Friday, 23 October 2015 14:42

Promapp puts the Pro in processes


There can be nothing so mind-numbingly boring and soul destroying as writing business processes that you know will sit on the shelf and seldom read – much less updated.

And there is nothing more wallet emptying than employing consultants to do it if you don’t invest time in it too, according to the straight talking, Kiwi, CEO, and co-founder Ivan Seselj of Promapp – short for process mapping.

Promapp is an Auckland based, software company, that has developed one of the best Business Process Management (BPM) software systems that I have ever seen – and I do know the difference between good and bad, and ISO compliance, and writing useless Quality manuals.

Strongly embraced both ‘across the ditch’ and in Australia - its next step is the USA having recently opened an office there. iTWire colleague Stephen Withers first reported on this emerging company here.

Let me segue before we get into the interview. In the early 90s, the Queensland Government decided that all of its suppliers would require a Quality Assurance Management System to ISO 9001 standards.

That meant identifying and documenting all the company's procedures, identifying risks, and showing how it would manage them. Let’s just say truckloads of paperwork ended up in spiral bound manuals that were never read again by the Government, or the company.

In fact, I was part of the interdisciplinary review panel convened by then Premier Wayne Goss. It largely concluded that while BPM was a good discipline, most small to medium enterprises would not be able to comply, and the cost of compliance could send smaller organisations broke.

As my company did substantial business with the government, we went down the rabbit-hole. In the end, it cost tens of thousands of dollars for consultants, and hundreds, if not thousands of staff and management hours, to achieve ISO 9001 certification. I was both sad and elated several years later - when moving to a new building - the huge pile of dust gathering manuals went in the rubbish skip.

Do not get me wrong – BPM is vital. It forms the basis of the company’s intellectual property as I found when I eventually sold the business in 2010 – the purchaser wanted our well-documented processes, as well as our clients.

If only I had Promapp then instead of Word and a very early version of diagramming software Visio.

Back to the interview.

“These are still our biggest competitors. If a business uses this software, they are actually defeating the purpose of business process mapping – to create living, breathing, processes that are updated easily and quickly, form the basis of training, risk management, and satisfying procurement requirements. No more text heavy manuals gathering dust,” Ivan said.

Ivan was keen to point out that modern BPM was much more than my experience and that the tools had markedly improved.

“It is about process mapping, workflow, standard operating procedures, risk management, and more massaged into a format that is useful, readily accessed, easily updated, multimedia enabled, and visual. We can even include videos taken on a smartphone if the procedure lends itself to that,” he said.

The remainder of the interview is paraphrased to avoid the over use of ‘he said’.

Fresh from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting and Finance) I took a job as an auditor at Deloitte. I learnt heaps, met some amazing people – some I still count as my friends – but I was not good at audit (boring) and that lasted six months.

My next job was internal auditor at Air New Zealand and I lasted just over a year – you think I would have learned by 25 years of age.

My next position was revenue processes team lead with British Airways. It was a global accounting change project and I finally realised that process was something I enjoyed – strange isn’t it. The project lasted just over two years.

After that, I became a process stream leader with Auckland Council. Various projects included asset management, asset planning, and integration with project/WIP accounting. I learned, and honed, my process improvement skills.

Promapp started in 2002 with my long-time friend Richard Holmes who is now Chief Operating Officer. The premise was ‘simple works – smarter processes come from the team’. It had to be an easy to use software system – browser and cloud based – to allow processes to come alive. Innovation and continuous improvement comes from good ideas from people at the coalface who know how to do something better.

Promapp feels more like Youtube or Facebook than a technical procedures manual. There is a strong social component to Promapp - it does not treat processes as fixed documents, but views them as ever-evolving knowledge assets. It encourages continuous feedback from the people who use them and provides for dynamic response and improvement on the part of the process owner.

Promapp has grown - from the original premise that still underpins its concept – to a multi-million dollar company servicing more than 300 customers including the majority of New Zealand and Australian local councils, state and federal government departments, and companies including McDonalds, Fisher and Paykel, and Toyota financial services. Its impressive client list is here.

Clients frequently comment, “Replacing Visio with Promapp has simplified our process diagrams and made them easier for all staff to understand. Promapp helps us to move forward in our goal to actively manage and own our processes. I have never seen anything like Promapp – I could not believe my luck as it has made this entire process so much easier. If I was creating traditional flowcharts, I'd only be a quarter of the way through by now.”

I was impressed with the concept of sharing processes in the cloud - so many of the processes are the same for like organisations. Last November it launched a free Local Government Shared Process Library for councils in New Zealand and Australia. It consists of over 1,000 processes developed by councils and uploaded to the cloud for sharing. It includes processes for activities where there is high public interest - building consents; resource consents; wastewater management; environmental health and environmental monitoring; and liquor licensing. It has an extensive set of processes for dealing with land information; parking; libraries and museums; recreation and leisure; community development; animal management and compliance; customer services and service delivery. It saves local councils lots of time and money. When one council gets a better idea or way to do something, they all benefit – for free.

It now has an advisory board with non-executive directors that is preparing the company for greater expansion. Promapp is now a mature, stable company that has grown organically. The software has proven to be best in class and globally accepted – now is the time to spread its wings for another Aussie/Kiwi invasion of more overseas markets.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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