State of Alaska streamlines processes with Agile BPM platform

IBM software helps eliminate a work backlog that plagued the state for 20 years

Published on 04-Mar-2013

"After our evaluation, we all came to the same conclusion of what we liked, and the IBM system came up on top. Not just because of the software; it’s the methodology that’s also employed in the process when the system’s built." - Scott McEwen, unified permit program coordinator, Division of Mining, Land and Water, Department of Natural Resources, State of Alaska

Customer:
State of Alaska

Industry:
Government

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
Business Process Management (BPM)

Overview

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages most state-owned land, water and natural resources, over 100 million acres, on behalf of the people of Alaska. The group’s primary mission is to responsibly develop and use Alaska’s natural resources for the maximum benefit of the public. The department includes seven divisions: Agriculture; Forestry; Geological and Geophysical Surveys; Mining, Land and Water; Oil and Gas; Parks and Outdoor Recreation; and Support Services.

Business need:
The State of Alaska had a backlog of permit applications from entities wanting to use state resources. It needed a solution that would enable it to streamline processes and eliminate the backlog.

Solution:
The state engaged IBM to create an Agile business process management (BPM) environment using an IBM® Quick Win Pilot with IBM Blueworks Live™ and IBM Business Process Manager Advanced software.

Benefits:
The solution provides greater process visibility and consistency, helping speed the application process. Plus, the client can extend the platform to deliver even greater ROI.

Case Study

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages most state-owned land, water and natural resources, over 100 million acres, on behalf of the people of Alaska. The group’s primary mission is to responsibly develop and use Alaska’s natural resources for the maximum benefit of the public. The department includes seven divisions: Agriculture; Forestry; Geological and Geophysical Surveys; Mining, Land and Water; Oil and Gas; Parks and Outdoor Recreation; and Support Services.

Expediting requests to use state land

One of the largest divisions within the DNR, the Division of Mining, Land and Water is responsible for processing authorizations that allow individuals, corporations or nonprofit organizations to use state lands, tidelands, mining resources and water throughout the state. The division strives to ensure responsible resource management. For example, if an oil company wants to lease land to extract oil and gas, or a corporation wants to build a temporary road to a gold mine location, these groups must get the appropriate authorizations from the DNR to ensure the public interest is protected.

To obtain authorization, applicants submit a request and then the Division of Mining, Land and Water determines whether to allow the activity based on many criteria, such as how the activity will affect the adjoining properties, the neighbors, or current or future land development. It’s advantageous for the state to process as many of these permit authorizations as possible because allowing such activity can have significant revenue and employment benefits for the state and its residents. In fact, approximately 90 percent of the state budget is derived from oil and gas revenue. In addition, these operations can open job opportunities, both direct and indirect, that benefit the state economy.

For 20 years, however, the Division of Mining, Land and Water had a backlog of permit authorizations, resulting in missed revenue and business opportunities. Facing a mandate from the state legislature to fix the problem within three years, the division sought to identify a solution that would enable it to streamline its processes and not only eliminate the backlog but also prevent it from recurring.

Creating an Agile business process management environment

The Division of Mining, Land and Water considered solutions from several vendors before choosing IBM. “After our evaluation, we all came to the same conclusion of what we liked, and the IBM system came up on top. Not just because of the software; it’s the methodology that’s also employed in the process when the system’s built,” says Scott McEwen, unified permit program coordinator, Division of Mining, Land and Water, DNR, State of Alaska. The division engaged IBM to help it create an Agile business process management (BPM) environment. The IBM Software Services for WebSphere® team helped the division deliver an IBM Quick Win Pilot to implement IBM Blueworks Live and IBM Business Process Manager Advanced software. A Quick Win Pilot is an accelerated approach designed to deliver a tangible solution to the business to facilitate broader adoption of the solution. The Software Services for WebSphere team followed the Quick Win Pilot with mentoring to help build BPM maturity within the DNR and to codevelop production releases.

Using the Blueworks Live offering, the DNR can map its processes using a collaborative approach that engages IT and the lines of business, bringing a sense of collaboration to two groups that can often be disconnected or even at odds. The department further promoted this sense of collaboration by using the Agile development methodology. “One of the things that we’ve learned through the Agile methodology is that it’s very good about getting good communication across between the programmers with the business side,” says Wyn Menefee, chief of operations, Division of Mining, Land and Water, DNR, State of Alaska. “It puts the business side pretty much in control of what gets done, and we do really like that.”

The Division of Mining, Land and Water benefited from the IBM team’s experience with Agile development. “When IBM came in, they obviously had worked with Agile, and they took us to the next level of working with Agile, which was much more robust,” says Menefee. “We had never done things like ranking story points for user stories and things like that. So our folks were not schooled up on Agile to the extent that IBM was, so they’ve coached and mentored us.”

An integrated BPM platform

In the past, the Division of Mining, Land and Water relied on Microsoft Visio diagrams to map processes and on paper applications to manage the permit authorization process. These manual, paper-based methods contributed to the authorization backlog. Once the new system is fully integrated for all authorizations, when the division receives an authorization request, it will scan it and enter it into an Oracle content management system. The act of entering the request will trigger a new business process instance in the Business Process Manager software so that staff members can begin processing the application. Employees will use the software’s embedded coaching functionality, which was developed by the division and the IBM team, to direct staff to complete the adjudication consistently and appropriately. The division recently rolled out the first case type process, and it is processing applications in the system using an electronic case file.

The Business Process Manager software is also integrated with the division’s Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) system, which simplifies the permit authorization approval process. This integration is essential to creating a positive user experience for the division’s employees. “On the back side of things, we have all kinds of different software where we use everything from a mainframe for a system of records to Oracle or spatial data for [geographic information system (GIS)] applications,” says McEwen. “And the fact that we can now seamlessly put all this in front of our users and have it all integrated on the back end is just wonderful.”

Increasing visibility and consistency

In the past, because of manual and paper-based processes, division management found it nearly impossible to easily assess the overall permit authorization backlog. With no way to effectively report on the status of work in progress or work completed, authorization applications would get buried on an employee’s desk, resulting in processing delays. With the BPM solution from IBM, managers can use dashboards to quickly determine how much work is outstanding, the status of all work in progress and the target due dates of work in the queue. The solution also enables the division to define service level agreements (SLAs) to different parts of the process and, more importantly, to meet those SLAs.

The new platform also helps the division establish greater process consistency. With three regional offices using manual and mostly undocumented processes, it was challenging to enforce consistency. An application that was approved by one office might be denied by another, which was confusing for applicants and a liability for the state. Now that the system guides employees through the process and coaches them on next steps, the division anticipates a significant increase in consistency as well as efficiency. “Inconsistencies do not help efficiency,” says Menefee. “And so the solution will actually help us shave time in processing authorizations if we do get consistent. People know where they’re going next and they can have information at their fingertips to move forward.”

Building on the existing platform to generate greater ROI

By creating the BPM platform, the DNR gave itself the ability to roll out a solution to support other authorization processes, such as easements and leases, water rights and material sales. The department also plans to use the solution to create an online form that lets applicants fill out and submit authorization requests online. As the DNR continues to use and expand the solution, it expects to see a growing ROI. “The big selling point of working through this whole process for return on investment is if we can process permits in a more consistent, predictable, timely and efficient manner so that we can not only get out of the backlog but keep out of backlog, that’s a good business environment,” says Menefee. “That’s good for the state.”

For more information

To learn more about BPM solutions from IBM, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/software/products/us/en/category/bpm-software

Additionally, IBM Global Financing can help you acquire the software capabilities that your business needs in the most cost-effective and strategic way possible. We'll partner with credit-qualified clients to customize a financing solution to suit your business and development goals, enable effective cash management, and improve your total cost of ownership. Fund your critical IT investment and propel your business forward with IBM Global Financing. For more information, visit: ibm.com/financing

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
IBM Blueworks Live, IBM Business Process Manager Advanced

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013 IBM Corporation Software Group Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of America February 2013 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, Blueworks Live, and WebSphere are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The performance data and client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided.