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From Task Management to Advanced Process Management Applications

By Thomas Eklund

Employees who handle lots of data processing and analysis steps and are good at using Excel can be valuable. They can work with the data in ways that can help to ease the workload.

In data driven environments, often such data processing and analysis processes become long strings of individual steps, that may also combine usage of different technologies.

The problem is, that these semi-manual processes will by necessity lead to errors, some of which may be difficult to detect during the actual operations.

Think about it this way: each manual data processing step that involves copying, pasting, deleting or applying formulas, has certain probability of user error. When many steps are performed in combinations, the probability increases that at least one error is involved.

The errors that are detected before the process is completed may be easy to fix. However, the undetected errors may cause problems down the road, and may affect the quality of the outcome. If other people use the output for their own (similar kind of) data processing purposes, the errors can accumulate.

Further, long strings of semi-manual processes are usually tedious and time consuming to perform. Computers can perform such tasks without problems or complaints. Often enough, employee time can be spent more productively.

Therefore, repeatedly performed strings of tasks that are error prone and tedious to perform and can be computerized cost effectively, should be computerized.


What Are Advanced Process Management Applications?

Advanced process management applications combine long strings of individual tasks or steps into one or a few button clicks. Such processes may involve running queries, copying, pasting, deleting or applying formulas and handling other computational tasks.

At the same time, the application notifies the user of the currently performed process. For example, the application may display in a custom designed screen a message "Now performing step 1 of 20, updating Transactions Table," and then update the message with each step that is being performed.

Further, the application notifies the user when an error occurs and logs the error.

Further, advanced process management applications work with application users consultatively. In the simplest form, advanced process management applications:

  • check the application user's work for known errors and, as applicable, alert the application user and/or other parties,
  • help to ensure, that the needed tasks have been performed, and have been performed in the correct sequence, and
  • at decision making points, provide options (and may also provide additional relevant information) and ask the application user which option he or she prefers.

In a more complex form, advanced process management applications:

  • combine user input and data from several sources,
  • process the data based on user preferences, and
  • provide tools that assist the application user to make project specific decisions.

Advanced process management applications can be built both for internal purposes (for the employees) and as services that are offered to customers. In the latter case, it is advisable to combine advanced computer based advisory technology with live assistance. When implemented in high usability environment, this approach helps to both reduce labor needs, to provide more advanced services cost-effectively, and to differentiate the services that are provided. This, in turn, can help to increase employee and customer satisfaction and profitability.

Advanced process management application development should be part of the strategic initiative that is described in the Build a Sustainable Software Application Infrastructure Cost Effectively Around Software Development Talent article.