management practices process technology value collaboration information it
5 min read

Stash 1.1 Released: Simple, Secure Git Repository Management for the Enterprise

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 19, 2012 11:00:00 AM

Seven weeks ago the world met Stash – a centralized solution to manage Git repositories behind the firewall. Stash 1.0 was a huge launch! Atlassian’s been deluged with great feedback and already have small agile teams and large enterprises adopting Stash for their Git development.

Atlassian’s just getting started, and today Stash’s future begins! Stash 1.1 is here with more features focused on making your behind the firewall Git development simple, secure and fast.

SSH Support

Developed from the ground up with enterprise level security as a #1 priority, Stash now supports SSH in addition to HTTPS. Use standard HTTPS authentication or set up your public keys and connect to Stash via SSH, it’s your choice. This resolves Stash’s #1 feature request focused on adding security options to support SSH.

 

For those of you who chose to go the SSH route there can be some benefits for your team (depending on your setup):

  • Increased security
  • Ease of configuring automated systems, such as build and deployment servers (e.g. Bamboo)
  • Restricted access to pushing and pulling from Stash without compromising passwords

Developers are able to manage their own SSH keys. For those using multiple machines to work with their Git repositories or several automated systems pushing and pulling from Stash they can add as many keys as they see fit. And, have no fear Stash admins, you still have full control over SSH keys with the ability to grant or revoke the SSH keys of any user.


Do you understand your Git error messages? No matter what flavor of authentication you choose, Stash makes sure you know what’s going on when things go wrong. Unlike standard Git error messages, which can be confusing and contribute to the steep learning curve, Stash will provide you with user-friendly messages.

Standard Git error message when a repository does not exist

fatal: https://stash.atlassian.com/scm/STASH/nosuchrepo/info/refs not found: did you run git update-server-info on the server?

Stash Git error message when a repository does not exist

fatal: https://stash.atlassian.com/scm/STASH/nosuchrepo.git: Repository does not exist
The requested repository does not exist, or you do not have permission to access it.

Fast-er Browsing

Time = money, and who doesn’t like to save a few bucks? Stash 1.1 vastly improves productivity by providing a faster experience for you and your team to work with Git repositories. Development delivered fast and efficient!

Diff Power

Atlassian’s development teams consist of back-end coders, front-end coders, QA, performance testing, product management and even designers. They’re all part of the development process.

The designers on Atlassian’s team were looking for a way to utilize Stash to compare images. They posed questions like “Have you ever tried to find the subtle difference between two images? That difference may be small like a text change or as large as a page redesign. In many cases it is not obvious.” So, from Atlassian’s designers to yours, we introduce the interactive image diff viewer (careful, it’s hypnotic!).

Maybe not as exciting, but definitely useful is ediffs. When viewing a diff it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish textual changes. Stash solves this with the addition of ediffs to clearly see what textual changes were added or removed when comparing two revisions.

Recent Repositories

There’s a new item in the Stash header, Repositories, that shows you the few repositories you usually work with, even though there may be hundreds set up across your company. For those developers who work with several repositories and want to avoid several clicks to get back to those repositories meet Recent Repositories. Quickly navigate to the repositories you recently visited and save a few seconds in your day.

 

Mouse-less Productivity

Atlassian wanted to make it faster for their development team, and yours, to navigate Stash (Stash was developed with Stash ). When viewing changesets, browsing directories or jumping through your commit list simply press ‘J’ or ‘K’ to move from next to previous. Less mouse, more keyboard!

Check out the other time-saving keyboard shortcuts by clicking the image.

 

Simple-r Permissions

Git’s great, but administering access control to your repositories isn’t! For those organizations with complicated user management (especially in a corporate LDAP), Stash simplifies Git administration. Stash keeps you and your developers productive by providing a way to structure your repositories and manage permissions all in a matter of seconds.

  • Global permissions – delegate administration of projects to developers and provide them the freedom to create and manage repositories; no more requests to IT to create Git repositories.
  • Projects permissions – use the project structure to grant a simple set of project permissions to users and groups to control access to repositories; you can have confidence that the right developers have access permissions to a project.

The new permission screens provide an at-a-glance overview of who has access to your projects and makes managing permissions even faster. Without further ado – the new permissions screen…

Meet Stash 1.1 – 25% off for 12 more days

If you haven’t met Stash yet, now is the time. Be one of the early adopters of Stash and take advantage of the introduction offer of 25% off for new Stash licenses. This long-standing offer will expire in just 12 days (June 30, 2012).

Stash – Git Repository Management for Enterprise Team. Git going!

 
                

Questions & Feedback

Have questions or feedback about Stash? Drop us a line or log feedback on Atlassian’s public Jira issue tracker.

Topics: atlassian blog bitbucket bpm business efficiency enterprise groups management process technology user value collaboration continuous-improvement information operations
1 min read

Lean Thinking- Reducing Process Generated Waste

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 18, 2012 11:00:00 AM

Lean thinking allows organizations to determine value, and organize their value creation processes in a specific sequence. This fundamental understanding of the value stream allows organizations to dived their work processes into:

  • Value-adding activities
  • Required non-value-adding activities
  • Non-value-adding activities

It’s important to note that while organizations can specify an associated value with a process; value’s inherently determined by the consumer – your organization had better have a clear understanding of what that is.

Lean thinking also affects the flow of your production processes by emphasizing a continuous product flow, pulled through by customer demand – ensuring that nothing’s built until it’s needed, and what’s built is in fact needed by its end-user. As Lean thinking’s applied to your specific business model you’ll  inherently perfect your product through the constant process of identifying and removing waste.

Lean + Agile = Better Business Practices

We prefer to look at Agile as more than just a methodology, but also as a way businesses can reduce process – generated waste and non-value-adding activities.

Think of a value system instead of a process. Software development’s too difficult to waste time pouring over things that don’t matter, and it’s extremely inefficient for the organization at hand. From this viewpoint we can apply lean thinking to Agile development.

To effectively understand the meaningful roles these approaches can have, we must first examine their application. From this point of view, Lean represents a set of principles that help guide our ideas and insights about Agile. Lean thinking should be viewed as a set of value-maximizing principles that don’t change over time, and Agile development as an application of principles to a particular situation. Agile principles are specific to each environment and should change to fit the task at hand. Here it’s easy to see how Lean thinking concepts expand upon and improve the framework of Agile methodology.

Topics: blog scaled-agile automation bpm business efficiency management optimization practices process process-consulting value continuous-improvement lifecycle operations
1 min read

The Democratization of Process: BPM + Cloud

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 3, 2011 11:00:00 AM

We were reminded of Phil Gilbert’s 2010 keynote, “The Democratization of Process,” earlier today while fine-tuning an integration of business process management (BPM) methodology and cloud technology. If you’re pondering the clash of governance vs crowd-sourced content, Gilbert’s keynote (below) offers some helpful perspective.

 

 

 

BPM 2010 Keynote: Phil Gilbert – The Next Decade of BPM from Michael zur Muehlenon Vimeo.

Topics: blog bpm business management process technology cloud methodology

Less Waste, Less Frustration

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 2, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Another “what we do in a nutshell.” We love this stuff.

 

Topics: praecipio-consulting blog bpm business efficiency management process reduce waste
1 min read

Congratulations, Graduates!

By Praecipio Consulting on May 20, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Congrats, 2011 graduates! And special congrats to the University of Texas at Austin Class of 2011, our alma mater. You’ll be offered many unsolicited, bigger-picture pieces of advice tomorrow – so we thought we’d get your feet wet with this short note:

You’ve probably heard before that life is a classroom, and that you’ll graduate many times over the years. This is true. There is something to be learned every day, be it through success or failure. As our friend @eoshow says, “you can’t know it all, and that’s okay…just admit when you don’t know.” Think of your work as a paid internship. On one hand you’re paid to work, but on the other you’re being paid to learn.

With that in mind, please enjoy some better advice from two of our favorite commencement speeches:

1. Kurt Vonnegut, MIT Class of 1997 – “Wear sunscreen” – with some especially cheesy effects

 

 

 

2. David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College Class of 2005 – “This is water” – (#1 on Time’s Top 10)

 

 

 

Watch Part 2 here.

Topics: blog bpm texas
1 min read

The "Business Stuff" Behind the Innovation

By Praecipio Consulting on May 3, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Great ideas sell, even without the fortification of brand or tangibility. If an idea’s well-built, well-defined, and in-demand, sales are almost guaranteed with a little marketing.

At SXSW in March we saw lots of great ideas – ideas that practically sold themselves. We spoke with some start-up app companies that had over 100,000 downloads in their first month. Another was growing so fast they were figuring out how to hire 50 people in their third month of operations. In these dream scenarios, it’s hard to imagine what more you need to succeed. With a 1500% growth rate, what’s to worry about?

But even lottery winners must face reality at some point. In this case, every business is still a business. No matter what you’re selling, you’ve got books. Records. Processes. If you’re going to succeed, you’ve got to have that stuff organized. The more dynamic and exciting your product is, the more sales you’ll make short-term. The more efficient and consistent you are, the more money you’ll make long-term. While developing efficiency and consistency is generally not as fun as product development and demos, it’s what fortifies the innovation you’re selling.

That’s the bigger picture of what we do. On the surface it looks like IT development strategy integration reliability blah blah blah, but really, it's enabling great ideas to stick around long-term. And that's not to strip those words of their meanings. Strategy, for example, determines the direction and scope of every business process that goes in and out the door. Integration determines if two of the systems you work with daily will actually talk to one another. And if things aren't reliable then you might as well go home and make toast, because your operations are metaphorical toast. We make great ideas into outstanding businesses. That’s what counts!

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency process reliability sxsw development integration it
1 min read

10 Hotspots for Process-Generated Waste: (02) Over/Under-Communicating

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 24, 2011 11:00:00 AM

This is the second installment of a 10-week series. Each Thursday we (a) pinpoint a hotspot, (b) offer context and possible solutions, and (c) ask for answers from the crowd. So, enjoy – and contribute!

There are indeed many ways to miscommunicate. Today’s hotspot is centered around over and under-communication within organizations, located in the business’ main information artery: email.

Over-communication. You all know that person: the one who compulsively “replies all” for the sake of nerve-twitching clarity. Or the companies who send five or 10 or 20 mass emails per day to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Truth is, over-communication puts everyone on too many pages, and can generate a remarkable amount of waste.

It takes time to look at an email. It takes a little more time to measure its relevance to you and determine a course of action in response (reply, archive, delete, etc). A flooded inbox bogs down productivity by generating time waste – so if a message is even marginally irrelevant to someone, it’s probably worth considering whether they should receive it.

Perhaps the biggest problem with over-communication, though, is that it can involve more people in an issue than necessary. Problems are solved most easily when only a few people are working together to fix them – so if a bunch of folks are roped in, the solving process can become complicated. Only pull necessary people into a conversation. A key part of this is having clearly-defined roles within your organization, as well as exact pathsproblems should take as they escalate – or a well-designed, automated issue tracking system.

Under-communication. Here’s the flip-side: an organization that lacks communication paths and therefore communication in general. If employees don’t have clearly-defined roles, methodical issue escalation, or a general perspective of how communication should occur within their organization, problems pop up.

These problems stem from missed details and a lack of clarity, and often generate problems in work production that have to be fixed later (waste). While it’s important not to over-communicate, under-communicating can provoke just as many problems.

YOUR STORIES: When have you seen over- or under-communication in your organization? What problems did it cause, and how were they fixed? Comment below or tweet @praecipio.

Topics: blog bpm business management problem process tips tricks
1 min read

10 Hotspots for Process-Generated Waste: (01) Not Confronting Problems

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 17, 2011 11:00:00 AM

This is the first installment of a 10-week series. Each Thursday we’ll (a) pinpoint a hotspot, (b) offer context and possible solutions, and (c) ask for answers from the crowd. So, enjoy – and contribute!

This one’s easy. Problems that aren’t confronted aren’t fixed. But you’d be surprised how often problems actually go unfixed.

Why? In general, it takes time to fix things. In many instances where this is the case, people recognize there’s a problem but are too busy to devote time to fixing it and prioritize other tasks.

The problem festers. Problems that are noticed have impacted productivity and well-being negatively to some extent, or else they wouldn’t be problems – i.e. employee time (and therefore money) is being wasted. On a small scale – say, in a group of five people – this could cost the company a hundred bucks a month. On a large scale, the loss could fly off the chart. In the larger scenario, we’re talking about a problem that could just be a minor inconvenience for a handful of folks becoming a budget boon for Finance, which will presumably have no knowledge of a problem.

It’s cheaper to fix problems when they come up – even if they take hours to get right.

YOUR STORIES: When have you seen this in your organization? How (and when) did you end up fixing it? Comment below or tweet @praecipio.

Topics: praecipio-consulting blog bpm business finance management problem process tips tricks waste
1 min read

We [Also] Offer SharePoint, Custom Development Services

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 8, 2011 11:00:00 AM

We do SharePoint. So do other companies. We develop custom software and web parts. So do other companies. If you walk outside, you may hear to the cacophony emitting from the rooftops: “Need SharePoint? Custom this? Custom that? Talk to us. Talk to US. TALK TO US!”

We participate in this because we have to. That’s how messages get heard. And now for a cliché marketing statement: we’re different from our competitors. But get past the cliché and consider our competitive advantage:

As a small firm, we’re able to execute our projects with more care and intentionality than most large firms. You’ll be acquainted with most of our team, including our Founder, throughout the course of the project effort – which creates a better sense of commitment and accountability in our relationship with you. Our small team has broad capabilities: whether you need SharePoint hosting, ITIL consulting, custom development, process improvement, …you’ll be working with the same group of people.

As social entrepreneurs, we leverage a unique type of capital in business. Market capitalism is built on such tangibles as land, labor, and financial capital, while social capitalism is built on creative, intellectual, and social capital – and a strong sense of community and involvement in the surrounding community. We strive to be engaged in what’s going on around us, using our resources to respond to the needs of our customers, community, and industry. As both businesses and individuals, we’re responsible for the collective well-being of our communities.

Praecipio Consulting is improving the community by enabling businesses to reduce their process-generated waste – making our environment more sustainable while reducing our clients’ costs. With competitive pricing, diverse capabilities, and a commitment to our services that isn’t based on numbers alone, we offer an experience that’s literally different than what you’ll find out there.

So, need SharePoint? Need custom development? Talk to us. We [also] want to help you.

Topics: praecipio-consulting blog bpm business management process sharepoint waste consulting-services continuous-improvement development itil bespoke
1 min read

The Key to Profitability: Reduce Process-Generated Waste

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 18, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Businesses run off process. They succeed with good process; they flop with bad process. Process is everything. Process is what renders a company efficient, maintainable, or a huge godawful mess.

We’ve said before that the profit’s in the process. It’s true. As a company you may sell the coolest product in the world, with sales topping 1 million per day, and flop due to poorly-built internal processes.

The fact is, processes can generate expensive waste within an organization – waste more costly than what most of us consider our greatest expenses (hardware, space, etc). Take this for example – and note that this is stripped down intentionally and doesn’t account for much of what’s taken into account when improving process. If one process isn’t well-defined, and causes 50 employees to spend 1 hour completing a processes that could take 1 minute, that’s 50 employees x 59 min x (average employee salary ÷ 2080 hrs/yr). Assuming the salary divides to $20/hr, that’s nearly $1,000.00 of waste every time the process is performed. If the process happens daily, that’s 246 days x $1,000.00 ($246,000.00) of waste annually from just one business process. You get the idea.

The key to profitability isn’t just sales or reputation. It’s sustainability inside your business doors – the ability to provide long-term economic well-being to your company. That’s why a part of our mission is to “leverage technology to help businesses do more with less – promoting sustainability by reducing process-generated waste.” It’s the same idea as reduce, reuse, recycle – instead of reducing physical waste to promote a more sustainable environment, reducing process-generated waste (time, money, misc business resources) promotes a more lean, efficient, sustainable business environment.

To summarize: Businesses are made up of thousands of processes. Each process is intimately linked with other processes. If one process is completely inefficient, it impacts other processes negatively – and the costs of inefficiency add up in a sort of domino effect that can be invisible to the business. Ideally, every process should be predictable and repeatable, doing the most with as little resources (time, money, people) as possible. Technology is often how that’s executed successfully – and the more business processes a technology supports, the more valuable it is.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency management process reduce sustainability waste company
3 min read

Don't Let Your Software Dictate Its Own Life

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 11, 2011 11:00:00 AM

It’s natural for us to neglect maintenance. It works like this:

  • You have a problem that needs to be fixed.
  • You neglect the need for awhile because it’s not “bad enough” for you to spend money on it.
  • The problem worsens; the need intensifies. Extra work is done to keep things running.
  • The need is prioritized. But the solution is too expensive.
  • The problem worsens even more. Tons of extra work is done to keep things running.
  • The money spent on temporary solutions nears the total cost of a solution.
  • You purchase a solution to the problem.

Now, after all that trouble, money, and wasted time, the last thing we want to do when we procure a solution is devote work to maintaining it. It’s true with any solution. When you buy a new car, you don’t want to deal with changing brake pads during your first month of ownership. When you fix a problem, you are physically and emotionally pre-disposed to exalt the solution as ultimate redemption and not think about the problem. The problem is fixed. There are no more problems.

But you can’t do this with software, even though every ounce of yourself inclines you to. Even if your business spends $1 million implementing a new do-it-all software solution. No matter how much you paid, the cost doesn’t mean your maintenance / future planning responsibilities don’t have to exist. If you don’t actively ensure your software is:

  • integrating effectively with your business processes,
  • integrating effectively with other software / systems,
  • adapting to future needs,
  • responsibly maintained,
  • used properly by employees,
  • compliant with industry trends and best practices,
  • and kept cost-effective,

…you effectively (and unintentionally) make your software fail. Indeed, in most cases, new software that becomes obsolete to the business within a year of its implementation is often the result of:

  • Misuse / lack of proper training. Employees who lack a knowledge of what the software can do, how it works, and how it improves their work, they won’t be able to see the advantage of using it – and more importantly, they won’t be able to use it right. Document management software, for example, can quickly become messy and disorganized if employees don’t understand how it’s supposed to be used. That’s a major setback to progress – and could create a problem worse than the original one.
  • Poor adoption rates / internal advocacy. Closely relating to misuse, if the solution isn’t “marketed” internally, employee buy-in could flounder. Preparing employees for a solution is a key part of the implementation process. Few people love change, and businesses can’t expect employees to react well if change is spontaneously legislated from their point of view.
  • Lack of integration with business processes. If a software solution doesn’t integrate with business processes, it doesn’t improve an organization. Period. And the more business processes it integrates with, the more valuable it becomes. Great software improves process, and improved process makes the business more profitable by trimming costs.
  • Lack of integration with other software / systems. A single software rarely solves every business problem. Multiple softwares are usually leveraged for different purposes. Since business processes throughout an organization impact one another much like those of a living organism, processes are interdependent. They interact with one another across departmental lines. Process management software will therefore interact with other systems – making integration a must for success.
  • Lack of compliance with industry trends and best practices. Keeping up with software trends is crucial in this day and age. While it’s costly, it keeps your company marketable and ensures access to support services. Adopting a software that was last updated in 2002, for example, will render you irrelevant to the times, which speaks about your organization. Best practices such as ITIL are derived from industry-leading successes. They pave paths of success for others to follow. Staying on the cutting edge and doing it right are required to remain healthy and progressive. Not doing so can leave you in the dust.

Don’t let your software dictate its own life. Planning is as important the day after “go live” as it is the day before. A software that’s prepared for, well-maintained, well-integrated, and supported with forward-thinking will yield the highest long-term ROI to the business.

Topics: blog bpm business management practices process software tips tricks company compliance cost-effective itil organization

Merry Christmas!

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 24, 2010 11:00:00 AM

 

From the Praecipio Consulting team, Merry Christmas! We hope you have an enjoyable Christmas holiday.

We’ll be taking a break from our blog over the next week while we celebrate the holiday, so this is our last post of 2010. Thanks again to all of you who gave us feedback on our posts; we’re glad to hear our blog has offered valuable perspective on IT, BPM, project management, and a host of other enterprise matters. We enjoy helping others, and look forward to blogging more in 2011.

Until next year,
Christian, Joseph, Chris, and Brian…who escaped this photo.

Topics: news blog bpm enterprise management project consulting-services it
2 min read

Good Technology, Good Process, Good Profit

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 24, 2010 11:00:00 AM

We recently heard a traffic analyst from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) speak about traffic analytics. Living in a city with the fourth-worst automobile traffic in the US, the topic was particularly engaging.

The analyst spoke about the need for data management in traffic analytics. Using traffic-counting devices placed strategically along Austin’s freeways, TxDOT collects data at fixed intervals each day. These data points can be programmed to collect relevant data – in this case, average vehicle speed and highway capacity – allowing the business to know more about their problems and facilitating more appropriate solutions. TxDOT’s data points help them analyze Austin traffic patterns and identify consistent problem spots. They can then, with clarity, allocate funding toward the most effective solutions.

On a smaller scale, we spoke with an insurance agent last week who mentioned the wealth of documents he stores online for his firm’s clients. The firm stores every piece of client information in a digital content management suite – which in the insurance practice equals a lot of documents. While the initial process of digitizing client forms and documents might have been tedious, the firm can now intelligently access (or allow their clients to securely access) client information almost instantly. Moreover, the digitization process was designed and tested at the beginning, making the regular digitization tasks repeatable, predictable, and fast – thereby making the business more intelligent.

Businesses have always found ways to make their processes more efficient to improve their bottom line. These examples show us how businesses are doing so with technology – and how footing the bill for it now can earn a healthy ROI later. Whether you’re a large enterprise (like TxDOT) or a small one-shop business (like the insurance agency), technology can help you save cash by saving you work. In the same way organizing your desk may help you be more productive, saving your employer money, organizing your business information may help your business be more productive, saving the business money. And in the same way TxDOT uses data points to identify problem spots, you can use data points to analyze problem spots in your own business.

Process management applies to the business at all ends. And the profit’s in the process. Good technology can improve process; good process can improve profit; good profit is just plain great. For the transportation firm, custom technology prevents them from having to mine through data every time a particular piece of traffic data is needed. For the insurance agency, a well-built content management system (CMS), or a software that holds and manages your business information, saves employees a wealth of time and money by merely making their information easier to find on the fly – in addition to making it available anywhere and reducing overhead.

Good technology, good process. Good process, good profit. We love improving business process – and since it’s relevant anywhere, it’s a little hard to keep our minds off it sometimes…

Want more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency enterprise management process collaboration continuous-improvement data intelligence
1 min read

Rule.fm: A Preliminary Assessment

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 17, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Rule.fm is one of the latest start-up business productivity suites to appear on the map. “Making productivity accessible, affordable, reliable, and fun,” Rule.fm’s capabilities include people, project, document, and time management. More are on the way.

Before we assess Rule.fm, let’s look at business productivity suites in the bigger picture. Every business – or at least every business that’s reading this – probably has a software platform upon which they run their business. Every business is looking for the easiest, simplest, cheapest software to manage it. The key here is integration. While older, more established IT environments may require costly integration between existing systems (Sales vs. HR), companies small enough to use Rule.fm could benefit greatly since it integrates high-level business processes and information. The more a business becomes technologically segmented, the harder it is to manage business information collectively.

A winning software is therefore one that can benefit every part of an organization – putting everyone on the same playing field, but also catering to unique departmental needs. Rule.fm seems to have this in mind. The folks who started Rule.fm emigrated from 37 Signals, which powers Basecamp, Highrise, Campfire, and Backpack – so it’s no surprise they’re developing an application that covers each of the 37 Signals niches…and more.

Rule.fm recently began accepting requests for invites. Their full product launch should occur in the next few months. The capabilities set will be small at first – but Rule.fm will eventually offer a complete sales cycle management tool, ticket requests, Google Docs integration, Google Calendar/iCal integration, a mobile browser, wikis, and more – as seen in their tour.

Rule.fm’s capabilities reflect business productivity software’s need for integration and scalability. When someone says “scalable software” in business, they usually end up discussing Microsoft SharePoint in some capacity – and while Rule.fm doesn’t appear to be scalable or flexible in terms of custom framework development, as SharePoint is, its intuitive interface and capabilities could be valuable to the business looking for a subscription-based solution. It seems like Rule.fm will offer businesses an out-of-the-box solution that doesn’t require additional out-of-the-box solutions.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency enterprise management process project software collaboration
1 min read

Introduction to SharePoint for End-Users

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 10, 2010 11:00:00 AM

There are many browser-based business productivity apps to choose from. Some help you manage projects. Some are accounting tools. Others enable you to share and edit documents. Few applications, however, allow you to do all of the above.

Microsoft SharePoint is one of those tools. And SharePoint doesn’t only do “all of the above” – it handles anything from serving as an address book to automatically finding, logging, and articulating key performance measurements from every area of an enterprise. It’s fully customizable, and lets users build in unique operations that fit their business needs. You can make SharePoint fit you.

Think of SharePoint as a concrete foundation. While other web tools that serve one business need are like pre-built homes, SharePoint is an empty lot upon which you can build whatever is best for you. Why buy seven houses you have to adjust your needs to fit when you could buy one that’s designed to fit you? In this scenario, you can start out with the basic bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen, and build out as your business grows. As your business starts offering more services and acquiring more employees, you can add on metaphorical bedrooms and garages as the needs arise. You can even build a storage shed in the backyard.

SharePoint is a foundation for business that consolidates the things that make your business run – data, documents, processes, collaboration – into one software. It puts every part of your organization on common ground. While an employee in a company’s legal department may use SharePoint to store documents, a developer in IT may use it to create workflow that automatically documents sales transactions in a custom database. The software benefits BPM, CRM, ITSM, and every other kind of “M” by saving employees time.

The take-away here is that SharePoint is a highly-scalable tool that all employees can benefit from by using it for every-day business operations. The more you invest in the software, the more you get out of it – likewise, the more a business invests in SharePoint, the more money it saves over time from using SharePoint to promote efficiency. 

Topics: blog automation bpm business how-to management process project sharepoint
2 min read

SharePoint ROI: It's Up to You

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 6, 2010 11:00:00 AM

ROIs matter most in high-effort, high-impact business decisions. Today, we put SharePoint ROI to the test.

Typically, the ROI from SharePoint depends on how it’s used. As Robert McDowell said in his book In Search of Business Value: “Technology provides no benefits of its own; it is the application of technology to business opportunities that produces ROI.”

There’s always buzz in the BPM world about how great information architecture/content management can drive organizational efficiency. Google’s “Return on Information” (ROI) Whitepaper explains why. Vendors have cited Google’s study to justify out-of-the-box document storage systems, relaying Google’s claim that an average employee spends 16 percent of their week searching for information (compared to Microsoft’s 30% estimate) – and that only one in five searches yields desired results. Companies have flocked to content management solutions to increase efficiency and provide for better project management with version-controlled documents and more organized collaboration. PM solutions like Basecamp have sprouted from this.

SharePoint has shown up as a project management and content management solution. Companies have leveraged SharePoint’s ability to:

  • Manage projects individually using customizable project pages
  • Develop project-specific document libraries with version control
  • Manage tasks/consolidate team collaboration
  • Improve employee productivity
  • Aggregate critical enterprise information
  • Provide fast, easy access to content

While these are legitimate SharePoint benefits, they account for only a fraction of what SharePoint was designed to offer. SharePoint is an enterprise platform. While it can be leveraged as a PM platform, using SharePoint solely for PM isn’t likely to yield the satisfying, long-term ROIs the business is looking for.

The highest SharePoint ROI occurs when the organization realizes SharePoint’s purpose and gradually adopts it as a platform that supports:

  • Content management
  • Process automation
  • Systems integration
  • Custom application development
  • Specific solutions (ex: RFP/Lead Management system for Sales, employee time log system for Accounting)

SharePoint’s options are limitless. The organization can integrate a SharePoint workflow, library, or collaboration portal for just about anything they want.

Today, however, the SharePoint ROI question may not center around how much/how little it will be used. The question is whether to adopt SharePoint or a combination of web-based applications for specific needs – something addressed in Forrester’s assessment of SharePoint 2010 adoption. Quick-fix 2.0 apps are the make-or-break factor here. While SharePoint has evolved over the last decade, it failed to keep up with the enterprise’s leveraging of social computing.

This issue, however, comes back to the original question: why are you using SharePoint? If you’re in the market for an out-of-the-box, quick-fix project management system, then a web-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) that integrates well with collaborative software is a great solution. If you’re looking for something that integrates well with existing systems and provides for better performance measurement over time, you’re clearly batting in a different ballpark. The ways you measure ROI for these two options are different.

We usually expect out-of-the-box, SaaS solutions to have better adoption rates (they look pretty), and therefore a faster ROI. We can measure its success by how much it improves productivity. SharePoint, however, is not a quick fix. In this way, adopting SaaS is like renting an apartment – you get what you need on a monthly basis, but you can’t knock down any walls or add that new patio you’ve been wanting. Adopting SharePoint is like building a custom home – you start off with an empty lot, and design and build the house to fit your wants and needs. And if you get tired of the linoleum floors you put in the kitchen, no problem. It’s your house. Rip ‘em up!

The ROI of SharePoint is up to you.

Topics: blog bpm enterprise management process project sharepoint saas collaboration
2 min read

The ROI of BPM: A Realistic Approach

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 22, 2010 11:00:00 AM

If you search for “ROI of BPM” in Google, you’ll find a host of ROI calculators and links that will “MAXIMIZE” your BPM ROI. The query results are no surprise. ROI matters most in BPM – it’s the bottom line.

There’s little doubt that most BPM initiatives generate a positive ROI. A recent Gartner study found that 80 percent of enterprises conducting BPM projects will experience an internal rate of return (IRR) better than 15 percent. The study took responses from 20 companies that had completed 154 BPM projects, and 95 percent of the companies experienced more than a 90 percent success rate among their BPM projects.

Successful BPM projects use process automation to make the business more efficient – allowing it to quickly respond to changing market conditions. That efficiency yields savings. The more savings there are, the higher the ROI – and the higher the ROI, the happier the stakeholders.

The problem with ROI, however, is that it doesn’t benefit the entire enterprise at once. Most successful BPM projects involve multiple tangents of the enterprise: IT, Sales, Legal Matters, Marketing. Each department has their own processes, and therefore their own BPM solutions. While the BPM automation software being leveraged by Legal Matters may improve efficiency by 30 percent in its first week, Sales may not see improvement until the beginning of the next sales cycle. BPM success occurs on a case-by-case basis.

The truth is, large-scale investments are sensitive projects. If you’re putting a large sum of cash into a solution, you expect success – and may feel anxious or sensitive until you have tangible results to ease your nerves. If another department experiences immediate results after deployment, it will be difficult to maintain your confidence in your own solution. The discomfort is only natural.

That discomfort, however, shouldn’t distract anyone from the facts of the matter. The facts remain that BPM impacts individual processes differently. The variables are these:

  • Complexity of the process. Some processes have two steps, some have 20.
  • Complexity of the solution. Tailoring a solution to fit perfectly takes time.
  • Employee buy-in. A solution only works if people use it…
  • Training/understanding and adoption rates. Most people are creatures of habit, and naturally opposed to change. Teaching people how to use new software eases nerves and builds confidence, increasing adoption rates.
  • Technological integration. Ensuring that multiple systems agree with one another can be a tedious process.
  • Sales climate. The less business, the less active processes. Success rates and savings figures may correlate with overall revenue in a fast-changing market.
  • The process itself. Some processes are done hourly, some monthly. You can guess which one will produce results and savings more quickly.

Additionally, it’s sometimes difficult to see ROI in the shadows of the BPM project’s cost. The business will be searching for financial fruit as soon as solutions have been planted, but the savings may not offset the cost for a year or more in some cases. A $200,000 project that yields $100,000 in savings annually won’t hit the black for two years – but will yield $300,000 in five years’ time.

The ROI of BPM, therefore, is very subjective. In the end, a successful BPM implementation will yield savings to the entire organization, department by department, year by year – offering more agile solutions than simply maximizing productivity.

Patience, perseverance, and perspective ensure success…

Topics: blog automation bpm business efficiency enterprise management process roi value collaboration it
2 min read

Leveraging Technology to Drive Intelligence

By Praecipio Consulting on May 10, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Richard Veryard’s thought-provoking powerpoint “Technologies for Organizational Intelligence” claims that intelligent organizations:

  • recognize that business opportunities are complex
  • respond to them coherently
  • pay attention to weak and strong signs of inefficiencies for the purpose of collective learning and innovation

Veryard stresses later that intelligence is vital to a business’ survival. That idea should not sound revolutionary, but provokes one to question if businesses frequently consider how well they’re working to understand themselves and improve their knowledge and efficiency in order to grow.

This is highly relevant in the context of IT Service Management (ITSM) – an introspective, process-focused approach to managing IT systems. IT professionals who care about ITSM try to stay informed about technology advances, ways to improve customer experience, and align IT with business needs. It’s the duty of those in ITSM to maintain and promote a healthy, innovative IT environment that fuels the innovative capabilities of the business as a whole.

Those ambitions correlate closely with the actions Veryard attributes to intelligent organizations. He exalts a sort of “collective learning and innovation,” in which those in the business continually collaborate in order to learn more about how they do things. Fixing problems and developing innovative ideas are both natural products of this introspection. Each, in turn, impact the end product offered to customers.

While it may be difficult at times to devote attention to efficiency, it’s vital to the continued growth of a business. After all, those who fail to fix their problems and innovate aren’t the ones we talk about ten years down the road.

So, how does a business make sure they’re “intelligent”? Veryard lists quite a few ways, including:

  • Understanding that business environments are complex
  • Approaching problems with rational, collective solutions
  • Employing people and technology that works well together

The third remedy is the primary concern of ITSM. IT can build a foundation for organizational intelligence by implementing an enterprise-level platforming technology that can facilitate collaboration within the organization – especially if the platform is adopted across the entire enterprise.

Without an effective, efficient technology that integrates well with a business’ existing software, the collective effort toward ITSM growth is kept on the ground. Frequently gathering information that paints an accurate picture of performance requires predictable, repeatable processes that can be technologically executed. Such a technology drives consistent progress toward efficiency and innovation – and serves as part of the backbone of an intelligent organization.

As Veryard said in his presentation, intelligence is vital to survival. As introspective folks with technological literacy, those in ITSM can have a profound impact on the progress of their organization by leveraging technology to build an intelligent business.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business enterprise library management process technology value collaboration continuous-improvement information infrastructure intelligence itil itsm operations
2 min read

The Centralized Process Repository: Promoting Enterprise Efficiency

By Praecipio Consulting on May 3, 2010 11:00:00 AM

If you’re a large enterprise, you may be using different applications and processes to support local, national, and global initiatives. On those different levels, separate applications may be needed to manage unique sales, marketing, or IT processes.

The difference in processes, methodologies, and application tools may lead to inefficiencies in management, such as:

  1. Higher cost of managing multiple applications
  2. Lack of consistent governing structure
  3. Inconsistent or incomplete performance measurements

A typical enterprise cannot usually leverage one application for sales, marketing, and IT purposes. Using multiple applications to manage different internal and customer-related processes is in most cases necessary to ensure efficiency and quality customer service. The problem, therefore, is not that the enterprise has too many applications to manage – but that the enterprise cannot effectively manage all of them without some sort of centralized documentation of each application’s attributes and processes.

Without a central location for application-based data, data gets stored at seemingly random locations throughout the enterprise’s storage and resource structure. While process and metric information about an enterprise’s European sales resides on one server, information about their European customer support system may reside somewhere else. This stratification and distance between processes can cause a number of problems in terms of efficiency:

  • Difficult to apply Change Management to all enterprise applications
  • Difficult to access application information at any given point
  • Difficult to measure the efficiency of each application to ensure quality performance
  • Difficult to identify and diagnose problems in a timely manner
  • Difficult to understand how different business processes affect one another

This explains the need for a Centralized Process Repository. As we noted in our previous post, a Centralized Process Repository (CPR) is critical to the success of the enterprise’s process strategy. It stores the following information about each of the enterprise’s applications at the process level:

  1. Resources required (software, equipment, personnel)
  2. Cost (direct and indirect)
  3. Owners and stakeholders
  4. Applications enabled by the process
  5. Separate processes effected or supported by the process
  6. Data points that measure the process’ value to the organization
  7. Frequency of execution
  8. Details regarding how the processes is carried out

The enterprise may not be able to consolidate their applications into one larger application. They may also be unable to devote time to improving each one individually. Adopting a CPR, however, establishes a consistent framework for governing each application by consolidating all process data into one accessible location – requiring any change to a process to be documented by a governing entity. This ensures the accurate measurement of process performance, since performance data points and change updates are stored in one reliable location.

The CPR improves an enterprise’s process performance by maintaining the information needed to measure, improve, and control business processes. We emphasize this to our clients to ensure their success as an efficient enterprise. In addition, the CPR promotes an understanding of the cross-functional nature of the enterprise’s processes – encouraging cross-departmental collaboration by focusing on the relationships between internal processes, end-to-end.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency management process services tips tricks value change continuous-improvement operations
2 min read

SharePoint Enterprise-Level BPM Tool

By Praecipio Consulting on Apr 13, 2010 11:00:00 AM

As we’ve noted in previous posts, BPM enables businesses to map, analyze, and test business processes in order to make them more predictable, repeatable, and efficient. An enterprise can assume they’ll accomplish those goals by leveraging BPM software from EMC, Lombardi, or Savvion…but with Microsoft SharePoint? Isn’t that for enterprise collaboration and document management?

A recent Forrester report found that 47 percent of 220 IT decision-makers said SharePoint serves as their organization’s “business process management platform” – ahead of competitive products from EMC, Lombardi, Savvion, IBM, and Oracle. That number comes as a surprise to BPM vendors, since Microsoft touts SharePoint as a collaboration tool, not a BPM product.

SharePoint has proven itself as a successful Microsoft product, bringing in $1.3 billion in revenue in 2008 alone. Forrester’s report said that number has grown 25 percent annually. Though their poll indicated that SharePoint is faring decently as a BPM suite, Forrester said SharePoint is better fitted for BPM if augmented with other BPM tools.

That’s not to say SharePoint can’t be leveraged as a BPM tool. Though SharePoint isn’t an out-of-the-box BPM suite, customers may take advantage of SharePoint’s robust, flexible platform by building in a custom BPM suite of their own.

However, most companies don’t have the time or capability to carry out such a project. In this case, they opt for a solution from BPM leaders that’s ready to roll.

The fact that 47 percent of IT leaders are confident in SharePoint as a BPM platform validates the speculation that some have built upon SharePoint’s foundation to make a powerful BPM tool. To be sure, SharePoint can streamline business processes by facilitating process automation with decision-based workflows – and can capture and monitor process metrics from data points placed intentionally throughout business processes. Those capabilities ensure long-term process efficiency, if properly nurtured over time.

We’ve leveraged SharePoint for ourselves and for our clients as both a collaboration tool and BPM suite. Using SharePoint for both is entirely possible – and remarkably powerful. Pulling such a feat off in-house, however, is challenging and sometimes impossible.

Nevertheless, leveraging SharePoint for collaboration and BPM can lead to more consistent decision making across the entire business long-term. It can also promote more accurate and organized data in each department of the enterprise that buys in to the tool.

When it comes to out-of-the-box software vs. foundation software, the software that serves as a concrete slab for a custom home usually wins out long-term due to its flexibility and customizable nature. That makes SharePoint a legitimate contender in the BPM market.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog automation bpm business efficiency enterprise management predicatability process sharepoint value collaboration lifecycle
2 min read

4 Misconceptions of Process Automation

By Praecipio Consulting on Apr 8, 2010 11:00:00 AM

By nature, process automation involves taking away human tasks and executing them with technology. Naturally, people can be sensitive to automated processes. They may become insecure about their job if they think tasks will be taken away from them.

These sensitivities and insecurities, however, aren’t always legitimate. They can be lessened if everyone involved in adopting process automation understood its purpose and benefit to the business.

Here are 4 misconceptions of process automation:

1. Process automation will replace me with a machine.
In truth, very rarely do workflows replace an entire human position within an organization. As we also say in Workflows 101, workflows execute non-value-adding steps that don’t involve highly-complex decisions, which require human effort.

Non-value-adding steps usually include tasks like organizing, filing, labeling, etc. Value-adding steps include content generation, customer interaction, and service development.

Ideally, each person within an organization will use their skills to add value to company services, or deliver value to customers. The business needs to be productive and efficient to maintain profit, and wants to ensure that employee time is being used efficiently – toward value-adding steps.

2. Process automation will increase mistakes.
Surely a computer can’t make better decisions than a human, right?

Actually, the decisions a computer makes are determined by humans. Workflow decision criteria is developed by folks who’ve studied how the organization operates in detail and determined which business processes could be automated – in part or in whole. Any mistake a workflow makes results from a flaw in decision logic – or something the logic couldn’t account for.

To make sure workflows remain useful over time, they should be observed regularly to ensure their logic and performance are effective. Workflows usually require tweaking as processes change to maintain success.

3. Process automation can’t do this as well as I can.
Again, that’s not the point. Workflows don’t perform tasks that you could do “well” as opposed to others. They weed out tasks that can be executed electronically to make employee productivity more efficient – saving the business money.

4. The implementation of a process automation system is too expensive to consider.
Yes, the implementation may be expensive – and may require you to purchase a software platform that can facilitate workflow technology.

But the worry here isn’t about the up-front cost. It’s about the ROI. The goal of process automation is to save a business time and money as months go by. A successful workflow implementation can make profit soar over time due to the time and energy saved by workflows.

We hope this gives you a clear take on what process automation means for business. Take a look at Workflows 101 more information.

Topics: blog automation bpm business management process process-consulting tips tricks value continuous-improvement operations
1 min read

Business Process Management Success

By Praecipio Consulting on Mar 3, 2010 11:00:00 AM

At the center of every business are the employees who support a company’s success by performing necessary daily processes. In order to succeed, however, employees need to work together in an organized, effective manner, with a sophisticated understanding of how their processes operate and relate to one another. Without it, business process may be rendered inefficient.

To improve your business from a business process management (BPM) perspective, you must first document how processes are carried out within your company through process mapping. Mapping out your processes creates an organized understanding of how work is carried out in your company—the first step toward business efficiency.

The next step is implementing a software tool to capture and store these processes for you. Process management software—specifically software like Microsoft SharePoint— allows you to capture this process data from key data points and store it in a common database for employee access.

Once your processes are mapped, defined, and digitally documented with process management software, you can then build workflows into those processes that allow selected steps within them to be executed automatically. Process automation, or workflow automation, has an incredible impact on business efficiency by speeding up a process in an organized, methodical way.

For example:

  • Your business receives an order
  • Order is automatically sent to a processing clerk and stored on server
  • Order validation is handled automatically according to predetermined decision criteria (yes, no, pend)
  • Order travels down different paths according to decision criteria

Workflow-based processes also allow process management software to collect real-time information on employee performance. By embedding data collection points in workflows, employers can view dynamic data that makes it possible to gain a high-level perspective on company performance.

This describes our process management consulting capabilities in a nutshell: we help companies transition toward refined processes that can be repeated and monitored, making businesses more efficient and profitable long-term.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog automation bpm business management process tips tricks value lifecycle
2 min read

EPB.net: Our Project Management Skills at Work

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 25, 2010 11:00:00 AM

With the help of our project management, Microsoft SharePoint, and Business Process Management services, the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB) debuts its new site: EPB.net. EPB is actively building a 100 percent fiber-optic Smart Grid. Their new site will serve as an innovative communication platform for their 160,000+ customers.

EPB.net, designed and developed by Chattanooga-based Medium, follows the August 2009 release of EPBFI.com– designed to engage EPB customers with the company’s upcoming fiber optic service packages. EPB.net features a handful of new customer-focused tools, including a real-time power outage map developed by Medium—an outstanding partner in the project.

We helped because we understand Enterprise-level environments and the way they operate as well as the critical nature of their services.  We helped vendors and the client because we know how to navigate the corporate setting.

We were able exercise our flexibility by marrying our project management methodologies with the Medium Information Architecture methodology. That flexibility, in addition to our leverage of SharePoint as a project management tool, ensured accurate communication and scheduling between Medium and EPB during the EPB.net project. We understand how enterprise-level environments operate and the critical nature of their services. Our team’s knowledge of how to effectively navigate the corporate setting guided Medium and EPB toward organized progress, and made sure EPB’s goals were accomplished on the new site.

“The Praecipio Consulting team served as an advocate to vendors for what I saw this project being,” EPB Vice President of Corporate Communications Danna Bailey said. “They greatly improved the efficiency of the project; we couldn’t have done it without them.”

We facilitated EPB’s success by ensuring all parties involved in the project had what they needed to succeed. We’re happy to announce the launch of another Praecipio Consulting project management success: EPB.net.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm assessments business management optimization process process-consulting project value consulting-services
3 min read

SharePoint vs. Google Wave vs. Basecamp

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 1, 2010 11:00:00 AM

[important note, as of 4 Sept 2010: Google Wave will not be available as an end-user application after 31 December 2010.]

People have the tendency to judge a software by its user interface (UI).

Think about it. Most users probably don’t care about your network protocols or what your server topology is. Those users will, however, think it’s awesome to drag and drop documents and pictures from location to location. Most folks are used to this since most of them interact with Facebook, Twitter, and all the like. They’ll probably think it’s cool.

Since we use SharePoint to execute most of our services, it has been brought to our attention many times that the current version of SharePoint lags heavily in UI from this perspective, unless you do a load of custom development work for the sole purpose of aesthetic improvement. SharePoint 2010 is promising a well-crafted UI improvement, in addition to a handful of Outlook revisions– but for now, SharePoint users may still gripe about the lack of 2.0 usability. They may venture to ask “how will SharePoint fare once Google Wave is released?”

Google Wave is not a competitor of SharePoint. It is not comparable to enterprise collaboration software. Wave will, as an open source development platform, bring great innovations that may be integrated into the SharePoint– but doesn’t have the scope of capabilities (process automation, workflow execution, data repository) SharePoint has to improve enterprise collaboration. Perhaps the employees griping about SharePoint’s “Windows 98-like interface” need to learn a bit more about what their software actually does.

If Wave should be compared to anything, it should be compared to Microsoft Outlook. It’s a collaborative space to exchange messages and files, and functions chiefly as an evolution of what we know as email.

Some of Wave’s key promises:

  • Open source: Wave code will be open source, to, in Google’s words, “foster innovation and adoption amongst developers.”
  • Wiki functionality: Anything written in a wave can be edited by an authorized person. You can correct information or add your own commentary within a developing conversation.
  • “Embeddability:” Waves can be embedded into any blog or website.
  • Applications and Extensions: Just like a Facebook application, developers can build their own apps within “waves.”
  • “On-the-fly” translation: Google Wave can translate sentences into other languages as you type them. It can also correct your spelling as you write.
  • Drag-and-drop file sharing: No attachments; just drag your file and drop it inside Google Wave and everyone will have access.

Wave’s integration of feeds and UI capabilities are without a doubt impressive. Their innovative HTML 5 capabilities may very well be integrated into software like SharePoint down the road. But the purpose of Wave is not to compete in the enterprise collaboration market. Their purpose is to revolutionize the way people collaborate online through real-time, open-source technology.

But what about Basecamp? It’s an undeniably effective project management tool that we endorse for pure project management purposes. But how does it fare against Wave and SharePoint?

It doesn’t. At least not in the way most think it does. All three of these tools can facilitate project management. All three, however, are ultimately very different.

  • Basecamp is a superb project management tool if you’re looking for an easy-to-use tool that integrates well with social networking and mobile phones, offers online storage of documents for collaboration, and connects those working on a project in an organized way. These capabilities are remarkably value for project efficiency; Basecamp’s built a great tool. If you’re looking for anything outside of these capabilities, though, you’re looking in the wrong place.
  • Wave, as we’ve said, is an evolution of email. It’s open-source nature and real-time abilities offer superb capabilities that can be used inside Wave or dropped into other sites. Wave isn’t as project management-focused as Basecamp, however, and doesn’t compare to SharePoint either.
  • SharePoint, borrowing Microsoft’s words, “helps improve organizational effectiveness by providing comprehensive content management and enterprise search, accelerating shared business processes, and facilitating information-sharing across boundaries for better business insight.” SharePoint is a content management server that allows for the custom development of workflows for process automation. It’s an enterprise collaboration and IT platform. It’s not Basecamp or Google Wave.

So: Wave, Basecamp, or SharePoint? Our answer is… yes.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Photo by Brian Nunnery, Praecipio Consulting.

Topics: blog automation bpm business enterprise google management process project sharepoint value wave collaboration continuous-improvement it lifecycle operations
1 min read

CPR Keeps Your Efficiency Alive

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 22, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Documenting performance tactics, improvements, and process methodology is considered a standard practice in business. The information documents ways a firm has improved its business processes over time, and how those processes can be applied to the daily execution of tasks. Spreadsheets, docs, and presentations should populate the collection. If updated regularly, the information serves as a reference when it’s needed—but is only successful if the information is timely and easily accessible.

The information described above should be considered a core asset to the firm. As a core asset, the information should be used daily to explain how and why the processes we use today work. If a firm’s operations are remarkably efficient, that efficiency should be explained with conceptual and metric information. The information should be an instant reference for employees.

Since instant access is the only way to achieve efficiency in the digital age, bookshelf-binder documentation won’t ensure success. A centralized process repository (CPR) will.

A CPR stores this information electronically, and should be active in reporting, monitoring, and managing business processes. They should constantly collect knowledge from employees, creating a reference system by merely holding the documents employees use daily to execute their projects. Ideally, the CPR provides information about:

  • The definition of each process
  • How the process is applied
  • Who is responsible for executing it
  • Inputs and outputs

…and information about how to measure their success and improve their steps.

Making the repository accessible at any time, with only a few clicks ensures efficiency. We believe centralizing information can lead to less complication and clearer information flow. It’s instantly profitable. Process-driven workspaces with document storage and automation abilities give firms the ability to centralize their data and use a central location to collaborate on projects and daily tasks. The CPR accomplishes this in any industry.

We emphasize to clients that well-defined processes identify conceptual or metric information worth capturing. When captured, this information can yield valuable decision-making information—a lifeline for success. Not to be cheesy, but this is where the acronym CPR gets its meaning. The centralized information repository literally keeps a business’ efficiency alive, without the mouth-to-mouth.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog automation bpm business efficiency enterprise management process sharepoint value collaboration lifecycle
3 min read

The Consulting Relationship: How the Client and Consultant Achieve Success

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 12, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Who ultimately determines the success of a technology consulting project? The consultant? The client’s primary contact? The client’s employees? One might say the consultant is ultimately responsible for their improvement’s success or failure, since he or she designed it. Another could contest this, saying the primary contact is equally responsible since they usually approve or disapprove of the design and ensures the adoption of the technology in their firm. But what about the employees? They’re usually the ones using the technology, so don’t they determine whether the consulting venture bears fruit for the client?

This illustration proves that all three parties determine the success or failure of a consulting project.

  • The consultant provides a successful set of solutions, best practices, and frameworks to the firm
  • The primary contact acts as a liaison between the consultant and the firm
  • The employees, after training, apply and execute the solution and make it successful

Consulting should involve a positive, collaborative relationship between these three parties. Within this relationship, success is won or lost by how effective and organized the three parties communicate with each other. We believe communication in this context should be clear, concise, and supportive. Since the client’s employees are the ones who make our solutions worthwhile to our client, their engagement and well-being are important to us.

Here are some ways we promote effective communication in our service:

Marketing our service or product to our client’s employees early
As soon as the consultant and primary contact agree to begin working together, employees should know. Let them know change is coming early so they won’t be surprised when it does come—without making any promises you can’t keep. Telling employees when and why the change is needed, and how the change will happen early will ideally squash any false rumors and make employees valuable.

It may be useful in this early phase to gather feedback from employees on the desired change, to better engage employees in the consulting process and make them feel like they had a hand in deciding what the solution would look like, since they’re the ones who will use it. As consultants, we’re pleased when our client’s employees are engaged in our process.

We engage our client’s employees in our 5-step integrated delivery methodology, guiding our client through the Discovery, Design, Development, Activation, and Transfer of their solution. For example, during the Discovery step, we work with employees to map out our client’s business processes. Employees often help us pinpoint process problem areas like bottlenecks, capacity issues, delays, or waste. We then work with employees to create a solid base for developing process solutions. In the Design and Development steps, we work with employees to identify a process’ input and output sources (data points), allowing us to tailor our solution to fit our client’s processes.

Let employees get their hands on it
This too helps employees engage in the consulting process. Playing with the technology a firm is preparing to implement will help them learn to use it ahead of time, and will theoretically speed up their performance once they officially start using the solution in their business processes.

Spend time educating employees
While the employees can play with the technology ahead of time, they probably won’t have the time or ambition to “read the manual.” A training session(s) not only teaches employees how to use the technology, but helps reinforce the purpose of the change and answer any questions employees may have about the technology. Ensuring employees know how and why to use new solution to improve business process is essential to its success, no matter the cost of company time.

Celebrate and communicate success before, during, and after the project
A consultancy is a major business venture. A firm hires a consultant to give them a solution that will improve their performance and financial efficiency so much that it will not only offset the cost of the consultancy, but will yield a significant return long-term. Client management and employees each understand the risks and returns involved in such a venture; success is the only outcome that ensures the client’s are met by the consultant.

Project ROI’s aren’t always visible right away. Even if they are, not all employees involved in the consulting process will encounter them. There’s usually a lot of sensitivity around consulting projects, since the firm is paying a third party to implement an important solution for them. During and after the project, everyone involved will be carrying around binoculars looking for a sign that validates the money they’re spending.

With this in mind, communicating success to everyone involved in the project is essential. The client rightfully wants to know they’re getting what they’re paying for—something that will make them more efficient and profitable. Success not only boosts morale. It qualifies and legitimizes the project, and solidifies the client’s expectation of success.

Pay attention to how employees use the service or product
Remember, a client’s employees ultimately determine the success of a consultant’s solution. The amount of energy they put into adopting a solution, learning how it works, and integrating it into their daily operations determines whether the solution will improve a client’s business processes—and in turn their profitability.

We value our relationships with our clients. Practicing these values ensures our clients’ success and ability to accomplish their business goals on the shoulders of their employees.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog automation bpm assessments business efficiency management optimization practices process process-consulting value consulting-services
1 min read

Jira as a Collaborative Software?

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 11, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Atlassian’s Jira has proven itself a leader in the issue tracking market in the last five years.

With 12,000 customers in over 100 countries, Jira allows enterprises to record and monitor every issue a user identifies until the issue is resolved from an innovative, customizable interface. It allows users to track issues through a wide variety of contextual filters. It makes issue tracking easy and efficient.

But considering Jira a collaborative software? Surely you can’t be serious.

Consider Jira’s project management capabilities. The Jira user can browse projects and measure progress by viewing:

  • Recent changes to issue status
  • Charts and reports articulating recently changed statuses, recently viewed issues, etc
  • Planning/task boards for project management via GreenHopper.

GreenHopper allows the Jira user to keep up with tasks (issues, requirements, user stories, and virtually anything you want) by representing each task as a color-coded on-screen index card. Each card estimates and describes the effort required to complete each task, and can be dragged around the screen for customized organization.

Jira’s GreenHopper also offers users the Sprint Planning Board and Charting Progress to keep employees on the same page.

Employees using Jira can constantly update the progress of a variety of tasks. That kind of clarity– always having a go-to, updated project status– is worth its weight in gold in the scope of Business Process Management (BPM) due to its efficiency. It’s accomplished with collaboration through Jira software.

Jira’s collaborative abilities only raise the appeal it’s built on its issue tracking capabilities. While it’s not a SharePoint/document sharing-type tool, we consider it a valuable tool for enterprise collaboration in issue tracking.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: jira blog bpm business efficiency enterprise management process project value collaboration continuous-improvement operations
1 min read

Collaborative Software in Simple English

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 11, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Processes are what make or break businesses. Process management is therefore a very big deal. In this blog, we’ll explain the very basic nature of collaborative software and how it can aid in process management—specifically task management.

Each process, of course, is made up of tasks that add value to inputs and ultimately impact the output (the product). As we’ve always said: if you put garbage into a process, you can expect to get garbage out of it. Garbage in, garbage out. If you put quality in up front…you get the point.

Keeping track of tasks is very much important. Whose task is this? Which tasks should I be working on? Too often process breakdowns occur when these questions come up and there’s not a one-stop-shop for clarity. That’s why collaboration software is so important.

Skipping irrelevant attributes, collaboration software can help employees communicate about a project or process almost instantly. The key advantage? Employees can collaborate without having to be in the same place. Using an integrated interface of email, chat, and file sharing, collaboration software consolidates communication into a single location for clarity and efficiency—accessible online. That’s an increase to business value.

Without using collaboration software, information gets scattered into different locations: a chat thread, an email conversation, a Post-It note. Process status updates are also scattered among these mediums, and truly knowing what the status is on an iteration of a process is significantly more time-consuming.

Collaborative software provides an instantly accessible home for project to-do lists. A key detail: customization. You can assign tasks to specific people, and easily rig the software up to notify an employee if they’re selected for a task. You can also group tasks according to projects and processes, and give selective access to employees. If you’re assigned a task, you can update the progress of your task so anyone checking the task list will be able to know where you are—keeping everyone on the same page. That is the basic idea of collaborative software.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency enterprise google management process software value wave collaboration
2 min read

Wave as a Customer Support Platform

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 4, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Businesses are already taking advantage of Google Wave’s wide-open door of innovative opportunities. This blog highlights Wave’s ability to support client needs and solve real customer service issues.

Wave is capable of allowing customers to interact with automated support robots produced by their service providers to help guide customers to answers to their issues. Billed as the next generation of collaborative software, Wave is—in this instance—allowing customers with problems to collaborate with support teams instantly.

When a customer contacts their provider’s support tool via Wave, an instance may be automatically generated in the provider’s issue tracking system. Human-to-human interaction is not necessary at first, since an automated support robot may be designed to reply to the customer’s Wave with relevant support articles based on the customer’s input. If the customer is not led to information needed to solve the issue, they may (at any time) choose to engage in a dialogue with a company representative. These operations are executed behind the scenes by the robot, thanks to appropriate coding.

When an issue is solved, a company may easily extract Wave’s support dialogue and embed it into the issue’s archive in their issue tracking software. It’s almost to good to be true. For example, Issue 92A is listed in a company’s issue tracking server—complete with its submission time, status reports, etc. In addition to this key data, the entire dialogue with the customer can be embedded into the records.

Mashable recently featured a post highlighting Salesforce’s use of Wave to save clients money on customer service support while actively tracking issues.

The technology and coding methods necessary to execute something like this are being shared more publicly. After all, Google wanted Wave to run off user-generated content. They’ve already generated a Wave developer’s guide to walk you through what it takes to use Wave for…well, whatever you want to. There may even be a way for Wave to make you coffee.

The team at Praecipio Consulting is ready to tailor Wave to fit any process, project management, issue tracking, or collaborative model you need to make your business more efficient and innovative. Wave’s just emerging into enterprise collaboration. Now is the perfect time to gain an innovative edge over competitors with Wave technology.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business enterprise google issues management process project services tracking wave collaboration incident-management
1 min read

Jira and Confluence: Hand-in-Hand Collaboration

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 3, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Atlassian claims Jira and Confluence were “designed to complement each other.” What some don’t realize, however, is how easy and convenient this integration really is.

Confluence has proven itself as an effective project management tool, flexing its muscles as an innovative wiki allowing users to create and share rich content. Jira manages workflows and tracks issues in a well-designed, coherent user interface (UI).

For IT professionals using Jira to track issues, Confluence provides a fertile ground to collect a team’s knowledge. In Confluence, the team may collaborate by embedding Jira content (including graphics) into a collaboration space—and easily link Confluence and Jira pages. They may also embed Confluence pages into Jira. The 3-minute explanation shows you everything you need to know.

The embedding process is remarkably easy. We believe teams using Jira and Confluence can bank on this integration, from a project management perspective.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: jira blog bpm business confluence efficiency enterprise issues library management process services technology tracking collaboration incident-management information infrastructure itil
2 min read

Wave's Consolidation of Shared Information is a Major Time-Saver

By Praecipio Consulting on Oct 29, 2009 11:00:00 AM

The conceptually adventurous software Google Wave has been a hot topic lately. Talk of its arrival is almost as popular as talk of health care reform. Seems that Google Wave– which has only granted 100,000 invitations to its beta version– is being touted as a solution not only for enterprise collaboration, but also for project management. Unofficial Wave rumors also claim the software could cure the common cold.

There are still many folks asking “what is Wave?”

Google claims to have “re-thought” the concept of email when creating Wave. This is significant to our understanding of what Wave actually is. To unpack that a bit, imagine you send an email to your boss about a new project you’re working on—say, a marketing campaign for the new vehicle you’re manufacturing. You propose ideas for the campaign, and your boss replies with his ideas. You then reply with an attached PDF, but later realize a co-worker should be in on the conversation too. You forward her the thread and CC your boss, but your boss replies to your original reply, and you have to forward this message to your co-worker and CC your video-maker too.

This is exactly why Google wanted to re-think the concept of email—this hypothetical email conversation mutated into an unorganized, haphazard muck of messages. Wave centralizes each conversation into one “wave,” allowing you to rope in whoever needs to be involved in the wave by a drag-and-drop of the mouse. If a new person is invited to the wave later on, they can use Google’s “playback” tool to walk them through the conversation that’s already taken place and get up to speed. Documents may also be attached at any time by dragging and dropping.

Clearly, Google Wave is an evolution of standard email. It’s a more advanced model for collaboration.
Wave is also open-sourced. Google was pleased to announce this at their Wave demo a few months back. A number of Wave widgets are already in the works, including a widget allowing you to click on a Wave and immediately initiate a conference call with everyone in the Wave.

Now, all of this leads us to ask: “what can Wave do for my business?”

First, we don’t know yet. Nobody does. Like many other innovations (Twitter, for example), we won’t truly know how Wave may best be used until we actually try using it. With this said, we do have some great applications in mind to extend the functionality of the products and processes we work with.

Second, we’ve preliminarily concluded that Wave could have a profound impact on time efficiency within an organization—specifically in regard to internal collaboration and project management. Wave is presenting a solution to the seconds we waste getting lost in email messes like the one we mentioned earlier. You can probably think of a few similar examples yourself. Wave’s consolidation of shared information is worthy of praise, but is Wave’s solution advantageous enough for a company to implement it? That’s debatable.

Thankfully, Wave offers additional time-saving solutions, and has potential to change the face of business process management (BPM). Most current BPM tools have been known to lack easy-to-use features, centralized collaboration (intimately rooted in email clients), and real-time collaboration. Wave will make internal (employee to employee) and external (business to customer/client) collaboration a breeze, consolidating shared information inside an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand UI.

Will Wave benefit your business? Praecipio Consulting’s stance: we’re going to invest in Google Wave. We think it will revolutionize collaboration and communications. With Google’s embracing of federation and open source we can use it to extend the capabilities of current BPM and collaborative systems/software like SharePoint, JIRA, etc.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency enterprise management process technology wave collaboration information lifecycle
2 min read

All About Release Management...Version 1.0

By Praecipio Consulting on Sep 7, 2009 11:00:00 AM

ITIL’s Release Management process bears a striking resemblance to ITIL Change Management—in fact, one could fairly consider Release Management to be a directly supportive process to Change Management. Release Management focuses on the practical need for organized coordination in the change process. It’s meant to ensure that changes are implemented in accordance to business needs and concurrent IT Service Management processes.

Release Management more specifically applies to changes to a “live” environment—that is, a working software or hardware environment (a word processor, email interface, software application, etc) that’s active, being used internally or externally. Release management protects these live environments by regulating the release of new configuration items; it uses the ITIL framework to control and monitor the flow of upgrades into live environments, where each upgrade is considered a “release.”

To more clearly illustrate this concept, consider these three levels of releases to a live environment—using the fictional email service “Mockingbird Version 1.0″ as an example:

  • Major Releases introduce completely new functions to a service, drastically improving the service’s capabilities. Major Releases advance the version number by a full numerical increment—for example, Mockingbird Version 1.0 advances to Mockingbird Version 2.0.
  • Minor Releases introduce fixes for known problems into the baseline technology of a service. Such changes would reflect themselves numerically by advancing the version number of a service by the first decimal place—for example, Mockingbird Version 2.0 advances to Mockingbird Version 2.1.
  • Emergency Releases introduce quick (and at least temporary) fixes to repair unexpected problems that interrupt critical services. These changes advance a version number by the second decimal place—for example, Mockingbird Version 2.1 advances to Mockingbird Version 2.1.1.

It’s best to consider each release as a separately-deployed part of the service, the progression of which should look like this:

  • Planning
  • Building
  • Testing
  • Deploying

ITIL clearly describes two “levels” of Release Management in its book:

  • Service Design (higher level)
  • Release and Deployment Management (lower level)

The Service Design level should handle the framing and building of the release solution, while ITIL suggests the release project stages listed above should be handled by the lower level and should involve a project team, scope, design, and plan of its own. The Release and Deployment Management level literally drives the solution’s release, but only because of the sound development and planning by the higher level—meaning it is almost impossible to achieve lower level success without a solid understanding of the higher level.

We hope this blog provides you with a basic overview of Release Management. It’s sometimes difficult to explain ITIL concepts without using laymen’s terms– from our experience consulting companies on their use of ITIL, a basic overview is an essential foundation for understanding the application of ITIL principles into your business.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm library management process release services technology change information infrastructure it itil
3 min read

The Cost of Quality

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 24, 2009 11:00:00 AM

The Cost of Quality (COQ) business model describes a method of increasing profits without increasing revenues.

Here’s how it works: COQ increases profit by shrinking business costs. If your business has a 5% profit margin, for example – and you decrease costs by 5% – you’ve doubled your profits. That’s simple enough, but how do you decrease costs?

COQ identifies the importance of shrinking costs without taking the usual cost-cutting measures like not buying everyone’s favorite pens or not stocking refreshments in the break room — the “let’s avoid morale buzz-kills to save a few bucks” approach to increasing profit. Instead, COQ promotes lessening mistakes and increasing business process efficiency.

Companies adopt and tweak COQ to reflect their business goals and in turn their profitability. The model applies to not-for-profit businesses too: budgets are tight; grants, revenues, or contributions may not increase, but the same valuable services need to be delivered with less and less money, right?

COQ is made up of three elements: conformance costs, non-conformance costs, and opportunity costs. We’ll explain these before we explain the rest of what the graphic illustrates:

Conformance Costs

  • Communicate
  • Review
  • Report
  • Status-Check
  • Inspect
  • Train
  • Validate
  • Benchmark
  • Test
  • Prevent
  • Plan
  • Preinstall
  • Check
  • Audit
  • Appraise
  • Survey
  • Evaluate
  • Proofread

Non-Conformance Costs

  • Fix
  • Repair
  • Rework
  • Retrofit
  • Revisit
  • Overstock
  • Re-do
  • Refer
  • Reorganize
  • Scrap
  • Error
  • Constraint
  • Incorrect
  • Excessive
  • Late

Opportunity Costs

  • Under-utilize
  • Cancel
  • Downgrade

Notice these three cost categories are not associated with the cost of producing the output. Materials needed to assemble a product (labor, supplies, etc) are not included. The three elements merely reflect the costs associated with the business process. As we always say, “the profit’s in the process.” The efficiency of your business processes determines your efficiency as a business. If you’re going to maximize your efficiency and profitability, you need a sound understanding of the cost of quality.

Think about it: process is where value is added and where profit is made. Consumers don’t squeeze oranges to make juice anymore. Okay, maybe on rare occasion, but who cuts down trees and processes timber as a raw material to make paper?

The cost of quality is associated with the cost incurred to ensure process outputs (products and services) meet customer requirements. For example, let’s say Company A manufactures pens, a process that takes ten steps to complete. About half of the time, the process works effectively, and high-quality pens are made. The other half of the time, however, is plagued by faulty manufacturing— lackluster execution in the assembly process. As a result, Company A has to keep half of its pens in its shop for a bit longer for fixing/repairing, incurring non-conformance costs. This leads to a lack of consistency. Ultimately, this waste is passed onto the customer with an increased price per unit and/or inferior product— making it more and more difficult to compete.

That’s why COQ’s biggest cost adjustment occurs in reducing non-conformance costs— tightening the process and ensuring customer requirements are met. This may require spending extra money to do some work over again.

Now, to run through the graphic:

  • Conformance costs are important and help ensure a business’ success and stability. when optimizing your business, conformance costs should stay the same or in many cases increase.
  • Non-conformance costs, as we’ve mentioned, need to drop significantly— though you can never expect to be without them, strive to get rid of them.
  • Opportunity cost is the value of the next best choice. It’s the “what could have been.” If a business is suffering from non-conformance costs, the “what could have been,” is higher in the left portion of the graphic, where non-conformance costs are much higher. If a business is succeeding financially, there is little “what could have been,” therefore reducing the opportunity cost.
  • Operating costs are constant. They’re the costs of a business’ building, utilities, licenses, etc— which fluctuate, but not enough to factor into this model.
  • Profit looks like this: $$$. Reducing non-conformance generates more $$$.

So, how do you reduce non-conformance? Remember: the $$$’s are in the process.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency library management practices predicatability process services technology value continuous-improvement information infrastructure it itil itsm operations
2 min read

Process Value Analysis: Why Each Step Counts

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 4, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Monitoring, analyzing, and planning ahead are key principles of Business Process Management (BPM), and logically so. Businesses are responsible for their success, and every step of every process they conduct should ideally provide value to both the business and its customers. To assess this, a business must be concerned with Process Value Analysis—a qualitative analysis procedure allowing a business to apply questions to specific process steps to measure their success.

It is best to consider the term “value” in this context as referring to the value a customer expects and is willing to pay for. That value originates from the steps and processes a business performs to create the value—what some call a value chain, meaning every step within a process adds some amount of value to the final product or service.

Again, each step of a process should ideally provide value to both the business and its customers—this is what Process Value Analysis is meant to measure. Obviously this is not always clear-cut, since some steps don’t directly add value to a service but rather facilitate the adding of value. Those steps, though, are considered value-enabling steps—and still, though indirectly, give value to the final product. Non-value-adding steps are steps that have been incorporated into a process for some reason or another, but no longer add any value to the final product by any means. It is these non-value-adding (and money-eating) steps that should be eliminated.

Process Value Analysis is all about asking questions—after all, tough questions typically reveal the most accurate answers. These three categories and accompanying questions are useful for describing the types of value a specific process step may have:

Value added to customers: steps that directly impact customer satisfaction

  • Do customers recognize the value of the process step?
  • Does the step specifically impact the service requirements of its customers?
  • Is the step necessary to meet the timelines and expectations of those served?
  • Are customers willing to pay for this step?

Value added to operations: steps that support the ability to deliver services to the people served

  • Does the step meet legal, health, safety, or environmental regulatory criteria?
  • Is this process step being performed efficiently, or can it be refined?
  • Could this process step be eliminated if a preceding step were performed differently?
  • Could a technology application eliminate or automate this step?
  • Does this process step fulfill an external regulatory requirement?
  • Most importantly, would eliminating this step impact the quality of the service positively or negatively?

Non-value-added: steps that could be eliminated or changed without harming service levels or the organization

  • What specific direct or indirect value does this step have for customers or operations?

Praecipio Consulting collaboratively assesses clients’ needs, priorities, and budget to improve clients’ processes and business operations. A huge part of our service is analyzing our clients’ process value and developing consistent, efficient task-flows to monitor the success of specific process steps. We believe Process Value Analysis is essential for maintaining a competitive advantage in business and dedicate our expertise to enabling our clients to get the greatest value out of their operations.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business management process value continuous-improvement lifecycle operations
2 min read

Process Mapping: Sketching Solutions!

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 28, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Business Process Management (BPM) does not merely refer to managing a process, but rather refers to the entire lifecycle (Process LifeCycle Management: discovery, documentation, execution, monitoring, retirement) of business processes. Each aspect of this lifecycle is important in the development of a sound methodology for process management. This blog focuses on the discovery phase of the BPM lifecycle, and will explore and explain how “process mapping” aids in identifying process automation opportunities to save a company time and money.

Since process mapping can sometimes be a tedious, time-consuming task, is it always necessary when making changes in operations? Yes—making system changes without truly understanding how and why the process is operating can lead to costly mistakes, and can also create conditions that make it difficult for employees to work effectively and even damage employee morale. Process mapping also allows people, teams and departments to get down to a common ground and common language when discussing their business and challenges they are working to overcome.

When considering the impacts a process has on the success of your business, it is also important to analyze the impacts the process has within your business and consider the effects of downstream impacts. Processes typically have one or more outputs, and changing a process should logically account for a change in its output. Also, one process’ output are typically another process’ input—which could help or hamper productivity depending on how well each process is defined and managed.

According to a survey of 150 Information Technology (IT) directors conducted by Computer World UK, 15 to 20 percent reported low productivity and customer dissatisfaction as a result of process issues. The survey also reported 45 percent of companies said they had no BPM system in place—though they were planning on implementing one.

Process mapping enables a business to clearly define their current processes in chart form—listing each task within a process in detail and sequential order, creating a well-constructed visual that gives an easy-to-comprehend view of the process from beginning to end (process maps typically feature symbols that represent different types of tasks, and appear in a flowchart-like manner with arrows indicating how the process flows from task to task). Our process mapping methodology at Praecipio Consulting begins with mapping out process steps and details on a whiteboard and proceeding to transfer what is learned and developed on the whiteboard to Microsoft Visio for refining with the team. Basic steps to mapping a business process generally look like these:

  • Gather and review all relevant and existing documentation of current business process
  • Identify boundaries of current process
  • Identify weaknesses of current process
  • Identify inputs and outputs of the process
  • Generate a flowchart of the above information, clearly describing each task and describing feedback loops
  • Identifying measurable data points and the key attributes that direct a process through it’s life cycle

The mapping process prepares a business to:

  • Generate a draft procedure for developing solutions/review
  • Develop an implementation plan/review

Process mapping often reveals problem areas like bottlenecks, capacity issues, delays, or waste. Once identified, this knowledge provides a solid base for developing process solutions.

Praecipio Consulting emphasizes the importance of process mapping in our efforts to help businesses improve their operations. We’ve clearly defined the boundaries of our clients’ unique business operations; since some business processes overlap with others, clearly defining the scope and boundaries of a process is essential to mapping out its steps precisely. Our clients’ end product will facilitate effective management of business processes with the intelligent integration of appropriate technologies.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency management process lifecycle
1 min read

CMDBs: The Secret to High IT ROI

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 9, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Just what is a Configuration Management Database (CMDB)?

For starters, it’s not a database—or, rather, not merely a database. A CMDB is a virtual warehouse holding information from every nook and cranny of an information system. CMDBs show which system components are needed to create efficient business processes. It can be seen as both an encyclopedia of IT services and a DNA map of a business’ IT environment. It’s a decision support tool.

ITIL v2 defined a CMDB as “a database that contains all relevant details of each CI (configuration item) and details of the important relationships between CIs.” ITIL v3 now defines a CMDB as “a database used to store Configuration Records throughout their lifecycle. The Configuration Management System maintains one or more CMDBs, and each CMDB stores attributes of CIs, and relationships with other CIs.”

A product of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), CMDBs are important because they align technology with business process. An example of this? It’s common sense that without timely information, bad decisions can be made by the business unintentionally. ITIL-based CMDBs control workflows, and use a workflow to manage and collect process metrics and present them logically and accurately.

While there are many variations of CMDB workflows, five common high-level steps include:

  • Identification: To put it simply, “identifying” IT components and their inclusion in the CMDB.
  • Status: Recording of the status of all CIs in the CMDB, and keeping them updated.
  • Control: The management of CIs, indicating who is authorized to ‘change’ each one.
  • Status: Recording of the status of all CIs in the CMDB, and keeping them updated.
  • Verification: Reviewing data to make sure the CMDB is accurate and timely.

A properly implemented CMDB system can save an enterprise quite a bit of cash. There are, however, some direct overhead costs associated with the data capture process itself. The CMDB’s ROI will depend on the quality and reusability of the data it monitors, company size, and business strategy.

The CMDB bottom line: the more automated and consistent asset management methodologies become, the higher the ROI will climb. CMDBs allow businesses to become more efficient internally and more effective in their market.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog automation bpm business efficiency library management practices process technology value continuous-improvement information infrastructure it itil lifecycle operations
2 min read

Predictability and Repeatability

By Praecipio Consulting on May 18, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Business process management (BPM) promotes effectiveness and efficiency within a business. BPM applies to any practical process within a business.

An important BPM principle: good processes bring efficient workflow and increased revenue; bad processes bring inefficient and decreased revenue. If you put garbage into a process, you can expect to get garbage out of it. Garbage in, garbage out. If you put quality in, however…you get the idea. So, how do you ensure your processes are successful? Predictability and repeatability are great qualities to shoot for. We’ll explain them in a bit.

Monitoring the effectiveness of your business processes regularly is important. It improves your business value and reduces costs. Identifying potential or actual bottlenecks in a process’ human-to-human, human-to-system, or system-to-system workflows can save your business money by keeping costs down!

A huge contributing factor to good BPM is a process’ integration with technology—a tactic the team at Praecipio Consulting is well-versed in developing and implementing. We are capable and experienced in adopting appropriate software as well as developing new, custom software that enables our clients’ business processes to be directly executed in an efficient, organized manner.

Software can improve business process. That’s not a new fact to anyone. We develop intuitive software that uses services in connected applications to consolidate and perform business operations including issue tracking (e.g. tracking orders/deliveries, pending invoices, service requests, etc.) with ease—streamlining our clients’ BPM and improving their connections with their customers.

When working with our clients, Praecipio Consulting takes into strong consideration two important factors in BPM technology:  repeatability and predictability.

  • Predictability. The business environment is rarely predictable, so it is important to make sure the processes your business does have control over are as predictable and reliable as possible. Now, market conditions can vary widely, so it is also important to ensure these processes are flexible enough to adjust to inevitable market variables.
  • Repeatability. Business processes generally include tasks in production, collaboration, administration, and miscellaneous activities. Production and administration are very valuable to a business, and also very repeatable. Collaboration is also very valuable, but is not always repeatable. Miscellaneous activities are usually not valuable to a business, and are rarely consistent enough to be repeatable.

We consider ourselves successful only when we develop a BPM system capable of managing both repeatable and non-repeatable processes—an organized, financially feasible system to manage both high-value and low-value processes. Such innovation puts us and our clients on the cutting-edge of success in business process.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business management process value continuous-improvement operations
2 min read

SharePoint and Process Management: A Match Made in Software Heaven

By Praecipio Consulting on May 11, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Microsoft SharePoint is debatably the best business information and document management platform on the market—that is, if it is used correctly.

Microsoft’s goal for SharePoint was to provide a simple, familiar, consistent user experience, integrating a variety of applications (email, document storage, data sheets, etc).  Supporting embedded process management modules and the ability to host web sites that access shared workspaces, SharePoint’s management platform can potentially save businesses money by:

  • reducing man hours, increasing the use of electronic forms and allowing faster locating of information
  • reducing printing, paper and associated costs by increasing the use of electronic forms
  • reducing response times and problems associated with lags by allowing employees to have instant access to shared, well-organized data
  • reducing IT support and training costs by offering such a versatile and inclusive platform.

Praecipio Consulting has taken full advantage of SharePoint’s capabilities; for this reason, it has proved remarkably valuable to our business operations. We have deliverable reference, technical, and white paper documents stored for easy, simple open-source access. We also boost our employee productivity by simplifying everyday tasks like reporting common business activities and issue tracking. We even base our accounting operations in SharePoint by allowing our employees to log hourly time and company expenses, governing these operations by making use of SharePoint’s ability to specifically restrict the privileges of individual employees. These restrictions can also be imposed on the editing of important business documents—SharePoint allows authors to create and submit content for approval and scheduled deployment to the Internet. We can therefore effectively manage and re-purpose our content to gain increased business value. Our mindful leverage of SharePoint’s abilities and applications has helped us benefit practically and financially as a business. We value our learned expertise and best practices, and hope to assist other businesses in benefiting from SharePoint in the ways appropriate for them. However, again, SharePoint will likely prove useful to a business if they use it to its full capacity.

SharePoint can be an expensive investment when purchased through Microsoft. Server license prices increase incrementally depending on the size of your business; pricing can steep dramatically with larger companies. In addition to setup and purchase costs, of course, one must consider the cost of training employees to use it and the cost of support from Microsoft (given its clout, Microsoft is able to demand a high price for its support services, which is otherwise unheard of).

In order to save our clients money, however, Praecipio Consulting offers SharePoint hosting servcies. In the past we have driven our clients’ Microsoft Exchange costs down to an affordable monthly price and now offer our clients affordable SharePoint/Microsoft Exchange services. Finding an intelligent, affordable, professional SharePoint hosting provider can be difficult and nerve-wracking, but Praecipio Consulting’s new service provides our clients with a convenient, cost-efficient hosting of their SharePoint instances.

Now, another concern businesses considering SharePoint may have:  SharePoint works best with the Microsoft family; it was meant to integrate the Windows OS, MS Office, Internet Explorer, etc. If a business is looking to collaborate with traveling teams, clients, and partners, they must keep their fingers crossed in hope that such cross-platform interaction will work smoothly. Microsoft obviously desires and nearly induces a full commitment from its customers, and logically has no reason to design its services to run quickly and smoothly in non-Microsoft environments. Fortunately for our clients, we have the ability to implement other frameworks into our SharePoint platform in the event a client operates in a non-Microsoft environment—a huge asset that sets us apart from other SharePoint hosting providers.

If your business plans to take full advantage of SharePoint’s advanced abilities—SharePoint can become a valuable asset to your business and its ability to collaborate with open-source technology.

If your business plans to take full advantage of SharePoint’s advanced abilities—SharePoint can become a valuable asset to your business and its ability to collaborate with open-source technology.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business enterprise management practices process sharepoint value collaboration continuous-improvement operations

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