An Audience With….Alan Crean, CEO of Process Master

Alan has been at the helm of a number of businesses and has achieved notable success by having his last company place 21st in the FT100 2004 awards. After a successful exit, Process Master was born where his sales and marketing expertise, channel domain knowledge and an objectives-based approach to management will be the catalysts for major success as the business scales to address the huge market demand for effective business process and administration management solutions.

 

A self starter with strong interpersonal and communication skills, Alan is results driven with a  passion for exceeding customer expectations. He holds a number of sales firsts in the IBM World, as well as having led the OnDemand and eBusiness initiatives in their UK channel. 

 

Alan is married to Helena and they have four children. He is an avid rugby supporter of his native Munster and  keenly involved in schools rugby. He is also an advocate for autistic children.

 

 

2009 was seen as a fairly turbulent for most but towards the end year many kicked off major change programs focused on process transformation. How do you expect 2010 will unfold for the BPM industry generally and for BPM Vendors ?

 

I agree the effects of the recession in 2009 weren’t great, but the downturn has begun to reveal a bright side. It’s brought a returned focus to what had become unfashionable in boom times – understanding how to make the business work better. 

 

In 2009, we saw numerous organisations faced with the need to cut expenses significantly.  Whether the target reduction was 10%, 20% or something similar, these companies all seemed to face a common challenge.  Which 10% to cut without damaging the business’ core ability to function? Answering that question quickly would have provided significant competitive advantage.  Many did not answer it well.  

As a result, I agree with you that we are seeing renewed interest in BPM and the potential for business improvement.  That interest is often fuelled by the desire to prepare the business to function effectively in the face of shifting conditions. We feel very well positioned to make good on those aspirations as we make it easy for the business to conduct rapid capture of its overall state, develop an integrated view of people/ process and technology that will serve it well in identifying and prioritising business improvement opportunities.

 

Do you expect clients to alter their buying criteria as a result of the downturn and concentrate on initial cost first rather than ROI or the need for BPM itself to support strategy?

  

We see a real change in the composition of the funds assigned to business improvement projects.  Historically there was a major funding component dedicated to “process professionals”, typically external consulting firms, who were often expected to take the reins in driving the project forward.  Budgets have seen significant reduction in the component for consultant funding, putting the primary responsibility for project success back on the business itself.  

 

While at first this shift to DIY business improvement seems daunting, there Is in fact no one better placed than the business people themselves to effectively document the business and to identify lucrative “change candidates”.  Our software is designed for a significant ROE, Return on Effort, that leverages the knowledge that business people already carry into re-useable process documentation and identification of actionable improvement opportunities.  Our pricing is structured to deliver rapid ROI for short, value-delivering projects.

 

ProcessMaster hasn’t been around particularly long and yet has made some real inroads in it’s offering. Can you tell us about that journey?

 

Concept appeared 2006. We spent time researching  a more detailed market need and from there planned and prototyped during in 2007. We developed through 2008 involving industry experts and clients fully coming to market in 2009. We hired a small and focused sales team to bring the solution out to a number of target clients, which converted to customers throughout the course of that year. We have always held the belief that we should work  with clients that will actually use the system, with a particular emphasis that the tool should be easy to use and self learning.  

 

So how did we make inroads so quickly? We made a tool that’s easy to install, easy to use, cost effective, with potential to save organisations expense, time and we  involved future clients in the design. Straight forward really.

 

What’s ProcessMaster’s definition and philosophy for BPM?

  

BPM to us means anything from mapping of a process through documentation and training for end-user use and on to analysis and delivery of fully automated processes.  While many market offerings have concentrated on the automation and optimisation of a subset of the business’ processes, we see ourselves more at the Business Optimisation level, enabling our clients to rapidly develop a “fly-over” view of the business. 

By helping them rapidly develop a 3,000 foot view – that’s a view that’s high enough to see the landscape and low enough to observe the detail, we differentiate ourselves from the crowded world of high-end process analysis and process delivery and help our clients quickly find bottlenecks, quantify and prioritise issues then simply work out the business case justification for these issues. Once identified and agreed as priorities, analysts decision makers can step in and fix them.  To us, this is a far more compelling market approach.

 

With a growing number of Cloud enable BPM tools and services coming onto the market how do you see ProcessMaster staying ahead of the game ?\

 

Remote access to value-delivering services is a compelling offering.  Our idea is to ensure that we are not just delivering a cloud-enabled tool, but are providing a solution that allows organisations to publish and communicate to people (internal and external) the organisation’s standards – because if you cannot standardise, then you cannot even begin to think of improving.

 

IDS have released ARIS Express recently, a free version of their ARIS Professional modeling tool. Do you see a growing trend for BPM vendors to release free versions of their higher end products?

 

 It’s a widespread practice to gain a soft landing point with potential customers. As many potential clients view BPM vendors as complex, costly and requiring a major commitment before getting results, it makes sense to put out a lite version that offers simplicity.   For us, simplicity of use is the end-game so our product isn’t packaged as a Lite version…it’s already easy to use.  From what we can see, many other vendors are offering the Lite version to create an upsell for the &a
mp;l
dquo;big” product plus consulting.

 

Luckily for us even the free tools are from complex vendors and have hidden agendas. With Process Master what you see is what your get, we also offer trials and quick win proof of concepts, even a free tool needs to provide value and long term use.

 

Do you see the meteoric rise of the Social Media platform as something vendors should engage with as a development path, marketing purposes only or is it a “watching brief” for now until it matures ?

 

I find this an interesting question, with most vendors embracing the product videos on YouTube approach I do believe we are partly in a “watching brief “ to quantify the results of all the social media activity in the areas of blogs etc proliferating from some vendors (quality of content being key in my opinion). 

 

From a purely personal standpoint we have utilised, and will continue to utilise, social media/ business networking sites, LinkedIn, ecademy, etc. and industry forums in a number of ways through-out our product development and the expansion phase of Process Master. In our early days of product development we were able to contact thought leaders and industry experts and garner their input into how they viewed the products we were developing, enabling us to include desired functionality from global experts and power users in the BPM field. We have also used specific industry/ technology forums to educate the market into the understanding that there is now a different way of doing things. Our activity through business networking communities, forums and groups has also contributed to us gaining new clients, partners and champions in all corners of an ever growing process improvement focussed world.

 

I do see us continuing to leverage focussed social media in the future with some interesting plans of which I will say this at this time. We see the growth of social media in the BPM / process improvement space being around communities that facilitate the collaboration around, formulation of, creation of supporting process / procedure documentation for and communication of best practice. 

  

The mobile platform has taken off and a growing number of vendors are joining the ranks to develop for the Apple, Blackberry and Android platforms. Do you see a future for BPM tools in this area ? 

 

………yes, it’s about enabling mobile workers with the information they need to be effective and the feedback mechanisms that will enable the business to learn how to make them more effective…but I am saying no more than that for now.

 

There were two notable acquisitions last year, IBM and Lombardi and SoftwareAG and IDS-Scheer. Do you think there will be more M&A activity in 2010 across the BPM space and do you think this will improve BPM solutions on offer or weaken the market ?

 

The ongoing M&A activity reflects the increasing recognition that understanding and improving business process is fundamental to effective enterprise applications. The current trend is to align the acquired BPM product within the acquisitor’s enterprise portfolio.  To the extent that the acquired technologies were agnostic and would have been useful to numerous enterprise vendors, this increases the market need for tools like ours.  

 

What’s the next big step you’d like to see in BPM ? 

 

Expand BPM’s footprint from the domain of a handful of specialised process analysts to an approachable technology that serves constituents across the business.  It is time for the BPM industry to make their products accessible to the business people who need to derive benefit from our offerings, to enable organisations to develop fact-based understanding of where they are and how they can improve.  That’s really based in delivering configurable, accessible software that’s easy to learn and easy to use productively.  We have plenty of optimisation engines.  We need a rapid way to fill the pipeline of opportunities that those process improvement / automation engines can evaluate. One interesting area that then emerges is that by building cohesive models that integrate people/ process and technology, we are then positioned to build dashboards that can track actual process flow.

 

Finally, what next for Alan Crean ? 

 

Continue to build a profitable, sustainable business that has a focus on customer care! And go to more Rugby games!

Read my review of the Process Master WorkPad tool in the Hands On section
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