e5 Workflow

Built for Business

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// ACM
OCT
25
2012

e5 Integration with SharePoint: What and Why?

Craig van Zeyl, e5 CEO

On October 19th, I interviewed Craig Van Zeyl, e5 CEO, to discuss e5’s integration with SharePoint and specifically what e5 Business Workflow delivers above and beyond SharePoint 2010 or 2013.

Therese: Good morning Craig, I’d like to focus this interview on the specific features and benefits that e5 delivers above and beyond what a business user gets with SharePoint 2010 workflow (or version 2013) alone. Let’s assume the audience for this interview is line-of-business executives / managers in areas such as medical claims processing, medical billing, loan origination – areas of the business that are controlled by the people process. Lets’ also assume that the reader has a basic understanding of SharePoint as well.

Therese: First, let’s talk about the content repository. What does e5 provide that SharePoint doesn’t?

 

Craig: SharePoint provides content repositories that can comfortably handle up to 5 million records per repository. What SharePoint can’t do, and e5 does, is manage multiple repositories in a way that the users view it as a single repository. This can be important in cases where, for example, the claim is stored in one repository but the prior claim history may be archived to a second repository. For larger systems, the repositories can be split allowing SharePoint to handle significant volumes of documents using the free repositories. Even more important, e5 allows you to mix SharePoint and 3rd party repositories within the same user experience. This allows you to preserve investments in existing legacy document management or image management technologies.

Therese: On that note, does e5 always require a SharePoint content repository?

Craig: No, e5 doesn’t have to have a SharePoint repository at all but can work with other 3rd party repositories such as IBM, FileNet, EMC, Alfresco, Appian to name a few. This way, the business gets the benefit of their current ECM /BPM system plus the benefits of building an e5 solution to handle complex, unstructured, dynamic work allocation, management and reporting.

Therese: Let’s talk about document images and document workflow? Compare how SharePoint handles the capture process versus e5.

Craig: As you know, Microsoft doesn’t offer a scanning solution with SharePoint so users need to integrate 3rd party scanning solutions. With e5, you get a framework that allows users to connect to any in-house or 3rd party scanning solution such as Kofax, EMC/Captiva, etc. The e5 viewer handles any document format, but has specific capabilities for handling TIFF and PDF and provides the standard image handling functionality such as zooming, fit to page, redaction, and so on.

Once these documents are captured in e5, they are attached to a work item and the work allocation logic handles prioritization, reporting, etc.

Therese: One of the things we hear from customers and prospects is the importance of a single portal – one unified business user view across multiple back-end solutions. Can you talk to how SharePoint and e5 handle that?

Craig: Let me briefly talk about what makes SharePoint a valuable portal. First, the SharePoint portal provides user security and access to a structure or framework so we can determine which parts of the final solution the business user is allowed to access, view and edit. Second, the SharePoint portal provides a development framework where you can use Lego-like building blocks – what SharePoint calls Web Parts – to assemble and configure the solution. SharePoint, out-of-the-box provides a perfect platform on which to build simple solutions. e5 provides more sophisticated functionality for finding, listing, displaying, managing priority processing and delivering dashboards, plus all of the workflow building blocks to leverage SharePoint as a foundation for complex applications such as medical claims processing, loan origination, medical billing, underwriting, pensions, and so on. This allows the business to rapidly create SharePoint pages, populate them with e5 Web Parts, and get a complete solution.

So to summarize, SharePoint Web Parts are designed to provide functionality for relatively simple applications that are easily created and broadly used. e5 provides additional sophisticated Web Parts to design and manage high volume, back-office work delivery while monitoring service level agreement timelines, performing priority processing, assigning and managing work allocation, managing multi-tiered cases and so on.

Therese: It sounds like you are big fan of SharePoint?

Craig: We, at e5, did a lot of research when building our product and it became very clear, very fast that building and exploiting the strength of SharePoint was the best architectural decision we could make. Why build a base-line content management and workflow platform when Microsoft provides one for free? I can’t speak more highly about SharePoint because it provides the unified portal page structure so that e5 users can add more customized Web Parts. It’s a fabulous place to build applications and the end user experience is simple and elegant. With e5, we chose to develop the right Web Parts to fulfill the needs of  a niche area which is the people process, back office, high volume, transaction processing. Our many customer successes prove both the worth of SharePoint and the added value of e5.

Therese: Can you elaborate on how e5 adds value to SharePoint Lists?

Craig: A SharePoint list is an easy way to define and manage a simple case. With e5, you get 3 pieces of additional functionality.

First, you get the specific functionality required to support high volume production workflow and back office processing such as managing assigned work, merging or cloning tasks, pending cases until a future date or activity, and so on.

Second, the e5 case structure allows the user to create a parent / child cascading work structure with inheritance. This provides the ability to run complex workflows in parallel without the workflow structure itself becoming too complex. A good example is in P&C insurance where a claim can spawn several sub-workflows for each of the quotations to be requested. The winning quotation can spawn a sub-workflow for the repair of the property. The people engaged in the sub-workflow can only see the limited information contained within their area while the case manager is viewing the entire case from the context of the parent workflow. The primary benefit with e5 is that each child work item can run its own independent workflow and can also operate in parallel, maximizing user productivity and minimizing service level agreement timelines.

Last, is that e5 manages all work items across all processor groups and makes every status immediately visible via the dashboards.

Therese: Let’s talk about what I think is one of the most important features of e5 – the dashboards. Can you elaborate on how e5 provides that functionality?

Craig: e5 provides out of-box graphical monitors and out-of-box reports allowing you to monitor three key areas.

The first area is the Service Level or Service Level Agreement (SLA) achievement. e5’s SLA Monitor shows the real-time pulse of the business so you know how well you are performing to agreed service levels. Service levels determine your customer’s experience. Setting the right level and consistently achieving the timeline provides metronome-like regularity that your customers can rely on.

Second, e5 tracks work volumes allow you to identify workload peaks and troughs so you can better manage resource requirements. Third, e5 tracks resource productivity – a visualization of key performance metrics which allows you, as a manager, to perform business process analysis and take the required actions to continuously improve productivity. e5 is designed to collect and recall every single action that is taken on a work item in minute detail so that we can calculate sophisticated activity-based costing about the process and productivity metrics. SharePoint doesn’t record this level of detail. This is another example of e5 functionality that is absolutely required in complex application areas such as medical claims processing, medical billing, etc.

Therese: Thanks Craig for your insights on this. I found it helpful in differentiating SharePoint from e5 and I am sure that business people reading this article will find it helpful as well.

OCT
22
2012

e5 CTO Speaks at Microsoft TechEd Australia 2012

TechEd is Microsoft’s ultimate technology geek fest and was held in September. e5 CTO, Chris Wessels, presented to an intermediate audience about e5 and Microsoft Azure.

Click here to view this presentation

 
Wessels’ presentation focused on porting the e5 workflow solution to Azure IaaS roles. e5 Workflow is an enterprise application that leverages the Microsoft stack, particularly SQL 2012, .Net 4.0, Office 365 and SharePoint 2010 workflow to deliver highly adaptive and scalable workflow and case management solutions. Traditionally deployed on premise or via privately hosted cloud, the Windows Azure IaaS offering provides the ideal platform on which to leverage the cloud to maximize the opportunity to deliver the power of e5 process management as a Service. The session discusses e5’s experience in porting real-world e5 deployments to Azure VM Roles including the integration and security challenges of hybrid deployments.

e5 CTO, Chris Wessels, comments, “I remain convinced that the Platform as a Service (PaaS) model is the future but it required a significant re-architecting investment in order for us to leverage it. The addition of state-full virtual machine roles to the Azure offering enables us to forklift our current stack to the cloud now. This translates into faster ROI for our clients and significantly reduces project risk by removing the barrier to entry that the high cost of on-premise provisioning represents.”

 
About Chris Wessels:

Chris Wessels – e5 Workflow CTO

Chris is CTO of e5. Chris’ earliest career was in aerospace when the software industry captured his interest 12 years ago. Joining the e5 team in 2004, Chris has been promoted from senior developer to product manager and now CTO where he has responsibility for the product roadmap and incorporating the latest technological developments into e5. He is an ardent proponent of developing high-quality, robust software tailored to deliver exceptional business process improvements for clients.

 

OCT
16
2012

All the Business Needs is a “Business Workflow Solution.”

When employees are collaborating to process documents and manage tasks – in departmental areas such as medical claims processing, medical billing and loan processing – the use of automated workflow becomes increasingly important.

Ten plus years ago, we called everything that managed a business workflow, ‘a workflow system.’ In the late 90’s, early 2000’s, the ‘workflow’ term was replaced by the ‘business process management or BPM’ term and today, BPM thought leaders and providers talk about ‘BPMS, dynamic case management, adaptive case management, advanced case management,’ and so on.

Does the business need to understand all these terms?

I wonder how the business keeps up with all of these terms. I wonder if the business cares or needs to keep up.

I am tempted to provide definitions here on all of these terms so the business user can better understand why one technology area versus the other is best, but there are plenty of provider sites, provider blogs, and analysts’ blogs that provide definitions and compare and contrast these technologies. Instead, I thought I’d talk about what I think the business user really wants and needs to know about – what I call the “How Can I” questions. For example, how can I:

  • Make my business people and the people process more productive
  • Better streamline my operations
  • Ensure consistency and quality in all things the business does
  • Minimize the cost of doing business
  • Add to the company’s revenue and the bottom line.

Frankly, any software provider that sells any kind of software solution will tell the business that their solution does ‘all that’. And they do, to some extent. For this reason, the business has to have some kind of technology term to use to identify what they are trying to accomplish. For example, a claims insurance system helps the business process claims. No insurance company can do business without one. But not every insurance system supports the flow of work and if it does, not necessarily to the extent the business may need.

In my opinion, the business only needs to say: “I need a business workflow solution,” and it’s the job of the software provider to convince you, the business, that they offer a business workflow solution that ensures you achieve optimum benefits. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a BPM or ACM system. What matters is what it does for the individuals that are managing and accountable for the performance of the business.

So I suggest – let’s let IT and the technology people talk about BPM, ACM, etc. and going forward, I promise to do my best to keep my technology terms simple and talk about what I think the business needs to know to make the right decisions when buying and implementing a business workflow solution. What do you think?

SEP
21
2012

On-Demand Webinar: Improve Medical Billing

View this on-demand webinar to learn how Regional Medical Laboratory improved medical billing SLAs and department productivity by 50+%.


Michael Marshall, Billing Manager at RML, shares his experience and the benefits RML achieved by implementing enChoice e5 Adaptive Case Management (ACM) in support of Laboratory Medical Billing. In 45 minutes, you can learn how your organization can also:

  • Achieve up to a 66% improvement in SLA compliance
  • Measure, control and track requisition volumes to achieve up to a 50% productivity improvement
  • Reduce overall cost per test by 15%
  • Reduce DSO and improve revenue collections
  • Optimize staffing and training requirements

This on-demand webinar is co-sponsored by e5 Workflow and enChoice.

SEP
10
2012

BPM Cloud Requires a New Business Model to Add Optimum Business Value

I’m not saying that Cloud offers no value. Rather, I am saying that Cloud offers the technology and the opportunity to deliver far more customer value through an improved business model.

Traditional BPM Project Spend

When we set out to design e5 Workflow, we didn’t want ‘just another BPM solution’ bolted to’ just another ECM solution’ delivering the same lumpy project style. Our goal was to create an ECM/BPM framework that could be used in a far more agile fashion, to support both the initial project and ongoing improvements. It seems counter intuitive, but we started making the argument with our customers and prospects that the initial projects should be smaller, cost less, easier to deploy and be a ‘flatter’ investment. From our customers’ perspective, their experience has shown that after the initial BPM project is launched, nothing new happens for quite some time. If functionality is not included upfront, it won’t be available until the next distant upgrade.

We needed to dispel these fears to get a “foundation” project implemented and go live, visualize the metrics on ‘how many, how fast and how much’ it cost to flow the existing processes and then engage the customer in a constant improvement program (CIP). In effect, the project needed to look more like this:

 

e5 ACM Project Spend With CIP

 

This approach worked very well for the initial project and why wouldn’t it? We, as the vendor, are recommending that the customer spend less which minimizes risk, and since change is introduced over a period of time (versus the big bang approach), user acceptance and training are improved. Once the initial project is online, we are ready to engage in a never-ending quest for processing perfection.

We were wrong! Once the project was implemented, we effectively fixed the most burning issue. And while we had created a platform to chase constant improvement, our process owners typically turned their focus to the next biggest burning issue.

We then realized we needed a better way to engage our customers and keep them interested on an on-going basis. The answer: Cloud – which provided a catalyst to develop a new business model – one that ‘lands’ the platform at minimal cost and risk.

Most of our customers run very similar business processes. But their products, skills, and company cultures differ. We cannot take an out-of-box template, lay it over a product environment, and get the customer to adapt their business processes to suit the template. Even if there is only a 20% difference in process, there is still a significant amount of professional services effort required to build a 100% custom solution. With e5 workflow, our objective is to enable skilled business analysts to setup, configure, and extend the bulk of the solution. Coding is kept to a minimum and only done when absolutely necessary (e.g., integrating e5 with an in-house system). This means that coding provides flexibility and removes barriers, but it does not and will not form the basis of the solution delivery.

If the business analysts and developers are highly skilled in understanding the solution, we are confident enough –  assuming we pick our projects carefully and manage customer expectations well –  to deliver all of the services upfront at our cost and deliver the customer a pay-by-the-month Cloud solution.

So now the project expenditure graph for our customers looks like this:

e5 Cloud ACM Project Spend With CIP

 

Can we afford to engage this model on-premise? No. On-premise projects are owned by the customer and as a solution provider, we rarely have sufficient control to risk an amortized services cost. The Cloud however is different; the customer owns the outcome, the service, the daily use of the solution, but they do not own the’ build’ of the solution. Customers expect us, as a solution provider, to be the experts and to deliver the solution TO THEM. Customers will accept a far tighter “foundation” project as long as it delivers real value at a cost that makes sense. This allows the service provider to put every effort into making the project as tight and efficient as possible by managing scope, clearly focusing on customer value, using highly skilled solution resources and building re-usable components. Given that the solution provider can better manage the risk in these projects, the added risk of funding the project is not onerous.

With every customer where we have engaged in a Cloud CIP Program, they see regular and iterative improvements to their solution. The CIP program can be built into the monthly cost of the solution or, we can provide a stepped payment arrangement where brand new initiatives attract further services which lead to increased monthly payments. As long as the customer gets real value for each increased payment and the solution provider manages cost, risk and the quality of the solution, why shouldn’t this be the basis for a long term and rewarding partnership?

We have implemented Cloud CIP projects successfully several times now, and every project has resulted in a successful partnering arrangement between e5, as the software provider, and the customer. I firmly believe this is our future as solution providers. Our challenge is to arm ourselves with the appropriate tools to support this highly agile approach, engage forward thinking customers who desire a services outcome and most importantly, create trust so that our customers will partner with us for the ongoing improvement and value realization.

AUG
21
2012

Do Hard Benefits Really Matter? Duh!

Recently, I spent some time with an e5 implementation partner to work on a joint marketing campaign. As part of our discussions, we talked about e5 ‘diffentiators’. When we started to discuss e5 case studies, I heard an enthusiasm in my own voice that surprised me and, I noticed, got the attention of the rest of the team in the room as well. I thought this would be a good topic for my first blog post here.

I have worked in the enterprise content management (ECM)/business process management (BPM) space for over 20 years as a marketing professional. I’ve marketed to, visited with, and interviewed tens of dozens of customers who implemented business workflow systems. As a marketing person in particular, I am always looking for documented ROI’s on the implementations. If you are a marketing professional, you know how important the ‘benefits’ section is when writing a case study or success story. In my experience, I remember the many times I would write up a BPM implementation, only to find myself stretching for concrete, quantifiable metrics.

Yes, in my experience, a few organizations were able to track ROI. They had the foresight to document the ‘as is’ and ‘to be’ scenarios – and when finally in full production, they could provide some quantifiable benefits. These benefits were usually realized 12-24 months down the road and this timeframe wouldn’t include the implementation time either, which could run 6 to 12 months in and of itself.

While getting familiar with e5, the first thing that struck me as different were the customer case studies that always included substantial, quantifiable benefits. One example – a health payer customer who implemented e5 to support medical claims processing and experienced an increase in SLA timeframes from 5% to 30% in 2 weeks, from 30% to 94% within 8 months and then to 98% within year 1! These results are impressive for 3 reasons:

  • Once implemented, e5 instantly provides metrics on the ‘as-is’ so you have the benchmark to start and compare.
  • Once you start to ‘tweak’ the process, e5 delivers immediate metrics so you can track improvements.
  • Immediate benefits were achieved FAST and are significant.

BPM ROI

When you couple fast payback with fast implementation – e5 can be implemented in a matter of days to weeks depending upon the complexity of the business process – e5 customers are achieving the best ROI when compared to other BPM/Adaptive Case Management (ACM) solutions on the market.

Read this case study about how a medical lab implemented e5 in medical billing, improving productivity by 50% and SLA timeframes by 66%. I wrote this case study – the first one I wrote on behalf of e5 that clearly demonstrated for me the power of e5’s business analysis tools.

Michael Marshall, Billing Manager, RML

I will always remember the interview with Michael Marshall, RML Billing Manager. For the first time in my experience, the ‘benefits’ section of the story was longer than the other sections. For the first time in my experience, I was documenting hard, concrete improvements with detail I rarely recalled when writing up other case studies. As I interviewed Mr. Marshall, I was amazed how much data he had, how enthusiastic he was. I couldn’t wait to publish the story.

It is not my intention with this blog post to ‘sell’ you on e5 but I encourage you to visit www.e5workflow.com and read for yourself. I also welcome any comments or examples of your experience implementing BPM or ACM solutions and the benefits/ROI you have achieved.

 

JUL
19
2012

e5 to Present at Microsoft TechEd AUS 2012

e5 will present at Microsoft TechEd Australia 2012.

TechEd is Microsoft’s ultimate technology geek fest. For IT Professionals or Developers, it is an opportunity to experience Microsoft’s latest upcoming technologies.

For Developers, this year’s event is the place to go if you are looking to get ready and create Windows 8 Metro style apps for modern client devices powered by Windows Azure. For IT Professionals, you will find an accelerated path to the skills and certifications you need to deploy, manage and secure a Private Cloud within your organization.

e5’s presentation will focus on porting its e5 workflow solution to Azure IaaS roles. e5 Workflow is an enterprise application that leverages the Microsoft stack, particularly SQL 2012, .Net 4.0, Office 365 and SharePoint 2010 to deliver highly adaptive and scalable workflow and case management solutions. Traditionally deployed on premise or via privately hosted cloud, the Windows Azure IaaS offering provides the ideal platform on which to leverage the cloud to maximize the opportunity to deliver the power of e5 process management as a Service. The session will share e5’s experience in porting real-world e5 deployments to Azure VM Roles including the integration and security challenges of hybrid deployments.

e5 CTO, Chris Wessels, who will be delivering the session commented, “I remain convinced that the Platform as a Service (PaaS) model is the future but it required a significant re-architecting investment in order for us to leverage it. The addition of state-full virtual machine roles to the Azure offering enables us to forklift our current stack to the cloud now. This translates into faster ROI for our clients and significantly reduces project risk by removing the barrier to entry that the high cost of on-premise provisioning represents.”

e5 partners and customers use e5 as the adaptive case management (ACM) development tool to build highly-elastic production workflow solutions for Global 2000 and small-medium businesses (SMBs) alike. e5 ACM automates and optimizes manual back-off processes to improve productivity and quality while reducing cycle times.

Microsoft TechEd Australia 2012 will be held from September 11th – 14th. For more details on TechEd Australia 2012 visit htttps://australia.msteched.com/.