Smart process apps improve customer engagement

Smart process apps (SPAs) are becoming essential for businesses to meet growing customer expectations.

This is according to Shaun Dicker, head of operations at Intervate, a T-Systems company, who notes competitive pressure is driving organisations to look at process improvements.

Forrester Research coined the term Smart Process Applications, calling them a “new category of application software designed to support business activities that are people-intensive, highly variable, loosely structured, and subject to frequent change”.

SPAs give customers the ability to communicate with an organisation in any way, from any device in an efficient manner, says Intervate’s Shaun Dicker.

They use computer intelligence and artificial intelligence to extract context-relevant information from the content associated with a business process, and use it to select, modify or re-direct the next steps in the workflow.

According to the research firm, leading vendors involved in the SPA space include Appian, Cordys, EMC, IBM, JDA Software, Kana Software, Kofax, Lexmark, OpenText, Pegasystems, and SAP.

Dicker says SPAs improve every aspect of customer engagements – drastically improving an organisation’s customer experience and greatly reducing operating costs. As a result, it drives increased competitiveness, growth and profitability.

Customers expect not only fast response times, but also quality engagements that actually get problems solved with limited hassles – they look for personalised and intuitive experiences, he points out, adding SPAs mean organisations can respond to the demands of the modern customer who expects to be able to engage with companies anytime, anywhere, and from any device.

Organisations that open up many doors to their digital businesses – using social and mobile channels in particular – will be rewarded by seeing more incoming traffic through those doors, he adds.

“SPAs give customers the ability to communicate with an organisation in any way, from any device in an efficient manner. They empower customers with self-service capture, status checking and collaboration.”

According to a Research and Markets report, growing advancements in ICT, connectivity, business agility and limitations with traditional process applications are trends driving the SPA market.

The smart process application market is expected to grow from $24.35 billion in 2015 to $43.28 billion in 2020 – penetrating the market to a huge extent of covering all geographical territories, says Research and Markets.

According to Dicker, the analytics engine of the smart process application links up with the organisation’s broader business intelligence – providing real-time monitoring and optimising of business processes, and providing rich customer data.

“With strong technology underpinning the organisation’s digital transformation, it is possible to make the customer experience a delightful one that stimulates positive emotions from the word go.”

Riaaz Jeena, sales director at Software AG, says companies can no longer afford to underestimate the crucial importance of customer satisfaction – customers are the most important assets to any organisation.

“Adopting and implementing effective business intelligence or customer engagement processes and solutions has become a core differentiator for just about every customer-centric business, regardless of their market or offering,” she adds.

Article originally appeared on ITWeb here:

Smart Process Apps – the key to unlocking operational efficiencies and enhancing the customer experience

Smart Process Applications

In an increasingly competitive and globalised marketplace, attracting new customers and retaining existing ones has become one of businesses’ biggest challenges. Since the majority of products have become highly commoditised, the only real point of differentiation available for organisations to leverage is the service and customer experience they deliver. Delivering excellent customer service and an outstanding customer experience requires that operations be streamlined and business processes to be optimised, ensuring every customer engagement leverages technology to its best advantage. Smart Process Apps (SPAs), which improve information-intensive processes, are one aspect of addressing this challenge. Smart Process Apps (SPAs) enable organisations to improve real-time customer interaction, enhance business management and gain an important competitive advantage.

Attracting and retaining customers has always been a cornerstone of any successful business. However, in today’s market this is increasingly difficult to achieve. Not only are customers faced with a multitude of choice when it comes to service providers and products, they are more knowledgeable on competing offerings than ever before. Customer service is therefore often cited as one of the major reasons customers stay with an organisation or take their business elsewhere. Ensuring optimal customer service, therefore, is of the utmost importance, and this in turn requires that operations and business processes be streamlined and optimised to ultimately improve customer service.

Improving customer service requires organisations to firstly ensure their internal and external processes are in line. The demand for Smart Process Apps (SPAs) arose out of a growing chasm between the internal enterprise software applications organisations use to manage their business, or their systems of record (ERP, CRM, ECM systems), and the ways organisations interact with customers today, or their systems of engagement (email, SMS, fax, snail mail, call centres), which increasingly require support for mobile devices. Smart Process Apps (SPAs) provide the essential link between an organisation’s systems of engagement and systems of record, enabling businesses to be more agile and responsive to customers, without the need to modify their ERP, CRM, ECM, line of business and other enterprise software applications.

Smart Process Apps (SPAs), according to global research and advisory firm Forrester Research, are ‘a new category of software that supports business activities that are people intensive, often unpredictable, loosely structured, collaborative and subject to frequent change’. Smart Process Apps (SPAs), in effect, provide the flexibility and adaptability organisations today need to deal with an increasing number of unpredictable processes and collaborative activities. In addition, Smart Process Apps (SPAs) support the mobility that has become critical to doing business.

Within many organisations, one of the most significant customer-facing business processes is the capturing of information. This can be a tedious, time-consuming process that is prone to human error. As a result, it is also a prime candidate for transformation through Smart Process App (SPA) technology. Examples include new customer onboarding applications such as account openings, loan applications, healthcare patient admissions and insurance claim submissions. These information-intensive processes are typically slow and are an endless source of frustration for customers and employees alike. Improving this particular customer engagement will enable businesses to leverage improved real-time interactions to increase responsiveness and provide a higher level of service.

Smart Process Apps (SPAs) have the potential to greatly enhance the way organisations interact with employees, suppliers and customers. By putting an Smart Process App (SPA) strategy and platform into place, businesses are positioned to effectively deal with large volumes of information and data originating from different sources, ranging from online applications to walk-in customers. Smart Process Apps (SPAs) help organisations to meet capture, process management and mobile goals without having to make changes to existing systems, which will help keep cost of ownership down.

Organisations can leverage the latest technological innovations with regard to data capture, business process management (BPM), dynamic case management (DCM), data integration, analytics and mobile capabilities on a single, unified platform. From capturing content and images on mobile devices to the management of the related structured and unstructured business processes, from document process analytics insights to collecting the “wet ink” signature from a customer using their smartphone device, a single, fully unified platform for the development and deployment of Smart Process Apps (SPAs) has the potential to revolutionise business. In addition, customers can easily be kept informed, engaged and up to date on the process at every stage, which vastly improves the customer experience.

Smart Process Apps in summary

In an increasingly commoditised global market, customer service is the cornerstone of competitive advantage. Improving business processes is therefore essential. In order to achieve this, organisations should look toward leveraging the power of Smart Process Apps (SPAs) through a unified, integrated platform. This radically transforms and simplifies the processing of real-time, information intensive communications from customers and dramatically improves an organisation’s customer experience, while greatly reducing operating costs, thus driving increased competitiveness, growth and profitability.

Elevating the Finance Function with Automated Accounts Payable solutions

With automated Accounts Payable solutions, organisations can expect to see a return on their investment within the first six to twelve months. From that point onwards, the solution starts generating increasing returns for the business.

In fact, there are many benefits when automating the processes of receiving invoices, automated reconciliation of invoices against associated statements, and making timely payments to suppliers, business partners, tax agencies and other creditors.

In essence, it allows the finance function to become more proactive and strategic in their approach and ultimately transform the role from a cost centre into an area rich in innovation and new efficiencies.

Surprisingly, not all mid-size and large companies have recognised the value of automating this function. Consequently, they are not deriving the most possible value from their Finance operations.

In traditional thinking, the finance function was regarded simply as a cost centre to the business, an admin-intensive area that was fated to growing in scale, in proportion with a growing organisation. Even worse, it seemed to add more layers of manual processes as it grew.

Now, with automated Accounts Payable solutions, the finance division is re-framed as a strategic team that drives process efficiencies, ensures the optimal use of financial resources, improves balance sheet effectiveness, and focuses on relationships and engagement with key business partners.

The direct, tangible advantages of an automated Accounts Payable solution start with the benefits of early-payment discounts, and avoiding any late-payment penalties. In cases of more complex conglomerates and federated organisations, automation enables the finance teams to see where the same suppliers are being paid by different business units, and consolidate the invoices into one – often benefitting from bulk discounts.

Other direct advantages are found in areas like tax penalty avoidance, reduced chances for erroneous payments, and savings on smaller administrative costs like couriering, paper, ink, and physical document storage for example. Over time, it all adds up to a huge saving for the organisation.

And, as automation takes over much of the ‘low value, high volume’ activities in invoicing, there is less need to grow the headcount in the finance team. In fact, many of the team members are redeployed to higher-value, more strategic activities.

Finally, by handing over much of the day-to-day processing to an automated solution, the finance team is better able to plan, forecast and budget. In this way, for example, they can select the suppliers who are offering the most attractive early-payment discounts and structure the accounts payable function around generating the most value.

In general, it is the visibility and control which makes automated Accounts Payable so attractive. Being able to track the status of an invoice, from receipt all the way through its lifecycle, to the eventual payment, is a huge boost to the organisation.

Some of the other key features of automated solutions include full compliancy with the relevant legislation – this is primarily the South African Revenue Services (SARS) Act, and the National Archives and Records Service (NARS) Act – as well as conformance with governance recommendations such as King III.

Added to this, quality Accounts Payable solutions also cater for automated statement reconciliations, and effectively deal with any exceptions, queries, errors, inconsistencies and duplications through a flexible case management system.

Ultimately, all of these benefits help the Finance team to elevate its role within the organisation – and focus on the higher-value aspects of supplier relationships, enhanced engagement and communication with suppliers, and financial forecasting. Top-class Finance skills are retained in the organisation, as it adopts a leaner and more strategic guise. The benefits to the organisation are quick to realise, and very sustainable in the months and years that follow.

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It’s a Text, Text, Text, Text World

So much emotion is lost in text. Tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions, body language, that quiver of excitement.

This poem called Indirect by BABYRUTHBEER caught my attention today:

To sigh after a long story,
or to gasp when you hear something silly;
Two of the wonders you can’t do
if online chat is what you’re into.

Looking at the person in the eye
is a cute act you can’t deny,
But that would lose its magic
even with Skype as your sidekick.

How about his expressions, real time?
And to hold his hands as a pastime?
Things that are stripped away from us;
That’s what online communication does.

Not to mention the words genuine and sincere.
Now, it will be hard to know if something’s real.

*Slightly adapted by me J

I think it’s fantastic that we can be connected by WhatsApp, Facebook and Skype. But text is flat, dead, and emotionless (unless you’re a great writer). We spit out instant messages in seconds, forgetting our commas, forgetting about how the tone of your message will come across.

Let's eat grandpa

This got me thinking – there are 100’s of “emoticons” in our chat tools, but which are the core universal emoticons for everyday usage? I found Psychologist Paul Ekman on Wikipedia, one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century. He states that there are six basic emotions: anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise. These emotions are expressed by certain facial expressions that are universal in all cultures! That’s powerful. Six basic emotions universal in all cultures.

Of the 100’s of emoticons, or emoji, I was surprised to discover that some were easy to find, but others like disgust and surprise had me stumped for a while. Disgust was the hardest to find – the closest synonym match was “nauseate or sicken”.

So according to Paul Ekman and the Emojipedia, the following are our six basic emotions expressed in text:

emoji anger




You agree?

Whenever it’s possible, nothing beats picking up the phone and talking to somebody, or getting up and walking across the passage to quickly assist a colleague with a question. Go give somebody a hug!

One Experience. On every device. For everything in your life.

There are huge benefits in investing into one platform for all your devices – the same platform of your mobile phone, the same platform for your tablet, your work notebook, and your gaming console. I have chosen Microsoft as my platform and I will tell you why.

In a previous life, I had an Android smartphone, an Apple iPad, a Microsoft laptop, and playing my games on the Sony PlayStation 3. I thought life was good. I had all kinds of systems in place to synchronize content to the cloud and synchronize content back to each my devices. I would go to a customer meeting with my iPad, take notes, only to return to the office and not be able to work on those notes on my notebook. I first needed to synchronize the iPad to the cloud, and then synchronize the cloud back to my notebook. I thought I was being productive, but actually, I was not.

At the same time, I was buying the same apps for different platforms – especially apps that were needed for work between the iPad and the Windows notebook. I was paying twice for the same app, sometimes even three times for the same app on different platforms!

I sat back, looked at this craziness and asked myself – will my work platform change to Android in the next 2 years? Will my work platform change to Apple in the next 2 years? No, and no in each case. My work platform for the last… uhmmm 15+ years… has been Microsoft. I do not seeing that changing in the next 2 years.

Today, I have consolidated all my devices and apps to one platform. Microsoft!

I have a Windows Phone 8, a hybrid Windows 8 touch tablet/notebook, and Xbox 360 for gaming. In the process, I have eliminated one device – the Apple iPad – and vastly simplified my digital life.

Come to think of it, the Apple iPad is pretty frustrating to use as a business device in a world where our office runs on Microsoft.

I have even taken it further into the applications I use – switching from Dropbox to Microsoft SkyDrive, and switching from Evernote to Microsoft OneNote (the text editor in OneNote is far superior to Evernote). The Microsoft Office tools are fully integrated into the platform, and SkyDrive is fully integrated in Microsoft Office. I have *even* switched from Google Chrome back to Internet Explorer! Yip, go look at This “Child of the 90’s” clip almost brought me to tears!

Everything works better together on the Microsoft platform. When I play games on my Windows Phone 8, those gamer points are added to my Xbox profile,  the next time I fire up the Xbox, those gamer points are shared. My Xbox avatar (and gamer points) is the same on the Xbox and Windows Phone 8, and now also the Windows 8 Xbox Games app. One profile across all platforms I choose to play a game on. This is fantastic! In the old days, games played on the Android phone where totally disconnected from the games played on the iPad to games played on the PlayStation. Just think of that!

Office documents are shared via SkyDrive across all platforms. Tasks and to-do items created in Outlook on the notebook share to the Windows Phone seamlessly. Notes from meetings taken on OneNote shares via SkyDrive seamlessly across all platforms.

And the more time I spend, the more I’m switching – I’ve switched from Google to Bing for searches. The daily wallpaper updates from Bing Desktop are just awesome. Switched from Chrome to Internet Explorer. Switched from Google Picasa to Windows Photo Gallery etc. Switched from Google Talk to Skype.

So, yes, there are risks putting your most of your digital life in Microsoft’s hands. I am willing to take that risk – Microsoft has been around long enough, I have been using their products for years, Microsoft is getting more things right these days, and so far… Microsoft remains consistently good.

It continues to amaze me how consumers make decisions on the devices they buy. Specifically the platforms – the choice between Microsoft, Apple, Google and dare I add Samsung and Sony. If you are a digital citizen, give this some thought.

Facebook Unfriend

I have been looking at the word “Friend” for so long that the spelling is starting to look strange. F.R.I.E.N.D. Weird.

I have been doing a clean-up of friends on Facebook – unfriending people that I actually don’t know… and even a few that I don’t want to know anymore too! It’s not to be nasty or anything, but a friend request may make sense now, but does that same friend request still hold true 3 years down the line, 5 years down the line? Some friends are not friends, they are colleagues, acquaintances, and people I’ve met while consulting, even people that are now working at competitor companies.

Moral of this story – be careful of accepting friend requests!

Any friend will have access to your private profile information that you’ve decided to share. They’ll continue to have access for many years to come… or until you unfriend them! Just pause and think about that for a moment.

Facebook makes it a tedious process to unfriend people. There is no quick way to select a group and unfriend then all in a batch. You have to click on the Friends button, wait for the dynamic menu to load and pop-up, click Unfriend, and then wait 5 to 10 seconds for the query to run. Then repeat the whole process on the next friend. It’s very time consuming when you want to clean-up 100+ people! To add more frustration, Facebook does not seem to sort your friend list in the same manner each time a page loads. So, if you refresh the page, you friends are all randomized again and you start from the top of the list again… slowly following the unfriend process.

Intervate develops change management methodology

Intervate, a software developer and solution provider that focuses on the delivery of intranet, portal and business process automation solutions for the enterprise market, has developed a change management methodology for customers undertaking intranet and portal implementations.

“In the past, intranets were touted as the next best thing for enhancing organisational efficiencies and driving staff collaboration. Years later, many organisations are left with expensive `white elephants` that deliver no true value or return on investment (ROI),” says Shaun Dicker, senior manager at Intervate.

“Often the failing of intranet portals has centred around two key aspects: lack of content, which means people often revert back to the hallway type conversations to gain information, and secondly, internal sales team overselling the value of the solution touting it as the silver bullet to internal communication challenges.”

Organisational intranets and portals can provide the glue for an organisation`s efficient functioning by providing an efficient manner in which to interface with information from different systems and place them in one, easily accessible interface.

“As the system can access and collate information on users` behalf, delivering data in underlying systems in a simple manner, this communication tool can certainly drive productivity if managed correctly,” adds Dicker.

“We have found that often the challenge with these implementations is not the solutions, but the internal organisational change that needs to occur to utilise these solutions correctly. All too often software development houses believe that their customer responsibility ends once the solution is delivered; however, we have found the customers often need support and guidance around the solution implementation for months afterwards. As a result, we have developed an effective change management methodology for the implementation of an intranet that helps manage expectations of the solution as well as gain company buy-in from an executive level to then be filtered down appropriately throughout the company,” says Dicker.

Essentially the change management programme developed by Intervate examines five aspects, namely executive sponsorship, culture, the effect of the implementation of each staff member, skill levels of the users and identification of effective training needed. According to Dicker, Intervate undertakes a full gap analysis to ensure where the organisation is and where it needs to be, and then systematically works with customers on the five criteria to drive more effective use of IT solutions.

“Certainly the implementation of an IT project should have a change management element to it, considering the pervasive nature of technology on our day-to-day living.”

Using this methodology, an organisation can build the intranet as one project, but launch it in stages. “Our approach to this allows users to focus on the benefits that the intranet brings to them personally and the increased productivity that it brings to their job function. The processes stimulated by the implementation of the intranet then become the default within the organisation,” concludes Dicker.

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