BPM: Strategy Before Software

By Bob Violino  |  Posted 03-13-2009

BPM: Strategy Before Software

When Enterprise Rent-A-Car deployed a business process management (BPM) product to help revamp the process by which employees request IT hardware, software and services, the company's strategy for implementing BPM and maintaining the request system going forward was every bit as important as the technology itself.

The St. Louis based company, one of the largest car rental companies in the world, leveraged a BPM suite from Appian to consolidate several technologies that supported the request and fulfillment process into one unified platform. The result is fewer manual steps, reduced errors, and a foundation that will support ongoing automation, ensuring that the IT request process will be scalable for growth in request volume, says Ron Puno, senior manager of IT at Request Services.

The company's Request Services department uses the platform to process, approve and to enable the fulfillment of requests for IT products and services from its thousands of employees worldwide. Before the revision, Enterprise used multiple systems--which were mostly manual and incapable of being expanded--to handle such requests.

Request Services launched a strategy for implementing the changes that have proven to be critical to the success of the project. A big part of this strategy was dealing with the cultural changes that would take place with the implementation of the new request system.

The department engaged and continues to involve key stakeholders--mainly the people who approve IT product and service requests and those who fulfill the requests--in the development phases of new services and functionality.

"One of the benefits of our particular platform is we're able to take stakeholder requirements and rapidly incorporate them," Puno says. "But prior to making these live, oftentimes we'll engage with stakeholders in sessions where we show them what we've built in part--basically a demo or working prototype of the intended functionality."

Changing Processes

Another key facet of the strategy was incorporating changes into the department's processes to support the new system's capabilities "Once we realized how much faster and easier it would be for us to implement changes and enhancements, we worked hard at educating members of each team in our department on what this new platform was and the capabilities it gave us," Puno says.

The educational effort also included familiarizing people with terms associated with BPM. A BPM platform was a new concept with unfamiliar terms, and management needed to educate people about BPM as well as how to use the technology and take advantage of its benefits, Puno says. The department held training on the high-level concepts of what BPM is as a management discipline, as well as on what the BPM suite is and how its supports the BPM discipline.

Management meets frequently to make sure that everyone is on the same page. "The huddles we have are not meant to be long-winded meetings, but quick bursts to highlight the main status of changes, or main roadblocks or issues that need to be overcome," Puno says.

Puno concedes that it's difficult for some organizations to have their team members in the same location, but Enterprise has been able to locate its analysts, developers and support teams on the same floor, with work spaces and cubicles that neighbor each other. "The collocation allows teams to be within arms reach of [each other] and arrive at quick clarification should any questions or issues surface about a given change," Puno says.

Finally, the department created cross-functional teams to work on various stages of the BPM deployment. An upfront team worked on BPM when the implementation was first taking root. It included evangelists/educators, solutions architects, infrastructure engineers to help set up the initial technical platform, application developers, analysts and support people.

An ongoing release team, formed once the BPM strategy was in place, oversees continuous improvements and changes in the platform. The team includes application developers, analysts and support staff. The department is now focused on expanding its process to include increased involvement from external stakeholders in defining the system's move to greater automation.