With many acquired companies in the Micro Focus family, there are a variety of systems and processes in place to support staff and customers; from facilities services to product release management, time sheeting, and many other functions. In particular, there are processes that don’t lend themselves to be automated with commercially available applications. Although automation makes sense in a lot of cases, the time spent on creating a custom-made solution seems disproportionate to the benefit.
When Daniel Nolan, Director of Engineering at Micro Focus, talked to some of his business unit colleagues, he was struck by a requirement that extended beyond traditional use cases: “You can’t purchase an application that creates your visitor badges, or manages your lost and found items, or shipping requests. These, and many other processes, are so particular to the company that a commercial solution would need too much customization for quite a narrow application. However, in our own stable of solutions, we have Micro Focus Solutions Business Manager (SBM) which lends itself perfectly to these scenarios.”
With many potential use cases, SBM’s built-in process orchestration really comes into its own. The team can simply sit down with each department with a process automation requirement, quickly figure out the process and adapt an SBM application for the job. Universal leverage of the process across different use cases helps ensure governance and stakeholder participation, while built-in reporting and auditing highlights compliance issues right away.
One of the first SBM applications implemented supported the time sheeting of contracting development staff, as Nolan explains: “There were two separate applications in use to track time sheets, neither of which were particularly user-friendly, and of course we paid license and maintenance fees for them. Leveraging already existing metadata, we built an SBM application in just two weeks to track time sheeting. Replacing our external tools with SBM realized a cost saving of over $35,000.”
Micro Focus’ Facilities group leverages SBM in a variety of ways. When visitors come to Micro Focus sites, they use a screen to log in via an SBM application which then prints their badge, in a blended digital and physical process, and signs them out automatically when the badge is returned. An SBM application is also used to monitor energy consumption in Micro Focus sites around the world. This carbon footprint data is required for external auditing and is now readily available. Once all the site information is captured in the SBM metadata, it is easy to apply SBM to any use case, such as injury reporting, ergonomics requests, business case submissions, and general site management.
As all major software manufacturers, Micro Focus has a License Verification (LV) team, whose job it is to ensure that a customer’s implementation of Micro Focus solutions does not exceed the purchased license limits. Choosing SBM to automate the LV process gives the team an unlimited number of fields, and depth of workflow. Relational fields in the SBM LV application enable complex organizational data to be actionable as one field. Tim Clark, Director, License Verification Sales Operations, Worldwide, at Micro Focus says: “Our team loves the SBM application and we could not believe the speed to full implementation. It’s easy to adapt the tool, based on business requests, and we often find we make changes on the fly and deploy them instantly, rather than have meeting after meeting working out new requirements.”
Customer Advocacy Boards (CABs) are a great way for Micro Focus to listen to its customers and learn from their experience. With four main solution areas in the Micro Focus portfolio, each containing a variety of products, managing CABs can quickly turn into a logistical nightmare making automation support essential. External software was in place for this, but support for it was lacking and the solution was not performing as required. The CAB registration and approval process was easily remapped in SBM, with the added advantage that this can now be integrated with the SBM-driven ideas exchange portal, and ultimately the product release process, for an end-to-end tracking of how customer suggestions for new Micro Focus product features come to fruition in new releases.
It is clear that bringing a product to market does not just involve development, and yet this is often the only element that is closely tracked and timed. Micro Focus decided to unleash the power of SBM onto its P2M (Product to Market) process, and included sales, finance, marketing, legal, and production-readiness in the end-to-end process, driving human behavior through standardized processes.
Ensuring that over 300 products can be legally sold in 43 countries is a mammoth effort, as Nolan explains: “Having seen SBM in action, both internally and at many enterprise customers, we knew it was up to the task. We created customized processes to guide users through a questionnaire. Based on their answers and our inventory of 30+ checklists, a product release owner is presented with their personalized checklist and timeline to implement a new release without missing any vital steps. Because SBM is so flexible we can also help with scenario planning, for instance to determine the impact of a change in price or product name. We have not only introduced one unified release process for the whole company, but we also operate a continuous improvement process in our release management. By analyzing the data and reporting on this, we can streamline the process as we go. New requirements, such as data privacy law changes, are easily introduced too, so that we are instantly compliant.”
SBM has standardized processes and supports compliance across the whole of Micro Focus. Thanks to its ease of use and flexible integration capabilities, SBM also encourages team collaboration. Nolan: “We absolutely view SBM as a business solution, rather than a development tool. It extends beyond traditional use cases and gives us a systematic and central way to manage communication and interaction, as well as track service level agreement (SLA) times.”
Nolan continues: “Our SBM-driven time sheeting solution has now been externally audited six times. Each time it passed with flying colors, and an auditing exercise that would have taken up to three days in the past is now done in an hour.”
He concludes: “I love that with SBM we can stand up a process and deploy it in a matter of weeks to see clear returns. It is the one Micro Focus solution that I can guarantee I would purchase if I ever were to work for another company!”