Business process automation has traditionally required large-scale applications and armies of systems integrators resulting in big budgets and long development cycles. As a former member of a large consulting firm I have had plenty of opportunity to witness this first hand. This limited implementations to large enterprises and even then to a few processes. Enterprise 2.0 is changing the paradigm here and Tethys Solutions is a prime example. I recently spoke with Tethys CEO, Mihir Shukla.
Tethys Solutions was founded in 2003 and the name comes form the Greek goddess of water. They want to make business process automation available everywhere to everyone and be a ubiquitous as water. They have an R&D center in India and their main sales office is in San Jose. Unlike the big enterprise software firms, Tethys targets the millions of business processes valued between 2K and 100K, the long tail of business processes. Most large-scale business process implementations result in the top down dictation of business process, driven, in part by the software. Automation Anywhere allows for the bottom up creation of business process automation designed by the user.
Mihir said they are aiming to replace the scripting applications that are now hand done within organizations. The focus is supporting all aspect of end-to-end business processes. The flagship product is Automation Anywhere, available in both licensed software and cloud versions. Target processes include the collection of data from several sources and emailing it to stakeholders, the transfer of patient records from a mainframe application to a patient database, and automated invoice processing. Here is a screen shot of the visual designer of processes.
Automation Anywhere first has you go through the business process while it records the process. This supplies both an automated way to execute the process in the future and a documentation of the process. You can then edit the process if needed through a visual drag and drop interface with no programming required. In addition, there are more than 300 actions than can be added like Lego blocks, such as Internet, conditional, loop, prompt, file management, database and system with faster speeds, automatic email notifications, task chaining, hotkey, variables and logging, etc. Here is a sample screen showing a task actions list and other process details.
I especially like the way that Tethys documents the process in the act of recording it for automation. You are creating a knowledge management system in the process of creating the automation. In the early 90s, I was involved in helping a major insurance company create new business process. We found the experts in each area and documented their best practices in large sheets of brown paper. Then we built new applications aligned with these processes, beginning with a prototype. Next, we documented the processes and built a knowledge management system to support the new processes. This took an army of consultants and several years. I wish I had Automation Anywhere then to have the experts create the software and the documentation in a few days instead.
Mihir said they have used a similar method with a number of clients. For example, a major telco was able to create the software support and documentation for their provisioning processes by turning a few experts loose with Automation Anywhere and operating in their normal manner. In a few days they had all the variations of the process covered in a best practice manner for the rest of the organization. He also pointed out the built in ROI calculator so you can see the cost savings grow as you use the tool – see an screen shot below
I asked Mihir how they were doing in the down economy. He said quite well despite reduced budgets in some places. He had expected that their initial target market would be the small to midsize business. However, the majority of their initial clients are actually large corporations who see the value of optimizing micro-decisions, as Tom Davenport refers to it (see – Microdecisions for Macro Impact). Client examples in the IT sector ironically include a number of the firms in the large enterprise application space such as Oracle, IBM, Accenture, Siemens, and HP. In a down economy there is less room for error and inefficiency. Rapidly automating every day business processes in a cost effective manner is aligned with the times.