CIScorp (Corporate Information Systems, Inc.) – Pittsburgh, PA 1993–1994
Project Coordinator, FileNet Imaging Programmer
Performed data collection and analysis of business processes leading to design and implementation of FileNet document imaging systems for business process re-engineering projects.
- Benefits included improved time service and accuracy, and cost savings of over 30%.
- Business processes ranged from the overtime pay reporting for an engineering business unit to the entire disability insurance underwriting department at a major insurance company.
FileNet is a customizable Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Business Process Management (BPM) system. When I worked with it the point was to scan in paper documents and then index the information on them so the paper itself no longer had to move; workers within a process could review the scanned images instead. This generated notable efficiencies in processes that handled large volumes of paper (one system I worked on incorporated over 30,000 sheets paper a day, others could handle even greater volumes). Add a scan-and-index step at the front end, then remove all of the physical movement and archiving steps within the process, and voilà! Save lots of time and money.
Several of my Westinghouse colleagues were contracted through CIScorp, and I ultimately ended up there working with some of them. I spent a couple of weeks in the office going to customer meetings and working on various documents (we were doing something for Mellon Bank) before taking a two-week training class in Chicago. I had a nice time with a good group of people, and aside from visiting the airport on numerous occasions this is the only time I ever spent in that city, and then mostly on the middle weekend kicking around with some classmates.
My first major project was to serve on one of two sample development teams for Equitable Life Insurance. One team built a demonstrations system in FileNet and the other built a system using some other large-scale vendor package. We worked in an office in Manhattan that sits right on top of Penn Station, adjacent to Madison Square Garden. For nine weeks we walked across the street from the Hotel Pennsylvania, grabbed a bagel with a huge brick of cream cheese from a street vendor, and rode upstairs to grind out code and forms for as many hours as we could stand (we were paid straight time for hours worked over forty). The upside was we got to hang out in Manhattan for two months. I unexpectedly got to see my favorite band play a show in the Garden and I got a whole bunch of hard core development experience. Equitable ultimately decided to do its implementation in FileNet, so we felt good about that, too. The downside was that the Rangers won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1942. Oh well, can't have everything.
My next job was doing discovery of a process for underwriting group disability insurance policies, so the requirements for a new imaging system could be defined. This was for Paul Revere in Worcestershire, MA. We we reviewed every non-overhead operation in the business and determined the frequency and duration of each action that was taken by the different types of employees. We broke the tasks down by process step and by the associated general action. This information was entered into matrices that told us how each employee spent their day (we showed that each person was engaged fully 410-486 minutes of every working day) by function and task. We then identified the general actions that could be entirely eliminated through automation, could be modified or largely eliminated through automation, or would be modified little or not at all by automation. This told us the cost of the "as is" and "future state" systems and allowed the company to make, against the cost of installation and newly added labor, the economic decision of whether to proceed, which the company ultimately did. The company needed to add positions to perform the scanning and indexing operations but were going to remove even more positions involved with collating new documents into folders and moving them around. The company was very careful to get buy-in from its workforce by assuring them that it would find new positions for all employees and that all of the employees were going to receive all of the training they needed.
We performed a similar breakdown of daily job functions for each employee type in the business unit. The items in the left-hand column are business process functions while those across the top row are action functions. The business logic is instantiated in the former while the computer system is built by implementing the latter. More specifically, in a document imaging system, anything that has to do with handling physical paper and files is eliminated outright, while a few functions are made quicker. Some processes remain unchanged while a few additional steps are added to the beginning of the process to scan and index all items.
The company's original process was fascinating. They had a formal system arranging documents in customized, 3–section folders representing each person in the company being considered for insurance coverage. All documents were punched with two holes near the top and were secured in the folders by built-in brass paper fasteners. The company then had a system for gathering the folders for all of a company's employees and shuffling them around en masse so they could be processed by different groups of employees. The individual folders would be scored by the underwriters themselves, and would sometimes be routed to staff physicians or to personnel who would contact the employee's doctors to ask questions about things in their medical records. (Since the personnel making these calls were not medically trained this sometimes annoyed the physicians they called.) The whole process was extremely clever and it was amazing what they had been able to accomplish with just folders, labels, and pushcarts. If you've read any of Jack L. Chalker's Well of Souls series of science fiction novels you may remember that some of the regions on the planet where most of the action takes place were subject to various limits on the technology that was allowed to work. In particular he described a race of frog-like beings called the Makiem who lived in a low-tech region that only allowed muscle, wind, and water power. Nonetheless they had arranged a system of tubes and ramps that supported a semblance of advanced communication, distribution, and movement. It was not so long ago that all businesses and organizations had to operate using similar methods. The advent of computers has wrought a world of change.
Analyzing this process was no different to me than analyzing anything going on in a paper mill or nuclear power plant. Stuff comes in, you do things to it, and you send it somewhere else, sometimes depending on current conditions. While we were in New York we got to attend an industry trade show at the Javits Center. Talking to all the vendors it became clear to me that the simulation and business process systems I had built could be merged to fulfill many needs simultaneously. A tool used to represent and define processes could be used to support simulation, design, control, monitoring, archiving, and retrieval functions having to do with every aspect of a process and its associated equipment. The tool could also incorporate ancillary information about vendors, contracts, points of contact, maintenance manuals and procedures and history, user and maintenance training, and so on.
The remainder of my time with the company was spent supporting a project for drug maker Parke-Davis and servicing systems at different divisions of Westinghouse that involved payroll and the voluminous paperwork associated with an ongoing lawsuit.