ActionBase develops human process management solutions that integrate with Microsoft® Office programs. These Office Business Applications help customers increase the effectiveness of human-centric processes, leading to greater accountability and more-informed decision making. For ActionBase, integrating with Microsoft Office programs offers an expanded market opportunity, and its customers appreciate how readily their users adopt ActionBase solutions.
To run smoothly, companies require a variety of business processes that support everything from strategic planning to compliance tracking to audits. Most of these processes include gathering information, collaborating with others, and making decisions—fundamentally human-centric activities. Employees often use e-mail and word-processing documents to try to manage those activities, but those tools do not take into account the changes that occur as time passes and the need for governance over day-to-day processes. The result is a lack of visibility into the activities related to a particular process, which leads to items being missed and business processes taking longer than they should.
As examples, an overlooked e-mail message can cause a missed government regulation deadline that leads to fines and sanctions. An inefficient investigation of fraud can result in unneeded additional expense and an unhappy customer. Mishandled communication can cause crucial parts to be delivered to the wrong facility.
Traditional business process management systems aren’t designed for such unstructured human processes and lack the flexibility to support more people-based processes, which never flow the same way twice. That’s why, when problems occur, intrepid employees start solving on their own, using e-mail and spreadsheets. But e-mail has its shortcomings, and control over countless messages and related documents is onerous.
In fact, according to Jim Sinur of Gartner , “The challenge going forward is for businesses to learn how to deal with unstructured processes necessary for supporting knowledge workers. Dealing with these unstructured processes has the potential for a huge cost saving for any business as knowledge workers are generally the most expensive labor organizations have on the payroll.”
Since 1999, ActionBase has developed human process management solutions that help companies track and manage their actions for more successful processes and greater efficiency. Until 2005, the company offered a Web-based application that filled the gap between less-structured collaborative systems and structured systems, such as those used for enterprise resource planning.
||Building OBAs is really a win-win situation. Customers get even greater value from their Microsoft Office programs, and we get to take advantage of a huge potential market.
Director of Product Management, ActionBase
In 2005, ActionBase responded to customers’ requests for a solution that integrated with the Microsoft® Office programs that their employees already used. “There was a strong demand to integrate our capabilities into the ways that people worked every day,” recalls Ayal Steiner, Director of Product Management for ActionBase, which is part of the Advantech Group, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.
ActionBase developed a suite of client-side Office Business Applications (OBAs) that make it possible for customers to track actions and workflow processes from within Microsoft Office Word 2007 and the Microsoft Office Outlook® 2007 messaging and collaboration client. The company gives its OBAs the same comfortable look and feel as Microsoft Office products by extending the Office Fluent™ user interface and exposing additional functionality through the familiar Microsoft Office user interface.
One OBA, known as ActionMail, sits on top of Office Outlook 2007 and helps customers assign and maintain a clear record of all tasks associated with a given process. “With ActionMail, managers can drill down and see the various actions related to a particular decision or job—and they can do it all directly from Outlook,” explains Steiner.
ActionDoc, another OBA, provides a mechanism by which those working on a project or making a decision can define action items within Office Word 2007 and ensure that the right employees follow up on them. Finally, ActionBox is a special folder in Office Outlook 2007 that provides a complete view of all the actions that a person has been assigned or assigned to others.
ActionBase also used Office Outlook 2007 and Office Word 2007 in its development of dedicated modules for companies with specific tracking needs. For instance, the ActionBase HSE.Tracker helps manage compliance with health, safety, and environmental regulations; Audit.Tracker provides visibility into internal control and audit; and Fraud.Tracker helps with fraud escalation and customer care activities.
By developing solutions that integrate with Microsoft Office products, ActionBase is providing customers with the user experience and increased productivity that they want while also extending its market reach. “Building OBAs is really a win-win situation,” comments Steiner. “Customers get even greater value from their Microsoft Office programs, and we get to take advantage of a huge potential market.”
- Opportunity for business growth. ActionBase believes that developing OBA solutions provides an avenue for increasing revenue. “Even in an economic downturn, we’re seeing business success, partially because Microsoft Office products are so dominant in the market,” says Steiner. “Our OBA efforts have proven so successful that we plan to expand our offerings by integrating Microsoft Office Excel® 2007 and Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007.”
- Ability to develop easy-to-use products. ActionBase has found that OBA solutions have major customer appeal because of their high user adoption rates. “We recently won three bid situations in which we were competing with larger, more well-known companies,” says Steiner. “All three customers testified that their users influenced the decision in our favor because we brought our solutions to them rather than wrenching them out of their familiar working environment.”
- Significant time savings for customers. ActionBase solutions offer customers the ability to reduce the amount of time required to complete critical processes because of increased visibility and accountability. “The telecommunications company, for example, reduced the amount of time needed to close fraud investigations by 80 percent, which meant losing less money and reducing investigators’ workloads,” says Steiner.