An Audience With….Andrew Smith, MD of One Degree

 

Andrew graduated with a Computer Science back in 1995 and immediately joined an ECM and workflow consultancy firm. There he started as a junior developer, working on developing software and implementing solutions for a wide variety of clients. He quickly moved on to more senior roles, and as a senior developer lead a number of development teams on a number of blue chip projects in both ECM and BPM implementations, coming from a range of different markets, such as the insurance sector, financial sector and even government based services. It was this grounding as a developer on a number of different platforms and for such a wide range of organisations that has helped Andrew understand both the business point of view, and the technical issues that may arise from certain requirements. However, it was in a role as one of the firms enterprise technical architects that he started to question current thinking and started to look at the bigger picture, in terms of both technology provided by vendors and how businesses implemented solutions.

In 2005 Andrew formed his own businesses and started work as the Managing Director of One Degree Consulting ltd. One Degree is a leading edge IT solution provider, specialising in ECM and BPM consultancy services. Always believing in merging different silos, One Degree has grown to incorporate other areas of IT and now includes subsidiary firms OD media, specialising in rich internet applications and graphic design, OD Support for IT support services, workFile ECM, their own ECM and BPM platform and recently a complete SME EPOS solution that includes eCommerce, workFile EPOS.

 

Pega have recently acquired Chordiant and recently at a Forrester Tweet-up they talked about a convergence between CRM and BPM. Do you see a convergence happening in the market between sectors that are dissimilar on the surface ?

A number of CRM providers have always “claimed” they incorporate workFlow or BPM, but really they at best show a level of case management, so this convergence between the two is probably long overdue.  BPM can provide abstraction of business rules and business processes, which enables any market sector (such as CRM) to become more agile and open to change…

What’s your definition of BPM ?

Keeping it simple, the understanding and the management of how a piece of work is done, from start to finish.

And what’s the difference between traditional BPM and Case Management ?

BPM incorporates a logical movement of work along to completion through a specific path or paths. Case Management has no path as such, rather just a definition of what has to be done to complete a case.

Gartner talks of managing ad-hoc processes and Forrester speaks about ‘Dynamic Case Management’, is this something emerging in the Case scene ?

I don’t see this as anything that new. Most Case Management solutions have always had provision for ad-hoc processes or Dynamic Case Management. What is very new is the understanding of how systems could become more adaptive to the user and processing requirements, rather than being a set of rigid rules, and this is evolving in both ECM and BPM, as well as case management.

Not many have heard of the workFile suite, can you tell me more about the company and what it does ?

workFile www.workFileECM.com  is in essence, a content management repository (ECM solution) and BPM platform. It was designed with the latest technologies in mind, from scratch, and as such has no restrictions placed on it from older versions. Integration is at the heart of workFile and as such, workFile has been used to deliver a wide range of content and process enabled business applications e.g. retail distribution, social services funded projects and student applications.

We are in the middle of developing our “Vision” software. Vision is workFile’s out of the box user experience and brings together all of the workFile modules into a single end user experience. This includes administrative tools and adaptive capabilities for ECM and BPM allowing the product to evolve for what the user wants to get out of it. However, it does more, by allowing third party developers to build typical business applications and have these delivered as part of the Vision application itself. workFile therefore provides an extensible ECM and BPM platform allowing real convergence of business applications into a single user experience…

Forrester recently said they’ll be turning to the process professionals more in 2010 and Gartner’s Magic Quadrant underwent a makeover in how they approached their analysis last year.  Do you still see a need for the kind of research which is perceived to be vendor led given the rise of independent professional blogs and insights ?

It is best to read independent blogs from people inside the industry or from people using the actual solutions, telling the truth and sharing their insight (warts and all). I believe business and individuals get far more out of this type of reading than they can ever do out of standard vendor research. However, that being said, all these opinions and views can be too much to digest at first for a business, so I see Gartner type research being used as nothing more than a starting point for businesses looking into a particular technology, solution or vendor…

‘Social BPM’ seems to be creating a wave that appears to be knocking down a lot of silos, is it revolution or hype we’re seeing right now and if revolution, is it purely a customer focused initiative or do you see it affecting how we work internally too ?

I see Social BPM as evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Social media has had a big effect on businesses and as such a big effect on the way businesses communicate and interact with customers. This is a form of process, and as such, BPM has evolved to incorporate this. I don’t see this as just a customer focused thing though. Internally more and more users are becoming more “social” in the way in which they work, or collaborate to complete work. Again, this is still a process and as such, BPM needs to evolve to incorporate these new ways of working…

Social media and collaboration may be revolutionary in the way we choose to work, but from a BPM point of view, they are simply an evolutionary step in how work is processed…

With a few vendors picking up on the iPhone success and launching BPM focused apps do you see an increase in BPM or Case Management becoming mobile ?

For a long time now I have said that ECM, BPM and Case Management will go more mobile. From my experience though, many businesses haven’t embraced the iPhone and are using either Blackberry devices or Windows based handsets. I think with Windows Mobile 7 being released, we will see many more businesses looking at ECM, BPM and Case management and asking about Mobile options….

You’ve spoken about BPM without maps before and intelligent processes, can you elaborate on it ?

I don’t like the rigidity of a Process map / designer within BPM software. Too much emphasis is placed on a BA or admin user in identifying a process, then making these changes in a designer. This demonstrates software well to business decision makers, but this thinking and form of maps dumb down the process potential and place a number of restrictions on the process. In addition, this way of working makes a number of l

arge assumptions. The first assumption is that the
processes is 100% correct as identified by our BA. The second is that it won’t change based on the way users do their work, and the third is that this is the most effective and efficient way of working….

When I have spoken about intelligent processes, I am talking about a process that is maintained by a developer, providing them with all the freedom they need to build intelligence into a particular step of a process. Working without a “map designer” provides so much more in terms of flexibility and processing capabilities. I agree that a graphical representation of a process is great to have (for our understanding) however, it shouldn’t then be used to actually execute the process.

For example, a particular step within a process may require a number of fields of data to be read in from 2 other business applications. Using this data, the step within the process needs to perform a calculation and then present a number of options to the user. With an intelligent process this is easy as the developer has all the development tools and capabilities at their finger tips, there and then. With a traditional designer based map, we cannot do this. Instead, an additional step has to be introduced that is specifically for gathering this data and performing the calculation. In addition, this step will require a developer to write software to pick up work at this step and perform the function. Business rules and processing has effectively been moved out of the map and into a particular application, script or dll. The big problem is when change is required. With a designer based map, the map must be changed, then the additional software and application, followed by more testing and re-deployment…If we build business intelligence into the process itself, then when we need to perform a single change, we need only do it at a process level.

However, this all being said, I see the intelligent process for those parts of the process that are highly structured and easily identifiable by a BA. The process itself should be adaptive based on users using the system. Users will always identify new sub processes and areas which are not catered for within the system. In such cases, they should be allowed to update the process and ensure the process works correctly and more efficiently. With a typical designer based map, this simply isn’t possible…

What would you like to see as the next big step in BPM ?

I would like to see a movement away from traditional map based designers and a movement towards intelligent and adaptive processes. The traditional map is far too restrictive and things such as lean (though they demonstrate well) don’t provide the real benefits that BPM promises to business.

And finally, what next for Andrew Smith ?

Well I will continue to provide consultancy services on ECM, BPM and Case Management and will still be voicing my, sometimes controversial, views via my blog! However, I have a number of plans for the future, many of which revolve around our workFile Vision product and I don’t want to give too much away at this early stage…I will keep you posted 🙂

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