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BPMS as a Matchmaker

You know the drill. You have an important business item to complete but it lacks a vital and required piece of documentation before you can finish it. You request the missing piece of information and then slot the file on your desk or in a file cabinet somewhere. Days, maybe even weeks, pass and you forget about the file as your turnaround times get longer and longer.

Meanwhile, at the other side of the office, that missing documentation comes in but it’s sitting in a stack of other documents waiting to get matched. An office worker starts the process of finding the original file or finding out who requested it. Maybe it ends up on your desk, maybe it inadvertently gets sent to another person or even another department. That clock keeps on ticking while your customer starts to wonder what is going on with their application, claim, invoice, or whatever piece of business they have with you.

It's not uncommon and it doesn’t matter if you are finalizing a contract, paying out an invoice, or processing a claim, getting all of the required documentation together can play a big and often frustrating role in day to day business.

Enter the Matchmaker

By utilizing Business Process Management Software (BPMS), organizations can remove most of the manual work behind finding and matching documents to files by automating the process within a BPMS workflow.

Being a very flexible and broad application framework, BPMS can be applied to a matching process in several ways ranging from the simplest to the more advanced:

Good Ol’ Drag ‘n’ Drop

Or Good Ol’ Cut ‘n’ Paste. This is the most common and most manual way to match a document to another document within BPMS. It starts with an existing work item in the system and a new work item coming in that needs to be matched to it. The user, typically an indexer or data entry person, sees that the new document is part of ongoing work, so they pull the existing work item and simply drag and drop (or cut and paste) the new document into the old one. Whether it’s drag and drop or cut and paste depends on the BPMS platform. Drag and drop is definitely preferable because it’s one swift motion but may be difficult to do in the platform’s user interface. Cut and paste is typically obtainable in most BPMS platforms but it’s a few steps more than drag and drop. Still others may require users to download the content that needs to be matched from the work item and then upload it into the existing work item.

Once the item has been matched, the work item can be sent to the person who requested the additional documentation and the work item holding the new document can be deleted (or sent to archive if the original incoming history needed to be maintained).

While there are much better options for automating the matching process which are discussed below, this is still better than having to deal with the paper, manually finding the file, inserting the new document into the file and transporting to whoever needs to work the file.

Automated Matching

The next method and one most common in BPMS platforms is automated matching. Again, depending on the BPMS platform, there could be an out-of-the-box (OOB) task that performs the matching (or merging) of two work items into one or available APIs that allow developers to build their own tasks.

The approach to this is also fairly straight forward. Key metadata on the initial work item is used as search and matching criteria for any other incoming work. This can be as simple as an account number but can also be more complex such as account number, last name, and document type. By having more complex matching criteria, work items for the same customer that are not related to the work item requiring additional content to follow their own workflow path. These criteria must be determined during the analysis phase of the BPMS project to ensure it is set up correctly when the system is being developed.

The metadata fields used for matching are typically configurable within an OOB task and provide other options such as:

  • Allowing the existing work item to continue waiting for additional content or to move it out of the Matching step after the first match

  • The option to have the work item being matched to have its content moved or copied to the existing work item. In other words, keep the new work item in archive as is and allow a copy to be placed in the existing work item or once it’s matched, delete the new work item

  • The option to merge the existing item with the new one or vice versa. What this means is that during a match, if the new work item is now to be the primary work item and bring in the content from the existing work item, it will move forward from that point in the workflow (presumably at an earlier step). If the existing work item continues to be the primary work item, it would be moved from its point in the workflow, which is probably further down the workflow path

And there are probably numerous variations and options depending on the BPMS platform.

Case Management

In a BPMS platform that supports Case Management, matching of new content to an existing case folder is even easier. Again, based on the metadata conditions used for matching, content that relates to an existing case folder is matched automatically without needing a special matching step or custom code. Actually, the term “added” is probably a better description since Case Management monitors and adds content based on the configured criteria. In addition, case folders can be set up so that the person requesting the additional content is automatically notified when it’s been added so they can pull it up immediately. This differs from traditional workflow where the work item is routed to a queue for follow-up.

Calculating the Return on Investment (ROI)

As with most BPMS automated processes, the ROI for matching content to existing work items is calculated in time saved by avoiding a manual matching process. In the paper world, time is consumed in determining if the new content applies to an existing file, then finding the file, putting the content into the file and delivering the file to the requestor. In an existing BPMS system where automated matching is not used, the time spent may be shorter but there is still a manual process of searching for the work item, performing the drag and drop (or copy and paste) method and then routing the file to the requestor. In either scenario, the following factors should be captured PRIOR to implementing an automated matching process:

  • The Average Hourly Wage (W) of the roles within the targeted process

  • The Average Amount of Time Spent (ATS) on performing a content match

Once these figures are in place, a dollar amount should be obtainable. For example:

  • Average Hourly Wage (W): $12.00

  • Average Amount of Time Spent per match (ATS): 1 hour

  • Average Cost per match (ATS x W): $12.00

The above factors become the baseline for determining the ROI for automated matching. It may also be useful to know the average number of matches per month but not required.

Once the BPMS solution is designed and implemented, the cost savings will come in the reduction of time spent doing a manual match of content to existing work items. When the BPMS solution is being designed, it’s important that these are tracked within the workflow. This can be done by keying off workflow events that are a part of the matching process. In the case of Drag and Drop (or Copy and Paste), a specific status can be used to indicate when a new work item is matched, such as “MATCHED TO CASE” or some other status that makes sense to the business. For the work item that had content added to it, a status of “NEW WORK ADDED” (or, again, another status that makes sense to the business). When these statuses are used, workflow rules can evaluate the use of these statuses for tracking ROI.

For automated matching or case management, when the new content goes through the matching process, workflow rules can be used to track this event. By utilizing a dashboard with the baseline factors for matching displayed as a constant, real time data on the time spent before and after automated matching was implemented and the cost associated with this process improvement can be displayed. This, along with other process improvements gained through a BPMS solution, are real concrete dollars that add up and help justify the expense of the solution.

It Seems Simple, Doesn’t It?

Using BPMS to automate the matching of content to existing work items seems like a no brainer, right? And yet many companies are either still doing this on paper or using manual methods within an existing BPMS implementation and are not taking advantage of this basic BPMS function.

If you’re considering a BPMS solution, don’t get side tracked by mobile capabilities or how many different systems with which the solution can integrate. I’m not saying these aren’t important but it’s the BASICS of what a BPMS solution can provide that should be the primary driver to any business decision, not the extras.

And keeping BPMS basic is what it’s all about…or at least should be.

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