Great Clips knows the right tools for trimming split ends. But when the Minneapolis-based hair salon franchisor wanted to trim the time spent opening stores, it turned to something very different from scissors: business process management software from Metastorm.
Several different departments have a role in creating a Great Clips store, from finance to legal to real estate. Under the old setup, each department kept the information in a different way: some on an Excel spreadsheet, some on paper. When a project moved from one department to the next, information such as the franchisee's name or store address had to be walked over and necessary details were re-typed.
Beyond the possibility for data entry errors, there was the risk that one department would do its work before another finished its due diligence, such as real estate clearing a deal before finance had verified that the franchisee had the necessary resources. "It was a huge process of waiting for information we already had in a computer somewhere," says Jim Waldo, the consultant who managed the implementation as Great Clips' interim CIO. The company estimates it invested $1.3 million on the system.
The Metastorm BPM software creates one file for each store opening or remodeling that every department can access. The system has been set up with rules that govern each aspect of the job; it knows what information is necessary and who has authority to sign off on each step. Now, before the real estate department gives its green light to a potential location, the system has checked to make sure that other financial and legal hurdles have been cleared.
The company credits the software with cutting two weeks from the time needed to open a new salon. It has launched 200 new salons a year while managing the relocation and remodeling of another 50. As of May, it had 2,575 salons.
Metastorm gets high marks from customers for flexibility and responsiveness.Its starter suite, BPM Essentials, includes a graphical interface to design and quickly automate a process. It accommodates interfaces with the desktop applications users are most familiar with, such as Microsoft's e-mail and contact management application, Outlook. It also offers advanced products as part of its Breakaway BPM Components that include modeling and simulation (Metastorm Envision) and a rules engine built on the Microsoft BizTalk Rules Engine.
Prices begin at $125,000 for small installations; large enterprise deployments can run into the millions.
Children's National Medical Center, a 279-bed facility in Washington, D.C., went with Metastorm to get better control of its purchase requests. Five years ago, the hospital's costs for folders, paper, printing and the like totaled $2.32 per purchase request. After it installed a BPM system, costs dropped to 79 cents per request, a savings of $43,000 in year one, says Cherie Pardue, director of application development and support.
Before, the hospital's purchase request process began with a three-part paper form. Users looked up items in a supply book or got a price quote in writing, filled in the form and attached the quote. Then the request was routed to department heads in areas such as I.T. and biomedical. "If people didn't know the rules of the signature level authority," Pardue says, "purchasing would have to figure out if they had the right signatures."
Now, using a system of programmed rules, the system routes the electronic form to the right department. "When you are mapping out the workflow," Pardue explains, "you have to map out the decisions that each particular person can make. Can they approve? Deny? Modify?" The hospital put a rule into the system that if a request is denied, a comment must be made on the denial.
CEO Robert J. Farrell says Metastorm is poised for bigger things, and hints that an initial public offering might be in its plans. "We can compete against really big guys," he says. "We have tried to make sure we have the innovation capabilities of a small tech company, but we can deliver to a big company."