BPM Software: Social + Context = Business Agility

I’m very excited about next week’s Appian World event.  As I write this, we have well over 450 people registered.  That means we have to start worrying about our capacity limit at the hotel – a great problem to have!

Everyone who attends will have an opportunity to participate in processes around the conference using our new Tempo social interface on their mobile devices.  We at Appian use Tempo to run our business and manage most of our internal processes.  I’ll confess that I’ve become a Tempo addict, checking it all the time to see what’s just happened in our company.  Most things posted on our feed happen automatically through integrations with other processes.  I love seeing notifications of new customers getting on-boarded and every new person registering for Appian World.  Having an organization that has the transparency Tempo brings allows us to be very agile.  For example, I noticed someone from a prospective customer registered for Appian World five minutes before we were to get on a conference call with their management team.  Knowing they registered allowed our team to quickly change topics and take action to accelerate our sales cycle.

There’s a lot of talk out there about how social technologies will impact business.  For example, I attended the recent Shared Services & Outsourcing Week show which had over 1,000 leaders of business process areas such as finance, IT, HR, and procurement in attendance.  One presenter ran an automated poll question, asking how many of these process management leaders already employ social media as part of their internal operations.  The answer: only four percent.  A follow up question asked how many expected to use social media five years from now.  Well over 50% of the audience said they did.  Based on this we should expect hyper growth for social media in shared services and process management areas. But just how do business leaders expect to use social media and what business benefits do they anticipate?  And what qualifies as “social media” in business?

Instant messaging is certainly a form of social communication, but it’s only difference from e-mail is the ability to pop-up on user’s screens.  What about Facebook-style interfaces built into traditional software applications? Those are certainly “social,” but unless the social aspect is tied detected events and includes a way to take action (rather than just communicate), all that’s been done is adding yet another communication channel that users need to monitor.  We’re already bombarded by data.  What we really need is synthesized information about our operations and an interface that allows us to take immediate action.

Real social interaction tools tied to process information offer intelligence, a way to rapidly communicate about that intelligence, and a method to take whatever action is needed while still working in the same interface.  I’ll explain what I mean through an example.  Appian offers a Deductions Management solution, built on top of our Business Process Management platform.  When companies receive payments for amounts less than the invoice they sent, that’s a “deduction.”  Companies need an efficient way to research and resolve as many of these as possible.  Lacking better tools, most resort to printouts, spreadsheet tracking and communication about deductions through e-mail.  Companies that have deployed Appian’s Deductions Management solution have a streamlined process to manage each deduction, know where all deductions stand in the process at any time, and avoid costly write-offs.

With the release of Appian’s latest Business Process Management Software (version 6.5), Appian customers with Deductions Management processes now also get the ability to use built-in social media to communicate about process management and take required actions.  The picture below illustrates the new interface in the context of responding to an automated alert from a Deductions Management process.

Appian Tempo - Business Process Management Software

Note how an out-of-bounds situation in the process was automatically detected and put out as a “feed” on the interface.  Anyone subscribed to see that type of feed gets it pushed to them.  They all see the same information in real time.  No one’s waiting for someone else to identify a problem and then start an e-mail chain.  Just as importantly, they can collaborate around this business event and take action right there in the middle of the feed. Because they have one-click access to the underlying business data related to this event, resolution can happen with unprecedented speed. This is what social business collaboration is all about – familiar modes of social communication woven directly into the context of business events and facilitating fast actions.

Want to know the really cool thing about this interface? It provides social media interaction across all processes managed in Appian.  For example, organizations that start with Deductions Management often find other Financial Operations exception processes to run through Appian.  The staff who needs to be involved in additional processes can have them individually added to their Tempo feed.  But wait!  There’s even more! Our new interface can provide information from any of your systems even if they aren’t part of an Appian process!  Business data and events coming from SAP, Salesforce.com and any other enterprise system can be made into a Tempo feed through simple web services integration. This can take the form of real-time notifications on individual business events (such as an approaching contract deadline or the opening of a new customer account), as well as key indicator reports automatically sent from back-end systems to alert managers to out-of-bounds conditions – and enable immediate collaboration to get to the root causes.

So to all those shared services leaders eager to incorporate social media as a tool that can dramatically improve their processes, Appian can make it possible TODAY.  Not just for processes you build with us, but across any systems and data feeds in your organization.  In this way, you can harness the power of social media for your business, and gain a ton of improved process management benefit along the way.

See you at Appian World!

Evan McDonnell

Vice President of Solutions