Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Top 10 Workflow RFI/ RFP Questions (From the home office in Minnetonka, MN)

Anyone who has heard of comedian, David Letterman and his program, “The Late Show with David Letterman” is familiar with his “Top 10 List” segment. During this segment, Letterman or one of his celebrity guests recite a top 10 list of items in a particular category. These lists are said to originate, “From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska” and contain the host’s humorous take on a current event or topic.

In the spirit of Letterman’s Top 10, Savigent is proud to bring you, “The Top 10 Workflow RFI/RFP Questions that you should be asking your MOM Vendor” from the home office in Minnetonka, MN:

1. Tell me about your product. Where has it been implemented? How it is being used? - These fundamental questions lead our Top 10 list because they provide an immediate indication of the nature of the product and help you determine if it’s an actual product or just a bunch of nice-looking slides and marketing material.

2. Will your product fit my business? – In asking this question, you are seeking to understand the configurability and adaptability of the vendor’s product. A number of software vendors claim that their product is configurable during the sales process, but their customers find out post-Purchase Order that the product requires changing their manufacturing process – an activity that is either not feasible given the cost and time constraints of the project or, more fundamentally, is not a desired project outcome. Your manufacturing process can be a source of competitive advantage for your business – why should automating all, or even a portion of it, require that process to fundamentally change?

3. Does your product comply with Industry standards like ISA-95? – While you may want to maintain the process underlying your automation effort, alternatively you may want to move it closer toward one of the applicable standards in the space such as ISA-95. Does the vendor support these types of standards? Can the vendor explain the intent behind the standards and help you assess how the standard can work for you?

4. Will your product help me leverage my existing MOM investments? – Often times, vendors will state, “Our product can replace that system” or “You can only realize the benefits you’re seeking if you use our product for all MOM functions”. Savigent offers you an option – we can either replace systems that exist within your portfolio of MOM solutions or we can help leverage them by building workflows around them, supplementing their functionality and user-interfaces, as necessary, to drive business results while not throwing away prior investment.

5. Can you integrate with my other related systems? – There are a number of related systems that can benefit from MOM data including ERP and MES applications. By asking this question, you are gauging the openness of the vendor’s product and the ease with which it can integrate with these existing systems.

6. Is your product scalable and ready to support my Enterprise? In response to this question, examine the vendor’s product architecture. Is it Service-oriented? Does it provide a set of re-useable services that can be throttled to meet increased demand? Moreover, are these services managed by the product or do you need an external management facility such as an Enterprise Service Bus to do so?

7. Can I use your product or will I need to hire “a bunch of IT guys” to help use it? – If a vendor’s automation solution requires a large investment in training and/or hiring within IT, will you realize the benefits that you are seeking? Put another way, are you really saving anything by automating if your IT spend goes up? Examine who uses the vendor’s system and the size of the support team at one of the vendor’s clients. Ask that client if the size of that support team is higher than what they had planned during their implementation.

8. How will your product help me drive actual improvement in my operations? How can I know that I am realizing results? – In examining the vendor’s product in regards to this question, you want to understand what data will be provided and, more importantly, how easy it is to turn that data into information through analysis and reporting. How easy is it to collect intelligence about your manufacturing operations that can be used to justify both your current and future investment within the space?

9. How long will it take to implement your product? – Can the vendor’s product be implemented in a matter of weeks versus months? How will the product be implemented? Will the vendor be working independently to get it installed and configured or will you be able to frequently view the solution as it is being constructed and offer input on to best build it to meet your needs?

And the final question of “The Top 10 Workflow RFI/RFP Questions that you should be asking your MOM Vendor” is…

10. What questions haven’t I asked that I should be asking? – While having this question last may seem anti-climactic, I’ll defend it on two accounts. First, a vendor that has experience in the MOM space is going to be forthright with questions that you may not have visibility to within your operation, but that are relevant to your future investment in the space. Second, and most importantly, a vendor that provides you with a list of questions is a potential partner who will help you improve your operation regardless of how it benefits them. Anyone know of such a company?

Did I miss a key question? Disagree with any of the above? If so, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at “the home office” at

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Leveraging Workflow Automation to Drive Operational Intelligence

We published a new brief today focused the application of workflow automation in the manufacturing environment to drive operational intelligence. The brief, titled “Leveraging Workflow Automation to Drive Operational Intelligence” can be found on Savigent’s web site at

The three part brief includes thought provoking research by Gartner analysts Simon Jacobson and Leif Eriksen.  Their research highlights the “demand for efficient and effective tools and technologies” that manufacturers need to make more effective and accurate decisions.  And manage business processes to “close the feedback loop of corporate performance back to the plant level to drive the right behaviors.”

It also provides a practical understanding of workflow automation and an introduction to Savigent’s industry leading software, Catalyst Workflow.  We also show how we are applying workflow automation to drive change within a manufacturing operation – through Incident Management.  Incident Management is a powerful workflow-based system available to support continuous improvement efforts in the manufacturing environment. It puts some rigor around the business processes that define how manufacturers respond when problems occur.