Archive for July, 2008

Operational Agility

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

My previous post mentioned that Blue Prism’s new message is based on operational agility, so I thought I better explain what that means.

In today’s complex business world, front and back office customer service operations have to contend with a non-stop barrage of change.  Whereas traditional IT projects deliver systems against timescales measured in years, human beings on the front line have to react to events happening right now, today.

The long term IT strategy is generally based on what is known today with some future forecast factored in.  The business users, though, have little more idea of what is coming tomorrow than the poor EA faced with a blank sheet of paper.  Of course, the major systems still need to exist, CRM, core operational software, billing and collections etc.  It’s just that when these systems are conceived they have to be designed with a “best guess” of future requirements and this results in range of functions available to the front line that is then frozen in time.

The problem with this approach is that operational staff might need to do something new.  A merger or acquisition creates process duplication; a new product launch requires operational support with sketchy forecasts of process volumes; management want to push a certain product whilst sunsetting another; a processing error needs quickly reversing.

One of our customers had a processing problem caused by a mail strike.  Several thousand accounts were debited with a late payment penalty whilst the cheques really were “in the post”.  A decision was taken to refund these payments (very noble – glad I am a customer of this organisation!).  When the customer accounting system was designed, nobody thought that there might be a bulk requirement to selectively cancel debits applied to a range of accounts.  The traditional way of solving this problem is to take a few call centre agents off the phones for a few weeks to process these refunds manually.  With Blue Prism software the team was able to quickly piece together a new automated process flow that required no human involvement and the process was completed in one day.

Here’s the science bit.  Blue Prism retrospectively componentises the existing and legacy apps and allows you to re-purpose them into new operational scenarios and business processes.  Using point and click integration techniques (no code required), new methods can be clicked together into a process flow using a simple flowchart interface.  This gives operational staff the means to manage and react to short term change and therefore operational agility is enhanced.

Sounds like similar objectives to BPM/SOA?  Possibly some.  Except we are talking about delivery in days and weeks, not months and years.  I’ll go into more detail on this in a later post.

Blue Prism website

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Blue Prism is about to launch a new website based on an operational agility message.

It’s amazing how much hard work goes into designing and building a website and, not least, writing the copy.  We have also taken some important design decisions such as dropping the prism widget from the logo:

blueprism_logo

Personally I quite liked the old prism and sorry to see it go, but I was the only one who held that view.  Democracy eh?

On more serious matters, working out who you are, who your customers are, and what the message that connects those two things is weighty stuff and takes time in the world of enterprise software.

We are not 100% there yet, but we are moving in the right direction and we are hopefully taking steps to look like a larger, more serious company as we are emerging from early stage into growth mode.

What used to worry me is that I expected to crack all these problems overnight.  Learning with our early customers, listening to them, getting independent people to listen to them, and taking a bit of time to think both introvertly and extrovertly has been most helpful.

Talking to customers teaches us not only about who we are and how to connect, but also enables us to examine how we deliver.

This is not just benefiting our sales team, but also our new customers coming on board, who can take advantage of previous experience, methodologies and working practices, and new ways in which Blue Prism software can be used.

The website is in final testing and should go live next week at www.blueprism.com.

Talking of website upgrades, I have moved this blog to a new ISP and upgraded to WordPress 2.5.1 – big improvement!