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10 June 2013

The Importance of Mobile Devices in BPM

Currently, mobile devices (PDA, Smartphone, Tablets, etc.) accompany people in all their activities, whether in free time or at work, making them an indispensable tool in our daily business.

In recent years, the size of the company has transformed into a virtual reality, where jobs are not stationary but require a certain mobility to be wherever the business occurs; so organizations face a new challenge: to remain productive and efficient in their processes, wherever the workers are. Thus working tools must also be virtual, which has led to the traditional work desk becoming a virtual desk. This is solved by implementing a BPM Suite.

Following the early years of development and maturation, Business Process Management automated through a BPM Suite is rapidly becoming the most effective tool for organizations of all sizes to increase productivity, control and effectiveness of activities, and to improve their ability to respond to changes.

These two trends (the use of mobile devices and business process management using BPM suites) will become more and more frequent in years to come. They will converge and complement each other due to the new ways of working that appear each day, that require constant mobility from anywhere in the world.

Next-generation BPM suites allow employees and external agents (customers, suppliers, citizens, etc.) from any business entity to Start Business Processes, Execute Tasks from these processes and Send or Receive notifications, warnings and Access Reports, etc. These actions are explained below. 

1. Start Business Processes

One of the most important characteristics of a next-generation BPM suite is that it permits the configuration of process start forms for mobile users.

This way both internal users (employees) and external agents that have connections with the entity (customers, suppliers, subcontractors, or in public administration, citizens etc.) will be able to make requests, claims, records, report incidents, request goods or services, customer service, purchases, marketing activities, projects, repair orders, etc.

Thus, through their mobile device and from wherever they are, they can launch the processes that, following diagrams, will execute all necessary tasks until achieving the correct and definitive result.

Example of starting a process:

Think about the sales force, which is constantly visiting customers and needs to report or initiate processes about their interactions with them. From their mobile device they will be able to initiate sales report processes and order or incident requests, collecting data such as the current location and inserting images from the camera on their Smartphone, or sending files received by email. This way, from the very moment interaction with the customer takes place, the process will be started and they will receive a solution as quickly as possible.

2. Execute Process Tasks

Both employees and external users of the entity can perform their jobs (Process Tasks) replacing (or simply complementing) their PC for mobile devices. Not only administrative tasks such as approvals, signatures, documents, etc., but any type of task: plant or time controls, customer meter readings, inspection routes, internal and external maintenance, etc.

Example of a task using a Digital Pen:

The Digital Pen allows data to be converted from a handwritten form into digital data, immediately available in a BPM Process.

When filling out the form on Digital Paper, a seemingly normal paper but with a printed dot pattern which facilitates the digital capture of handwriting, the digital pen captures and stores each written stroke through an optical sensor, sending the strokes converted into data to the BPMS through a Web Service. This Web Service then automatically fills in the fields in the digital form of the destination Task (the next phase of the process) and it also integrates a JPG document with the handwritten form.

So, for example, an inspector receives a task with his route to perform inspections on different customers. At each inspection he completes the forms with just a digital pen and a mobile phone, even being able to attach documents or images. At the same time the process runs its course following its diagram.

Example of a task via Smartphone or Tablet:

Here is another example of the ability to participate in Personal Tasks (those executed by a person) and also System Tasks (those executed automatically by the BPMS without human intervention). Our customer service centre receives a complaint or request from a customer, and a business visit is required as soon as possible. The BPM suite can search for the salesperson that is closest to the customer and send them a task for them to go and visit the customer and report back.

3. Send and Receive Notifications & Announcements

In the same way, all types of notification, warning, etc. can be sent and received, at anytime and from anywhere, using devices such as cell phones, smartphones, tablets, NFC devices, etc. These deliveries may be made using mobile devices, either by people through Personal Tasks or automatically by the system without any human intervention, following the rules specified in the modeling of the processes.

For example, if the system detects a failure, it can automatically generate alerts, alarms or notifications to the specific people involved until the problem is resolved. 

4. Access Reports

When the day to day processes are executed with BPMS, all the basic information that is generated is automatically recorded and organized according to the structure that has been determined, and is also accessible through the BPM Suite’s intelligence tools: BAM (Business Activity Monitoring), Dashboard, BI (Business Intelligence), etc. Meanwhile, the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) register certain values in order to analyze the process performance for decision-making.

The observation, control and real-time analysis of the entity’s activity, allows quick and well informed decision-making. It is therefore important that access to information can be made at anytime and from anywhere, so including mobile devices is crucial.



Limitations of Mobile Devices

Regardless of the technological limitations to the new ways of working, there can be different types of obstacles when implementing them in a BPM suite:

  •  Reluctance of the management to allow access to the organizations resources from external sites, either from lack of security investment or distrust in their employees.
  • Having a BPMS system that is obsolete or incapable of integration / communication via web services.
  • Lack of knowledge on the part of the technical area of the current capabilities / possibilities.

However, it is not bold to predict that within a very short time any worker will be able to connect to their applications / systems from anywhere in the world with any device, and will be able to work with the same capabilities that they do today.