ProcessMate: News

In ProcessMate we have worked hard to improve User Interface and User Experience of our users. One of the break-through features for us became a full redesign of the view of individual processes.

This view is one of the most frequently used ones so its improvement has a great positive effect on user experience. In addition we included all process-related functionality into a single view. Now users can update data fields of process (as well as related data object!), perform all actions related to individual tasks, upload and remove documents, add their comments and see comments of other users.

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Summary

The new operational process dashboard we developed enables users to see the current state of ongoing processes. It shows the key statistics for each process type, such as processes running on time, processes with issues raised, etc. It’s an excellent tool for both managers and employees to see either all tasks and their status as well as their own tasks only. See it as a primary tool that gives visibility across all current activities.

New operational dashboard for viewing all ongoing process, problems and delays

In details

  • Key statistics on each process type, showing number of processes running, number of delays and problems for each process type
  • The dashboard shows all individual tasks that are running late (see Tasks Overdue section), along with expected delivery time, responsible users, start time, etc.;
  • The report of all ongoing tasks (section Ongoing Tasks) shows all tasks and their responsible users. The icons next to the task name show delays and problems raised;
  • Finallly, the list of raised problems shows the list of all problems raised for all tasks in the “Problems Raised” section of the dashboard.

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In this guide we’d like to demonstrate how process definitions may significantly simplified and presented in a more readable way. As we work with our clients with ProcessMate Cloud Process Management software we see how our customers define their processes. They often make a single mistake by describing their processes in a very low-level convoluted fashion, trying to capture all complex cases. In ProcessMate Cloud Process Management software, we encourage our customers to simplify process definitions as much as possible. This delivers immediate value, especially when the process is configured in ProcessMate or any other process management software, or simply shared with colleagues for training purposes.

What is Process Definition

Process definition is a documented flow (sequence) of tasks, together with responsible actors (people or systems taking those steps), information documented during this process or as input to the process.
Please bear in mind, that the simplification of the process itself, that is changing the sequence of steps or actual steps themselves that simplifies the business workflow is outside of the scope of this article. We simply aim to advise on simplification of the process definition (description).

Below is a number of simple steps that can be taken in order to simply your definition of the process.

Remove “micro-flows” and micro-tasking

Consider the process from very high level point of view. What would managers consider as pivotal points in the process, what would the senior management like to see in their reports?

See how on the low-level process may be defined:

example of simplified business process by removing unnecessary micro-steps Complex to simple your workflow

Why reduce it so much? People do not need micromanagement. In most cases, they know how to do their job within an individual task. If your instruction set (or a process management software) attempts to micromanage people by introducing too granular tasks, people would reject the instructions and the system that imposing them. If you absolutely need to give guidance, give it as a description of the task. This will keep the workflow map simple, while still providing the required information.
Our advice: try to create a process in a spreadsheet, such as MS Excel or Apple’s Numbers, where each activity (step) is a column. What activities/columns would you introduce while looking at your process from high level-standpoint? Consider whether this is enough? If not, why?

Example:
simple view on the process in spreadsheetSimple view on the process in spreadsheet

Document 90-95% of the cases, not 100% of the cases

Don’t point out all possible paths the process may take. Go for the majority of cases as, otherwise, the complexity would grow exponentially with little benefit.

Complexity of implementation and maintenance of business process in relation to number of process variations defined and catered forComplexity of implementation and maintenance of business process in relation to number of process variations defined and catered for

Complexity grows substantially with % of scenarios covered. The basic idea is that most (90-95%) of the process scenarios follow the same flow or sequence of tasks. The rest though provide major complexity, as they may vary significantly. The question we’d like you to ask yourself, do I care about those exceptions, and if so, can they still fit into the definition of the other 90-95%? If not, can that be covered by 1 optional step?
For example, your quality assurance team may introduce a complex sub-flow in a rare case when product quality standards are breached. Instead of defining this detailed workflow, why would you introduce a single step “Handle quality issues, if any” to manage that. Hopefully, the quality problems occur not so frequently, therefore you don’t necessarily want to introduce a dedicated workflow for them.
Our advice: take a look at each step, identify how frequently it really happens. If it happens frequently enough, see if that can be modelled as optional step or as a separate flow.

Don’t try to define out all possible paths

With human driven workflows, the flow can really be disrupted by any point. What if your team finds a mistake done at one of the initial step? Do they correct it right there or they go back to that step? And if latter, do they still implement every step all over again or they “recycle” what they had done initially?
The truth is, in many cases, process can divert and/or go back to any previous (and sometimes, next) step. Extra steps may be introduced along the way.
The question is, whether that matters at all or not? Of course, your employees and management should know that an individual process diverted.
Check “Report problem” (link) mechanism of ProcessMate, that provides a great tool to handle exceptions.
Our advice: use a common flow, something that typically happens. This would help make process readable and understandable without introducing multitude of branches.

Apply “sub-process” concept

The “sub-process” concept is a simple methodology to encapsulate complex sub-flows into a single task, such as “approval sub-flow” for a complex approval. This hides unnecessary complexity and gives a better high-level view on the process.

Introduce “optional flag” for tasks that aren’t always carried out

When tasks or steps are carried out optionally, do not create “branching” with conditions. Instead just mark those tasks as optional. This will also simplify the view while provide sufficient information of the process.

Don’t merge several flows into one

What’s the criteria to understand whether you have multiple processes bundled into one? A simple set of criteria that helps us is this:

  1. Multiple sub-processes converge into a single process;
  2. The other way around, one process deviates into a multitude of sub-processes;
  3. One part of the process tend to stop with no continuation to the rest of the process (e.g. sales process does not always end up generating an order, therefore it makes little sense to bundle both sales and delivery into a single workflow).

Use swim-lane diagrams

They are more structured, have information about responsible parties, as well as easy to analyse from the standpoint of one user group. For example, users in the group A can easily see all tasks attributed to them since they are there in a single swim lane.

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In ProcessMate we’ve developed a feature allowing scheduling processes for execution (initiation) based on a certain schedule – we call it simply “Process scheduling”. A process of a certain type may start on certain dates in a month, certain days in a week. This might be useful for you if you run certain processes or tasks based on a schedule, for example: regular submissions, daily, weekly or monthly work activities, monthly surveys, etc.

Process Scheduling - New ProcessMate Feature

Scheduling configuration – simply choose your process type (template) and configure its schedule (on the right)

Examples of application in industries

Accounting: Regular processes such as Payroll, Accounts Payable or Monthly/quarterly Reporting, whereby a list of activities (as a sequence or checklist) are implemented in the beginning or the end of a time period.

Real-estate management: Regular inspections of properties, as well as fees/payment collections processes.

Hedge funds, trading floors may use it to track daily checklists of activities. Checking activities are performed on time by starting certain checklists (for example for Foreign Exchange or OTC) and letting users mark tasks in those checklists as finished.

Other: Regular vehicle or equipment inspections, regular reporting, security or safety checks performed regularly, compliance checklists.

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ProcessMate is a cloud business process management tool that and below we will be reviewing how its capabilities can be used to implement a solution to manage Import-Export workflows for companies trading internationally.

Import-Export Process Definition

Processing orders or requests for import (export) is a multi-task process in ProcessMate. It is easily configurable, so what we offer is a template, extendable to your particular business process and organizational specifics. The process covers steps from Signing the Contract to Delivery and Payment, however it can be extended with additional steps, such as pre-contract quotation, submission of declarations, etc. The process is mostly manual, performed by different teams or people.

Workflow Management – Key Features

The key features of ProcessMate for Import/Export processes:

  • Create multi-task process of Export/Import trading and manage processes. This streamlines work for your organization, increases visibility for managers and removes operational complexity of you team while reducing waiting time. Everybody knows what they need to do next.
  • Generate out of the box reports based on the ongoing operational status, as well as the past statistics: this would help managers understand the status and deep-dive into useful statistics showing where bottlenecks are
  • Optionally, keep track of your Suppliers and/or Customers and their parameters: name, contact details, type, etc (any extra parameters can be added). The configured processes may be related to those records of suppliers (or customers), so that for each customer (supplier) there’s a history of processes attached. For example, the system will track which exports took place in the past for an individual vessel.
  • Receive timely notifications and email-reports, follow events happening during in processes. The system will keep track of your SLAs (standard predefined completion time) and will notify you of potential and actual delays.
  • Exemplary Import/Export Process

    Diagram of the Import/Export process for trading companies from Order to Delivery and Payment

    Import or export process for trading companies

    The above process is a simpler, high-level representation of the actual process. Although ProcessMate can handle much more complex flows, which includes parallel tasks, approvals, etc, we find that it’s a simple implementation that helps managers and employees most, and have high rate of adoption.

    Managing Export (or Import) workflow

    In ProcessMate, the export/import process (and any other) is a number of steps implemented sequentially or in parallel in order to complete the process. The process also keeps contains parameters, such as information about customer, ETA dates, or any other parameters that can easily be configured in the system.

    List of individual import processes in ProcessMate

    List of individual import processes in ProcessMate

    Each process can be viewed in details, together with its attached documents, data fields and most importantly, tasks. The below view shows just a part of this functionality. Additionally, users may attach documents to a particular Shipment process, receive notifications and many more.

    Screenshot of individual export/import processes. At the top - parameters of the process. Bottom - list of tasks with statuses, responsible users, etc.

    Individual export/import processes. At the top – parameters of the process. Bottom – list of tasks with statuses, responsible users, etc.

    Optional Feature: Keeping track record of customers and/or suppliers

    One of the new features of ProcessMate is ability to track information about your customers and/or suppliers independently of processes. This is optional functionality, which might or might not be used together with process management. It’s similar to a spreadsheet used to keep track of data placed into cloud, accessible from anywhere in the world, with fine-grained authorization (only certain users can be configured to view/edit certain data), email notifications on change.

    The below exemplary database of vessels shows all the required parameters (additional parameters can easily be configured). In addition, the “Vessel” records can be tied to other records, such as “Ports”, if you would like to keep track of ports as well. The main advantage though comes from associating processes to Vessels. Hence you would always know what processes (for example export processes) are currently related to what suppliers, or the history of such processes tied to individual customer/supplier record.

    View of records of Individual Customers with information of related Export processes

    Records of Individual Customers with information of related Export processes

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