Disclaimer: Actual BAW designs don't float in the air in your hotel room.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Keith Miller to talk about two new BAW Toolkits he worked on. BAW is the new name for IBM's Business Process Management workflow platform.  It's more than a mere product name-change, but we've talked about that already.

One of our favorite aspects of BAW is how we can re-use code by packaging solutions into toolkits. Keith has been hard at work building new tools to assist BAW developers with their projects.

The Apex Address Toolkit gives BAW developers access to validated shipping addresses in an easy to use implementation.

The Apex Healthcare Toolkit lets BAW projects incorporate NPI lookup for providers.

Learn more in our latest Accelerate Business Transformation podcast!  (Transcript of that interview below.)


Blake Smith :
Welcome to Accelerate Business Transformation. Today we're joined by Apex Process Consultants', Keith Miller. Welcome to the show, Keith.

Keith Miller :
Thanks, Blake. Glad to be here.

Blake Smith :
So for our listeners, who is Keith Miller? How long have you been with Apex? What kind of things do you like to work on?

Keith Miller :
Well, I've been with Apex since 2013. Prior to that, I was with IBM. And what do I like to work on? I have spent most of my Apex career working deep down in the depths of databases, doing performance tuning and query development, things like that. However, I've also done other projects and what I truly enjoy is working with the business group and taking the business requirements, converting them to technical requirements and making them come true.

Blake Smith :
So we're going to be talking about BAW toolkits. And I guess we probably should remind people we're talking about IBM Business Automation Workflow, which used to be Business Process Management. It's interesting because I always thought it was weird they called it BPM when BPM is a field of IT. Business process management is the field and it was the name of the product. So I think the rename is late on coming, but a good thing.

Keith Miller :
I would agree with you Blake.

Blake Smith :
So in that context though, we have this idea of toolkit. So what is a toolkit?

Keith Miller :
A toolkit is really just a collection of reusable software components, and it's used to deliver a specific or special functionality. The key here is reusable. So you can use one toolkit across multiple workflow applications and never have to touch the code to reintegrate it.

Blake Smith :
Yeah, I like to think about them as kind of like a little library. And you don't have to include the library in your project, but if you need a book out of that library, you can go add it to your project and someone else can add the same thing and someone else can add the same thing. So it can be reused many, many times.

Keith Miller :
Then that's correct. The whole reusability of the component is really what makes a toolkit so nice to have. And we provide them for most of our clients with their functionality where we put as much reusable functionality into toolkits, so they can continue on using them with other projects after we may not be there anymore.

Blake Smith :
Yeah, so what kind of things would go into a toolkit? What kind of components?

Keith Miller :
Typically, any type of component you would need to pull off functionality. So that could include business objects, views, custom views or standard views, external service calls, or even built up service flows from other toolkit components.

Blake Smith :
Really, since I've been working with Apex, they've been packaging a toolkit, the Apex Toolkit for look and feel. Like it gave new components that extended the functionality of what comes out of the box with BPM and now BAW, and we're still using that as well.

Keith Miller :
That's correct. That's Apex's ACV2. It's a visual views basically. It's user interface components that the developer can use to make a nice user interface, nicer than what comes out on the box with BAW.

Blake Smith :
Yeah, so that gave us access to an AngularJS-based environment to work with the tools inside BAW, BPM. So we've got several new toolkits, two of which you've developed. Can you talk about what those are and what functionality they provide? We'll put a link to the video we put together showing this in the show notes. Yeah, I was really impressed. So let's talk about that.

Keith Miller :
Sure. Well, the first one that was developed, we're calling it the Apex Address Toolkit, and really what it does is it allows you to implement this functionality in your application. And it really has a couple of key features that we're hoping everybody can take advantage of. The first one is formatting of the addresses to United States Postal Service specifications. Things like nine digit zip codes, proper city abbreviations, abbreviation of street, roads, and avenues, or under what line does the suite and/or apartment appear on in a properly formatted address?

Keith Miller :
So we've written a functionality that will allow you to pass in a what we'll call a raw address, and it validates the address that it's a real address, and then it also formats it into the preferred format that the Postal Service we use. Returns it back to you so then you can either repopulate the field or ask the user if they want to use the right properly formatted address or however you want to take it from there.

Keith Miller :
The second piece of the functionality that this provides is even better than that, because what we do is when the user starts to enter their address, we can give them a list of all of the proper addresses that contain what you're typing in. So if you just started typing in your house number for your address, we can show you every address in the United States that starts with those numbers. Seems like a lot and it is. However, you can filter that list by zip code, which automatically gives you a city and state, or just state or just city name. So by using these filters, you can very quickly, instead of having to type all of that in, type in the first couple of characters, find the address in the list and click on it, and then you can populate all the fields.

Blake Smith :
Who might benefit from some of this type of functionality?

Keith Miller :
Really anybody who uses addresses in any application, and there aren't many applications that don't use addresses.

Blake Smith :
Yeah, so it feels like we're patching a big hole.

Keith Miller :
It is. And if I had to guess, I would say IBM didn't want to get into the business of managing the address database.

Blake Smith :
Yeah.

Keith Miller :
It's not really what they're into. So they've left that out there for somebody else to pick up.

Blake Smith :
Well, is this hard to implement? What do you have to do to actually make this toolkit function?

Keith Miller :
Well, it's very simple to implement. If we look at either of the functions, there are a couple of things you have to do upfront. We're using a third party data provider, which is actually indirectly linked directly to the Postal Service so that implementing your application, you simply include the toolkit in your BAW application, and once that's there, you have all the components to bring it in. You have the data objects and the services, and of course, the instructions on how to implement it. And it's as simple as dragging in a service from a toolkit, mapping the input variable and the output variables. The call is all made behind the scenes for you, so you don't have to worry about any of that processing. So as long as you pass it, proper data coming in, you get proper data coming back.

Blake Smith :
Excellent. And we also have those step by step instruction videos that we put together that'll be, also we'll link to the show notes that makes that really visually simple. But that's not the only toolkit you've created. If you want to talk about that one?

Keith Miller :
Absolutely. The second one, which we've used in a couple of clients already, is the Apex Healthcare Provider Toolkit. So what would the Provider Toolkit include? There is actually a database, public domain database, that anybody who works in the healthcare industry is included in. Every company, every individual has what's called a National Practitioner Identifier, and all of their information is stored in this database. So using this database and this toolkit, you can quickly go out and search for a provider out of this database for a variety of reasons. If you're trying to find somebody, you can do that. If you're trying to authenticate that a provider exists and what part of healthcare they're involved in, you can do that as well.

Blake Smith :
How does one search because that sounds like a lot of data to filter on?

Keith Miller :
Well, there is, and there are actually 11 specific fields that you can use to search on. And some of the fields you can actually use wildcard strings. So if you don't know the full last name or the full first name, you can give us a partial. And it's just like, if you're writing a SQL query, you can use a star or a percent sign to say. Just looks the first couple of characters and ignore everything after. You can do the same thing when you search this database using this toolkit.

Keith Miller :
You can also look for what part of the healthcare industry they're in. They call it a taxonomy, but if you're looking for a midwife or an extra technician or a dental assistant or an ambulance driver, or just a transportation driver, you can actually search by their taxonomies and it will show you their taxonomies. Some of these people and some of these organizations have multiple names, multiple addresses, even multiple taxonomies, and we not only search across the primary, but we search across all of the taxonomies and all of the addresses and bring back the provider information for the criteria you provided for us.

Blake Smith :
That's fantastic. As you know, I'm really a big advocate of automation in healthcare. So I'm hoping this can help people get more of that kind of work accomplished. There's so many opportunities and it helps people in so many ways to have a better, more accurate system for finding providers. So this is great.

Keith Miller :
Right, so if you look at both of these toolkits together and you can see this whole thing in the demo that we've put together, a healthcare system could use both of these very easily. They could do all the address validation and autofill for new members coming down to their healthcare plan. And then if those members needed a referral to a healthcare provider, they could use the Healthcare Toolkit that we provide and search for a provider in the same city that the member resides in or that they want to go see a provider in, for a specific taxonomy or a specialty. And that could all be done using these two toolkits and they would have to hardly write any code at all to get that to work.

Blake Smith :
Yeah, that'd be great. So where can people see these in action, Keith?

Keith Miller :
Well, there are a couple of places. If you want to look at the demos, we will definitely post the link to the demos and the videos that show not only the functionality, but also the implementation. I'm sure you'll be able to tour them from our website at www.apexbpm.com, or you can reach out directly to anyone here at Apex and schedule a private demonstration and we can talk about how we can help you implement these into your application.

Blake Smith :
Well, thank you for all your hard work on this. I look forward to seeing where these were implemented and how they help improve people's ability to deliver healthcare service and all kinds of functionality within the BAW world.

Keith Miller :
Well, thank you very much. I'm looking forward to helping people implement these and making their software faster and better.

Blake Smith :
Thank you for participating in Accelerate Business Transformation.

Keith Miller :
Thanks for having me.