Signavio: A new dawn for business process management

Laura Mullan
- Leadership - Sep 04, 2018

Simplifying the complex world of business process management, Signavio is making strategic visions a reality.

Applications, orders, sales, logistics and more: when it comes to business, every activity needs a set of defined rules and processes, steps that could be likened to a rulebook or an instruction manual.

But what if you want to improve this process? Enter business process management (BPM). This field aims to enhance the process end-to-end by analysing it, modelling how it works in different scenarios, carrying out improvements, and continuously optimising it. Keeping up with the pace, volume and complexity of such change is no easy task and this is where Signavio has entered the fray.

In 2009, four students at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany, founded the firm in the belief that BPM is largely non-existent or completely unmanageable for businesses today. While BPM might be simple in theory, when it comes to implementation, many businesses fall short. Signavio co-founder and CEO, Dr Gero Decker, says that the firm has found its place in the market by providing web-based collaborative software that makes the whole process a lot easier.

“As an engineer, you always want to build systems that are relevant to people,” says Decker. “This particular problem was very appealing to us because it was technically challenging. If you look at other products on the market, these are often highly complex desktop tools where you needed a lot of training.”

Decker believed that Signavio’s system would need to be vastly different, and so the firm set out to create the sector’s first completely web-based BPM software. “The overarching trend we saw was a shift towards leveraging the so-called ‘wisdom of the crowd’,” notes Decker. “We saw that it's a good idea to get as many people involved as possible because then you get ideas quicker and you reach a better business model faster. The web is easy to engage with and highly usable so you don't need massive training.

“It’s also very collaborative,” he adds. “For example, with Wikipedia you can send a link to another person and if they disagree with the content, they can click and edit it.  We wanted to have similar principles for BPM where people could make their suggestions and give their input. In the beginning, this was really our core differentiator from everything else out there. It created a lot of interest because users hadn’t seen anything like this before.”

A multi-award-winning regular on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 list, Signavio has grown rapidly since its founding years. Fast-forward to today and Decker says that while the fundamentals remain the same, the motivation behind BPM has seen a seismic shift.

“Nine years ago, when people thought about BPM they were mostly interested in efficiency and productivity — so how can I do things faster, cheaper, with less pain from an operations perspective,” he observes. “Over the last few years, what distinguishes a process as good or bad has changed massively. Cost and efficiency are important motivators but now the customer is king. Once customers know great service then they demand it – this is what has changed in the last five years. It's not enough to have repeatable outcomes and be efficient anymore: customer service is key.”

Signavio’s offering has continued to evolve over its short history. What began as one product has now snowballed to form Signavio’s Business Transformation Suite, a collection of innovative BPM technologies including its process manager, collaboration hub, workflow accelerator and process intelligence. By simplifying complex strategies, these solutions help enterprises reach their goals whether that’s customer excellence, operational improvement, business excellence or a digital transformation.

Decker points out that the company’s name, Signavio, actually derives from the Italian word ‘Segnavia’, meaning signpost; it’s indicative of the company’s goal from the very beginning to help businesses navigate change. While the company’s footprint and portfolio may have mushroomed, it seems that this simple goal is still prevalent today.

“It’s easy to dream up the perfect experience for the customer,” comments Decker. “The hard part is making it operationally work. In many instances, a company might have between 5,000 and 20,000 employees who are used to working a certain way, who are structured in a certain way, and who think in a certain way. You also have systems in place.

“The big challenge is to take a new business strategy and make it work. This is where Signavio can help by translating what you have in mind and turning it into an operational reality. It’s our key differentiator. We have a proven track record and thousands of customers who have unlocked potential that they never dreamed of before.”

While Decker can tell lists of success stories, he’s also keen to talk numbers — and the financial standing of the firm makes for impressive reading.

In a Series B funding round, the German firm earned a €15.5mn ($17.9mn) investment, after it saw 90% growth in 2017. This funding has been influential, allowing the firm to grow from a small startup to a global player. Today the company has an expanding team spanning across Germany, the United States, Singapore, France, Australia, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

“Only once you have people on the ground and show your commitment to a region will you start to see traction in a market,” observes Decker. “Every idea lives and dies by its people, so it was crucial for us to find the right team to support this expansion. A big question for us was what kind of people do we want to look for? Do we need a specialist marketing genius? Do we need somebody who builds partnerships?

“We were very lucky to find generalists, people who were competent in many fields and could be very flexible. As we’ve expanded we have got more people on board with specialisations. Only then did we generate the necessary bandwidth to become truly successful.”

With the rapid rise of data analytics, Decker is excited about where the field of BPM could go in the future. Looking forward, he highlights how Signavio has combined people skills and data insights to create its latest product module.

“The module takes data and generates insights which may outline possible speed improvements or additional revenue potential, thereby hinting where you need to change things,” he explains. “This takes BPM to a whole new level because you can now uncover issues on a massive scale that you otherwise might not have seen. It allows you to leverage additional potential that would have otherwise be untapped. Blending the wisdom of the crowd and data insights is something that will receive a lot of traction in the BPM market.”

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