Agile

Apex Process Consultants Receives 2017 Best of Southfield Award

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Apex Process Consultants Receives 2017 Best of Southfield Award

Southfield Award Program Honors the Achievement

SOUTHFIELD June 1, 2017 — Apex Process Consultants has been selected for the 2017 Best of Southfield Award in the Consultants category by the Southfield Award Program.

Each year, the Southfield Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Southfield area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2017 Southfield Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Southfield Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Southfield Award Program

The Southfield Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Southfield area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Southfield Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

SOURCE: Southfield Award Program

CONTACT:
Southfield Award Program
Email: PublicRelations@onlineawarded.org
URL: http://www.onlineawarded.org

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erikafulkApex Process Consultants Receives 2017 Best of Southfield Award
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Apex and First Tennessee Bank to present at IBM Interconnect 2017

Apex Process Consultants is proud to present at IBM Interconnect with First Tennessee Bank. Please see below for the session description.

Rapidly Enhancing an Enterprise Services Layer with IBM BPM and ODM at First Tennessee Bank

First Tennessee Bank (FTB) and Apex Process Consultants have implemented a system-guided process to assist the customer service representative in completing the online banking enrollment process. By leveraging IBM BPM and Apex Coach Views, the solution was developed, tested and ready for production in under five weeks. The ability to develop the solution in such a short time provided an extremely quick ROI. FTB is now leveraging both BPM and IBM Operational Decision Manager (ODM) to enhance its enterprise service bus by providing both guided process and decision management across the enterprise. In the latest enhancements, business decisions in ODM provide an early warning mechanism for the bank’s deposit system to detect potential fraud.

Logistics

Come see the First Tennessee Bank presentation at InterConnect 2017 to learning more.
Session:  HBP-2208
Time: Mon, 20-Mar 01:00 PM – 01:45 PM
Place:  Mandalay Bay South, Level 2 – Mandalay Bay Ballroom I

erikafulkApex and First Tennessee Bank to present at IBM Interconnect 2017
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Technology – What we imagined vs What we got

Have you seen those posters from the 1930’s – “The World of Tomorrow” –

smartphone

Flying cars, time travel, the fridge that orders it’s own groceries. Some things we’ve surpassed and somethings we’re still working on. Thanks to Apple, FaceTiming isn’t as cumbersome as this illustration. I grew up watching The Jetsons, assuming we’d have flying cars and travel tubes.

But there is no helicopter in my garage. I do keep a phone in my pocket that connects to the internet and therefor the answer to any question I ever have. It’s still costly and time consuming to travel from Detroit to New York or LA. But video chats have cut out the need to travel to for business and makes keeping in touch with friends easier.

I went to Florida a few years back, and stayed with friends of friends, it turned out that everyone in the neighborhood I was staying in worked at Walt Disney World. We were given free passes and went. Over in Tomorrowland, where everything is what we imagined the future would be like when Disney World opened in 1971, (spoiler alert) a talking trashcan rolled over to us and started talking “Hello pretty ladies!” “Are you done with your beverages, please dispose of them here” and it’s “mouth” would open and reveal a trashcan. Knowing we had friends who worked in Tomorrowland, we were surprised that we didn’t see someone in that trashcan. Then we noticed that a guy we knew, was standing around with his hands in his sweatshirt pocket. He was controlling the trashcan from a remote control in his pocket, he had an earbud in and was taking and listening front the trashcan.

Not to date myself too much, but this was before Apple had released it’s iPhone, and I was stunned, even then, that the best we could do in the world of tomorrow was a remote controlled microphone.

Fast forward a few years later, I had discovered a new to me photographer and was researching him. His name is Bill Jay, his website is, and was, dated, but I loved reading everything on there. And then I found his list of published works. I had purchased his book Men Like Me. I loved everything about it, and it spoke to me and what I was doing in college then. Then looking through the list of books I saw this one – Sun in the Blood of the Cat… Well, I thought, that doesn’t sound like a normal title for a book with this description “An anthology of essays on 19th and 20th century photography”.

Here’s where technology and art meet and where my love for Bill Jay became one that will never end. “after installing voice recognition software into his computer, Jay spoke into his computer: ‘I would like to produce a collection of articles called Something Photographic, a seemingly bland phrase but nevertheless one which sounds rather jaunty.’ As Jay sat back and watched, the computer typed: ‘I would like to produce a collection of articles called sun in the blood of the cat…’ Jay looked at that sentence and said to himself: ‘Yes, I would!'”

Here I sit today trying to typing a mass of stories into one seemingly cohesive story. I often think of Bill Jay sitting in a bright office, talking into a big microphone watching his computer screen not type in what he’s saying, I remember my dad had software similar, and once I tried to write a paper for school with it, but after it not being able to figure out my name, I quit.

I think of how today, I will spend 30 minutes talking to Siri, trying to make that technology work for me instead of just opening a browser and typing in my search. Here’s a search I tried for “Do you have to dry pasta noodles before you cook them?”

SiriSo between Bill Jay trying to write a book through words in 2001 and my failed attempt at knowledge of dried pasta noodles, technology has come a long way in 14 years, but not nearly as far as I would have thought it would have advanced. And now you’ve read this far and wondered why I bring all this up, well, here’s why –

In the 1980’s application modeling software was called CASE (Computer Aided Software Engineering). The thing was, a number of companies developed products where you could build a model of an application (like you can in BPM), but those products generated code, such as RPG or COBOL.  If you needed to create functionality beyond what the model could handle, you had to modify the generated code.

The problem was, once you modified the generated code, the model was no longer complete, and if you generated the code again you would lose the modifications you made. The dream was to have a tool that could handle the full round trip between modeling and modifications keeping full integrity.
The dream was never realized in those CASE tools. Many people would model an application, modify the code, and then never go back to the model. It was a one way trip. What everybody wanted was a round trip.
And then finally, BPM! Ultimately this problem was solved by making the model fully extensible with whatever customizations you need to make. You never look at the under-the-covers generated code. You can do everything from within the model or with your extensions to the model (typically for example, with Javascript or calls to external services).
And of course BPM isn’t perfect yet. But you can get a lot farther now than you could with CASE. With the advances that Apex is making with ACV2, our new Firebase Integration Toolkit and with partners like IBM and vLegaci, we’ll get you on the road to success faster than you can reprogram that remote controlled trashcan you found.
erikafulkTechnology – What we imagined vs What we got
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The Apex Suite – a package of productivity

The Apex suite of products is a package of productivity software designed to maximize your investment in IBM BPM platform.  The Apex suite helps your team stay agile by delivering a wide range of products that enable you to build rich front-end user interfaces along with the powerful back-end integration services. The following is a list of products included in the Apex suite:

 Apex Coach Views are designed to help you quickly deliver powerful coach screens that provide rich human interface to a large number of end-users.  Apex Coach Views enable non-programmers to easily build and package reusable coach views. Key features include:

  • A rich set of easy to configure controls that support a large range of data types.
  • A set of powerful Layout coach views that provide liquid layout supporting a large number of screens on various devices.
  • High performance grids that can be modeled easily using the drag-and-drop column views. Progressive loading of data via an Ajax service provides excellent performance on massive data sets.
  • Method and Event coach views help define behavior for coach views.

Apex Repository is designed to help you build a back-end database integration layer for your IBM BPM process applications. Key features include:

  • Manage Repository wizard uses pre-defined rules to allow you to create new database tables and views based on your IBM BPM business objects.
  • Configuration wizard maps business objects to tables. When underlying business objects or tables change, the configuration wizard identifies the required corresponding changes and allows you to accept or override each suggested change.
  • Apex Repository uses a full set of ready to use database integration services – no development required.
  • Apex Repository also includes a set of integration coach views that retrieve and manage data directly from the client – no Ajax services to build.

Apex Performance Tools help you monitor performance of your business processes. It collects and analyzes performance metrics at key milestones and identifies bottlenecks or performance improvement opportunities in your process applications. Apex performance tools are native IBM BPM tools that are easy to integrate into new or existing process applications and support:

  • Performance Monitoring and Reporting: True end-user response times are captured in database and monitored using the Monitor Performance administration service.
  • Performance Analysis – When you identify a performance issue, a rich stream of performance information is available for interactive drill-down analysis using the Analyze Performance administrator service.

Apex Firebase Integration toolkit includes a set of coach views and services that easily integrate with Firebase to build real-time applications. Firebase takes a NoSQL database and makes it available as a real-time backend service. Key features include:

  • Multiple users opening connection to same back-end Firebase can easily build real time apps. Updates to Firebase by one user are immediately pushed to all other users in real time and at any point all user data always stays in sync with Firebase.
  • Both client side and server side data binding is supported.
  • Allows aggregation of data sources by allowing you to set up a single view for different types of data items populated via different activities.
erikafulkThe Apex Suite – a package of productivity
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Evolution, Aliens and Agile

“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.” -John Gall

I first encountered that opening quote from John Gall’s Systemantics back in 2000.  At the time I thought it was an amusing, albeit cynical, assessment of how systems work.  By systems Gall was not referring to computer programs – it was 1975 and the complex, networked, firewalled, data-based systems of today were only hinted at.  But business processes and methodologies were in place and Gall’s book railed against both bad system design and the futility of trying to design complex working systems.

During the past 15 years or so, my opinion of Gall’s quote (which in systems studies is known as Gall’s Law) has changed.  It’s not cynical – it is brilliant.  Gall’s insight is a deeply important one that has ramifications; not just for corporate processes, but also for engineering, politics and biology.

When one encounters a complex working system it is often natural to assume that some clever person or persons created the system out of thin air.  Of course, this is absurd if you think about it – we all build on the knowledge of our predecessors.  And systems evolve.  Smart phones didn’t spring from Steve Jobs’s skull like Athena from Zeus.  Before the iPhone, there was an evolutionary tree from the radio car phone to the brick to the flip phone to feature phones with apps – and what about Blackberry and the Palm Treo?  These predecessors are quickly forgotten in the wake of a more successful working system, but it is the nature of the human mind to marvel at the momentary and not reflect on the complex history that led up to the present.

Gall’s insight is true for many “mysteries” of human history, such as the Antikythera mechanism.  This mysterious device is an ancient mechanical computer.  It may be two millennia old; yet, it contains precise gears that simulate complex astronomical behavior to allow date calculations to be performed.  When faced with the complexity of this ancient device, many people come to the conclusion that it was either built with the help of aliens or was the product of some amazing savant.   Using Gall’s law as guidance, the more reasonable conclusion is that before this device was built there were simpler devices.  Earlier machines used gears and earlier designers worked with mathematicians and astronomers to turn their knowledge of the solar system into machines to simulate their understanding.   There would not have been a single device such as this.  There would have been prototypes, and more primitive predecessors that worked, that were not as complex, and which have been lost to history.  But they certainly must have existed.

One of the more recent developments in software design is the adoption of a methodology known as Agile Software Development. In compliance with Gall’s law, the Agile methodology itself evolved from other software development methods – taking those parts that worked and rejecting those parts which did not.  Agile has several characteristics – more than are within the scope of this article – but the one I find most constructive is that throughout the lifecycle of the project you develop working systems first, and then elaborate on them.   Agile Software Development is Gall’s Law in action.  A software project is broken up into development segments called “sprints” during which working prototypes are built.  Developers work with users to ensure that requirements are captured.  As the project develops, clients and developers share insights into how the software can work better.  New requirements emerge. Through continuous collaboration, the project evolves and there is a much greater chance that the end product will work properly, give the customers what they need and hopefully, be the kind of complex working system that leads people to wonder, how did they come up with this?

 

Questions or comments? Contact Blake at Blake.Smith@ApexBPM.com

 

erikafulkEvolution, Aliens and Agile
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Is your company succeeding at listening but failing at implementing?

Is this how your company functions –

This Company has been in business for over 75 years. They started their successful business long ago and only a few of the processes have changed over the years. You work for This Company, and you love it; your job is great, the co-workers are fun, and there are lots of windows, what more could you ask for? Let’s say, every Friday, you sit at your desk filling out an Excel spreadsheet with hours worked, then you fill out a time card online, then fax the spreadsheet to a person across the room who checks it against the online time card. And you sit there, spending 2 hours a work week filling out these forms, and think – ‘There must be a better way to do this, it’s 2013!’  So you write a comment on a comment card –

comment card

And then you wait. And wait. You forget that you’ve filled out the comment card, except for Friday’s when you spend 2 hours filling out your timesheet. Then, one day, someone walks up to your desk and says “We’ve read your comment card, and we agree, can you help us improve the timecard process?” To which you ecstatically say yes! Since you’ve submitted the comment card you’ve spent a boring 2 hours a week filling out the time cards and dreaming of how this process could be better.

So you and 15 people you’ve never met go into a conference room one sunny day, all full of hope. You sit through an 8 hour day with everyone giving their best idea’s. And at the end of the day, you’re feeling particularly good about the new proposed system. The moderator tells you that it will be a month or two before they can set up the new system, and you don’t even care. Hope for a new system has you living on cloud 9.

Three months go by. You keep thinking – ‘Man! I bet this will be the coolest time card system ever!” In your head there are laser beams that appear when you hit submit, you know that’s not in the plan, but that’s how awesome this new system will be. You can’t even wait. You’ve told all your co-workers about the meeting and about how fast this new process will be.

Finally the big day arrives. You get into work, and notice that all the eyes staring at you while you walk to your cube.  Your friend across the aisle says dryly “Thanks for the work on the time sheets.” You are a bit confused, as you sit down and power up  your computer, you notice the email “NEW TIME SHEET SYSTEM” Your heart beats faster.

email

 

Suddenly you understand why everyone is staring at you. You’ve just increased their timesheet time from 2 hours to 4-6 on a good day.

You sit there and wonder why the focus group spent so much time listening to you, but not acting on any of your idea’s.

 

You know, if your company used Agile Methodology, this could have been prevented 3 months ago.

Now, that was a really long intro to get you into the point of this blog.  Agile.  Agile is the point. 

Agile Methodology is simple in theory, and boils down to this – clients and developers are in contact throughout the project. Iterations are made and the project is looked at over the entirety on a bi-weekly basis. If the clients needs change – so does the project work. If the developers make what they thought was right, but it’s actually adding work to the process, the client has time to step in and say ‘no, that’s not what we wanted, we were looking for __x__.” Saving both developer and client from getting something neither wants.

The Agile Manifesto is based on twelve principles:

  • Customer satisfaction by rapid delivery of useful software
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development
  • Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months)
  • Working software is the principal measure of progress
  • Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
  • Close, daily cooperation between business people and developers
  • Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
  • Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
  • Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done—is essential
  • Self-organizing teams
  • Regular adaptation to changing circumstances

How does this Agile process help you and your company?

In the middle of this example, you gave your input to the moderator and never saw anything until the final product had already launched. What happened in those 3-4 months where lots of extra processes were added and a new website was created? With Agile development, someone from the team gets to meet with the development team while they are building what you wanted.

To make it simple, say you want a pizza, you can tell the waitress “I’d like a 1/2 cheese and 1/2 pepperoni pizza” What you get is a pizza with no sauce and only cheese on one side, and the other side is only pepperoni, no cheese, no sauce (this is a real life example, it happened once to me).  That is what you asked for, but it’s not what you thought you’d get.

In Agile, you say I want 1/2 pepperoni and 1/2 cheese. As you watch the chef start to make the pizza, he makes the crust, you approve. You can see he’s not adding sauce and skipping right to the toppings, you can say – “Oh, I want sauce on that.” And then when he gets to the cheese, he’ll ask you “Did you want cheese on the pepperoni half?” You have an open dialog with each other, one side talks to the other to make sure that each is getting what they want. This makes it better for the client and the developer. And what you get is the perfect pizza quicker and cheaper than if you had gotten the wrong pizza, explained what was wrong, sent the old one back and wait for a new one to be cooked.

 

Time is money. Money talks and so should you. Make sure you work with an Agile team.  A team like Apex.

erikafulkIs your company succeeding at listening but failing at implementing?
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