Filling the Process Gap

NexPrise offers pre-built applications to rapidly automate specific business processes

Carlsbad, CA  June 25, 2002  NexPrise wants to fill in the gap. The business process gap, that is.

The software company today released a library of customizable business applications intended to automate paper-based processes that have fallen between the cracks left by such other enterprise applications as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and product data management (PDM) systems.

The announcement marks the latest stage of evolution for NexPrise, a descendent of e-marketplace operator Ventro that more recently has focused on quote management and project management tools for discrete manufacturers in the aerospace and automotive industries, where the company has about 30 customers, including such marquee accounts as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, the Budd Co. and PPG Industries.

Today, NexPrise is highlighting its ability to offer targeted solutions to automate particular business processes, such as engineering change notices (ECN) or nonconforming materials. The company said its customers have highlighted the need for point applications to automate processes specific to their business, but typically these processes are so specific or so customized for a particular company that packaged enterprise applications are not designed to address them.

NexPrise builds and deploys its applications on its new nProcess Platform, which is based on NexPrise's collaboration technology but also includes an authoring studio, a new data model and enhanced graphical workflow. In addition, the new platform incorporates integration technology that NexPrise got with its acquisition of InfoPrise last December and that allows for linkages with various legacy applications, such as ERP and PDM systems.

By providing ready-made applications addressing specific process pain-points, NexPrise contends that it can rapidly  within a few days  automate a traditionally paper-based process and provide a rapid return on investment (ROI).

"Our intent," said the company's president and CEO, Ted Drysdale, "is to come out with a new platform and a new set of technology that allows us to provide the same high level of support applications but with less than half the effort than it has taken in the past."

In an interview Drysdale cited the case of a NexPrise customer that was able to use one of the new applications to automate its engineering change notice. The customer was spending about $600,000 on overnight delivery to get drawings, documents and ECNs to its suppliers and plants in order to get changes implemented. Using one of the new NexPrise tools, the customer was able to move that process online at a cost of about $100,000, eliminating most overnight delivery charges. In addition, because the new tool changed the process from serial  with documents moving from one function to another in a chain  to simultaneous  with engineering, manufacturing and quality functions able to work on documents at the same time  the customer was able to shorten its change notice cycle.

Drysdale said NexPrise was able to automate the process in about two days and was able to drive rapid adoption of the new tool by mimicking the paper forms that the company already use and to which the customer's employees and suppliers were already accustomed.

Companies can chose either to have NexPrise host the applications or to host the applications themselves. NexPrise charges an annual per-seat subscription fee ranging from about $30 to $100 dollars regardless of the number of applications a company elects to employ. "The intent is that if you can get enough processes, you can get more users," Drysdale said. Companies may incur some additional costs to integrate the applications into legacy ERP or PDM systems, too.

John Moore, vice president for enterprise and supply chain solutions at technology consultancy ARC Advisory Group, suggested that the NexPrise applications may find favor among manufacturers that want to automate particular processes without going through the time and expense of working through, say, their ERP provider.

"Manufacturers today have a wide range of legacy applications that work, thus they will not want to rip these out and replace them with newer platforms that often require long and painful implementations," Moore said. "NexPrise is taking a different approach that allows companies to leverage their existing IT infrastructure by providing a solution set that focuses on enabling distinct business processes."

NexPrise is working with about 20 different applications at the moment, including Engineering Change Manager, Management of Change, Quote Manager, Supplier Quality Manager and Contract Data Manager, which are available now. Drysdale said that as he continues to talk with current and potential customers, he is finding increasing numbers of processes requiring automation, and he predicted that NexPrise's library would include 50 or 60 process-specific applications by the end of this year.

Janet Lubeck, global administrator for NexPrise customer Trelleborg Automotive, sees several areas where her company may look to employ the NexPrise applications. "We have initially targeted business processes in Purchasing, Engineering and Quality Assurance as ideal opportunities for automation using the new platform," Lubeck said.

Similarly, Chuck Barnard, program manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, another current customer, sees several opportunities to automate processes. "With a host of new nProcess Platform-based applications," he said, "we see an opportunity to extend the benefits of NexPrise to many other business processes, beyond the procurement, program management and supplier management applications in place today."