Why do a SharePoint installation and implementation?

Yes, you have to do it. No, don’t ask more questions about it. Yes, you will
need to learn a couple of things, and some of your colleagues are going to
refuse using it, but you have to. In the long run, you will increase your
organization productivity and you won’t be able to live without it.

Some of the things you’ll get:

  • Central document repository: no more storing files on your local
    hard disk or on a shared folder in the network. With SharePoint you will be
    able to store documents in a repository accessible via web. When some other
    person needs to collaborate on the document, they can just go the specified
    web site, open the document, edit it and save it back to the repository. No
    more documents lying around.
  • Document versioning: yes, will have a whole history of all the
    edits made on the document and go back and recover that version that you
    need.
  • One search: search for documents and information inside documents
    from a single place. When you install SharePoint Portal Server, you will get
    the ability to search across sites and document libraries everywhere. Now
    you won’t loose a document again.
  • Metadata fields: Add information about documents. Forget about
    folder hierarchies for classifying documents. Add metadata fields for
    describing and searching.
  • Forms: create a repository of standard forms used in your
    organization. Training requests, purchase orders, expense reimbursement,
    etc., etc., etc. Create and publish them in SharePoint.
  • Sites: create special sites for collaboration. A site for the
    sale department, human resources department. For that new project we are
    starting.
  • Collaboration features: create calendars, meeting spaces, assign
    tasks and create contacts around documents and other objects of the
    organization. Everything integrated in one site created for that purpose.
  • It’s the future: yes, it is. We will have one environment,
    invisible in the background, where all our documents will live and all the
    collaboration information will be stored. Today is called SharePoint.

Of course, this are just some of the things you will get when deploying
SharePoint. There are a lot of other things you can do with it and customize it
to your needs.

After your implementation don’t forget to go a step further with workflow.
Add document approval and routing to those documents and forms in SharePoint
using our product, Procx. With it, you can really streamline processes and
really do more with less. Go, give it a look at our
SharePoint Workflow
site and our InfoPath
Workflow
site.

You need to increase the productivity

Productivity has been key factor of growth of companies now days. When
organizations can’t reduce more costs and you have others rising, in which you
cannot have a direct influence, the only way to increase profits is getting into
productivity.

When people ask me to define productivity, I respond a four word sentence: do
more with less. That’s it. Process more insurance claims without increasing
personnel, find company documents and information more easily without wasting
time, automate processes and relocate employees to perform value added
activities in the business, handle more loans without increasing officials, find
new channels of delivering your product without investing lots of money.

Technology has been playing a huge role in productivity, especially
information technology. Today organizations have a portfolio of software
products available online that can automate almost any part of your company.
Identify your needs, look for manual routines that employees do and think how
you can improve that part of the business and which software can help you
achieve your objectives. A small increase in productivity can yield into high
profit values.

Start measuring your process

How can you really know how your company is doing if are not measuring
processes? Do you know how many support requests are you getting from users per
month? From what area are they coming?

If you go to the customer service representative, do you know how much time
is lasting for giving the customer a definitive answer on their problem? There
is no way we can improve these type of services if you are not taking measures
of the process. By doing so, then we can think about augmenting our customer
satisfaction index or reducing the amount of errors that a product has when
going out to the streets.

In this

article
by Seth Godin, he makes a call to people to stop being afraid of
taking care of processes. Yes, we know this is a routinary thing, but it is a
strategic value to our business against competitors. If I’m more efficient
internally, I can handle more jobs and customers with less the cost of similar
organizations in the industry.

So, stop for while envisioning what your company will be in the next three
years and take care of those processes that customers and employees are
complaining right now.

A small preview of our next release

We’ve been working hard in these previous weeks getting version 2.5 of Procx out on the streets. Most of the new features comes as part of the feedback we’ve been getting from our customers. The winner feature of all was a better web client interface. So, we dedicated the majority of the time in developing a new client with all the features requested. Here’s a preview of what’s coming:

1. The home page: The initial page welcomes every user with a summary of tasks pending and overdue for him. Also, a small calendar shows the tasks a person has for today by default.

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2. The WorkList: this is the main part of the web client. Here you can see all the tasks assigned to you. You can now customize views so you can add or remove fields depending on the process and requests that you manage. For example, if you work for the IT department and handle help desk or maintenance requests, you may have a view that displays the tasks with fields associated to these request. If you work for the human resources department and handle training requests, you may want a view that shows fields from those requests.

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3. RSS Feeds: now you can see tasks in your favorite RSS reader.

4. Tasks detail: You can complete tasks directly from the web, enter and view comments history.

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5. Flow: You can now have a visual representation of the process actually running letting you know in what stage it is right now.

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6. Search: Advance search capabilities and a detail of where is any request.

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7. Reports: Reports can be seen now from the web, including any custom report made using the Procx Studio.

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In conclusion, great features are coming in the next release of our new web client making it very easy for anybody in the organization to receive and complete tasks assigned to them during any process.

Using roles in business processes

When creating a workflow, one of most common activities in them are tasks.
These tasks must be approved or completed during the execution of the process.
Someone in the organization is in charge of completing the task.

For this to happen, tasks must be assign to users or employees inside the
organization. They must then complete it according to their criteria. For
example, in a bank application for creating a new account, the officer will
generally have a task for checking if the person opening the account is already
a customer of the bank, maybe using their social security number (going one step
further this can be automated using a web service that makes a query to the
backend system and returning true if the person is a customer). After the
officer has completed the check, then he can complete the task.

Assigning a task to a person can be made directly or indirectly. In
Procx, you can do it
any way you want. Directly means assigning a task to an employee, a user. For
example, the task described in the previous example can be assign to Jack, an
officer in our Timbuktu branch. You can even get the user from a variable (for
example a user selected in a list on a form). The disadvantage of using this way
is that if Jack is transferred to the Honolulu branch, then you must edit the
process and change the assignment to the new user.

Assigning a task indirectly means not attaching a task to a user, but instead
to a role. A role belongs to an organizational chart and is occupied by a user.
In the previous example, instead of assigning the task to Jack, you can assign
it to the loan officer located in the organizational chart of the Timbuktu
branch. When Jack gets the sad notice that he’s been transferred to Honolulu,
then the only thing to be done is change the user assigned to the loan officer
role in the organizational chart. No other changes are needed in the process and
everything continues to run smoothly.

This is why assigning tasks to roles is the preferred practice when building
workflows generally and one that is totally supported in Procx.

Polite software should be fudgable

When manual tasks and processes are automated, most of the time something is
lost in the middle. The most simple thing that is lost is flexibility. When
humans interact with a process, they can always adjusts things to their own way.
When handling an expense request, the account payables department may want to
approve it faster if the request is coming from that project in China that is
behind schedule, so the priorities in the process change. When we automate the
expense reimbursement request with software, these flexibilities are gone making
the software not likable for users.

That is how Alan Cooper describes fudgable software in his extraordinary book
The Inmates Are Running the Asylum : Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity (2nd Edition): “I call this ability to take actions
out of sequence or before prerequisites are satisfied fudgability
“.

For solving the problem, Alan describes in his book that software should be
flexible enough to handle this out of sequence tasks in the process allowing
persons to interact with it in a more human way. It’s like letting the users
decide which is the best way to handle a request.

This flexibility in software maybe one of the most complicated task to
accomplish during construction. Generally products are locked in the way a
workflow should execute, closing any other variables and exceptions that the
final user may want to use, as Alan explains in his book. But, if we achieved
this kind of malleability in software, we are making software that acts more
like a human allowing interaction to be kindly.

This kind of flexibility in software can be achieved using
business process
management software
like Procx. The process per se can be changed and
configured according to organizational needs. Exceptions can be taken in and out
of the process as management wants. A request for a purchase order can no longer
be locked in an specific workflow forever. Process analysts can draw their
processes in the workflow
product
and decide under which rules it will execute.

So, the interaction of the user with the process is not embedded in the
software, it would be built in Procx allowing the process to be as flexible as
the organization and management wants. It’s a new way of automating processes.
What do you think?

Forms with InfoPath, XForms and others

Every process in an organization is related to document or some other kind of
information. The majority of these documents are forms. From an expense request
form to a vacation approval form. Forms structure information, so these can be
more easily digested by others in the organization.

When you are looking to automate this processes you need to find a way to
also take these forms to electronic forms. Then users in the company will have
like a central repository for these requests, allowing them to fill them more
easily and at the same time reduce errors. For developing electronic forms you
have several options in the market:

- Microsoft
Office InfoPath
: It’s the product offering from Microsoft. You can easily
draw forms in a very intuitive way. It integrates with other Office products
like Excel, Word and SharePoint. The final produced form is an XML, which makes
it easy to integrate with other applications. For viewing and editing the form,
you need to have InfoPath installed on the client machine.

- XForms: is the W3C standard for
making web forms. It has a whole structure for developing and designing them.
Any organization can take their forms electronic using these technology. You can
view and edit the forms using one of the commercially available products or just
use the Firefox XForms plug-in
which is free. Also with XForms, the final produced form is an XML.

- Developed your own forms: You can also developed your own forms using the
technology you prefer (PHP, ASP, ASP.NET, etc.). The only thing to have in mind
is that the final output must be also an XML to be compatible with other
applications.

Procx allows you to
add workflow
to any type of the previous forms.
InfoPath,
XForms or any other
XML file is supported. You can design the process and use the fields from the
form to build business rules and customized notifications. This provide an
integrated environment for developing forms and the workflow for handling the
requests. Real process automation.

BPM is an ongoing journey

Organizations are composed of processes. Not only organizations, but anything
that surround us, that has some type of function, can be described as a series
of steps followed to achieve some desired goal. For me, I think the perfect
machine, with perfect processes, is the human body. Every function is delimited,
has a series of steps, and evolution has made of these processes an art, making
them perfect. Every single one of them.

The same thing happens in our businesses. There’s a workflow to be followed
for almost any function. The only difference, with our bodies for example, is
that they are not perfect. In the majority of businesses we don’t event know the
steps of processes because they are not documented, making it more difficult to
correct errors.

When you want to make processes in an organization better, you need to
correct errors, eliminate steps, maybe automate others, etc. But there’s always
some tweaking to do until you reach an acceptable level of performance. That’s
why business process management is an every day task. It’s not a project that
finished today.

From

this article
: “Both BPM and SOA could be thought of as a way of thinking
about how the business and governance model should be designed and a way of
delivering the technology and applications to support that design,” Miers says.
“Both concepts involve a journey, not a destination. At their core, both employ
an iterative approach to business performance improvement.

New processes appear every day. They come from new campaigns, new product or
services offering and also from changing directions of companies. Also actual
workflows change due to market needs.
BPM and workflow
solutions
will give the flexibility businesses needs for adjusting and
creating these processes allowing them to face competition and increase their
performance in an ongoing basis.