Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Automation is key to an optimized work force

Without a doubt, many of our customers see significant benefits when they automate their end user tasks. Some customers have seen over $25m a year in time savings in their first automated solution rolled out to their users. This stands to reason though. Given the incredible manual steps needed to be undertaken by users to say, cancel a credit card, open a new account, initiate a wire transfer, open a new mortgage (the list goes on). Sometimes we see hundreds of manual steps across multiple applications and the user spends more time at the keyboard figuring out the next step than they do helping the customer get more from their organization.

Simple logic says, if you can automate these workflows, which for years have been mostly manual, the benefits are huge. Time saving, reduced training time, elimination of errors, happier customers, more up-sell opportunity and all the related "stuff".

But user applications up until now lack the ability to be automated. Even new web applications and portals lack the ability to take data out of or into other systems without heavy IT investment up front. Multiply that by the fact they are probably still running some mainframe, client server and java apps as well and it is easy to see why most users are manual users.

OpenSpan has really changed that. We have a vast number of users, now running automated workflows in large and small mission critical environments. Each day, I am constantly amazed by the types of use cases our users are using us for. There is now almost no limit to what end user tasks can be automated. Cool.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

UI in the Cloud

How do you differentiate as to what is a cloud application and what is a client server application (thin client or fat client). Does it really matter?

There are so many plug ins for the browsers now, along with so many browser incompatibilities I feel nothing much has really changed. You could argue, and I will, browsers are just fat clients. Enterprises have to do so much QA before rolling any web app into production, it really is just a client server app in all sense of the word(s). Sure, the user perceives the application runs in the browser and nothing is installed on the client but that's really a mirage. Under the covers, all sorts of technology is loaded on demand to run client side. And all the browser vendors want to win the browser war...and break the standards - and we know how long this war will go on !

Not only that, but we are YET AGAIN confusing the users with so many different types of web applications that pretty much all behave differently in terms of UI consistency. Even the same applications behave differently in different browsers and the UI for each is pretty much all over the place. My wife is confused as to when and when not to hit backspace (you can lose everything you typed in many web apps if you are not careful), she can drag and drop in GMAIL now but in no other web app she uses but that doesn't stop her trying and getting tied in knots. UI standards are out the window now! Only one sad consistent remains - copy and paste (and even that was left out of the Iphone - for a while - LOL).

So, my opening question, does it really matter? I think it does. This is exactly HOW we created so many legacy applications that we are forced to support today so we have learnt very little. This is great for OpenSpan because we offer capabilities for normalizing and automating cross-application workflows across most application platforms (Fat, Thin, Web, Java, windows, Host or whatever) but thats not the point of this post. Where are we going wrong? I know applications that were written and then rewritten within just 5 years of each other and are now completely legacy today. i.e. no new development but no replacement being built (no IT budgets). I know, because we are bridging them to work with newer technologies. BTW - I said 5 years ago, but we have some users with 30 year old apps and 1 year old apps as well, in exactly the same boat!

I think my point is further validated when you look at the huge difference between web (cloud) applications and their user interfaces. They all seem so different. Take GMAIL. You could fairly argue, it's a terrific UI and Google have done a marvelous job making a dumb browser run what looks to be a very clever RICH client application. BUT - look at the resources GOOGLE has, few companies have the development / QA budgets that Google has (and Enterprises cannot afford to have applications 2-3 years in Beta to iron out bugs!). And to be fair, email is not as mission critical as losing a mortgage payment, medical diagnosis, wire transfer or interest calculation. We are used to losing emails like things get "lost in the post" (or junk folders).

I will write more on this subject I am passionate about (can you tell :) ).. But let me end with this for now. We all talk about how the pendulum swings, about every 10 years, right ? Well, in my view, the next pendulum is someone coming up with the next SUPER 4GL (RAD) development environment that allows cloud applications to be built quickly, full transaction roll-back-roll-forward, deploy anywhere, on-demand, run locally (and with core business logic when connection down) and all, so much more... it might be Silverlight, it might be Chrome or it might be something from nowhere (it might already be here and I missed it :)).. but it'll be here soon!

For me, whatever it's built on, I can guarantee, in a few months or a few years, it'll be another legacy app that'll need my help!

Monday, July 6, 2009

OpenSpan BPO Services Partner Program

One thing for sure, as a BPO, is that you are often running other people's applications. We all know it's hard to optimize what you own, let alone doing that with someone else's application. This is one of the key reasons we established the OpenSpan BPO Services partner Program.

OpenSpan can get inside nearly any application that runs on the desktop and expose all of it's UI elements as an extremely robust API you can do what you like with. Whether you own that application or not. We don't need the source code to do this!

That means, for any BPO running someone else's application, you can automate it to your hearts content. Cumbersome agent workflows can be made highly efficient using the OpenSpan Studio that we train the BPO development/IT teams how to use. Using the visual drag and drop designer you can optimize these agent workflows in short order and start rolling out to their desktops rapidly.

Game changing for any BPO - Robust Integration and automation on the desktop.

See this press release for STREAM GLOBAL SERVICES. A world class BPO on the OpenSpan program.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Injecting and Turkeys

No, we are not talking about injecting beer into a turkey but we are talking about the latest blog post by our VP of Development, Damon Lockwood. I wouldn't do his post justice by paraphrasing any more of it. So, please enjoy..

Do it On the Desktop

I will be back shortly myself after a little absence of blogging! Hope you missed me!