Case Study: Managing Processes across an Enterprise with BPM

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Creek, California, wanted to turn its many cumbersome and unreliable manual processes involved in 41 projects – ranging from Community Development to Public Services - into efficient and automated processes across the organization. The City turned to a Business Process Management solution, e-Work from Metastorm which was integrated into the city's existing Web-based systems. The resulting benefits include improved tracking of its critical tasks, accessibility to projects for all employees, and the elimination of paper documents. With e-Work, the City is saving significant time and money as it continues to automate processes.

Gary Chan has over 15 years of experience and is an industry veteran to Information Technology. Chan is responsible for the design of the City's first enterprise-wide project management system to streamline business practices. He directed the project selection, acquisition, and integration of the organization’s BPM solution. Chan is an IT expert on the creation and deployment of enterprise software solutions.

Walnut Creek is 23 miles east of San Francisco across San Francisco Bay. The population is almost 66,000 with 3,482 businesses. The city has 370 FTE and 450 part-time employees. Walnut Creek wanted to automate most of its systems for tracking projects using BPM to lower costs and create greater efficiency. Chan defined BPM as, "The execution of software, measures, and processes that enable rapid, more accurate decision making."

The reasons for the initiative were:
• City used a manual system to monitor projects
• Real-time project progress reporting did not exist
• Existing reporting required up to two weeks and data was stale
• City needed an automated system to monitor project progression and resource planning (It took almost 30 days to approve a purchase order)
• City needed to enhance staff and department coordination
• City needed to improve project accountability, progress tracking and reporting and resource allocation

Walnut Creek started this initiative in October of 2002 and had it up and running by February of 2004. Metastorm was the chosen vendor.

The system requirements were:
• To integrate with existing e-mail system
• To provide status update notification for projects or tasks
• To provide a completely paperless environment
• To be user-friendly with minimal training
• To be scalable for growth
• To be an open system for integration with other systems such as finance
• To be Web-enabled to operate without any software clients

The system features included the above, as well as providing the ability to attach electronic documents to each project and provide on-demand project and management reports. There was an automated process for approvals and the ability to incorporate multi-level project changes. The future enhancements would incorporate user feedback, optimize and refine the various processes to improve efficiency, and develop additional reports and charts.

The benefits achieved were:
• Improved overall efficiency and productivity
• Enhanced coordination among city staff with fewer meetings and improved staff communication
• Insured that projects are completed on-time and within budget
• Provided a virtual filing cabinet to capture all e-mail messages and documents
• Allowed executive management to access real-time project status and other data

There were challenges to overcome, however. Most staff members resisted the new system because they had to give up their comfortable familiarity with the legacy system and their existing processes. Eliminating the paperwork gave staff a sense of insecurity. The more technically inclined staff began using the new system without difficulties, but the rest required a lot more training and hand-holding. Some of the staff thought the system was monitoring them in a 'Big Brother' way.

The project got full support from both the City Manager and executive management. A training guide was developed with many screen shots to assist users. There was a lot of training both in groups and one-on-one, and the IT staff patrolled offices providing answers to staff while they worked on the new systems.

Users say that projects are now much more manageable than before. The new system allows better monitoring of critical paths and project priorities. There is a better ability to forecast system requirements, along with better coordination with part-time staff. Notification comes in the form of e-mail pop-up windows that inform employees of pending tasks that need attention.

The lessons learned were:
• Seek management, IT, and user involvement and support
• Determine project overall goals and objectives
• Outline existing business practices then review and optimize them.
• Plan ahead for any staff reassignments (A city can't just lay off workers as the improved processes make them redundant.)
• Streamline processes behind the curtain to maintain the same look and feel to users.
• Use the same terminology to reduce confusion and training time
• System initiators must take system ownership
• Continue to automate new processes.
• Don't give up! (Implementing a BPM initiative takes a lot of work and there is always a lot of resistance to overcome.)

Walnut Creek is very happy with its BPM initiative. Chan says that it has actually revolutionized the city's business practices. Executive management can now easily obtain real-time data and to make timely decisions. Effective resource planning is a reality. There was a substantial return on investment, although ROI is difficult to figure for governments. Walnut Creek now has a completely paperless environment and the time spent in meetings has been cut substantially. The total cost to Walnut Creek was a paltry $85,000.
Gary Chan recently spoke on this topic at BrainStorm’s Business Process Management Conference in San Francisco. For more information on this conference, visit www.BPMConference.com

To hear the archived audio file of this presentation, visit:
www.bpminstitute.org/presentations/

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