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BPM Revitalizes Federal Acquisition Processes A Technology Overview (Part 1 of 2)

Ben Farrell
May 25, 2011

The Obama Administration's focus on improving federal procurement and acquisition is leading many organizations to take a close look at the way in which they handle such work, from both a process and system perspective.

In that context, Appian and ImmixGroup recently held a Webinar on Appian's Acquisition Business Management (ABM) solution. Appian co-founder and CTO Michael Beckley was joined by Ben Allen, Appian Senior Acquisition Solutions Architect, and Marvin Griffin, Enterprise Architect of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

Together, they discussed the benefits of BPM software in streamlining the procurement process. Mr. Griffin provided a case study on the DISA's use of Appian's ABM procurement solution to automate, manage and improve day-to-day procurement processes.

Improving procurement means dealing with both process challenges and system challenges. Contracting officers often encounter problems in managing the end-to-end procurement lifecycle from requirements through close ñ primarily because of a lack of automation in systems and errors introduced by manually performing repetitive data entry.

Why? Over the years, financial systems, databases, CRM systems, and other legacy systems have all been bolted onto an enterprise IT framework. Procurement becomes yet another point of interaction with all those other systems. These antiquated IT landscapes with functional "stovepipes" diminish collaboration, agility, performance and visibility. When data is so fragmented, it difficult to develop a strategic view of your agency, or a strategic sourcing plan for your client.

Bringing BPM into the acquisition domain promotes an organizational change to a "process-centric" view of critical processes. It is an overlay to existing systems, offering transparency, visibility, and control. It organizes your procurement lifecycle into a set of visual models, separating the logic of procurement processes from the underlying software code. As a result, your organization is more adaptable to changing regulations ñ without having to write new software code every time changes are required.

Our Acquisition Business Management solution is built on top of our comprehensive and flexible BPM platform. It is a template-based solution for end-to-end functionality in the procurement lifecycle. Models help a program office define requirements for process review. Required documentation is uploaded based on acquisition characteristics. Data are validated at proper points, and forms capture information that fits the unique requirements of each customer. Our integration acquisition framework allows the solution to be integrated with legacy systems in agencies with even the oldest legacy applications.

The application template supports the full lifecycle from processing requirements all the way to developing execution and sourcing strategies. The entire end-to-end solution is not required; many agencies are using only components of ABM. This allows those agencies to concentrate on only their specific inefficiencies or pain points. This incremental approach is cost-effective solution and minimizes risk in deployment.

In the second part of this post, I'll look at how BPM is being used successfully by DISA to overcome the problems inherent in a 40-year-old legacy system.

-Ben Farrell, Director, Corporate Communications