Tools of the Trade

Business process reengineering tools have come a long way since the Air Force invented the Integrated CAM Definition Languages (IDEF) methodology 20 years ago. That methodology eventually became the government standard for systems documentation and requirements specifications, and it subsequently defined the market for modeling and simulation software.

First generation BPR tools from the 1980s were little more than basic flowcharting instruments that mapped out existing business processes. Second-generation reengineering software is providing much greater empirical analysis-helping users answer the what-ifs. By identifying critical paths and bottlenecks, new software is reducing many of the risks associated with business redesigns.

Another big change is that dozens of consultants and systems integrators have entered the reengineering market, helping federal organizations rank metrics such as cost, productivity and customer satisfaction. Companies such as American Management Systems, Andersen Consulting, Coopers & Lybrand, D. Appleton, SRA International and Wizdom Systems are working with agencies to redesign mission-critical operations to meet strategic goals. Andrulis Research, PRC and others even have opened BPR groupware centers in which local-area networks run special software that enables users to quickly prioritize objectives and get BPR projects rolling.

One of the keys to successful reengineering is to identify crucial areas for improvement. New modeling software packages are helping users analyze the dynamics of existing processes. Greater insight can lead to redesigned processes that better meet business goals.

New simulation software containing advanced financial analysis tools can accurately predict how proposed changes will affect business processes before federal organizations embark on expensive and time-consuming reengineering schemes. But buyers beware: These programs are only as accurate as the data plugged into them. In other words, "garbage in, garbage out."

Business process reengineering tools range from $500 to more than $50,000 per package, depending on the sophistication of the software and individual needs. Some companies offer comprehensive software that takes users through the entire BPR process, while others focus on certain market niches. The following is a sampling of some of the commercial BPR tools currently available to government buyers:

  • WorkFlow Analyzer. Meta Software Corp.'s flagship tool addresses the entire BPR life cycle, including data capture, process modeling, simulation, implementation and continuous improvement. Graphical language is used to express complex data sets pertaining to budgets, staffing and equipment requirements. The software enables users to test assumptions, analyze alternatives and measure results. The company, headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., also provides training and other services. Recent federal clients include the Defense Information Systems Agency, Energy Department, Internal Revenue Service, NASA and the Social Security Administration.
  • SIMPROCESS. CACI International's hierarchical simulation tool is designed for business process modeling and analysis. When used in conjunction with the company's object-oriented simulation languages, SIMPROCESS can help reduce the time spent on mapping reengineering components. The Federal Aviation Administration is using the software to analyze how it enforces regulations and certifies pilots.
  • ReThink. Gensym Corp. in Cambridge, Mass., has combined object-oriented technology with interactive graphics to produce a BPR tool that provides user-friendly modeling and simulation. The software helps users monitor process performance and manage real-time operations.
  • Extend+BPR. This 8-year-old software package from Imagine That! in San Jose, Calif., includes 90 pre-built blocks to help users create reengineering models. The program, which supports five types of operating systems, features drag-and-drop modeling, animation, spreadsheet connectivity and customized reporting. It has been used by numerous federal organizations, including the Air Force, Energy Department and NASA.
  • Optima! Process improvement software from AdvanEdge Technologies in Tualatin, Ore., is an easy-to-use Windows application that features process modeling, simulation and reporting capabilities. The program, designed for the front end of reengineering projects, helps users quickly create and edit presentation-quality process maps.
  • SA/BPR Professional. Popkin Software's comprehensive integrated tool supports the Federal Information Processing Standards for function and data modeling. The package analyzes what controls the execution of a function, who performs the function, and what objects or data are produced by the function. It features a built-in reporting language with a graphical-user interface for creating customized reports. The New York-based company is helping the FBI reengineer its fingerprint imaging operations.
  • Composer. This tool from Texas Instruments enables organizations to use model-driven development to rapidly design, build, test, install and maintain reengineering applications. Composer supports a variety of computer platforms and databases.
  • BPwin. Activity-based costing metrics are the major feature of this business-analysis tool by Logic Works in Princeton, N.J. The software package interfaces with the company's family of database design tools.
  • ServiceModel. This Windows-based simulation tool from ProModel in Orem, Utah, enables users to test the behavior and prove the benefits of redesigned processes before committing to change. Animated applications include statistical variability, workflow analysis, logistics and facilities planning.
  • Integrated Modeling Framework. Ten-year-old Knowledge Based Systems has helped to create industry standards for BPR modeling and analysis. The company's software distributes information into a central data repository that can be simultaneously accessed by a suite of eight modular BPR tools. Those tools enable users to tailor the Framework program to individual reengineering needs. Integrated modeling helps identify redundancies and non-value-added activities, and creates a better understanding of relationships. Knowledge Based Systems, headquartered in College Station, Texas, also offers a variety of consulting services.
  • Process Charter. This user-friendly process management software program from Scitor Corp. in Menlo Park, Calif., is designed to help managers visualize flow paths through a process. Resources can be defined and assigned to different steps of the process, and color animated simulations can identify key constraints. Statistics are presented in both spreadsheet and graphics formats to help users quickly determine activity-based costs and under-used resources. The Marine Corps recently used the package to help it reengineer eight core enterprise-level processes and more than 50 sub-processes. The software also was used by the Veterans Benefits Administration to reengineer its claims-processing operation.
  • BPSimulator. This software package from Technology Economics International in Rockville, Md., provides activity-based analysis by enabling users to track cycle times and costs of multiple business processes.
  • Framework. Ptech, based in Cambridge, Mass., offers an integrated set of object-oriented tools that enable users to create interactive blueprints of business processes. Software code can be generated from the hierarchical layout, providing rapid and consistent application development. The Advanced Research Projects Agency is using Framework to help transfer commercial software methodologies to the defense sector.
  • FirstSTEP. This business-process modeling and simulation tool from Interfacing Technologies Corp. in Quebec, Canada, incorporates object-oriented technology. The software provides reporting and analysis on static and dynamic states of BPR models. Also included are export and import capabilities, in addition to workflow connectivity.
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