REVIEWER: David Carpenter, director of BPM for Archstone.
BACKGROUND: As one of the largest real estate investment organizations in the country, Archstone is a recognized leader in apartment investment and operations. The companys portfolio is concentrated in many of the most desirable neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, southern California, the San Francisco Bay area, the New York metropolitan area, Seattle and Boston. Archstone strives to provide great apartments and great service to its customers - backed by unconditional service guarantees.
PLATFORMS: Application and database servers: HP ProLiant BL25p G1 with four processors. Operating system: Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition SP1. Web server: BEA WebLogic 8.1.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Prior to using Appian, paper processes were the lifeblood of Archstones operations, and with more than 350 communities supporting more than 87,000 units, form paralysis was a real danger. We knew our processes worked, but they were inefficient, with the faxing of forms and data for approval across many levels of the organization. Also, due to our geographically dispersed operations, information lag and even loss were problematic. In addition, our industry is characterized by lots of field level associate turnover, and Archstone is no exception. We realized that increasing the ramp-up speed for new associates would lower our new associate costs, and the more easily we could put information and forms at their fingertips, the quicker they could move from learning the ropes to focusing on customer interactions.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We selected Appian because of the extensive flexibility and out-of-the box functionality of its Appian Enterprise Business Process Management Suite. Our business is forms-driven, and Appians Forms Designer and other forms functionalities (like routing) are significantly better than other options on the market. This was a business-led initiative with business users in mind, so we were looking for a solution that would allow nontechnical end users to configure processes without much IT intervention. This level of business-user ease of use is another hallmark of Appian.
STRENGTHS: Appians extreme flexibility is one of its greatest strengths. We are able to easily configure and customize home pages, portals and information packages for each individual community we serve. That allows us to target each community with just the information it needs. The customized Forms Designer is also key, as we can build out new processes and related forms very quickly.
WEAKNESSES: While we are very pleased with our choice, there are elements of the product installation and administration that are slightly more complicated for us because of our Microsoft infrastructure.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We presented numerous vendors with specific test-case scenarios typical of our operations and then compared the manner of solution and nature of results they returned. Appian was the total package, particularly from an end-user perspective, which was crucial for us. We wanted to keep the IT resource drain to a minimum, while ensuring that our business users had the tools and power they needed to realize the full potential return on our BPM investment. The specific functionality around forms was also key to our selection process.
DELIVERABLES: Appian has helped us dramatically reduce the learning curve for new associates by creating a centralized location where forms, processes and tasks are presented and managed. This has also decreased the time required to process requests, lowering our resource investment. By empowering us to standardize and enforce our processes, Appian has also greatly improved our efficiencies (for example, replacing multiple paper forms with one electronic process and providing the ability to track the approval chain). We are now moving to a mode of looking more deeply into the performance of our processes, and Appian provides reports, escalations and reminders to help us do this and measure the results.
VENDOR SUPPORT: We had and continue to have a very positive relationship with Appians professional services organization. We have worked with some truly outstanding, very attentive consultants, and our issues have been addressed in a timely manner.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation on the business-user side was complete and easy to follow. On the technical side, we did encounter some areas where the documentation did not fully address elements of our distributed environment, but Appian has been very responsive in addressing this.
8000 Towers Crescent Drive
Vienna, VA 22182
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