Thursday, November 15, 2012

Proving the benefits of a model driven business application in an unsettled budgetary climate

"In the current budgetary climate it is getting harder and harder to prove the benefits case for a new business application to my organization."

Origin of this myth
At the officeI found this statement on several forums on the Internet. While software companies will do their best to persuade their potential customers in getting their latest software, for internal architects and analysts it is often a struggle to get things started within their own organization. In the current economic situation most CEO's and CFO's are not exactly waiting for big investments in new ICT systems, even if their internal specialists can come up with the right arguments. So how to deal with this?

The classic approach is to come up with a calculation of profit and cost, based on past experiences of other organizations in the same industry and the quick wins that you see within the own organization. A cost - profit analysis is - without any doubt - a necessity when proposing a new business application to the C-level within your organization, but will it - given the current economic climate - be enough to persuade them?

An alternative approach
What if you could prove the benefit of a driven business application to your organization by simply modeling one of your most complex processes? That would give your C-level management the opportunity to see what an effective business application will do in your organization and let them experience the promised improvement of efficiency, compliance and governance.

For software providers, like Be Informed, creating a show case with our software is something we often are eager to do. Be Informed uses the so-called "5-day challenge" to prove in a very limited amount of time and with a minimum of effort what their software could do in an organization.

The approach is as simple as it is effective. We create a draft business model for the organization and its products and create a model of it, resulting in a Target Operating Model. From this Target Operating Model we choose the most complex and inefficient case type or process. By choosing the most complex process and realizing a working and fully documented model driven business application for it within a couple of days, we have the ultimate prove for the benefits or our business application in your specific situation. With a team of maximum 5 people, typically consisting of an architect, two analysts/modelers, an UX engineer and a business consultant, we model the business application on location.

The result is an executable model driven business application containing the most complex processes and decisions, all fully documented, but with limited functionality.

With this approach you are no longer a victim of the current economic situation - waiting for changes to happen - but you are in fact using it in your advantage to get things done. During the past two years, Be Informed has performed approximately a dozen of these so called "5-day challenges". Despite the economic situation (especially in Europe), approximately 80% of these challenges resulted in a final go. The other 20% are still waiting for a decision, but chances are high that they will result in a project within the coming year.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Working with requirements

by: Kees van Mansom

"In engineering, a requirement is a singular documented physical and functional need that a particular product or service must be or perform. It is most commonly used in a formal sense in systems engineering, software engineering, or enterprise engineering. It is a statement that identifies a necessary attribute, capability, characteristic, or quality of a system for it to have value and utility to a user."
Source: Wikipedia

During the Building Business Capabilities conference 2012 in Fort Lauderdale, we are going to develop a working model-driven business application, based on the input provided by the audience. And although this will be in a "lab" situation, we want to stay as close to a real life situation as possible. And then working with requirements is an essential element.

Both requirements and the Be Informed modeling artifacts (models, profiles, custom meta models) are aimed at the same goal: allowing the stakeholders of the system to describe what the system should do and capture it in a way that is understandable by the stakeholders.

Also, both requirements and Be Informed modeling artifacts share a common understanding on what good requirements respectively good modeling artifacts are.

The Be Informed method and tools provide extensive support for documenting requirements, based on our principle: “Model = Design = Application = Documentation”.

Traditional platforms/methods use several transformation steps to come from requirements to applications. Testing is used to evaluate if during these transformations everything went right.

In Be Informed the authentic source of the requirements is directly connected to the business model, making it possible to review them in the modeling environment. Testing is only used to evaluate if the transformation from authentic source to model/profile went right.

Our approach is to capture requirements as close to the model as possible. To do so we model the high level solution wide business requirements as requirement concepts. All other requirements are added to the models as content.

The requirements can be reviewed within the context of the business model:

So when you arrive at the Building Business Capabilities 2012 conference on the 30th of October, please make sure that you drop by in the Be Informed Lab at booth 102 to let us know what requirements you have. Don't hesitate to bring a Word file with you (max 1 -2 A4 due to time limitations) so we can add your requirements as content to the business model.

We are offering the unique experience to experience yourself how we enable BPM teams to become super productive and overcome the possible frictions and inefficiencies of your current way of working. Your input - consisting of requirements, products, processes, rules... - will be modeled out on the fly, resulting in a working model-driven business application within minutes.

The development of this model-driven business application can be followed in this blog and on Twitter: #BPMsuperpowers.

Hope to welcome you at the Be Informed booth 102 on the Building Business Capabilities conference. Also see blog entry How we help BPM teams develop superpowers.
The interactive demonstration can be viewed online via

How we help BPM teams develop superpowers

by: Kees van Mansom

From October 30 - October 31, 2012 I will be at the Building Business Capabilities Conference in Fort Lauderdale in Florida to demonstrate how BPM teams can develop superpowers.

"What does this have to do with effective information?", I hear you think.

Well the truth is that information is in the core of every BPM solution. And that is exactly what I am going to demonstrate during this co-called 2-day challenge. Visitors of the conference can assume the role of stakeholder, business analyst, process specialist and perhaps even modeler and feed me with the information needed to get a super-effective, super-streamlined, super-documented BPM solution in a super-short time.

During these two days I will show how our tools and methodologies enable BPM teams to become super productive and overcome the frictions and inefficiencies of their current ways of working.

I will start with an almost empty workspace with just enough concepts to have a working application:

The picture above shows in the upper window the modeling perspective with a case called "Product request" and two activities, related to a registration object (blue) and a decision (orange). In the lower part of the picture you see the Target Operating Model for this business application, with two portals, one product, two cases and a registration. This minimal setup is enough for a working solution:

Based on YOUR input this will develop during the conference into a full blown model-driven business application.

You can follow the development of this model-driven business application on Twitter: hashtag #BPMsuperpowers.

Hope to welcome you at the Be Informed booth 102 on the Building Business Capabilities conference. Also see blog entry Working with requirements.
The interactive demonstration can be viewed online via

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Be Informed Team Assemble! - Microsoft Industry Solutions University at Rome 10-11th Oct 2012

Be Informed’s team were out in force at the Microsoft Industry Solutions University at Rome last week. The team flew in to showcase our latest Public Sector Solutions and some of the new Microsoft Integration work. It was a great event to advertise Be Informed products and what our partners could accomplish with us.

The Be Informed team’s stand was very busy throughout and had plenty of interest from all around the Europe Middle East and African regions in the fields of Justice, Welfare and Government Services. Partners had a specific interest in our “The mouse that roared” story. They were enthralled to learn how Be Informed managed to beat out Microsoft, SAP, IBM and Oracle for the UWV (The Labor and Welfare Agency in the Netherlands) bid and what it meant for us to win such a momentous victory against four mammoth companies. The sequel to David’s story is more impressive than the original, especially when he defeats three brothers as well as Goliath. A point our partners couldn’t fail to miss.

Geert Rensen and Gordon McKenzie gave an informative and entertaining presentation on ‘How we can learn from the Dutch’ as Netherlands is at the top end of the UN eGovernment charts. Rob Tuinte took charge of showing off our award winning Environment Online Solution. Which has been rated by top analyst company Gartner as a best in class example. Those visiting the stand and attending the presentation where captivated by the adaptability, versatility and practicality of Be Informed’s software. For many it was the first time they had heard of model applications driving processes and solutions in the public sector. Partners showed great interest in learning how they could benefit from this new and innovative product and how it works.

Following this we then highlighted some of the Windows 8 User Interface Solutions for the model store and also the new UI for our Multi – Benefit Solution (MBS). The Be Informed team demonstrated the capabilities of the model store on Microsoft’s very own Windows tablet. This accentuated the ability to integrate Be Informed’s products with Microsoft platforms. With many of our Partners currently using Microsoft solutions this was a huge plus.

All in all a terrific event, with great exposure and discussions about future prospects of Be Informed. However, now is not a time to rest on our laurels. We must use this momentum to help propel Be Informed to the global stage.

This mouse is not done roaring!

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Be Informed Philosophy - The Way We See It

As humans, our ability to create and use technology is one of the things that make us intelligent beings. It is also a key part of our humanity. Technology and devices help us compensate for all the things we don't have or can't do.

However, the way we have used technology has varied through the ages. Up to the 18th century, we see the craftsman's paradigm of technology, i.e. knowledge being passed from father to son. Craftsmen had a deep understanding of how technological artifacts worked, and were expert users of them. In today's terms, we would say this technology paradigm effected individual productivity.

With the advent of the Industrial Age, the technology paradigm developed into an engineering philosophy. Technology was geared towards full automation, often redefining the role of humans. In this way, technology achieved economies of scale and optimized business operations on a global level.

Now, in the 21st century, we are amidst the next technology paradigm, combining the craftsman’s view and the engineering paradigm. Today’s technology is supposed to augment human capability, on a global scale.

One of the most notable distinctions between the two paradigms lies in who is driving them. Technology has mostly been business-driven. Today, many technology innovations, and certainly the way we perceive the usefulness of technology, are people-driven. We want our business applications to be as simple and engaging as our gaming computer, we want to be mobile, and we want to be able to personalize technologies. We just want it to work for us.

Compare and contrast
To obtain a better understanding of the two paradigms, let's compare and contrast the traditional view of technology with the Be Informed view (with a focus on business operations).

Traditional view Be Informed view
Problem-solving Identify best practice, automate, optimize and replicate Technology is geared towards finding the optimal approach for each single case
Functionality Value the functions and features as such Also value capabilities to flexibly meet changing user requirements, and interact with other people and systems
Transparency You should be able to understand the inner workings of the system The system should explain its actions proactively
Programming style Prescriptive (describe all details) Declarative (describe boundaries)
User experience Lots of options everywhere Just showing relevant options
Training Train users to use the system Train the system to support the users

Table 1: Characteristics of the engineering and humanistic paradigm

In Be Informed's view, today's technology paradigm abandons the traditional "one best way" doctrine in favor of determining "best ways for each and every one of us".

How does Be Informed realize this?
The Be Informed business process platform is based on semantic technology. Semantic technologies are the next wave in web-based computing, sometimes also referred to as 3.0. Semantic technologies help give meaning to data, typically through highlighting relations(1). This is also how Be Informed works.

Be Informed is completely model-driven. This means that business analysts, strategists and policy-makers do not have to formulate requirements, which, through a number of intermediate steps, are ultimately translated into code. Instead, they can model them in Be Informed, see the results both visually and in near-natural language, simply "declare" this to be the application, and run it.

Be Informed continuously determines which possible activities bring you closer to the goal, thus completing the transaction. This means there is no predetermined sequence of steps or workflows that restrict free interaction with customers. And when the case information changes, there is no need to start all over again, as the next set of possible activities is determined on the spot.

There has been a long-running debate between system-centric BPM that tries to automate processes to run "straight through" and human-centric BPM that supports knowledge workers with complex tasks. The Be Informed philosophy should not be confused with being human-centric. In fact, its semantic technology allows processes to be automatically configured in real time to achieve a much higher straight-through processing rate (STP) than the traditional approach of predefining business processes.

There's no point adopting a new paradigm if it doesn't bring significant benefits. Just a few percent improvement is often possible within the old way of working. We have seen remarkable improvements in bottom-line cost-savings as well as in top-line improvement.

Bottom-line improvements, such as higher productivity, higher STP and higher first-time-right percentages regularly lead to more than 30% lower operating costs. From an IT perspective, running multiple processes through the same system while having a single model to maintain regularly, leads to TCO savings in excess of 60%. Perhaps the most striking improvement can be found in the time-to-change, where a 90% reduction is not uncommon.

Bottom-line improvements only get you so far. Improving the top line offers even greater leverage. We have seen fivefold the conversion compared to industry standards. Moreover, because with Be Informed all products and services are going through the same process (instead of having their own processes), cross-sell and up-sell capabilities improve significantly.

Yet, we shouldn't fall into the pit of the engineering paradigm, and only think of optimizing operations. Technology needs to augment human capabilities. Most importantly, working with Be Informed provides administrative professionals with autonomy, mastery and purpose(2). Autonomy, because administrative professionals are liberated from inflexible prescriptive processes. They can focus on working with the customer or citizen. Mastery, because Be Informed allows professionals to focus on knowing their business, instead of restricting them to having to know the system. Purpose, because Be Informed allows administrative professionals to focus on the goal of administrative processes: making the right operational decisions, instead of following the flow of the system. And that's what ultimately drives business performance.

Interested in finding out more about the way we see business process technology? Please contact us at

(1) Take, for instance, photo tagging in the consumer space. Someone can post a photo taken with a mobile phone, including a geo-tag stating that the picture was taken in Paris. Based on recognition algorithms, the system can determine that Stuart is on the picture. When you click on Stuart, you'll see other pictures of him. Semantic technology then can automatically infer that Stuart must have been in Paris, and offer targeted advertizing – all without anyone specifically having instructed the system that Stuart was in Paris.

(2) Based on "Drive" by Daniel Pink

Be Informed is an internationally operating, independent software vendor. The Be Informed business process platform transforms administrative processes. Thanks to Be Informed’s unique semantic technology, business applications become completely model-driven, allowing organizations to instantly execute on new strategies and regulations. Organizations using Be Informed often report cost savings of tens of percents. Further benefits include a much higher straight-through processing rate leading to vastly improved productivity, and a reduction in time-to-change from months to days.

More information:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Tonic For Troubled Families – lessons from the Lowlands

by Gordon McKenzie

The laudable initiative to do something about the social and financial cost of supporting vulnerable families in the UK is a symptom of challenges facing government agencies over the world. In the Netherlands, it is estimated that up to one third of funds to support this challenge are consumed by inter agency collaboration, pulling all relevant facts and information together - this is a massive cost but one that highlights the issue that many agencies face, its not that the processes are broken in themselves, more that the gaps between then do not reflect the reality of life in a family struggling to deal with difficult issues. It’s a human problem, not suited to today’s systems and often ownership of the problem, or even detecting that there is a problem is a challenge for today’s silo oriented systems.

Just like a recent project we became involved in ‘Regizorg’, meaning regional care was designed to address this issue in Deventer in the Netherlands. Inspired by a visionary community leader, Be Informed used a set of knowledge models to create a way of identifying troubled families, making a risk assessment of their status, and then creating a treatment plan to help them recover under the care of the local government agency and its partners in the wider community including central agencies, private companies and local charities. The power of using knowledge models for such a solution is that they are ideally suited to cross agency information sharing and analysis, and can also ‘learn’ as new patterns or symptoms can be added readily to the system.

More information: Be Informed’s Troubled Family Solution.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What we could learn from the Dutch, more than Total Football

by Gordon McKenzie

Director of the New Local Government Network Simon Parker’s recent article called ‘Tinkering at the margins will not kick civil service vices’ this week suggested that the UK Civil Service could learn from the Dutch and other more compact democracies in streamlining decision making processes and cutting out bureaucracy. This prompted me to consider how some of our own customers have taken advantage of radical changes in service design to reduce costs and improve their services by using a more innovative approach and new technologies. Take one example, the butt of many jokes about government services – the planning service. Like the UK the rules governing what you are allowed to construct and get permission for in Holland are complex and highly diverse, from recycling plants to railways – garden sheds to loft extensions, each has a set of rules governing the process that can enumerate many thousands of individual permits fora complex application. Also like the UK planning is and remains primarily a local government responsibility, and with such a complex set of policy rules to implement, the service levels and quality of information delivered were to say the least highly variable –so something had to be done, and was.

The Dutch government therefore initiated a new act (the so called Wabo Act) to simplify this situation. The act enables members of the public and companies to use one transparent procedure to apply for licenses for activities that have an impact on the physical environment to one competent authority. The new act has replaced around 25 separate licenses and 1.600 application forms for matters such as construction, demolition, spatial planning, listed buildings and the environment by a single one-stop-shop license covering all activities. With the new act, the complexity of the situation is the government’s problem; when someone applies for a license, it’s the responsibility of the government to sort things out. Citizens no longer need to be experts in how the government operates. The Wabo and its accompanying processes and systems came into force on October 1st, 2010, which is supported by the Be Informed Public Service Platform.

Benefits of the solution include:

  • Annual cost savings for citizens (€ 6 million) and companies (€ 53 million);
  • Government will save € 96 million administrative costs in the first year;
  • Single point of contact offering more simplicity and transparency;
  • One procedure and one license for all permit types;
  • Digital communication through the internet; saving time and costs;
  • One procedure for appeal; stakeholders present their objections in one instance;

The plea by Maude’s office to become ‘digital by default’ is to be lauded and should be seized not only by individual departments but across whole service areas, by following the Dutch example here, we can learn not only on the playing field with Cryuff’s ‘Total Football’, where every player is involved but also in government transformation to create ‘Total Service’ where every party in the service comes together to improve the overall experience for the citizen.