From Network Briefing, a sister publication Today, in part II, we graphically illustrate the contrast in today’s workflow market. We talked to two very different users. One is starting to investigate workflow capabilities embedded in an application while the other, using workflow software, is somewhat further ahead in its use of the technology. First up […]
From Network Briefing, a sister publication
Today, in part II, we graphically illustrate the contrast in today’s workflow market. We talked to two very different users. One is starting to investigate workflow capabilities embedded in an application while the other, using workflow software, is somewhat further ahead in its use of the technology. First up is Cedel Group which is headquartered in Luxembourg and has 650 employees around the world. It was established in September 1970 by 66 of the world’s major financial institutions as a clearing organization with the aim of minimizing risk in the settlement of cross-border securities trading. Turnover of settlement is currently $9tn per annum, with trades worth over $35bn being settled every business day. Cedel has more than 2,900 customers worldwide, with links to the securities markets of almost 30 countries. It is using PeopleSoft human resources management system (HRMS) software release 5.0 and is beginning to evaluate its workflow capabilities. Last March when choosing a client/server HRMS to replace a previous paper-based operation, driven by the decentralization of its HR function and its growing business, Cedel plumped for PeopleSoft HRMS 4.0 over SAP’s R/3. Right from the start, Cedel was aware that workflow would be coming in PeopleSoft 5.0. Graham Cope, Cedel Group’s HR policies and systems manager, told us, On day one we knew workflow was on its way. We prethought about it last April and started mapping processes then. By September, it had implemented release 4.0 of the software. But then came PeopleSoft’s European Users Conference in Barcelona in October and the first glimpse of version 5.0. We made the decision at the conference that workflow and the other attributes were so compelling that we’d almost stall further development in 4.0 and upgrade to version 5.0. So Cedel spent December upgrading, in the process becoming the first European user (and one of the first worldwide customers) to go live on PeopleSoft HRMS 5.0. Last month it began to use workflow. Things started to change immediately. There begun to be transformations in the way we work. The workflow system takes away some of the most boring stuff which chews up a lot of time. Does Cope worry about the Big Brotheresque control freak nature of workflow? That’s a good question. Yes, work being automatically generated to you could be dehumanizing, but we’ve found that because we’ve streamlined the process and made it more efficient, we release time for the individual. We never considered using workflow to reduce our headcount in administration areas, it’s all about redefining roles from pure admin to more value add like career planning. We’re redefining the way we work and what we’re doing here. Obviously, it’s way too early to do any evaluations on the impact workflow has had on Cedel, but Cope reckons that if used to its full advantage, the organization perhaps could probably save about 30% of administrative time. But he concedes it’s a gradual process, ramping up by individual percentage points.
By Clare Haney
At the other end of the workflow spectrum is Bill Halpin, manager of engineering application software architecture at GE Aircraft Engines, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The company is the world’s leading manufacturer of aircraft jet engines for commercial and military aircraft. It has 22,000 employees worldwide and its revenues last year were around the $500m mark. Eighteen months ago, GE Aircraft Engines begun its first venture into workflow using FileNet’s WorkFlo software. Halpin explains that the technology is currently being used by about 100 users responsible for engineering coordination documents. Any communication with our customers or partners is very formalized. Our engineering coordination authors have to prepare documents, which can include figures and sketches, and then they have to be approved by any number of people within the company. I decided to just do this project to evaluate workflow capabilities, to find out how much effort was involved an
d to evaluate the payback. So what does he think so far? It took twice as long to implement as I’d thought, because it was a completely new technology and we had to train people since it was a new concept for them. The learning curve was steep, but after that it was the same as for any other IT software. Well, he hasn’t been disappointed by the payback. The cycle of authoring, reviewing and approving documents was reduced by a factor of two, down from a week to a couple of days. It’s not just that we’ve reduced the engineer’s time by half, we’re also more responsive to our customers by direct fax. He intends to double or triple the number of users on this implementation over the coming year. The engine manufacturer is also currently evaluating porting the system to FileNet’s client/server workflow software which contains elements of object-oriented technology called Visual WorkFlo. Halpin’s got at least two or three more prospects looking at workflow software, which will not necessarily come from FileNet. One likely candidate is in the area of product support where the company has a lot of questions coming in from the field which need to be answered by its engineers. We wondered if a workflow embedded in an application, like Cedel with PeopleSoft, would ever be appropriate for GE Aircraft Engines? Halpin replies in the negative. Particularly in our engineering department we use so many different applications that we tend to steer away from workflow in a single application and instead have a workflow layer on top of the apps.
Has Workflow arrived?
We’ll close with the answer Nathaniel Palmer, senior market analyst at Delphi Consulting Group, gave us when we asked if workflow was really here yet. I wouldn’t want to say that workflow’s arrived. The market has continued to grow, and revenues have grown 30% to 35% a year. It will become ubiquitous throughout the corporate IT infrastructure. Ultimately elements of workflow or workflow itself will be implemented in every piece of that infrastructure from database to network operating system to the desktop. When it’s in every desktop and appropriate server, then workflow will have arrived. So over the next few years, we’ll discover whether workflow really is a gem of a software solution that should definitely be picked up and treasured from the IT beach or just another rather unimpressive pebble.
Software Software Futures editor’s email address firstname.lastname@example.org