Data, Data Everywhere . . . (Oops insert card for license fee before proceeding!)

You know you need to capture workforce and process intelligence for your organization, and you think you’ve found the perfect software solution for the job. Now you need to decide how much data you are able to mine. “More data” is by far a better option than “less data” when venturing into the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation and Machine Learning. With the right volume of data, you are able to get a more accurate picture of what is actually happening in your organization, what variances may exist in your processes and where the real opportunities for improvement lie.

The decision of how much data to collect will not only define the quality of data for your analysis, but it will likely impact your licensing agreement too. With the sheer magnitude of options for technologies, the decision can be overwhelming: SaaS, freemium, on-premise, user pricing vs. server pricing, etc. Interpreting licensing options shouldn’t get in the way of making the right decision for your business, but capturing all the data you really want and need may drive the project cost up and bury the ROI before the new project ever gets started. 

We know your pain and decided new pricing models are needed in this arena.

The traditional approach for data and process mining solutions was to tie pricing to the volume of data, collection points, robots or data storage utilized. Unfortunately, this approach can result in collecting less data. Decision makers may need to reduce costs, or they may want to avoid the inconvenience of dealing with PO’s and updated license agreements whenever more data needs to be captured. Recently, one of our partners, PAFNow, announced a new partnership with Microsoft Power BI in which they provide free access to mining data. It’s very innovative and helpful for companies who are learning how process mining can impact their organization. (You can find a link to their announcement below.)

OpenConnect has also been working with our customers to learn how best to provide value, at a fair price. We’ve done this while providing a more flexible, almost unlimited, path to collecting data for our WorkiQ and DiscoveriQ solutions. Our goal is to let our customers capture as much data as they need. That can be from 1 or 1000s of desktops, data from RPA robots and data from other sources such as Citrix servers or Mainframes. Regardless of how many processes, activities, tasks, cases or collection points are used, you now only license the people that need to analyze and use the data. It’s that simple. You get to focus on ensuring you have the right data for your analysis without limiting it. With basic quick start packages, you can get your workforce intelligence and process intelligence started next week and begin revealing insights for tomorrow’s workforce.

We would enjoy discussing how to make sure your ROI is achievable and is something you can brag about to family, friends and peers at industry events. Connect with us here https://www.openconnect.com/contact/ to schedule an intro to our quick start and scalable pricing models.  

Next up, we’re going to fix airline pricing! I hear robots fly for free except on Tuesdays in months that have r’s in them.

PAFnow press release: https://pafnow.com/en/2019/03/28/paf-globalizes-and-democratizes-process-mining-free-of-charge-for-all-microsoft-power-bi-users/

 

The Democratization of Digital Transformation

Everyone knows the cloud has changed IT and the computing experience immensely from an infrastructure perspective. Additionally, platforms like the Apple AppStore have made marketplaces for B2C a common place to find, try and use applications for little or no cost and hassle. Now we are seeing the proliferation of these marketplaces in B2B.  

For example, Microsoft Azure is growing the number of options and services that can provide flexibility, affordability and frankly, quality choices for enterprise applications and solutions.

OpenConnect recently went through the transformation to move all our DevOps, demo systems and operational IT to Azure. This provides streamlined and consolidated processes that significantly lower costs and most importantly offer affordable choices to spin services up and down in minutes.

This agility in the Azure services has been extended to their Azure Marketplace. We now extend this agility into how we interact with prospects, partners and customers. 

Azure Marketplace provides a platform for independent software vendors (ISV’s) that have been certified and optimized to run on Azure. Now interactions with our solutions, such as WorkiQ and DiscoveriQ, can take place in a “Test Drive” mode providing the necessary server and software components deployed and ready in less than 5 minutes. This saves your IT team time and reduces the need to find server space. Within minutes, our customer gets access to their private environment and an email with further details about getting started. Easy as that!

When the Test Drive is complete, the customer can easily choose to extend the service by purchasing licenses from the ISV by entering their license key into their own enterprise Azure service — BYOL (Bring Your Own License).   

The expansion and proliferation of these marketplaces are truly and quickly democratizing how you interact with your existing vendors and find new vendors. We are proud to participate in the Azure Marketplace. Stay tuned for more options from OpenConnect marketplace options. The next planned one is with UiPath Go!’s new and quickly growing marketplace.

If you are interested in taking a Test Drive of WorkiQ, see the instructions below, and have fun!

 

Azure Marketplace Instructions

How to get started with the WorkiQ Test Drive running in the Azure Marketplace.

  1. Visit the Test Drive page on Azure Marketplace
  2. Search Marketplace for WorkiQ
  3. Choose WorkiQ Test Drive, sign in and agree to the terms of use.
  4. Once you complete the form, your WorkiQ Test Drive will start deploying, and in a few minutes, you will get an email notification that the environment is ready. Just follow instructions in the email, and you will be able to access a fully provisioned and ready to use environment.
  5. Once provisioned, the WorkiQ Test Drive is available for 30 days. After the WorkiQ Test Drive is over, you will receive an email with the instructions to purchase and continue using the product (BYOL)
  6. Happy Test Driving.

Process Discovery Can Change the Pace of Success for RPA

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been a major topic of interest over the past few years. It isn’t a new concept, but with the advent of new delivery options, the results that can be achieved are continually improving. In order to improve any process by making it more efficient or lowering its operational costs, though, we must first understand how it currently works. That’s where process discovery and documentation are key to your overall success.

Let’s use common analogy – automotive performance. Does improved performance mean you want to go from 0 to 60 mph quicker, improve handling or achieve better fuel efficiency? You first need to understand what better performance means to you, and then you can take inventory of what you already have. At that point, you can put a plan in place to improve your vehicle’s performance. If you want more horsepower, you wouldn’t replace the tires. Likewise installing a new cold air intake won’t upgrade your car’s handling. If you rush out and buy something you think you need, without understanding what you have, you may end up with an expensive credit card bill and the same old car.

It’s no different when scaling your RPA practice. To implement an effective automation solution, you need a strong understanding of your end goal, as well as a good handle on your current situation. UiPath has a great RPA Adoption Model addressing a strategic Top-Down approach versus a task-level Bottom-Up approach and when each makes sense. Leveraging the right analysis and documentation, in the form of process mining, process intelligence and Artificial Intelligence (AI), can help achieve your desired performance and at a faster rate, resulting in a very powerful automation solution.

At OpenConnect, we think we have the secret sauce to improve any process — large or small, basic or complex. Even if you don’t know where to start in your automation journey, we can help. It starts with accurately capturing the right activities and tasks being performed. You can get log data from larger packaged software like SAP and Salesforce. However, if you aren’t including desktop tasks, you are not seeing the full automation opportunity. Using WorkiQ we capture EVERY task that occurs on the desktop, and we do it natively. It’s not an experiment or done it a lab setting. The tasks are captured where your people are doing actual work without interrupting the user. It doesn’t capture how the work is supposed to be performed, but it captures how it is actually being completed. Once this data set is collected, we port that to process mining solutions like PAFnow to execute a deep analysis on all data sets and process possibilities. We can also send it to our DiscoveriQ tool for quick process documentation outputs of known process activities and variations. By using analytics to help design the outcome you are able to produce a result that improves your speed to ROI, overall cost savings and the final outcome.

As you consider your automation drive, remember to take a look at your current processes and activities to chart your path forward. Once you have that in your sights, 0 – 60 in under 6 seconds is right around the corner.

Top Three Reasons to Consider Workforce Intelligence for Distributed Workers

The evolving nature of work continues to change at an amazing pace. While artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotic process automation (RPA) continue to push the bounds of a back-office workforce. The fact remains, a large number of workers will be engaged in back-office operations for a long period of time. Recruitment, retention, and training remain a strategic aspect of building strong brands. With the unemployment rate at an historic rate of 3.9%, this becomes even more difficult.

To remain competitive, companies are getting creative with flexible benefit programs. One such program that is becoming more popular is work@home or flex-scheduling. The blend of on-premises, work@home, outsourced (BPO), and, frankly, just a geographically distributed workforce provides a competitive advantage. The question then becomes: how do you measure and size your workforce in a distributed environment? The answer: workforce intelligence.

Here are the three biggest benefits of using workforce intelligence with your distributed workers:

  1. It can help you spot process inefficiencies — in real time — and lead to more productivity and lower labor costs.
  2. It can help you better understand what motivates your team, so you can implement programs that increase employee engagement.
  3. It can help you take the guesswork out of staffing, making long-term forecasting easier and more accurate.

With any team, success depends on your ability to measure, adjust, and improve. It’s no different with your work@home or distributed work teams relative to your on-premises processing teams. Consistent measurement and analytics, regardless of work location or work hours, are important. OpenConnect’s WorkiQ can give you the real-time insights you need to make meaningful management decisions and maximize your company’s productivity.

Analytics and RPA — the Perfect Team

I keep hearing that robotic process automation (RPA) is simple to use, doesn’t require a programmer, and can automate any business process. Unfortunately, we all know this isn’t entirely true. But, even if it were, there is more to automation than the RPA tool itself. Let’s look at a standard automation process used to automate business processes.

Five Phases to Getting Automation Right

In 2010, OpenConnect worked with several customers to develop the OpenConnect Approach to Process Automation. This approach consists of five phases — Discover, Design, Build, Execute, and Measure — as shown in the diagram below. It is an end-to-end, iterative process that helps companies (a.) identify automation opportunities based on their automation strategy, (b.) design and build the solution, and (c.) measure the results of the robots.

Five phases of the automation process

This process has been used by several of our customers for many years, helping them successfully implement automation robots to improve quality, increase throughput, and reduce costs. But how is this process any different than others? After all, it’s very similar to many other processes you find in the RPA world. The major difference is how this process is implemented and executed.

The OpenConnect Approach to Process Automation uses a combination of analytics tools and automation tools to provide:

  • A list of automation opportunities in order of importance
  • The best path to take to get the highest throughput
  • The steps taken for each process/task
  • A document showing the details of the process/task
  • Robot measurements that can be used to help identify improvements

The Importance of Analytics

I think everyone would agree that analytics can improve automation; and many RPA companies provide analytics; but most RPA analytics tools available today show only what the robots did, not how to automate the process involved. The analytics data is created by the robots’ activity; so, before you get any data to analyze —i.e., Measure — you first must Discover, Design, Build, and Execute. And, while the data helps you improve the existing robots, it doesn’t help build the process logic in the first place.

Since RPA is automating what people do, we need to know what people do. The standard way to understand what people do is — to ask them! Sit down with a subject matter expert (SME) or a business analyst (BA), and have him/her walk you through the process. People who have used this method know that it’s not the best way to get the information you need. First, if you don’t ask the right questions, your process is going to have major holes that you won’t discover until you start to build the logic. Second, if you ask 10 people how to do something, you’ll probably get at least five different answers. What people tell you will be based on their experience; so, if you get a more experienced user, you might get more accurate data.

You Can Capture a Few Workers’ Activities . . .

There are some tools available that allow you to capture what a person does and then use that information in the RPA tool to create your robot logic. To use one of these tools, you first install a piece of software on one or more desktop computers, and then have people start the recorder every time they execute a process. Typically, the tool provides an option to enter information for each step. This could include business logic or notes about why the person did something.

It’s true that this can help get the information into the RPA tool more quickly, but the data is only as good as the person executing the process. Also, what about process variations? Does the user have to navigate every possible path for this to be accurate? And how is the business logic captured? Finally, how reliable is the data when the person knows his/her activities are being recorded, much less when he/she is actually starting each recording manually?

So, on the face of it, although this initially may sound like a great feature, all it really does is help you get the data (useful or not) into the RPA tool. However, most RPA tools already have a “record” feature, so why couldn’t you just do the same thing within the RPA tool itself?

. . . or You Can Capture and Analyze the Workforce’s Activities

Now, let’s consider a better way. Instead of capturing what one or two people are doing, why not capture the activity of the entire workforce?

Let’s say you have a fairly complex process, one that takes a user several weeks to learn and a couple of months to master. It contains multiple decision points and complex logic. Let’s say also that you have 200 people executing this process multiple times every day. If you could passively capture the data for every user, for every process, and for multiple days or week, you would have every variation, every decision point, and every screen used in the process. And users wouldn’t even be aware that their activity is being captured, so you’d get realistic data from actual users doing actual work — not from a few users being very careful about how they execute a process because they know they’re being recorded.

That sounds right; but how do you sift through all the data so you can make sense of it?

First, you must identify the users who execute the process the most often and with the highest efficiency. I have heard many people say that you don’t need to improve the process for RPA, because robots don’t care if it’s efficient. Well, the robots may not care, but you should care; because, the more efficient the process, the fewer robots you’ll need in the first place! That’s why I believe it’s important to learn the most efficient way to execute a process; and the right analytics can help you gain that knowledge.

How Finding the “Happy Path” Helps You

After you’ve narrowed down who the top users are, you then must understand the paths they take and identify the best one — commonly called the “happy path.” To do this, you need a tool that can automatically show you the process, and all its variations, in a graphical format that’s easy to understand and analyze.

The process map should be detailed enough to show the decision points, but not so detailed that it adds unnecessary clutter. Maybe User A goes to Screen 3 followed by Screen 2, but User B goes to Screen 2 followed by Screen 3. Does it really matter? In most cases, probably not. But it could. That’s why you must have control over the data that goes into the process map. For some activities, you might include several screens per activity; but, for others, you may want only one screen per activity. (An activity is displayed as a box in the process map, and lines connect the various activities based on user navigation.) You should also be able to analyze each variation by human “think-time.” If your goal is to reduce costs, automating the path with the greatest amount of human “think-time” will provide the best ROI.

Once you’ve identified the “happy path,” you should be able to document the selected process. Since all of the data is in the system, it should be a simple matter of clicking on a button to create the documentation. But how do you capture the business logic? You can capture what people do and how they do it but, for now, you can’t capture why people do it. The why refers to the business logic. We know that a user entered a specific value into a field, causing a specific action; but we don’t know why the user entered that value in that field.

This is where you need to include an SME, so he/she can help document those rules. Still, this is much different than the manual process I mentioned at the beginning of this article. We aren’t asking an SME to go through the process and provide details; instead, we’re asking the SME to review a document that already has all the screen-shots and navigation steps (the what) and asking him/her to add the why (the business logic). The SME simply adds text to explain why the user entered that value in that field.

Summing Up: The Right Way

Since most of the time building automation logic is in the Discover and Design phases of the process (again, please refer to the diagram), using the right analytics can reduce the time to automate by as much as 50%. It also improves the quality of the automation and helps you identify the most efficient paths, which reduces the number of robots required. Fewer robots means a more economical deployment, purely and simply. This is the right way to automate.

Don’t be fooled when you hear people say they “identify what people do and automatically automate it.” I’m very skeptical about such claims if those making them have acted without proper analysis and the benefit of business logic provided by a knowledgeable human! To be sure, we eventually will get there with artificial intelligence, but we aren’t there yet.

WorkiQ is Citrix Ready — and What That Means

WorkiQ is Citrix Ready — and we’re very proud of that. However, it does bring up two obvious questions. First, what does it mean? Second, what difference does it make? I’m going to try to answer those for you in reverse order. (After all, if it makes no difference, it doesn’t matter what it means.)

As you may already know, WorkiQ is OpenConnect’s real-time desktop analytics solution. It provides visibility into employee productivity. To be a little more specific, WorkiQ captures employee activity through a small software agent that usually is installed on each user’s workplace computer. However, there also are work environments in which a typical user doesn’t have a dedicated workplace computer. That’s why it’s important that WorkiQ has been certified as Citrix Ready.

Citrix and WorkiQ

One of the popular on-demand computing platforms is Xen Desktop by Citrix. We’ve worked hard to make sure that WorkiQ works great for a company that uses this platform. You might say that WorkiQ “sees” a Citrix session as just another standard activity session. Perhaps the user is on a dedicated desktop computer. Perhaps she’s using a Citrix computing resource. She may even be moving between the two. It doesn’t matter. In any of these cases, WorkiQ generates an accurate timeline of activity.

Many companies use Citrix to allow employees to work from home or from mobile devices. Citrix provides a standardized configuration and increases security. It also reduces wide area network (WAN) traffic by locating the computing resource closest to the data the user is accessing. That data exists on the server.

By the same token, we don’t put WorkiQ on individual devices in a Citrix environment. Instead, we capture the users’ activity by installing our Citrix-specialized WorkiQ agent on the Citrix server. The beauty of this approach is that WorkiQ can directly “see” traffic between users and all the other corporate applications on the server. That lets WorkiQ accurately capture activity data, and do so with the highest quality.

What Citrix Ready Means

Citrix put our Citrix-specific WorkiQ agent through a uniform set of compatibility tests. In Citrix’s analysis, the agent installed seamlessly and implemented proper modifications to the server’s registry. WorkiQ also passed other Citrix compatibility checks, including memory handling within the Citrix server. As a result, Citrix certified WorkiQ as Citrix Ready.

A number of large sites — including one with over 100 Citrix servers — have successfully taken advantage of WorkiQ. Through the Citrix Ready program, OpenConnect also receives partner-level access to Citrix technical resources. This enables us to resolve any Citrix-related technical challenges our WorkiQ customers may have. In short, you can be confident in not only OpenConnect’s technology but also our ability to handle any challenges that may occur.

Note: Citrix is a registered trademark of Citrix Systems, Inc.

Should Employees View Analytics Reports?

Operational analytics products such as OpenConnect’s WorkiQ provide insight into employee activity, helping you better understand how your employees perform their daily activities. Some solutions, including WorkiQ, also allow employees to view reports showing their activity compared to their peers’.

There is a growing debate over whether employees should have direct access to their analytics data. Some managers believe that a user who can view his own data will use it to help improve his performance. Other managers believe that employees will use the data against management, or will spend too much time looking at data instead of working.

As you would expect, there are advantages and disadvantages to letting an employee have access to her analytics data. The advantages include:

  • It makes her feel in control, and less like she’s being watched.
  • By comparing her activity with that of her peers, she’s energized to perform better and gains more pride in her work as she watches her own improvement over time.
  • It gives her control of her own destiny and allows you to better manage her expectations as an employee.

On the other hand, some of the reasons you should be cautious about allowing an employee to view his own reports are:

  • He might spend a lot of work time constantly looking at his data.
  • If the data shows that he’s performing poorly, he tends to challenge the data, which could cause a confrontation with his manager.
  • He can use the data to demand pay raises or other rewards.

As a result, you should consider these advantages and disadvantages before allowing your employees direct access to their own data. Each working environment is different; so only you, the person managing your team, can truly understand the potential impact of each approach.

Another Way to Provide Transparency With Analytics Data

If you want to be transparent and allow your employees to see their data, but you’re concerned that they will spend too much time looking at reports, there’s an alternative approach you can try. Instead of giving employees direct, real-time access to the reports, use WorkiQ to create a peer report (shown below). This is a chart that shows how an employee has performed, over time, compared to her peers. In the employee’s peer report, she doesn’t see data for each of her individual peers; rather, she sees a single attribute that represents the average for all peers.

WorkiQ peer report

You can share the peer report with the employee, either via an automatic emailing or by showing him the report during your weekly one-on-one meeting with him. This removes the disadvantages of allowing direct access to the reports, but still provides the feedback employees need. Some employees will still challenge the report, regardless of how and when it’s delivered to them; but most employees will welcome the feedback.

Getting Away From Self-Reporting

Have you ever felt very satisfied with the completion of a workday or project just to realize you still need to document your time and/or items of work completed? Looking for more productivity from your team, but still requiring them to provide mandatory self-reported time/work sheets?

Many back office operations, particularly in Health Plans, have an excessive amount of self-reporting. Still using spreadsheets that are difficult to roll up to a group level and take a lot of time to insure individual inputs are correct is an amazing time killer. Others use simple web based applications which rely on accuracy of the reporter, while believe it or not some plans still use paper, pencil and stop watches.

Self-Reporting is a root cause of several common operational deficiencies:

  • Too many costly work hours spent completing forms and combining spreadsheets
  • Consistency in the definitions of work across multiple groups and individuals lead to errors
  • Accuracy of data is dependent on those inputting the information, again leading to errors or misrepresentation
  • Without real-time data; managers cannot make decisions to impact inventory quickly

Using automated capture and reporting of work streamlines operations and provides real-time data. Take a look at WorkiQ as an example using desktop analytics. While visiting our information take a swim through our Savings Calculator to see how much your operations might benefit from eliminating self-reporting.

CareFirst and OpenConnect to Present at Health Plan Claims Conference

 

 

For Immediate Release

September 17, 2015

 

Contact: Michael Cupps

(972) 523-6690

mcupps@openconnect.com

 

CareFirst, OpenConnect to Discuss Improvement

of Claims Auto-Adjudication

CareFirst Vice President of Large Group Operations to serve as featured speaker at the

Health Plan Claims & Service Operations Conference

 

Michael Cupps, OpenConnect Senior Vice President, and Sally Miller, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) Senior Vice President of Operations for Large Group Strategic Business Unit, will serve as featured speakers and panelists at this year’s Health Plan Claims & Service Operations Conference on October 26, 2015.

 

Cupps and Miller’s panel will focus on key areas in which analysis and automation can improve the claims process by reducing costs and decreasing pended claims. Miller will speak to CareFirst’s success in significantly improving operations through the identification and utilization of previously uncaptured data, and the capacity to deploy software robots to process work.

 

“The opportunity to improve operations first pass rates and to demonstrate significant savings for health plan claims is a prime target for RPA,” said Cupps. “Utilizing analytics to target the most costly claims or edit codes, then automating them allows organizations – as CareFirst has demonstrated – to optimize human capital, improve customer service and lower administrative costs in an increasingly competitive market.”

 

WHAT: Health Plan Claims & Service Operations Conference

 

WHO: Sally Miller, CareFirst Vice President of Operations, Large Group Strategic Business Unit and Michael Cupps, OpenConnect Senior Vice President.

 

WHERE: Westin Las Vegas Hotel, 160 E Flamingo Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89109.

 

WHEN: Monday, October 26 – Tuesday, October 27, 2015. Miller and Cupps will speak on October 26 at 1:10 p.m.

 

CONTACT: Michael Cupps at (972) 523-6690 or mcupps@openconnect.com.

Managers Dilemma: How Can Employees Compare Performance?

Can your employees track their daily performance, or do they have to wait for a manager review? Do they know where they need training or when they excel at a process? In this manager’s dilemma, I walk through a “Peer Productivity Comparison” Dashboard in WorkiQ, explain how desktop analytics can help your employees diagnose their own performance.

This workforce analytics dashboard displays:

  • The number of work processes a single user completed over several days. (ie. insurance claim, IT ticket, enrollment application, etc.)
  • The average time this user needed to complete each work processes.
  • The average time this user spent performing defined tasks (sub-processes) within a process each day.
  • This same information above for the user’s team, so each employee can compare performance to their peers.

Request a WorkiQ Demo