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Business Process Management

EPC Chart for Request for Proposal (RFP) for a Software Project

Event-driven process chains (EPC) enables organizations to model business procedures from a business point of view. Salvendy & Karwowski (2010) noted that event-driven process chains are widely used in business process modeling and it consists of various elements such as function, event, control flow, process, process maker, organization unit, and a material, information, or resource object. EPC can be used to model processes based on provider and client relations, and it can be used to assess process options (Salvendy & Karwowski, 2010).

DocuLynx is an incorporated company which helps organizations to manage vital documents such as reports, financial statements, and scanned images. The company specializes in various business processes such as drafting request for proposals for software projects for organizations. DocuLynx was founded in 2004 and is located in Omaha, NE.  Figure 1.0 below illustrates EPC diagram for DocuLynx for a process that responds to a request for a proposal of a software application from a potential client.

From the above EPC chart events are represented by hexagons, functions are rounded rectangles, organizations are ovals; information or resource objects are represented by rectangles and operations are circles (Salvendy & Karwowski, 2010). Once DocuLynx receives a request for proposal, technical analysis is performed to establish feasibility and project requirements. The technical analysis is provided by the design group. The technical analysis requires licenses and person-hours to carry out its function (Salvendy & Karwowski, 2010). The output of the technical analysis is the feasibility of fulfilling the deliverables of the request for proposal and the project requirements for doing so.

When the business group of DocuLynx gets the software project requirements, it carries out business analysis to develop a proposal. This function is highly depended on pricing data, which is required to establish a cost based on the clients requirements and a value to the client based on value metrics. After the business analysis the flow results in a proposal and a proposal ready event. The proposal ready event may trigger a function in another process, such as a formal proposal submission and logging process. Salvendy & Karwowski (2010) noted that EPC can serve as the basis for simulations that incorporate time delays and can give computational form to uncertainty, management decision making and pricing methods.   

The Bottlenecks in the Business Process Chosen

A bottleneck is an area that is constraining or holding a business process back because the other components of the business can handle an increased load. During the technical analysis delays are eminent as the design group performs the required analysis. Bottlenecks in the request for proposal EPC chart occur at technical analysis phase because of uncontrollable arrivals of request for proposals (RFPs) with different scopes and schedules on the way proposals are written, on the success rate, and on the rate of progress of the jobs (Gido & Clements, 2012). This creates stress on the technical analysis team and slack for the department such as business group and other resources waiting downstream in the EPC chart. To overcome this bottleneck, the proposal manager and the technical analysis team need a means to represent time-related aspects of business processes such as activity durations, time constraints between activities and check their feasibility (Fischer, 2000).

Poor estimation of person hours is a major cause of bottleneck during the development of a software project RFP for an organization. Poor time allocation results from bias attributed by having one person estimate and allocate schedules for the entire proposal. The proposal manager may fail to provide a schedule for performing the major tasks required to complete the software proposal (Gido & Clements, 2012). During the determination of the number of licenses required, bottlenecks at the feasibility and project requirements occur because of lack of people with project or process responsibility to drive the licensing and business analysis process.  To improve on this area, Fischer (2000) says that the proposal manager should be able to adjust time plans such as extending deadlines according to time constraints and any unexpected delays.   

There are discrete delays in business analysis which merit more detailed analysis of the pricing data. This causes bottlenecks in proposal evaluations before they are submitted to the clients. The business analysis function allows more delays to be identified and analyzed. For the purposes of executing this step, one person is assigned to be in charge of the pricing. He/she interacts with the proposal manager, who also coordinates with other design function teams. The proposal manager performs some data analysis tasks, but also delegates’ specific tasks such as graphical data representation and tabulation to others (Gido & Clements, 2012). The delegation is based on the current workload of the available experts, their skills levels and the social relationship between them. The process of delegation in this process causes bottlenecks at the proposal submission phase of the ECPs chart. To improve the processes at the business analysis phase of the request for proposal, business group participants need information about urgencies of the tasks assigned to them to manage their personal work lists in accordance with the overall goals (Fischer, 2000).            

Exceptional bottlenecks arise during process execution as a result of lack of proactive techniques for notifying proposal managers about potential time constraint violations so that they can take the necessary steps to avoid time failures.  The bottlenecks arise in situations in which assumptions behind its respective EPC chart design template become violated. Gido & Clements (2012) noted that there might be an unexpected, complicated situation left out during the technical analysis that the EPC chart designers did not think of during the design time. As a result, lack of anticipation of the exceptional situations and designation of specific actors to recognize and deal with those situations causes bottlenecks in the chart. To improve and overcome this bottleneck, the EPC chart should ensure that if a time or resource constraint is violated, the event-driven process chain chart should be able to trigger exception handling to regain a consistent state of the process chain instance.

In conclusion, major improvements in the request for proposal (RFP) for software projects carried out by DocuLynx are required to avoid downstream bottlenecks in the RFP event-driven process chain. This can be achieved by ensuring that the design and business groups in the process chain have necessary information about activity start times and execution durations. The entire team involved in the process chain needs the skills of modeling time and working within time constraints to capture the available time information of RFPs. The EPC chart should carry out hands-on time calculations to identify time limit violations and raise alerts in case of potential future time contraventions. 

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