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Focus On The Process

In today's tight economy, IT managers and vendors have to deliver better business processes, not just better technology

Technology also can help enforce a business process. That was exactly the problem faced by managers at Children's National Medical Center. Staff members would often ignore hospital policy and order supplies from unauthorized sellers or without necessary approvals. The medical center last year forced everyone to use an online purchase-order system to place any order, which eliminated deviations in the process because it won't let buyers skip steps. "People are now limited in what they can do," Pardue says. "Now, there's no question that the right people signed off on a purchase."

The medical center's IT staff considered 10 systems before choosing Metastorm Inc.'s e-Work software, a business-process management tool that lets nontechnical managers define, create, and manage automated business processes via a Web interface. Children's National Medical Center spent about $70,000 to implement Metastorm's software. The hospital processes about 100 purchase orders daily, each of which used to cost $2.32. Now, the cost is 80 cents. The medical center expects similar savings as it uses Metastorm for other tasks, Pardue says, such as how the hospital automates processes such as ordering business cards, assigning employees to cover vacationing colleagues, and terminating benefits of departing employees. The Web interface is a key element to making change work. "We educate people on a standard look and feel, so we don't have to retrain them when we roll out new processes," she says.

It will still be true that changing the process by which a company does business is complicated and costly. But business-technology managers--and even their IT vendors--seem better prepared than ever make it a bit easier.—with Sandra Swanson

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