Does BPM save lives?

The following is a guest post by Nigel Warren. Nigel has the enviable task of visiting lots of diverse customers to record case study interviews in video and written form.  He’s worked in BPM marketing field for around five years and formerly held product management, consulting and training roles with SAP (UK) Ltd and elearning specialist Kaplan IT Learning. Based in the UK when not at work he most likely found in the Chiltern Hills enjoying the beautiful English countryside with family and dogs.

BPM saving lives

The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) is the charity that saves lives at sea around the coastline of the UK and Ireland, similar to a combination of lifeguards and Coast Guard in the US.  They operate 230 lifeboat stations, manned by over 4,800 lifeboat crew members.  These dedicated volunteers make a major commitment – which can ultimately include risking their lives to save others in peril on the sea. They respond at a moment’s notice, no matter where they are or what they are doing when the pager goes off. Crews are regularly called away from their families, their beds and their work, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Often they’ll leave a place of comfort to brave the cold and wet in situations that test their skill, strength and courage. Their lifesaving work is essential, often difficult and sometimes dangerous.  Justifiably the RNLI is referred to as the 4th emergency service in UK and Ireland.

The numbers

Last year they rescued over 8,000 people – that’s 22 people per day.  Through the summer their lifeguards helped a further 10,000 people.  What truly makes RNLI unique?  The RNLI is a charity it costs over £300,000 per day to run – that’s around $180,000,000 per year.

Would you say it is going ‘overboard’ to claim business process management is actually helping save lives at sea? Not in this case.  David Brook, Engineering and Supply Director at the RNLI, makes that very argument and you can hear him explain this in his own words in this inspiring case study video.

Moral responsibility

And when you dig into this, it’s easy to see why having streamlined business processes is so important to this organization.  They design, build, deploy, maintain and overhaul lifeboats reputed to be the best in the world.  This is a manufacturing business with the supply chain challenge of deploying the right equipment, expertly maintained to comparatively inaccessible places.

As David puts it “The money is coming from donors and we really have a moral duty to use every penny the best we can.  So, there’s a real tension between the need to make our equipment as best and high performing as possible for our crews but also reduce the cost and use the money from the donors as best we can.  The availability of the equipment for our volunteers is absolutely critical. But more than that the reliability and the continued availability and fitness for purpose of that equipment is absolutely critical.”

David goes on to explain the role of ‘Synergy’ the business process and quality management platform they’ve built using an integrated BPM suite.  He says; “Synergy allows us to easily and rapidly distribute the information on our processes in a standardised format graphically, and actually improves the efficiency of the way that we control our processes. It makes it easier to use our other IT systems such as SAP which we use right across the business”

Orchestrating work

By mapping their supply chain processes and connecting relevant SAP transactions to the end-user-friendly process view, they’ve improved supply chain performance largely because users at all stages of the process now understand how to correctly use SAP in the context of the end-to-end flow, rather than isolated transactions.  Users are getting things right first time with a contextual  view of what needs to be done, which they can apply in their daily tasks.  As a consequence – greater speed in areas such as logistics, repair and overhaul – meaning life-saving gear is available in the right place, at the right time, in the right serviceable condition.  And the consequences? According to David; “The value is significant, definitely saved us money.  We’ve reduced (part of) our relief fleet by around 25 or 30 boats, over £1 million of capital, but also, significant ongoing savings through life.”

Gartner’s attention

David will be presenting this case study at Gartner’s BPM Summit in UK, March 2012. It’s good that this inspiring story is getting the interest of Gartner who have triumphed many more technically-focused BPM successes.  What the RNLI case study shows us is the beauty of keeping BPM simple, accessible and in the language of the ordinary business users.  As Ian Woods, RNLI’s Business Process Manager puts it in the video “People actually felt that this was going to change their work life. That hasn’t happened with a piece of software before”.


Categories: Non-profit

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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