Making business process automation sexy for SMBs

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This article appeared in the August 2016 issue of CRN magazine.

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Making business process automation sexy for SMBs
Ivan Seselj

Business process is a hot areas for SMEs that’s almost untouched. The term conjures images of transaction processing at banks or insurance companies. Hardly exciting.

In fact, all business, right down to the sole trader, is just a collection of tasks performed in ways that create something of value that can then be sold to a customer.

The faster you perform those tasks, or the fewer tasks required, the easier and cheaper it is to arrive at the end result. Business process management has largely remained in the domain of mid-market and enterprise companies, despite universal need for the service.

Resellers wanting to bring BPM to SMEs would need to overcome a lack of skills, customer awareness (need doesn’t always equal demand) and affordable tools.

Which brings us to the Kiwi company Promapp (pronounced “pro-map”) – another tool to manage business processes. The fresh angle is that it bakes in risk management. Chief executive Ivan Seselj, a former Deloitte auditor, takes a finance man’s spin on business process.

“We used to do [process] audits that were separate from risk,” Seselj says. “We felt that was really wrong.” The major issue is that someone could change a process – perhaps cut a corner to speed things up – without thinking about the impact on the company’s risk profile. 

For example, a company may require an employee to perform a credit check to give more than $50,000 credit to a client. If someone in finance decides too much is being spent on credit checks and lifts the trigger to $100,000, what are the consequences for the company? 

For many small companies the loss of $100,000 would, in the least, seriously damage cash flow.

Instead of processes sitting in lonely, unmonitored Word docs, Promapp maps them out and notifies a risk manager or senior executive if someone has made such a change.

In the example above, the credit limit alteration would notify four managers that someone was wanting to change the control in the credit approval process.

“We have achieved what we think is the heart of the 9001 standard,” Seselj says, referring to the ISO quality management standard. “When you link your risk practice to the live steps and processes, there is no gap. The control is permanently synced to your live process.” 

Talk of ISO standards and audit trails is no doubt music to an auditor’s ears. But how do you sell this to SMEs? 

The adage about finding the pain point rings truer than ever with dry topics such as business process. Businesses that have suffered a really bad audit, the loss of a major customer or some other catastrophic incident are prime candidates. 

“They need to go through that first and see that fail before they invest a cent in Promapp,” Seselj says. “Every corporate disaster in Australia and New Zealand in the past 12 months [has happened] because everyone is changing procedures and no one is looking at them.” 

Promapp has had success with engineering firms where the risk of failure is much more tangible. The average licensing deal is $2,500 a month. Clients have seen a 90 percent reduction in billing errors; an 83 percent reduction in new hire on-boarding and time to become productive; and a 21 percent reduction in customer churn.

Seselj admits he’s ahead of the curve. Professional services firms – even accounting firms – refuse to recognise the gap between the process on paper and the reality. Seselj predicts a generational shift similar to CRM which, in the past 10 years, has quickly gone from enterprise to SME.

“Just like the sales manager who says, ‘I have really good Excel sheets, I thought they would be enough to achieve target’. The real owners in the business need to step up [to control risks] – and the reason they haven’t in the past is that we’ve given them an excuse by making it far too hard.”.  


Factfile

  • Head office Auckland 
  • Established 2002
  • Top executives Ivan Seselj (CEO), Richard Holmes (COO), Sarah Berkowski (CMO), Ralf Wittgen (chief customer officer).
  • Headcount 47
  • Sector Business process management software
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