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Editors' Choice for Innovation: Sequence iBPMS platform

This Editor's Choice for Innovation focuses on Sequence, an "iBPMS" workflow management platform. Learn more about this product and how a user has used this platform successfully.

The editors at SearchSOA regularly recognize application integration and modernization technologies for their innovation and market impact. PNMsoft's Sequence iBPMS is the April 2016 editors' choice selection.

Product Name: Sequence iBPMS

Release date: Version 7.10 released September 2015; version 8.0 release scheduled for May 2, 2016

Vendor Name: PNMsoft

What it does

Sequence is an iBPMS platform for workflow management. It is a fully browser-based platform that allows organizations to create business-critical "workflows," or tasks, and allows end users to complete those workflows sequentially.

By providing a "visual workflow canvas," Sequence allows IT departments and business teams to collaborate over the management of critical workflows and manage those workflows in a single system. This is aimed at reducing the number of disparate applications that exist for individual workflows and simplifying the way in which they are completed. Sequence is also designed to enable streamlined integration with existing legacy systems, particularly Microsoft-based environments.

"With Sequence, you can integrate with Web services, with Windows Workflow Foundation, etc.,"  Vasileios Kospanos, marketing manager at PNMsoft, said.  According to Nuno Lopes, technology manager at PNMsoft, this is important because many of their customers,  are often saddled with the management of heavy, complex legacy technology stacks that combine two or more large back-end applications and numerous "homegrown" solutions for workflow management.

Sequence also allows organizations to create "mobile workflows" that enable remote users to manage and report on critical processes via a mobile app.

"Our solution is being used, for example, in Israel -- the highways agency is using Sequence for people to report damages on the road," Kospanos said. "And they can do that from the mobile app."

Why it's cool

Sequence is a leading Microsoft-based iBPMS provider listed on Gartner's Magic Quadrant. The term "iBPMS" was invented by Gartner to describe any BPM suite with next-generation features that enable intelligent business operations, such as intelligent analytics and advanced mobile, social and cloud capabilities.

"What makes BPMS intelligent is the features of 'SMAC' -- social, mobile, analytics, and cloud features," Kospanos said. "We have a wall, for example, where you can track processes and process owners and where business and ITTs can collaborate, and it's [based on] the SMAC."

In particular, Sequence features a capability known as HotChange, which allows users to monitor and adjust resource usage and process performance in real time. HotChange is one of PNMsoft's trademark technologies, and according to Kospanos, it guarantees that organizations can make quick changes to their business process management (BPM) system in order to respond to market conditions, business requirements, resource requirements and more in a timely fashion.

"If you want to make a change to a running application because you face changes from internal teams or new products or new regulations, the technology will help you do that on the fly without downtime or disruption," Kospanos said.

Another notable aspect of Sequence, as is shown in the customer case of Portugal Telecom, is the ease with which the system can be independently deployed, even by a small technology department. According to both Kospanos and Gonçalo Mendes, head of retail development and optimization at Portugal Telecom, the company was able to implement Sequence almost completely independently, with just four people managing the tool, two coders and a single technical support operator.

"We did provide a professional services package ... however, most of the implementation work was done by Portugal Telecom themselves," Kospanos said. "We helped them create a framework where they had building blocks and they built all the workflows themselves -- more than 500 workflows."

What a user said

Portugal Telecom is the largest telecommunications provider in Portugal. They are also the owners of MEO, the largest landline operator in Portugal. Portugal Telecom's shopkeepers are responsible for taking care of a large number of telecom customers, and before the implementation of Sequence, they were not only dependent on a number of disparate applications, but also just a pencil and paper.

"We have several applications to fulfill all the customer needs ... [if they want to make a] claim, you use one thing; if you want to subscribe to one service you use another application. And on top of this, you have complex workflows that the shopkeeper has to have in his mind," Mendes said.

According to Mendes, Portugal Telecom had four major requirements for their next BPM system:

  • Reduced dependency on the IT department. They needed the shopkeepers to be able to create and manage workflows on a single system with minimal reliance on IT.
  • Smooth interaction with legacy systems. Mendes said they needed a workflow management system that could integrate with their various legacy tools, such as Microsoft CCA which they use for "screen scratching."
  • The ability to monitor and measure. Workflow efficiencies were low, and Portugal Telecom needed the ability to see every step that the shopkeeper was taking. This enabled them to address problems as they arose and reduce workflow completion times.
  • SharePoint compatibility. Portugal Telecom's IT department demanded that the system be compatible with their existing SharePoint architecture.

"Portugal Telecom is a huge Microsoft house, and they were looking for a Microsoft solution to achieve what they wanted," Kospanos said. "They wanted the automation of a big system, the cross compatibility, all those things that you can only do with an intelligent business management suite."

With the help of Sequence's "workflow canvas," Portugal Telecom was able to create their own workflow management system for their shopkeepers called "SHOP Box."

"We have a knowledge base where the shopkeeper can see what he or she must do at each point, but it's not enough," Mendes said. "We needed a tool that helped the shopkeeper help the customer."

Mendes said that since the implementation of Sequence and SHOP Box in September 2014, the number of customers that have had issues solved in a single visit has increased from 64% to 81%. Additionally, they have reduced the time it takes to assist customers to just one and a half minutes. The time it took to deal with customers previously was apparently so high that Mendes did not even want to admit what it was.

The implementation of Sequence did not come without its hindrances. At one point, according to Mendes, an encounter with a unique type of "non-economic" customer data caused the SHOP Box system to block workflows associated with that data.

However, Mendes said that these types of incidents are not unusual, and that otherwise the implementation has been gradual, but mainly successful. Since their rollout last year, about 3,000 customers have been managed using the tool and they expect to increase that number to 10,000 by the end of 2016. They are also running on-site trainings for shopkeepers, although they hope to offer large training sessions in their central offices soon.

The only other challenge they face, Mendes said, is the adoption of the tool. Newer employees -- those that have been there for less than one year -- often do not hesitate in their adoption of the tool. However, shopkeepers that have a history with the company and were accustomed to using the older tools -- or even just a pencil and paper -- are rejecting the notion of learning to use a new system, and prefer to stick with old methods. While Mendes claimed that they are not forcing shopkeepers to adopt the tool, they do have the data to show that those fully utilizing SHOP Box make significantly fewer mistakes and have better outcomes with customers than those who do not.

"That is not a technical issue; it's a human issue," Mendes said. "We are doing some training ... to explain to them the benefits of this tool. Nevertheless, there are always people that adopt the tool very easily and some people that don't."

Pricing

PNMsoft could not release specific product pricing for Sequence; however, they did say that pricing options include subscription, perpetual licensing, per user, per process and per usage rates. 

Next Steps

Why you need to move BPM off the back-burner

How to make sense of business process tools

Examining the "digital effect" on BPM systems

This was last published in April 2016

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