What is Business Process Automation?

Business Process Automation (abbreviated as BPA) is nothing more than the use of computer system to “automate” the work that is required to complete a “Business Process”. It can cover a wide range of work from computers on the factory floor counting raw materials, to the smallest one-person business generating a sales report. The most common meaning that I know of usually falls into the category of creating custom reports automatically. Usually this involves some form of Microsoft Office application like Word® or Excel® and a source of information like an internal database or web-based system.

How do I know that I need to Automate a Business Process?

This is usually very simple: If there is a process in your company where someone has to copy or cut/paste information from one computer system and put it into another computer system, then you need BPA. The very fact that you are using a person’s valuable time to move information from one computer to another shows that you have an opportunity save both time and money by automating the process.

How do I know that it is a Business Process worth Automating?

It is fairly easy to figure out what the ROI would be on a BPA project. First you need to figure out how much time is spent to generate the results each time. Then attach a dollar amount to the time people spend creating the result (or output in BPA parlance). This is your total cost to generate the result. Once you talk to your BPA professional, you should have a cost of the new system that you can compare with the cost of having your people transfer the information. Dividing the cost of the automated system by the cost to generate the result will give you a very simplified Return on Investment (or ROI) in terms of how may times your new system would need to be run in order to break even. Your ROI will actually be much greater if you add in other common factors that go into a normal ROI analysis. Your BPA Professional should be able to help you produce a more thorough ROI statement.

What’s some examples of BPA?

The following are some real-world examples of how BPA was implemented to reduce time and costs:

  1. The Loan Status Report Many large banks have large mainframe computers that hold tons and tons of information on the various loans the bank has outstanding. One of our customers was going into these systems and with pencil and paper copying down various data about each loan closed by their department so that a monthly status report could be created. It was taking the person “two or three days” a month to create this report. The information was stored on the bank’s mainframe computers, and a request to generate this report was deemed “too expensive” to create by the internal information systems personal. We sat down with the customer and determined it would take 50 hours of work to create a program that would query the mainframes like a terminal and retrieve all the information and paste it into an Excel spreadsheet just like the existing report. The report now takes under five minutes to complete, and their ROI was less than four months.

  2. The Project Status Report This medium-size company had a web-based project and work management system that was purchased from an outside company. They wanted to get a project status report, but the reports that came with the system did not provide the set of information that they were looking for. When they talked to the company about adding this report, the outside company responded with a six-figure proposal! Not wanting to pay that amount, they turned to us for options. The project task system was entirely web-based, so we wrote a program that would manipulate the web browser to call up all the information on each task, copy that information into an Excel spreadsheet, and when finished, open up Microsoft Outlook and email the status report! Since there were several people that were spending many hours looking at each task in the project system every day, the ROI was literally only one week!

What’s the next step if I want to explore BPA?

Contact your local BPA professional for a consultation! Be sure to have an idea about what you want the output to be like (you don’t have to stick with exactly what you have now!), and how much time is spent currently generating your result. The BPA professional should be able to analyze your systems and determine a cost for a new automated system. They should also be able to tell you what the expected ROI will be!

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 | Posted by MobileDataGuy | Categories: HowTos, Opinions | Tagged: , |

I always find it a bit amusing working with Wireless Carriers when they hand me an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) for “Project Dinkelburg” with clues to what the project actually is. (I’m not using any real-world code words here, so don’t bother trying to Google a “Project Dinkelburg”.)  If you read through the text of the NDA, there are many clues as to what the project is actually about, and in theory, I could refuse to sign the document and be legally with in my rights to discuss the clues listed in the NDA with anyone.  Of course, these same Wireless Carriers are my major customers, and I would not be working with them not long after I did discuss any clues. I guess its kind of a ‘Catch-22′ for them as they have to create an NDA that will be legally binding, but to do so they have to include information that really should be NDA. Keeps lawyers employed I guess :)

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 | Posted by MobileDataGuy | Categories: Opinions |


10 July 2008

So today marks the launch the 3G version of the iPhone.  Working around the folks that have been very busy working to launch this new phone, I’ve been exposed to a new set of nouns that I never knew existed before.

As a rule, most new phones don’t require a lot of extra work on the part of the cellular carrier.  You need to make sure that the device capabilities are entered and working in your SMSCs (text messages or SMS), your WAP Gateways (Internet web pages, although a lot of phone go direct now a days), and your MMSCs (picture messages). That the radio side of the network will work with the handset…all the usual things. Other than that is just the usual amount of coordination to make sure all the stores have the new phones in time.

But iPhones are a bit different.  There is a belief that they are going to be flying off the shelves and be selling at a phenomenal rate….like more and faster than last time.  So we have all been busy with meetings to make sure everything in the system can handled the anticipated load.  But these aren’t just any meetings….they are iMeetings. With iAgendas on iConference iCalls.

The closer we got to today, the more iMeetings we had.  Some were iFires in that someone felt some parts of the system needed to be corrected ASAP before today.  I guess when I have my iLunch today I’ll take a peek at the iSystem and see if it iCrashed. :)

Now if only Mr. Jobs would put an MMS client on the iPhone…..or is that an iMMS iClient ;)

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 | Posted by MobileDataGuy | Categories: Cellphones, Opinions, OtherStuff |

I was reading a WSJ article about the fact that some companies are recalling their telecommuters back to the office the other day with growing apprehension. Seems that some companies feel that better team work will result if everyone is sitting around the table “singing Kumbaya” to quote the article. As a mobile worker, it strikes me a bit odd that these companies didn’t seem to understand that in some cases, with some people, working remotely out of the office makes these workers more productive than if they were working there at the office. Some companies feel the added cost of things like Internet access doesn’t offset the amount of productivity gains that can be had by working in an environment where you are either in a more comfortable setting, or working closer with the customers by traveling to them. Its seems like a case of penny wise, dollar foolish (or maybe the modern version is ‘Euro’ ;) ) to me.

The article makes three points about how to maintain your telecommuting lifestyle: Perform well and make sure people understand you are performing well, Be visible (but not visible in some place like on the beach in Hawaii), and Make sure you are collaborating with your fellow workers. Just to add to this a bit, being connected might be another point to make. If you have the ability to take your phone extension with you — like a good VoIP system will let you — colleagues may never know that you are mobile. A good video chat system also seems to help people connect with you more than just a simple IM chat. I take with me a nice Snap-on camera:

Logitech QuickCam Deluxe for Notebooks: Electronics

that lets me video conference with other folks anywhere I can get a good Internet connections (hint: coffee shops are usually too loud unless you also have a head set with a noise canceling microphone…also, sit with your back to a wall, so the space behind you isn’t busy with people moving around.) Yahoo IM has a nice video mode, and the price is right….free :)

Telecommuting and/or mobile working isn’t for everyone. You do need to be self-motivated to get things done, and can work without any supervision. If you do work this way, be sure to let your boss know how much better you both are for letting you work the way you are!!

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 | Posted by MobileDataGuy | Categories: Opinions, OtherStuff |

Android: The next Linux?

5 November 2007

As you may have heard, Google today announced its much anticipated mobile phone initiative know as Android. Today was just the announcement….no handsets to show off, no cools apps to see, but there sure is a lot of talk about it already.

I was looking at it all and I kept coming back to the thought that this might be the Linux of the cellphone industry. [And yes, I know Linux runs on a couple of handsets already, but that's not the point I'm trying to make.] Before Linux, users really didn’t have any other choice for an operating system on their new computers….it was Windows or nothing. Then Linux came along and those with the technical savvy could run software that was free. Now a days there are plenty of articles out there about how close Linux is coming to being able to replace Windows as the operating system of choice for businesses. Granted its taken years to get here, but here we are anyway. Now we might have the same kind of software in Google’s ‘Android’ in that its Open Source, free to anyone who wants to load it, and it allows any developer to write code for handsets (and it also is based on Linux).

I don’t think for a minute that everyone is going to rush out and get these phones. For the vast majority of business users, I would surely recommend that you don’t go for the first wave of these things, as there are going to be many technical issues that could cause loss of phone service. Wait a while for things to sort themselves out, or for when you see a new application that you can’t get on your “normal” handset. I plan to get one of these to play with….but its not going to be my business phone! …at least not to start with ;)

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 | Posted by MobileDataGuy | Categories: Opinions |