This introductory chapter was
excerpted from Excellence
in Practice: Innovation
and Excellence in Workflow and Imaging©.
Connie Moore, Vice President, Giga Information Group
The competitive playing field for workflow and imaging continues to change as visionary companies push the envelope for innovation and excellence. Companies excelling in document imaging and workflow share common characteristics that other organizations are well advised to learn. Companies competing head-to-head against such visionaries must shift their IT and business strategies to keep pace. Ways to move the competitive goalposts when implementing imaging and workflow technology include focusing on enterprise-wide solutions while also reaching the extended enterprise, and empowering users to develop, modify, and enhance flexible, workflow-enabled processes.
Insights on Excellence
WfMC, Giga Information Group and WARIA annually recognizes organizations that have demonstrably excelled in implementing innovative document and workflow solutions to meet strategic business objectives. The prestigious Excellence in Workflow Awards, now in their eighth year and competed on a worldwide basis, are highly coveted by organizations that seek recognition for their achievements. These awards not only provide a spotlight for companies that truly deserve recognition, but also provide tremendous insights for organizations wishing to emulate the winners' successes. There is no better way to achieve excellence than to learn from others' mistakes and successes.
To be recognized as winners, companies must address three critical areas: excellence in innovation, excellence in implementation and excellence in strategic impact to the organization.
While successes in these categories are prerequisites for winning the Excellence in Workflow Awards, it would reward all companies to focus on excelling in innovation, implementation and impact when installing imaging and workflow technologies. Without doing so, they will not achieve the full potential document imaging and workflow offer. Companies must recognize that implementing innovative technology is useless unless the organization has a successful implementation approach that delivers-and even surpasses-the anticipated benefits. True visionaries are not content with merely achieving benefits; they are proactively driven to raise the standard for excellence in their industry-in essence, moving the competitive goalposts.
The Seven Ways to Achieve Excellence
We at Giga Information Group are quite fortunate to have read all the submissions for the excellence awards-not just the Gold and Silver winners. Having combed through hundreds of submissions over the years across many countries and continents, we can clearly discern patterns in how companies achieve excellence. While not all companies share each and every characteristic, there is enough commonality to detect seven distinct paths for achieving excellence. When several of these characteristics are combined in a single installation, it often results in visionary companies moving the competitive goalposts for their industries.
First Path--Involve Users and Customers from the Very Beginning.
One hallmark of a truly excellent implementation is a high level of user involvement, not only in the design phase, but also in all phases of the project. Companies that excel in imaging and workflow understand intuitively that "users know best." For example, in the case of Trigon Blue Cross Blue Shield, user teams and project team leaders worked together to change the very nature of the customer service representative's job. By engaging users in defining how work gets done, companies can develop multifunction processes that enhance job structures, improve employee morale, and reduce employee turnover. A pattern emerges: companies excelling in workflow and imaging not only believe users should participate extensively in design activities (e.g. such as JAD, design reviews, and prototyping), but should also remain actively involved in enhancing the system following rollout.
Bank of America's Asia Division is another case in point. This business process-reengineering project focused not only on technology, but also addressed change management issues that could have otherwise derailed the project. Implementing a system across eight countries, Bank of America Asia Division concentrated on building a multi-disciplinary team, involving users extensively throughout the project, and using prototypes and pilots extensively to test ideas for the multinational implementation. Other companies must take similar steps to ensure the overall success of reengineering projects, particularly when multiple sites and multiple national cultures are involved.
Increasingly, companies will include customers in projects, in addition to involving users. Yarra Valley Water is a perfect example of a customer-centric project-customers were involved from conception to implementation and now provide on-going inputs for continuous improvement initiatives. Yarra Valley Water was not content to focus on the internal needs of the business, but oriented the project around the customer and the customers' customer throughout the project.
Second Path-Create Flexible Work Processes
One of the biggest challenges of work automation is that processes constantly evolve as business goals, needs, and work practices change; yet modifying applications to reflect those changes takes too long. Workflow addresses this problem by associating business process rules with roles and the routing of work. Many workflow systems, however, do not allow users to modify the automated process, but rely on programmers and system developers to make changes. When this happens, workflow can become out-of-sync with real world processes, just as with an out-dated, legacy application.
Consolidated Edison and the New York City Comptrollers' Office are excellent examples of organizations that developed flexible work processes. For example, when implementing its data-centric workflow system, Consolidated Edison shifted customer service from a back office operation to a more flexible, front office process. By linking workflow to the automated call distribution system, incoming calls and letters are assigned through the wide area network to a multiskilled workforce. This allows Con Edison to manage workload peaks and valleys on a constant basis, to allocate work independently of geography, and to achieve work force flexibility on a daily and even hourly basis, while reducing customer wait time.
Third Path--Empower Users to Design and Modify Their Work Processes
The third path, empowering users to design and modify their own processes, is closely linked to the second path, creating flexible work processes. Yet many committed to the second path do not move beyond that approach by empowering users to change or adapt the automated process to their personal style. Visionaries recognize that flexibility should not only be built into the process, but also be pushed down to the users who are closest to the process.
One of the biggest work automation challenges is that business processes constantly evolve, yet modifying computer applications to reflect those changes takes too long. But as more organizations adopt case-management approaches for production work, user involvement in modifying and updating structured work processes will become increasingly more prevalent. Future implementations will be less pre-structured, more adaptable to changes in business processes and designed for users to make changes as exceptions occur and business processes evolve.
For example, although Con Edison and the NYC Office of the Comptroller require structured processes, both organizations have implemented flexible systems that allow users to modify processes. At Con Edison, "reengineering on the fly" allows customer service reps to change the workflow literally as work is processed. While at NYC Comptroller, users can access macros that adapt the workflow tasks to their personal work styles. These examples highlight that structured processes will become more flexible and adaptable to user work styles.
Fourth Path-Transcend Departmental and Geographical Boundaries
Workflow has its roots in departmental solutions. Typically "enterprise-wide" really means a big departmental solution instead of a true enterprise-wide system that transcends organizational and geographical boundaries. However, unlike more typical installations, the NYC Comptroller's Office project involved extensive BPR and workflow in multiple departments across four separate NYC agencies. While admittedly a challenge for many corporations, this feat must have been doubly difficult for a public agency, particularly since it involved standardizing core business processes (e.g., customer service), previously done differently within each agency.
Geographical work barriers are also being breached. For example, Con Edison has piloted a workflow project that directs incoming calls and related work items to telecommuters via ISDN lines. This allows handicapped and physically remote workers to process work exactly as if they were in the office. The visionary dimension is that the pilot supports a production process rather than the more typical ad hoc work done by telecommuters, demonstrating that the constraints of bricks and mortar can be overcome for clerical workers too.
Fifth Path-Implement Enterprise-Wide Solutions
The workflow and imaging industry has long talked about enterprise-wide implementations, but in reality those systems are very large-scale departmental solutions. But as more companies shift to cross-functional processes, enterprise-wide solutions will become a reality. Enterprise-wide processes, such as Infocamere's challenge to provide corporate records to more than 104 independent sites throughout Italy, will become more typical than atypical.
Companies wishing to gain competitive advantage through workflow and imaging must shift their focus from narrow, departmental solutions to an enterprise and extended enterprise approach. Anything less, while still generating benefits, will no longer differentiate the company, particularly as departmental solutions become more prevalent in many industries.
Sixth Path-Extend Beyond the Enterprise to Reach Business Partners and Customers
Visionary companies are now using workflow and imaging to extend information and processes to customers and trading partners. For example, Capital Blue Cross has implemented a multivendor imaging system that supports health claims processing in three separate organizations (Capital Blue Cross, Pennsylvania Blue Shield and a CBC/PBS subsidiary, COMP I). Overcoming the challenges of transferring image formats from one vendor to another, Capital Blue Cross can now transfer claims from multiple mainframes across the five-site, three-company extended enterprise.
In a similar vein, Trigon's remote imaging and workflow satellite office at Newport News Shipbuilding supports 13,000 members. Using the same remote software as Con Edison, Trigon brings customer service to the customer's workplace, demonstrating how workflow extends the enterprise.
Yarra Valley Water, a utility in Melbourne, Australia, has recently implemented one of the most innovative, customer-centric, workflow and image-enabled business processes in the world. One of three new water retailers created through recent government restructuring, Yarra Valley Water recently installed document imaging, COLD and workflow to provide customers (law firms and plumbers) with on-line access to property sewage plans and associated mapping information. Law firms can access Yarra Valley's system via modem to submit property requests and receive property information on-line, with a money back guarantee for service levels, while independent plumbers can access Yarra Valley Water from eight plumbing supply facilities, receive information electronically without intervention, and pay on-the-spot for the service. Yarra Valley Water's vision in providing "any time, any place" customer support sets the standard for companies seeking to implement document imaging, COLD and workflow.
Seventh Path-Look Beyond Conventional Wisdom When Implementing Technology
Following conventional wisdom often leads to conventional systems that, while generating benefits, do not shift the competitive ground for an industry. Visionaries often challenge conventional wisdom, or are not content to live within its constraints. Some of the "truisms" that the 1996 award winners challenged include:
Martinair Holland, a Dutch airline, recently installed an imaging system to automate flight coupon retrieval. The system involves high speed scanning of flight coupons and OCR for high volume data entry. Through this installation, Martinair Holland has demonstrated that scanning items (e.g. flight coupons) and using OCR for indexing is not only viable, but can raise the bar for competitors by reducing the cost of back office ticket handling. Martinair Holland was successful in this project because careful attention was given to designing effective scanning and indexing procedures. User involvement was also key, since capture subsystems involve a significant amount of document preparation and quality assurance. By taking on the conventional wisdom, Martinair Holland set a new competitive standard within the Dutch airline industry.
Infocamere flew in the face of conventional wisdom from another perspective; it implemented a large scale, multi-site imaging system utilizing a number of image delivery mechanisms, including fax, e-mail, DAT tape, CD-R, and image transfer via wide area networks. Companies frequently shy away from large-scale, multi-site imaging installations because of concerns about network load and system performance. Companies that have this requirement, yet are reluctant to implement image delivery over WANs, should investigate alternative ways to capture and deliver images. In a very dramatic way, Infocamere showed it is possible to achieve large scale imaging in an exceedingly short time scale, and with significant benefits.
The conventional wisdom is that microfiche and optical storage do not mix-period. But to lower storage costs, Gak Netherlands, made extensive use of mixed media, including microfiche, roll film, CAR, Magneto Optical and CD-R. Since no vendor offers the comprehensive mix of storage media Gak Netherlands sought, the IT group within Gak Netherlands served as the internal systems integrator. Having gone this far, the integration group decided to integrate other third party software. For example, Gak Netherlands believed that work management would be better supported by integrating workflow with Baan's industrial logistics software, and by developing modeling tools in-house. This approach is definitely not the conventional approach for implementing imaging and workflow.
Several of the 1996 Excellence Award winners also successfully challenged the well-accepted belief that 75 percent of BPR projects fail. For example, when recent legislation shifted Gak Netherlands' customer base from 280,000 corporate customers to seven million individuals, Gak Netherlands decided to undergo extensive business process reengineering in an extremely short timescale. Not only did this project succeed, Gak Netherlands downsized the employers' insurance department by 50 percent (from 240 to 125 employees) while growing the customer base at an exponential rate. Similarly, Bank of America Asia Division's workflow and imaging project was \ by business process reengineering principles. In undertaking this project, the company developed a class for managers, IS and end users, focusing on technology concepts and reengineering principles. More than 300 individuals have taken this continuing class.
Moving the Goalposts in a Changing Competitive Environment
While today's visionaries have implemented technologies and applied the best management practices to achieve successful implementations, the competitive environment continues to change. The 1996 Gold winners-Capital Blue Cross, NYC Comptroller's, Yarra Valley Water, Gak Netherlands, and Infocamere-and the 1996 Silver winners-Trigon Blue Cross Blue Shield, Consolidated Edison, PPP healthcare, Martinair Holland and Bank of America Asia Division-represent today's most successful imaging and workflow installations.
But new projects are being planned, and even now, visionaries are in the midst of implementing systems and processes that will shift the competitive balance in their industries. Companies seeking to mirror the successes of proven winners should not merely emulate these installations, but anticipate where the document management and workflow markets are going. Future directions include migrating workflow and document management solutions to the web; expanding document management beyond text and image to incorporate video and sound; allowing customers to submit electronic documents via the internet; workflow-enabling processes between trading partners and customers; and integrating workflow with electronic commerce.
To compete successfully in the future, companies must focus on cross-functional processes that incorporate the extended enterprise. Customer service will be the single most critical battleground for both business and the public sector over the next five years. Companies can no longer sustain competitive advantage by relying on highly clerical, back-office, business-as-usual approaches to customer service. Competitive business/IT strategies must service customers whenever and wherever customers most need and value support.
While the Internet will facilitate reaching out to customers, developing solid, effective processes is and will remain the most critical success factor, transcending the decision to develop customer service applications on the Web or client/server platforms. Visionary companies and government agencies will derive substantial, tangible benefits by extending workflow-enabled customer support beyond business boundaries. To do so, senior management must have the vision to drive customer-centric IT investments; business analysts must design customer-centric processes; and IT must implement technology capable of delivering on-demand customer service.
Choosing a Workflow Vendor
Most visionaries view their relationship with the vendor(s) as a true partnership. When examining the details of successful implementations, there is most likely (but not always) a highly committed vendor or team of vendors that helped make their customers' success achievable. As a result, this is a good moment to examine how the selection of a workflow vendor impacts a company's ability to achieve excellence.
Why is the vendor selection particularly important for workflow implementations? Aside from the fact that any vendor relationship is an important partnership that needs to be evaluated carefully, the workflow market will undergo major consolidation over the next 2-3 years. With more than 80-workflow vendors competing in the US market alone, and looming market consolidation, companies must select their workflow vendors carefully.
Unless short-term departmental or technical needs absolutely override an organization's longer-term strategic IT requirements, corporate buyers should be wary of workflow suppliers unlikely to survive. This is particularly critical if the project is enterprise-wide or, will be implemented in phases, or if workflow is key to the company's IT strategy.
Despite the illusion created by trade publications, the market has been tough for most vendors. In fact, it has been downright treacherous: competition is keen, price declines have been steep, and workflow is both complex and time-consuming to sell.
The Seven Deadly Sins
Struggling suppliers are often guilty of the "seven deadly sins" which include:
Workflow Supplier Evaluation Criteria
Key areas to examine include:
These criteria must be examined in detail, whether the procurement involves a formal request for proposal/RFP (which is highly recommended for workflow purchases) or a short list of vendors reviewed on a less structured basis. Other crucial intangible factors include:
Evaluating Workflow Vendors
Buyers should look for workflow vendors with these profiles:
Technologies underpinning workflow are also changing. Successful vendors must keep abreast or ahead of the technology curve, including object-oriented development, component software, and emerging standards.
An Alternative View
If an acceptable return on investment can be achieved in a short time period, vendor credentials are less important. In these instances, the emphasis should be on selecting the right product features and functionality rather than using the vendor's long-term staying power in workflow as a knock-out criterion.
It is virtually impossible to pick the winners for a consolidating market, so rather than trying, users should focus on buying the best solution for the problem at hand. Plus, serendipity may occur; for example, a struggling vendor with an exceptional product may be acquired by a marketing juggernaut (sort of like when Wang bought Sigma). Instead of wasting time on crystal ball gazing, users should focus on identifying the requirements and matching the right product to those needs.
The Bottom Line: Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations
Workflow buyers should closely evaluate prospective suppliers' long-term viability in the market, eliminating vendors with high-risk profiles from serious consideration. Factors include:
Workflow and imaging technologies have far-reaching implications. Reading the implementation case studies in this book will provide a valuable blueprint for companies trying to understand what constitutes excellence in practice. Equally as important to read, however, are the chapters that follow the case studies. These offer guidelines to process change pitfalls and insights into the perspectives of the various stakeholders in any successful implementation.
When asked what single event was the most helpful in developing the theory of relativity, Albert Einstein is reported to have answered, "Figuring out how to think about the problem."
That is an excellent way to start any process improvement project.
This chapter was excerpted from Excellence
in Practice: Innovation and Excellence in Workflow and Imaging. Published
1997. Quality hardcover. 352 pages. US $50.00 Retail. Table
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