When Toronto came under the threat of the severe acute respiratory syndrome virus last year, Joanne Pearson had to shut down operations at the West Park Healthcare Assessment Centre offices for six weeks. Yet she and her IT staff couldn’t stop processing medical insurance referrals and claims.
“We picked up and operated out of a hotel. We were able to quite easily adapt to this emergency situation,” says Pearson, general manager at the Assessment Centre. She credits business-process management software — Ultimus BPM Suite from Ultimus Inc. — as the source of her staff’s flexibility, mobility and efficiency. “We put our critical processes into the software, and because the system is Web-based, we were able to keep working when other people had to close their doors,” she says.
Business-process management (BPM) software tracks projects or processes through pre-defined approvals and reminds staff members who have ownership of specific stages to complete tasks. It also alerts them of potential bottlenecks.
The Assessment Centre began using Ultimus BPM Suite in the fall of 2002. This software is typical of BPM products. Whether from pure-play vendors such as Fuego Inc., Intalio Inc., Metastorm Inc., Pegasystems Inc., SeeBeyond Technology Corp., Ultimus and Vitria Technology Inc.; from application integration vendors such as BEA Systems Inc., Tibco Software Inc. and webMethods Inc.; or from big software houses such as IBM Corp., BPM products include customizable templates. With these templates, users can input multiple stages of a process and define who to alert about delays — business unit, IT staff or partner, for example — via e-mail, page or phone call.
“These tools let users capture information on how processes are really running,” says Sharyn Leaver, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “If you build a process in BPM software, you can more easily identify bottlenecks and streamline steps.”
The BPM software let Pearson automate 35 processes and cut referral and claim turnaround time from 11 days to three. Without BPM software, a claim could land in a stack of papers and wait to get moved to the next stage (another person’s desk), all while phones constantly ring as managers, customers and business partners call to check on claim status. The improved efficiencies represent about US$75,000 per year to her organization, plus another $150,000 annually on staff she otherwise would have had to hire.
Others look to the software to help them document complex processes, eliminate paper trails and deliver more-targeted services to business partners and customers. Still others find that BPM software lets them show their work to management.