BPM by Barcode Puts Process Where You Need It

Ann All

Last month I wrote about some of the interesting use cases I've encountered for mobile business process management applications, citing customer stories from vendors Appian and BP Logix. While they are great examples, they are only the tip of what is shaping up to be a pretty big iceberg.


New ideas are emerging all the time. Writing on his bpm for real blog, Chris Taylor mentions several involving quick-read code scanning technology. Interestingly, I just learned about a real-world example of one of his ideas in my interview with Ian Gotts, founder and CEO of Nimbus, and Nigel Kilpatrick, SVP, Major Accounts Europe Nimbus Partners.


As Kilpatrick explained it, Nimbus client Carphone Warehouse, which just won a Gartner BPM Excellence Award in the "Leveraging BPM Technology" category, has posted stickers with barcodes on them on office gear like photocopiers and laptops. Employees faced with an unfamiliar task can use their smartphones to photograph the barcode and be directed to an appropriate process, via Nimbus Control software. Kilpatrick's example: If an employee goes to a copier that has no paper and doesn't know how to fill it, he or she takes a photo with the phone and is then directed to the paper-loading process. He said:

There's no reason you couldn't do that with a customer, have them walk to a stand and see the process for how to do a product install. These are innovative uses of processes that are captured in Nimbus. You have simple, well-designed processes and you create multiple ways to digest that content. Whether you are an employee walking up to a copier, or a call center manager walking around with an iPad to go through training with your employees, you open up the digestion opportunity for process.

Calling it a "digestion opportunity" makes me think of Homer Simpson hitting an all-you-can-eat buffet. And on its surface, the copier example does seem a bit like a case of "doing it just because it's cool" technology.


But I think it's really about embedding process into daily routines, giving people the information they need when they need it. I rarely use the fax machine here at work. The process is not at all intuitive. It doesn't work like any other fax machine I've ever used. So I usually end up asking the receptionist, who sits near it and uses it often, for help. I am wasting both my time and hers.


You might be able to accomplish the same objective with a well-designed how-to diagram on the machine. But a software-driven solution like the one used by Carphone Warehouse certainly makes it simpler to update policies and procedures. The alternative is creating new designs, printing new stickers and sending someone around with the replacements. Not very efficient. As Gotts said:

Process, correctly implemented and delivered to end users, empowers employees so they are more effective.

Taylor's post is worth a read to check out his other ideas. Gotts chimed in with the Carphone Warehouse example in comments following the post.

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