Accellion blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Horizontal Business Process Improvement Opportunity: Complement the Email Infrastructure with Secure File Transfer Appliance

Summary: A horizontal business process improvement opportunity cuts across departments and functions. If done correctly, such as implementing a secure file transfer appliance in support of the enterprise email infrastructure, you can realize and sustain the benefits quickly.


CIO Insight just released some results of a "Research study on business process improvement (BPI)." There were basically two main findings:

Finding 1: Improving business processes is the top priority for many IT executives, especially at small and midsize companies.

Finding 2: Although process improvement is a priority, the pace of change is moderate.

Why is BPI so important? Here is what CIO Insight writes on the topic: One of the most important lessons from the last 25 years of business computing is that you can't throw technology at a problem and expect it to go away, or fling a system at an opportunity and expect the dollars to rain down.

Other than nodding in agreement, I think it is important to note that business process improvement opportunities come in two flavors. There is the vertical process that involves a specific set of data and people, e.g. inventory control for a just-in-time production. Then, there are the horizontal processes that are less visible but no less vital for an organization's everyday operation -- processes such as sending large files securely; for example, engineers send blue prints, marketers send collateral, sales people send product quotes, finance people send consolidated accounts, and so on.

While the horizontal processes are less visible, the CIO Insight article observation applies equally -- that throwing money and technology at them does not solve anything. Thoughtful implementation of a solution that makes sense from the end users' perspective is what will drive the success of a technical solution for a horizontal process.

The good thing about the horizontal process improvement solution, however, is that it is easier to realize and sustain its benefits because it usually does not involve significant re-engineering of the existing processes in a manner that causes resistance from users.

For instance, exchanging information with people inside and outside is a (horizontal) business process common to most departments. In the early days, we did this by physically sending and receiving memos, letters and printed documents. The process to send something could take days. If we wanted to improve productivity (i.e., reduce the time involved), we paid extra money to use a courier service to speed up delivery.

Then, the horizontal business process solution, email, came along. We address our communication to one or more people, include the information we want them to have, and send it along its way. Only now the bits travel at the speed of electrons instead of the speed of the mail carrier. Email is so entrenched in virtually every business and every department today that we can’t imagine doing without it even though it has not been in wide use for more than two decades.

So, what is the next horizontal business process improvement opportunity? Put simply, what is the most common complaint about email for both IT and end users? I’m talking about email attachments.

Email systems were not architected to send large files; rather, these systems were designed for sending short messages that are just a few kilobytes in size. As a result, none of the major email systems in use today were developed with the notion of attaching large files (i.e., those that are 5 megabytes or larger) in mind.

Yet business processes have evolved from the days of simple text in email to sending the ever burgeoning files and documents as part of the routine email communication. Contracts, proposals, drawings, photographs, blue prints, and so on. They are all a critical part of the business process today.

Given the acrobatic moves required of end users and IT to send large files securely as attachments for the daily business needs, I would submit to you that this is as much of a horizontal business process improvement opportunity as email was back then. Does this mean that there is a miracle email system re-architected to handle large attachments? Unfortunately, no. Like most successful legacy systems, email vendors have too large of an install base to risk making that kind of departure.

Fortunately, secure file transfer appliance is available today. It offloads the large attachments from the email system, and still allows the business users to use the beloved email as a normal business process. As discussed in No Pain is Gain - What email focused VAR partners are doing for email size limits, there is no need to change how people work, how work is organized, and how work flows that often pose as obstacles in realizing the benefits of a business process improvement opportunity as argued by CIO Insight.

Don't take my word for it. What do the IT team and users from BIDMC (teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard medical school) , Foley & Lardner (US law firm with 1,000+ attorneys), Millward Brown (global leader in market research) have in common? They all recognized that sending large files securely is a core business process and none of their highly trained (a.k.a. demanding) users want a compromised solution that forces them to deviate from getting their job done.

Come to think of it, you and I deserve no less, too!


No comments: