Five reasons why low-code application development makes sense for growing tech-savvy companies..

Start Small, Think Big, Grow Fast…

As your organisation has grown, you will have encountered many challenges and tweaked and improved the way your business works as a result.

AgilePoint – a “toolkit in a box” (copyright one of our customers) provides ways of doing IT that empowers businesses to do new things that they couldn’t do before.

1 Minimise Growing Pains
As organisations grow, so must the people, technology and processes. For founders of a fast-growing organisation, the hardest thing to do can be letting go of daily ownership of every process. There are no longer enough hours in the day, and your highly-capable workforce won’t appreciate your involvement – unless they ask!

Startup and growing organisations are leaning more heavily on cloud-based, subscription services for many or most of their line-of-business applications. While there may still be on-premise technology, this is increasingly rare. But how do you effectively incorporate your evolving processes to operate effectively across this virtual environment? We suggest that you identify your first key projects, the “low hanging fruit”. be clear on your objectives and how they are to be measured for success. Get buy-in and active participation from your first Business Process Owner. Identify your “Citizen Developers”, who will be key to successful digital transformation.

2 Be Ambitious!
The philosophy of “Start Small, Think Big, Grow Fast” is the best approach: we recommend you do not try to reinvent the wheel on your first project. Rather, empower yourself by creating the right teams to include business process owners and “Citizen Developers” – your key enablers, able to iteratively translate and prototype those business processes over a coffee and a conversation. Correctly supported by an IT team unburdened from day-to-day participation and an expert ecosystem of enthusiastic and knowledgeable experts worldwide, it is surprising and gratifying how quickly results can be achieved.

A great example of this is related in a previous blog – “THE POWER OF LOW CODE – MAKING WAIVES WITH AGILEPOINT“, in which we described an integration with a third-party AI/ML platform to create a functional automated Accounts Payable application in two hours.

3 Comply and Govern
Empowering your business process owners sounds terrifying. Who knows how many holes they could punch in your carefully-crafted security policies? What if you could provide business process owners with a guided, secure environment for application development, like a bowling lane with bumpers to help and assure maximum results? Low Code allows IT to quickly define the secure parameters for interaction with third party systems through end to end encryption, secure communication protocols, global and reusable access tokens and Single Sign On, using a number of proven providers. Management Consoles provide control of running workflows, access and applications.

4 Do more with Less
In this current age of uncertainty, it has never been more important to be responsive to change. Until now, it was extremely expensive and time consuming to develop customer or supplier facing applications that were both functional and pleasant to use. The best low code application development platforms allow for the development of device-aware, responsive user interfaces and native applications without any coding. Corporate look and feel can be achieved using CSS along with other standards-based style protocols.

5 Make Transformation Resilient
Unlike more fragile enabling technologies such as RPA (robotic Process Automation), the best Low Code application development platforms incorporate a stateless design, standards-based integrations and a host of reusable integration stencils (AgilePoint has 70+ integrations and 700+ methods at last count)

There have been hits and misses as your organisation has grown, happily so far the successes have outweighed the failures. But ongoing success and growth needs clarity. Organisations should make themselves clear about their desired outcomes and what it is they specifically seek to improve: This is best achieved by tying digital transformation initiatives to key performance indicators that can best determine the health of the business.

Contact Mark and Paul at ChartaPorta to discuss your plans for growth and how Low Code and Democratised Application Development might play a part.

The power of Low Code – making Waives with AgilePoint

The power of Low Code – making Waives with AgilePoint

..or how one engineer designed and built an integrated Accounts Payable process in 2 hours!

Users of IT services in large organisations are becoming increasingly demanding. The arrival of intuitive and powerful consumer apps and devices has led users to question why the tools and services made available in their work life are not as simple to use.

IT vendors have responded by extending the range and capabilities of their systems, but at a price: Additional capabilities often mean extra complexity, cost, extended time to adoption, and confusing user interfaces. Automation of processes becomes possible but usually only within the scope of the product, or using expensive and limited integral app development environments.

We’ve been advocates of Waives (waives.io) for a couple of years now – an online capability that can interpret any unstructured, unknown content presented to it. However, as a true service, it doesn’t have end user interfaces – it is consumed by systems and environments that do. Elisabeth Belisle, the UK channel manager for AgilePoint, and I wondered what it would take to integrate the AgilePoint app environment with the Waives pre-configured invoice extraction Knowledge Set.

The approval screen showing extracted values and captured invoice (stored in Box)

It took an AgilePoint helpdesk engineer just 2 hours to configure a working invoice approval environment that used Waives to extract invoice information and embed it into an approval process. This included integration with Box as a document repository.

The engineer took a look at the well-documented waives API, then configured the integration:

REST Config 1

then configured the mapping..

mapping fields using auto-mapping feature..

Then created an invoice approval flow..

Invoice approval workflow canvas

The forms used will auto-format for the device used:

Screen showing task list (smartphone)

If you combine these two capabilities, the opportunities for innovation are virtually limitless. Some examples that we’re working on include:

  • joiners and leavers,
  • expense processing,
  • matching skills with project requirements,
  • medical record processing (including clinical coding),
  • Personally Identifiable Information discovery

AgilePoint and Waives are both true cloud-based capabilities, with try before you buy options available today. We would be delighted to support you in getting started to achieve your operational outcomes.

AgilePoint – https://agilepoint.com/products/platform/agilepoint-nx-defined/

Waives – https://waives.io

Mark Schroeder – still ridiculously impressed by innovation since 1965

The “Virtue Aisle” -Consumer-driven change for the packaging industry

We’re all becoming increasingly aware of the devastating impact mankind is having on the fragile ecosystem we share.  While pressure groups and political parties are beginning to wake up and slowly enact legislation to control our wasteful ways, the question remains:

Is it too late to reverse the damage we’re causing, in part due to use of plastic packaging with a lifespan and capacity to do harm for centuries to come?

Waste management is a complex subject, with a tension between what is right, and what is convenient.  The explosion of consumerism, online retailing (with associated packaging and delivery), vested interests from packaging manufacturers, and global supply chains are all conspiring to  negatively affect our chances of improving the situation.

However, rapid change is possible, when driven from the end consumer upwards.

One simple way that our supermarkets might make a positive change is to identify those brands known to do more than their competitors to recycle, source products closer to their point of consumption, or use more environmentally-friendly packaging.

These products would be placed in a “virtue aisle”, allowing a discerning consumer to select the best (or least harmful) choice for shampoo, cat food, cereal, deodorant, or battery.

We all want to do our bit – this approach would help us feel more aware of the environmental impact of our decisions.  My bet is that the very visible popularity of these areas in a supermarket will effect popular change fast – faster than legislation or any other top down initiative ever would: One supermarket adopting this approach will see an almost instant improvement in the perception of their brand and the uplift in sales will drive packagers to better behaviour.

Of course, the ability to impartially measure one products environmental worthiness over another is extremely complex – but not impossible. 
A number of organisations already exist, particularly the Ethical Consumer Group , which have already gone a long way in sorting the good from the bad.  

An Environmental Impact Index, which aggregates ease of recycling, product miles travelled, and use of reusable containers would be included as factors to judge product eligibility for the Virtue Aisle.  This index would be maintained by an impartial body with the maximum possible global reach.  The burden of evidence would be placed on the product manufacturer, who would each complete a category-specific questionnaire as a binding and verifiable legal document.

This Index will not be absolute and comparative across different product lines, but based on categories.  For example, shampoos compared with each other for ethical and environmental worthiness.

As individuals, we have discretion in our choices, and those choices would be made much easier to exercise with the adoption of the “Virtue Aisle”.  Let’s make #virtueaisle a symbol of our intolerance for the status quo.

We’d welcome your comments and feedback on this article – get in touch with your thoughts….

End User IT Analytics – hidden value in your data – printers and printing

I’ve long been an advocate of an apparently new “next big thing in IT” – end user IT analytics.  Our research led us to one particular product in this space – Nexthink, to the point that we now partner with this organisation and are consistently gratified by the ways in which customers have taken the product, run with it, and derive huge benefits from it’s adoption.

One of the most compelling examples of this is from Joanna Smith – until recently, the CIO of the Royal Brompton and Harlow NHS Trust. Her video, describing the journey to Nexthink adoption and the benefits they accrued is one of the most compelling I’ve seen.

https://vimeo.com/268616398

One of the slides Joanna described got me thinking (about four minutes in):  among approaching 800 data points that Nexthink gather, a large number include print behaviour exhibited by the end user community.  it was fascinating to see that, among the print estate:

  • almost 50% of all print jobs are sent to local printers
  • Less than 9% of print jobs are double-sided
  • 75% of print is in colour
  • A high percentage of printers are used less than 5 times per week

These are interesting statistics, that demonstrate a print-using community ripe for further investigation.  Many organisations using Nexthink are collecting this information, but may be unaware of the significant cost saving, service improvements and process optimisation that is implicit in this window into their user’s printing behaviour.  They may not know how to start on the journey of print and process optimisation.  They may be unaware that Nexthink has an integrated capability to ensure that employee sentiment can be continually gathered before, during, and after changes to the printer estate, ensuring that the user community is informed of changes and their views taken into account.

As both Nexthink partners, and Print and Process optimisation professionals, we feel uniquely able to help the Nexthink user community to lessen their environmental impact, realise rapid cost benefits and maybe most importantly, keep the end user happy through the process.

 

Talk to us about making the first steps in deriving benefit from data you already have at your fingertips..

 

mark@chartaporta.com , 07512726368

paul@chartaporta.com , 07496862279

 

 

The NHS and Litigation (2) – what can be done to mitigate risk and streamline responsiveness

“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom”
Clifford Stoll, Gary Schubert

My previous post on this subject ended up as a bit of a cliffhanger – the feedback was that I’d identified issues on which we could agree, but not given any clarity on ways to mitigate the problem (Thanks Mike Rutherford for your comments).  The problem statement might look like “how do I, as the person responsible in the NHS trust, identify, gather and package all responsive documents for a legal case in all of the diverse formats and modalities in a timely and compliant fashion?”

Major steps are underway in Government and the NHS to adopt a “Digital by Design” strategy, that would in theory at least mean that all information comprising a patient medical record resided in an easy-to-query format.  While it is gratifying to see that ruggedised tablets are in increasing use in secondary (non-GP) care settings for some patient interactions, the patient’s journey still relies on paper files at the sharp edge of treatment in many cases: paper continues to be, if not prevalent, then in many cases preferred by clinicians for it’s ease of use and perceived authenticity.

Patient Administration Systems are increasingly able to intercommunicate, smoothing the interaction between primary and secondary healthcare sources.  In GP’s surgeries, digitised summaries of a patient’s history are intended to make the old Lloyd George folders obsolete. NHS England have nominated Capita to manage elements of the GP2GP patient record management scheme, designed to simplify the process of patient record transfer between GP practices.  However, this hasn’t been an entirely smooth process, with assertions of incomplete transcriptions, irretrievability of attachments, and delays in paper file transfer causing friction and delays.

A curated PDF binder compiled using search terms agreed by interested parties has become the accepted format for legal review, but the varying formats of medical data continue to present expensive and time consuming obstacles:  MRI and other medical output modalities generate huge and proprietary file formats, and paper documents can have enormous volumes, even for one specific patient episode.  However, snapshot overviews in PDF format can be made for medical imagery, so one remaining problem is how to identify relevant paper records and render them into PDF?

There are two approaches to paper medical record digitisation –  proactive and reactive. many NHS trusts have attempted the proactive bulk digitzation of cohorts of their paper records.  The problem has been that to correctly identify each document within a record, extract relevant information and match that to enhanced metadata relating to the patient and episode has been prohibitively expensive, given that perhaps only 1% of the digitised record may ever be subsequently viewed.  The alternative approach – little or no document classification and a minimally separated record renders the digital experience unusable to clinicians and can actually make the problem worse, since a poorly-classified and separated medical casenote PDF may be several thousand digitised pages that cannot be usefully navigated in a realistic timeframe by a clinician.  However, it would be reasonable to surmise that a legal team involved in representing a patient would painstakingly scour that file, searching for documentary evidence of poor or inadequate care…

The answer may lie in new and more powerful interpretations of AI-based document classification, that can correctly separate, classify and index unstructured and semi-structured digitised case notes.  One such technology – called CloudHub360, has been able to demonstrate and deliver a cloud-based Document Transformation engine capable of high-speed, high-volume and highly accurate bulk document processing – with no human intervention, once configured.  

The historic challenge has been to maintain the accuracy of automated document classification, while maintaining an acceptably high classification rate.  The test results shown below suggest that this new implementation of AI can make the trade off between classification accuracy and classification rate less of an issue..

Results in red show results using the Cloudhub 360 engine against a leading competitor, based on 800 documents spanning 8 classification types..

Further, since the characteristics of medical record types demonstrate many consistencies in content, if not appearance, the memory of learned documents can be transported from one NHS trust to another, vastly reducing setup times and making the notion of a universal transformation processing engine, cloud-accessible, a reality.  This engine has now been integrated with a browser-based viewer, and made usable within the NHS IT environment.

We welcome the opportunity to work with you to investigate the applicability of this technology to your use case, and are very excited by it’s possibilities.  Please get in touch with us to find out more…

image 1 courtesy of Newtown Graffiti – https://www.flickr.com/photos/newtown_grafitti/5525985630

images 2,3,4 courtesy of CloudHub360

image 5 courtesy of Weiss Paarz – https://www.flickr.com/photos/141290938@N03/26682786574

Managed Print Services…. Supplier or Client Driven?

“Of course, we can provide you a Managed Print Service that caters for your every need”? (now let me sell you want I want to sell you)

Today’s MPS market is dominated by the major hardware manufacturers who are driving and defining the customer MPS requirement. In many engagements that I have been involved with, it’s the same supplier who conducts the initial assessment, design and delivery of the service.

MPS has become a supplier, rather than customer lead engagement.

Is the result an offering where customers are controlled and lead by suppliers? in which case, how do customers get to gain the full benefits available from an MPS and stay in control of their original vision? …. Now, there’s a question…

 

MPS Service Definition

The Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) define MPS as ‘the active management and optimisation of document output devices and related business processes’.

The key words within this definition are ‘active management’.  Many organisations still have a printing infrastructure that has grown organically over many years based on local tactical decisions and individual user’s demands.  This invariably leads to a sub-optimal print infrastructure with high overall cost of ownership.

At Charta Porta we have a truly independent approach to the knowledge share of best practice for MPS. Our advice is free of the shackles of the hardware manufacturers and thus creative in its approach to solving the problems that customers face when considering an MPS for their business.

Contact us today at info@chartaporta.com and be just one email away from a step closer to your vision..

 

 

 

 

The NHS and Litigation – how lessons learned from PPI can help…

Litigation is a fact of life in the NHS, but shouldn’t be a trauma in itself…

Logic will never change emotion or perception. Edward de Bono

For 2015, the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA – apologies in advance for the acronyms) earmarked £56 Billion to cover litigation costs against the National Health Service.  This staggering number is almost double the previous years allocation of £31 Billion, and represents almost exactly half of the total NHS budget for the year.  While the National Audit Office are rightly investigating why such an insanely large number has been earmarked against an actual litigation settlement figure of ‘only’ £1.5 Billion in 2014-5, the trends are hard to contradict: in 2006-7, the NHS received 5,419 claims, more than doubling to 10,965 in 2015-6.  Ten years ago, £667 Million was paid in settlement, compared to £1.5 Billion for 2015-6.

More than 75% of legal claims result in an eventual settlement against the NHS, with the claimant trade organisation – the The Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers – alleging that a culture of “defend, deny, and delay” exists in the NHS.  The Care Quality Commission (CQC) note that in many cases the NHS handling of a complaint was representative of the following statement:

…an absolute nightmare. They deny everything… and take months to reply to anything. You ask them specific questions and you end up with very general policy statements.

As one of the vast and mostly silent majority of individuals who have benefited from the huge array of healthcare services provided by the NHS, we naturally feel a tension between wanting to support the best of the NHS, while feeling sympathy to those involved where healthcare, very occasionally, falls short of the high standards expected.

This perfect storm of frustrated and aggrieved claimants, a well-organised commercial litigation machine, and a perceived culture of “defend, deny and delay” seems to have some similar characteristics to the Personal Protection Insurance (PPI) scandal, which has only recently come into the “beginning of the end” phase for the financial sector.  Some of the factors which went into the resolution of the Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) scandal are worth investigating to gauge their applicability to the NHS:

Remember PPI?

Remember the media frenzy that followed the Judicial Review into PPI mis-selling by various financial institutions and their agents?  Very quickly, a specialist ecosystem of legal firms and associated agencies were spawned, using very efficient systems to support the huge numbers of outraged product purchasers claiming against their PPI vendors.  Shortly thereafter, the Financial Ombudsman Service significantly ramped up their resources and technical infrastructure to handle final adjudication in up to 200,000 cases per year – the majority being related to PPI claims.

This left banks, building society, credit card companies, loan companies and their agents in the situation of having to somewhat passively manage a huge caseload of very unhappy customers, often from a position of blindness to the scale of their own exposure.  Put simply, in the worst cases, financial institutions did not know how much money to set aside for PPI claims:  In the wake of the financial crash of 2008-9, this was not a good place for a retail bank executive (for example) to find themselves.

Very often, the first task of confirming whether a customer was justified in their claim was very expensive and time consuming, involving drawn-out trawls of legacy systems, or even archived physical documents such as microfiche.  In the most extreme cases, this process was so onerous that some financial organisations simply calculated it was more cost-effective to settle, without going through a process of discovery

In another life, I was involved in a project on behalf of a UK bank to provide them with a database of customers who’d paid for PPI on a particular banking product, using data we’d extracted from over 1,000,000 microfiche representing 500,000,000 + pages of customer statements.  Remember, these microfiche were their only source of the truth, but not easily accessible to the bank.  It was a fascinating project, completed in less than six months with minimum user intervention involving the resolution of many technical obstacles such as deteriorated fiche, complex rules and extremely challenging SLA’s.  The delivered dataset allowed this particular organisation to be proactive and make contact with all involved parties and their agents in advance of a claim.  The bank was able to understand and report on it’s exact exposure, and to mitigate reputational damage by proving pro-activity to the Financial Conduct Authority, The Financial Ombudsman Service, the media, and most importantly, their customers.

Summary

Lets look at the process by which a claimant currently pursues a claim against the NHS:

A claimant engages a legal specialist (either a law firm or associated claim management organisation), who validate the claim as far as it is known.

On the basis of a perceived valid claim, a Letter of Notification is issued to the relevant Healthcare Agency and the NHS Litigation Authority.  The claimant from this point will have expended legal fees, which will have to be paid by someone.  Remember, that in 75% or more of cases, the NHS settle, and that one third of the total cost of settlement is in legal fees.

At this point, the Healthcare Agency acknowledge the claim, assess it’s validity and assign a contact point.  At this stage costs are incurred by the Healthcare agency.  It is their duty to validate the claim and notify the claimants agents, and to research the case and to decide whether to settle or contest the litigation.

The case continues through increasingly involved and costly phases requiring detailed phases of discovery and legal interactions (Letter of Claim, Letter of Response, discovery, disclosure, court)…

Through each of these phases of complex interaction lasting years (in some cases), costs are incurred to the NHS, which are usually eventually covered from the overall NHS budget.  While it is proposed to cap the cost of legal fees in any particular claim to £25,000, this has not yet been legislated.  Well-documented cases exist where the claimants legal agency submitted bills many times the value of the claim to the patient:

Claim for costs struck out by court

“The claim arose out of the failure to diagnose
a tumour to the claimant’s kidney following an
attendance for chronic back and groin pain.
The trust admitted breach of duty but denied
causation and made an offer of £5,000.00
which was accepted. The claimant’s bill of
costs totalled £121,701.00. An hourly rate of
£400 per hour was claimed despite the bulk of
the work being conducted by unqualified staff.
In addition a 100% success fee was claimed,
which meant the true hourly rate claimed was
£800 per hour. A further concern was that the
claimant appeared to have the benefit of BTE
(“before the event”) insurance and had
entered into two CFAs (conditional fee
agreements – otherwise known as “no win, no
fee” arrangements).”

This quote was taken from the NHSLA annual report 2014-5, and could be argued to be biased against the claimants, but this only emphasizes the confrontational attitude between parties.

Litigation is a fact of life, and will not be going away for as long as our (relatively) free society exists. Reluctance to respond to the challenges of litigation and unwillingness to learn from experience are natural and human reactions, but are to be avoided.  Systems, resources, and experience do exist to help remove the friction of response, and to make it possible to avoid expensive mistakes and learn from those regrettable mistakes that happened.  By looking at how the commercial world has learned from mistakes and delivered better litigation response, the NHS have the potential to maximise their ability to deliver the best possible healthcare to our communities in a time of unprecedented pressures on the service…

 

Please leave a comment – we will be posting more on this, exploring specific aspects in detail, including more on technology use cases to support litigation management, General Data Protection Regulation, Corporate Memory and best practice in Record-keeping and more…