Making Process Optimization Easier

Nimbus control-ES facilitates business process design for Global 2000 companies.



VentanaMonitor™

Summary

Nimbus Partners’ control-ES is software that facilitates business process design. It addresses the issues that larger enterprises face when they attempt to optimize or rationalize existing business methods across multiple geographies or business units. With control-ES, companies can shorten the time spent on the mechanics of developing their processes, increase the likelihood that the process enhancements will produce their desired results and reduce organizational friction that typically occurs by improving communication and collaboration. Ventana Research advises companies considering process improvement initiatives to use process design software to enhance their chance of success, speed their development, and facilitate adoption and acceptance. We recommend that they consider control-ES for this purpose.

Assessment

Business processes design is increasingly important for Global 2000 companies. Business process engineering was an important rationale for the large ERP projects in the 1990s. However, companies typically did not so much re-engineer as automate existing processes. Often they spent substantial amounts of money heavily customizing software to mimic existing methods, whether they were optimal or not. A decade on, some companies are beginning to revisit process reengineering. This may be the result of an attempt to leverage technology to achieve breakthrough performance. Or it may be recognition that existing processes are defective. Customers may be put off by having to interact with multiple contacts or business units to complete a transaction, or by different business units using different processes to do the same thing. As organizations sit down to redefine core procedures, they often find they do not have the tools to facilitate the process.

Control-ES is a business process design application from Nimbus Partners. It is aimed at global companies that want to manage broad-based process improvement projects more effectively, or use it to communicate information processes themselves. Control-ES addresses needs that larger companies have when designing business processes. The application facilitates process design by:

  • Enabling broad participation and collaboration by many geographically dispersed users using a browser interface
  • Combining generic, high-level descriptions of business processes with intelligence about a company’s specific methods, and quickly assembling detailed end-to-end process definitions
  • Storing these process definitions (multiple versions of them if desired) in a central repository, ‘as-is’ and ‘should-be’ discussions of processes can be highly structured, and all of the information about the processes can be stored and accessed by participants
  • Supporting off-line process authors, enabling them to create or edit process definitions whether they are connected or not
  • Keeping documents related to the process accessible in a central repository

In contrast, purely manual systems (such as whiteboards and paper) and semi-automated ones (such as those that incorporate Visio) add to the difficulties of improving or rationalizing business processes and gaining acceptance of the changes. Manual and semi-automated approaches either cannot do what control-ES does, or cannot do it well. Business process management applications make it relatively straightforward to take an established process design and automate it. The better of these applications handle substantial amounts of complexity (interactions, loops, escalations, and so forth). However, they leave much to be desired in handling the analytical and collaborative tasks that are part of the process design stage. They do not document the process redesign effort well enough to enable organizations to manage it to an actionable result.



ERP systems are not at all established to facilitate process design, and in many cases, implementing a design is not as straightforward as it should be. Some CASE (computer-aided software engineering) tools exist to translate (or instantiate) business processes into code, but offer little or no support for the collaborative aspects of the process, and are geared more toward IT department requirements rather than general business needs.

Ventana Research believes most companies do not attain the full business benefits their ERP solutions can provide in supporting performance improvement initiatives (see “Enhance ERP to Improve Business Effectiveness,” 5/13/04 ). Companies can find ways to redefine and automate processes to promote operating efficiency, achieve greater value from company assets, and improve management’s decision-making capabilities. Ventana Research has found that companies can facilitate complex process design efforts using control-ES. In one instance, a global company discovered its customers were frustrated when they had to interact with the organization across multiple countries because of significant differences in how they executed similar business processes. Harmonizing these disparate processes became a high priority, and was accomplished using control-ES.

In addition, Nimbus has formed a partnership with Cognos to build a linkage between process and performance measurement. This will enable companies to improve efficiency by examining existing process performance that is directly linked to the process model.

Market Impact

Ventana Research sees the business process software market as part of a larger set of applications used in to design, manage/optimize, and monitor processes. We expect this market will grow rapidly over the next several years as companies focus on enhancing their performance by optimizing and harmonizing the way they execute business functions.

The challenge in the existing business process management software market is that most software providers do not provide a people-centric method to manage business processes. The majority of vendors have business rules and a workflow-centric approach that requires a high level of resource and technology investment in their platform and tools. This process management software market will continue to evolve since the technology is a required component of the application server, business intelligence and enterprise application markets.

Recommendation

Ventana Research asserts that companies can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage by optimizing business processes. Ventana Research advises Global 2000 companies to re-examine key business processes to ensure they are optimized and aligned with their strategy and tactical strengths. We believe software like control-ES can facilitate the design process, increase the likelihood of the new processes doing what they are designed to, and speed acceptance of the changes by improving collaboration and communication.

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