How to Achieve Cost Savings and Efficiency with Process Orchestration: A Guide
Investments in performance efficiency remain strong
In an uncertain economic climate, most IT decisions are made with cost savings and efficiency in mind. In terms of IT budget, a CFO these days is most likely looking at the following:
- Maximizing the value (ROI) of existing technology investments
- Analyzing the time and cost savings associated with taking on new technology investments.
According to the Gartner report, “3 New Realities to Guide 2023 Planning as Inflation Response Cools Economies,” nearly 45% of CEOs and CFOs say digital technology investments to improve performance efficiency would be among the last things to cut. What does that mean for automation investments?
Data from the 2023 State of Process Orchestration Report shows that 91% of IT leaders plan to increase investment in process automation over the next 24 months, compared with 88% who answered the same question the previous year. In a tough economy, why do these investments stand strong?
Process automation, and its close counterpart process orchestration, are among the top technologies that help companies achieve cost savings at scale. In case you’re not familiar with the term, process orchestration makes automation more efficient by tying together the various moving parts, or endpoints, of a business process — think people, systems and devices.
Read more: The Process Orchestration Handbook
In this guide, we’ll take deeper a look at how process orchestration can help you:
- Maximize existing automation investments
- Achieve time and cost savings, and even drive incremental revenue through customer experience improvements.
Process orchestration fundamentals
Before we dive into how process orchestration helps achieve cost savings and efficiency, let’s take a quick look at a few fundamental principles behind this technology.
Business processes rarely follow a linear series of steps. Process orchestration is for organizations whose business processes have:
- Endpoint diversity: Processes span across a number of possible endpoints (people, systems, devices).
For example, people may be working with different front-end devices, or different applications that execute their tasks when invoked via an API.
- Process complexity: Processes are described by a more complex logic than just a simple sequence of steps. One example is dynamic parallel execution.
A flooring retailer has 10 customers place “pick up in store” orders through its ecommerce system. The retailer then needs to process 10 order positions to be picked up in stock and removed from the online inventory. These processes must happen in parallel, which requires being able to dynamically coordinate 1-5000 tasks at runtime (when the order comes in).
Maximizing the ROI of existing automation investments
As an organization, you may have already invested in various types of process automation or hyperautomation technology, such as:
- Robotic process automation (RPA)
- Integration platforms-as-a-service (iPaaS)
- SaaS applications and/or frontend workflow solutions to manage human workflows
- Legacy systems
- APIs or event stream technology
- AI/ML tools
The problem with many of these technologies is that automation happens in silos. Siloed “local” automations can result in a disjointed end-to-end experience, which can be detrimental to customers and employees alike. Some of the challenges of automation silos include:
- Broken end-to-end automation: Since local automations are not integrated with one another, the end-to-end process is not fully automated.
- Lack of understanding: The end-to-end process is not fully visible and key metrics are hard to track. According to the State of Process Orchestration report cited above, 69% say as more tasks become automated, it’s harder to visualize end-to-end processes.
- Lack of flexibility: Changing the end-to-end process is difficult since it leads to potential changes in many different systems.
Not to mention, you aren’t getting the full value out of each of these technologies if they’re operating in a silo. Layering process orchestration on top of these investments can help maximize their value and drive more ROI. Many organizations find that end-to-end process orchestration lowers costs related to maintaining and operating their automation environment.
Process orchestration drives 30x return on spend at Atlassian
Global software company Atlassian turned to process orchestration to automate their tech stack and deliver improved customer and employee experiences to support sales and finance-related activities.
Suzie, Atlassian’s ticket-support bot, was initially RPA-based. Trying to automate complex processes with a diversity of endpoints solely with RPA introduced a number of challenges into the system. These included:
- Lack of visibility: The out-of-the-box orchestration layer for RPA did not allow non-technical personas to visualize the end-to-end workflow.
- Process delays: Suzie relied on scheduled, time-based triggers instead of real-time processing, which built natural delays into the automated workflows. There were also unnecessary delays within long-running processes, or complex processes that required human interaction.
- Inflexibility: Initially, Suzie did not employ Decision Model and Notation (DMN). With DMN, you can configure the policy on the fly, without relying solely on the developer.
To resolve these challenges, Atlassian deployed Camunda to connect Suzie to different endpoints across their sales and finance systems and orchestrate bots from various robotic process automation (RPA) vendors. The result is a streamlined workflow, and improved experience for customers, prospects, and Atlassian employees alike.
Today’s Suzie is a powerful bot, connecting disparate systems and endpoints, including humans, into a tech stack that has helped reduce ticket turnaround times by 93% in some cases, from an average 45-60 minute response time down to two minutes. Suzie’s automations have also yielded an almost 30x return on automation spend, driving cost savings on manual development.
Real-world ROI-maximizing concept: Gradual digital transformation
For many organizations, IT modernization is still a top priority. However, some of the largest companies are still working with legacy systems they can’t afford to replace all at once. These systems often run mission-critical processes, and replacing them could cause potential downtime. Disruption aside, modernization efforts could cost millions of dollars in new technology investment and development/engineering costs.
A gradual transformation, on the other hand, can solve automation problems at lower cost, with minimal-to-no disruption. For example, as step one in a gradual transformation, a company might consider breaking up a legacy monolith by taking manual tasks run by customer service representatives and automating some of them with robotic process automation (RPA) bots.
Step two might be orchestrating these RPA bots to tie together into actual business processes that may include multiple bots, other IT systems or supervisor approvals.
Step three may be to sunset these bots and replace them with modern, microservices-based applications that are much more robust and can be easily plugged into the existing end-to-end process.
Let’s take a deeper look at how Deutsche Telekom gradually modernized its monolithic system with process orchestration.
Gradual transformation case study: Deutsche Telekom
In 2007, Deutsche Telekom built a monolithic system based on the Oracle BPEL engine to run BPM workflows and automated processes. As time went on, this monolith created a number of issues that affected both the business and user experience, including:
- A lengthy time-to-market lasting more than 12 months
- Vendor lock-in limited the implementation of new features – it took five days to set up or make changes to environments
- Releases took an average of 1000 people-days, or roughly three months to realize
- Regression testing took around two days to process all test cases.
Laying the groundwork for change through process orchestration
In 2017, Deutsche Telekom IT took the first steps toward modernizing its processes by adopting a ‘partially agile’ development approach, working in three-month sprints.
All fixes had to be delivered together with larger change requests, which took considerable people-hours to accomplish. In addition, the organization was still struggling with the monolithic BPEL system, which didn’t allow for true agility.
That same year, Deutsche Telekom began investing in fiber optic cables. With this significant upgrade in hardware came the opportunity to revolutionize Deutsche Telekom IT’s outdated systems. The result was a complete change in both the operating system and DevOps approach, guided by three goals:
- Speed up: Change development from BPEL to Java and modus operandi from waterfall to agile
- Develop cross-functional teams: Change from skill-based teams to international cross-functional teams
- Increase efficiency: Increase development efficiency by using Camunda, Spring and other state-of-the-art technologies.
From one vendor to 43 frameworks
With these three goals in mind, Deutsche Telekom IT implemented a microservices-based architecture in the cloud, with Camunda engines running within many microservices. The new system is comprised of:
- Microservices: This approach partitioned the monolith and allows for cross-functional work. There is no GUI; instead it is now a pure BPMN system. Inspired by Camunda Co-Founder Bernd Ruecker’s microservices workflow automation cheat sheet, the team runs Camunda engines in many microservices, talking directly to a message broker.
- Cloud: The power of the cloud dramatically reduces runtimes and enables a staged, fine-grained delivery approach. With no ready-made solution, Telekom IT designed its own Kubernetes-based approach.
- SAFe agile framework: Introducing a new organizational framework with shorter end-to-end cycle-times has enabled flexibility and speed.
- DevOps philosophy: Automation and self-service are key to Telekom IT’s DevOps philosophy, and ensure quality and speed.
Achieving process automation alignment
One of the greatest advantages of Deutsche Telekom IT’s Camunda revolution has been enabling ‘compliance-by-default.’ As a globally distributed business, with teams working across the world with multiple vendors and sensitive data, a highly automated solution was required. The resulting architecture now enables compliance-by-default and ensures data security.
Deutsche Telekom IT has also built its own internal process monitoring platform, so users can see at-a-glance the progress of any process.
As well as supporting and operating a highly flexible DevOps philosophy, Camunda has enabled Deutsche Telekom IT to visualize complex logic in one place, easily align human and automated tasks, and use the same BPMN language for business and development.
Achieving time and cost savings, and driving incremental revenue
Organizations typically have a few different motivations for driving efficiency through automation. Chief among them might include increasing the degree of automation to improve customer experience or value. Many companies aspire to Amazon-levels of efficiency where processes flow seamlessly and become a natural part of the customer experience.
As a part of these efforts, companies often look to automate human tasks and/or systemically remove human tasks from an automated process. Many industries face the perfect storm of labor shortages caused by retiring baby boomers and economic factors, paired with rising employee disengagement. Process orchestration can help these organizations do more with less. In addition it can reallocate employee time from repetitive to strategic tasks, improving the employee experience.
Other organizations strive to increase their degree of automation. This could involve adding more processes, improving processes, or orchestrating processes from end to end.
Let’s look at how to achieve each of these efforts one by one.
Adding more processes
How do you decide the most impactful processes to automate when there are so many possibilities? A Center of Excellence (CoE) can help to make decisions about process priority and align both technical and non-technical stakeholders.
Think of the CoE’s responsibility as facilitating a community for automation practitioners to share best-practices, successes, and failures to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
This reduces the negative impacts of one-off process silos, and encourages higher collaboration across the organization.
Most organizations do not have the visibility they need to improve the processes they already have in production. According to the State of Process Orchestration report, 72% of organizations agree that real-world, business-critical processes are complex to maintain.
That’s because they have no data on process health or performance, such as where there are bottlenecks. You can’t improve what you can’t see. A universal process orchestrator can provide a way to gain visibility into end-to-end business processes for continuous optimization and improvement.
Orchestrating existing processes from end to end
As we’ve covered in the sections above, orchestration could mean tying various process endpoints together (10s to 100s of process endpoints) to make a more holistic, efficient end-to-end process. As a result, existing systems, devices and people work more efficiently together.
Process orchestration platforms like Camunda make this happen through a connectivity ecosystem — which includes out-of-the-box Connectors that ship with the platform, as well as an integration framework that accelerates the creation of Connectors – all of which can then be reused in a drag-and-drop process modeling environment.
Process orchestration can save money and add incremental ROI on top of existing automation tools, as well as drive new revenue streams.
Automating and/or systemically removing human tasks from an automation workflow
Using process and decision modeling specifications like BPMN and DMN, you can design more effective and efficient human and automated processes, orchestrating both human and automated tasks. Both DMN and BPMN make it easier to gain business/IT alignment and agree upon the most effective process models.
From there, a universal process orchestrator can:
- Apply work assignment patterns
- Document processes, group tasks in stages, and manage task cancellations/exceptions
- Enforce process controls such as escalations or multi-stage approvals
- Use automation to take action on task state changes or when SLAs/thresholds are reached
- Send notifications via tools teams already use
Doubling down on process orchestration
In times of economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to rely on technology to save costs and empower your team to do more with less. Investments in process orchestration can help organizations do just that. As we’ve covered in the examples throughout this guide, process orchestration can help you:
- Maximize existing investments in your hyperautomation tech stack and improve ROI
- Drive customer experience improvements and incremental revenue
- Optimize human tasks to drive cost savings, allowing employees to refocus on more strategic priorities
- Orchestrate existing processes or create new ones to drive added efficiency and savings.
Powering a new customer experience and revenue stream for SV Group
3ap helps companies transform their businesses by creating human-centric digital solutions. One of their customers was SV Group, a hospitality company with properties in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The vision for SV Group’s first innovative Stay KooooK guest experience in Bern, Switzerland involved an end-to-end digital guest journey that makes it seamless for guests to book, check-in, enjoy their stay, and check out. To execute on this vision, 3ap selected Camunda for end-to-end process monitoring and orchestration, ensuring that best-in-class SaaS solutions integrated perfectly to create a guest experience that feels like magic.
The 3ap team was able to get a proof of concept (POC) up and running in a single two-week sprint and in just months, the experience, as envisioned by the SV group, was live with results that were nothing short of spectacular. Hundreds of 5-star reviews line the pages of travel sites with review after review noting the exceptional, modern experience. The SV Group plans to roll this out to additional hotels in the very near future and will be working with 3ap to white label this solution into a turnkey digital guest experience platform to other hospitality groups.
Human task automation drives cost savings and efficiency for City of Lugano
Nestled in southern Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Ticino region, the picturesque city of Lugano is one of the most forward-thinking and digitized local government agencies in Europe. Process automation and orchestration within its citizens’ portal is powered by Camunda.
More than 67,000 residents can interact directly with the local government through this portal. Administrative personnel interact with business processes using Camunda Task List, which can be customized so that users can focus on their respective responsibilities. Within just 100 days of launching the portal, more than 3,500 customers registered for the user-friendly service.
From an operational perspective, all business processes implemented so far have brought tangible benefits to operations. The job application service has reduced the time for administrative tasks and related costs by 90% — which corresponds to one full-time position in the department. The summer camp registration service has cut administrative duties by 60%. The number of certificates (residence, family, etc.) obtained online has increased by 70%, reducing waiting time at the city front desk and freeing front desk staff for other activities.
In addition, the adoption of BPMN as a language to model business processes has defined a common ground for highly efficient discussions with process owners. This has helped speed and improve quality in the analysis phase, reducing the implementation and deployment time for new business processes.
Is a Decentralized CoE for you?
For some, a decentralized automation CoE might make more sense than a more formal, centralized function. A decentralized CoE brings in both technical and business stakeholders for high level alignment on business process automation goals. This model relies on agile teams throughout the organization to implement automation projects without bottlenecks. A decentralized CoE may provide frameworks, shared tools, or “accelerators” to help these agile teams with their implementations.