Signavio’s Business Transformation Suite

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Signavio (www.signavio.com) is a privately-held vendor of process and decision modelling and management tools. The Signavio Business Transformation Suite is a cloud-based collection of tools that help with the discovery, design and analysis of business processes (and to a lesser extent, decisions) – woven together with highly-configurable automation and collaboration capabilities that teams can use to amplify the results of their efforts.

Key takeaways

A strong business and a fast-expanding platform

Signavio was founded in 2009 as a spin-out from Germany’s Hasso Plattner Institute, where its first product, a fully web-based process modelling tool emphasising collaboration, began life as a research project in 2006.

The company’s offering has moved on significantly since then, though process modelling is still a core component. Today the Signavio offering spans and links a set of tools that help with both design and data-led analysis, not only for business processes but also decisions, in order to (in its own words) “unleash the power of process”. Crucially, the broadened offering remains 100% web-based and there remains a strong emphasis on the value of collaboration and stakeholder engagement. The vast majority of customers subscribe to and access Signavio’s tools from Signavio’s own cloud platform, and purchase its services through annual subscriptions.

In the context of a relatively moribund business architecture and analysis tools market, Signavio’s business performance is impressive: it’s grown annually-renewable revenue (ARR) at between 70% and 90% for each of the past three years.

A platform for business transformation initiatives

Signavio is commonly thought of as a business process modelling tool vendor, but taking its Business Transformation Suite (and the full set of its components) into consideration it’s clear that the company has a much broader role to play in support of transformation initiatives.

Signavio Process Intelligence provides a really powerful toolkit for process insight and analytics, by going beyond the usual scope of process mining and adding features that help teams write and share data-powered improvement investigations and investment cases. But more than that, by giving you the ability to drive engagement and collaboration across even a large and dispersed organisation, Signavio’s Workflow Accelerator and Collaboration Hub combine to give you a platform that can truly ‘activate’ your teams’ process modelling and management work and integrate that work into the day-to-day work of the business.

Signavio: taking a broader role

Signavio (www.signavio.com) is a privately-held vendor of process and decision modelling and management tools. Founded in 2009 in Berlin, Germany, the company now has additional offices in London, Paris, Singapore, Melbourne and Boston. It currently has around 270 employees, and serves around 1,300 customers around the world.

In 2015, Signavio took EUR 31m in funding from equity finance firm Summit Partners; in March 2018 Summit invested a further EUR 15.5m. As a privately-held company Signavio doesn’t disclose financial results, but we estimate the company will achieve ARR (Annual Renewable Revenue) of around $35m in 2018. It’s been growing revenue at between 70% and 90% for each of the past three years, and its annual customer renewal rate currently stands at around 97% – much higher than the average rate for enterprise SaaS vendors of 90-95%.

Beyond business process modelling

Signavio was founded by current CEO Gero Decker and three colleagues as a spin-out from Germany’s Hasso Plattner Institute, where its first product, a fully web-based process modelling tool emphasising collaboration, began life as a research project in 2006.

The company’s offering has moved on significantly since then, though process modelling is still a core component. Today the Signavio offering spans and links a set of tools that help with both design and data-led analysis, not only for business processes but also decisions, in order to (in its own words) “unleash the power of process”. Crucially, the broadened offering remains 100% web-based and there remains a strong emphasis on the value of collaboration and stakeholder engagement. The vast majority of customers subscribe to and access Signavio’s tools from Signavio’s own cloud platform – available via AWS in US East Coast and Australia, and via Adacor/eShelter in Germany – and purchase its services through annual subscriptions.

Signavio’s tools are used for a range of types of project, and very often for more than one type of project at once: a recent customer survey highlighted that around 85% of its customers are using Signavio’s tools to pursue operational excellence initiatives; whereas around 50% are using its tools to assist with business transformation initiatives (customers were allowed to identify multiple types of use).

As one might expect, a significant portion (around half) of Signavio’s clients are based in Germany or German-speaking markets – examples include DHL, Roche, Aldi, Hugo Boss and SAP (with all SAP employees being users of the BPM Collaboration Hub; and SAP committing to use Signavio as part of its MaxAttention customer support programs). However, the company’s international footprint is growing; the USA is currently the company’s second biggest market and its customers there include Quicken Loans, Seagate, DTE, Aflac, Noble Energy and several large US Banks. UK and the Asia-Pacific region are also growing strongly, with Telstra, AMP, the BBC and Prudential among recent significant wins.

Inside the Signavio Business Transformation Suite

The Signavio Business Transformation Suite is a cloud-based collection of modelling and analysis tools that help with the discovery, design and analysis of business processes (and to a lesser extent, decisions). It also provides internal facilities to simulate, animate and execute those process and decision models, or export them for execution in other environments. Crucially, the primary tools within the suite are woven together with highly-configurable automation and collaboration capabilities that teams can use to amplify the results of their efforts. All the tools use the same shared repository, which has a rich security model allowing role-based access control to repository elements.

As figure 1 shows, there are four core components in the Business Transformation Suite:

  • Signavio Process Manager: provides tooling for modelling business processes (BPMN 2.0) and decisions (DMN 1.1), as well as providing tools for capability modelling (via Archimate) and process simulation.
  • Signavio Collaboration Hub: a web-based publishing and collaboration environment for models built using Process Manager. Collaboration Hub provides an easy-to-navigate, role-specific web user interface for model navigation, as well as making it easy for users to comment and make suggestions on models.
  • Signavio Workflow Accelerator: a workflow automation environment that enables teams to define flows that control the ‘process of process management’ and ensure that processes are seen and understood by stakeholders – as well as providing more general-purpose workflow capabilities for automating simple people-centric processes.
  • Signavio Process Intelligence: a process mining and analysis tool, enabling teams to reverse-engineer process models from system logs, and compare discovered processes to designed process models in order to analyse operational variance and its impact.

Figure 1: The Signavio Business Transformation Suite comprises four distinct components

Source: Signavio

Each of the Business Transformation Suite components can also be licensed separately.

Signavio Process Manager

Process Manager is the heart of the Business Transformation Suite, and the most mature and widely-used product that Signavio offers. Within Process Manager there are three main tools: Process Editor, Quick Model, Explorer and Decision Editor.

The main navigation interface for users of Process Modeler, called Explorer, provides a tree view of the Signavio model repository and a detail pane that can show audit trails of changes to models, an overview dashboard that summarises the repository’s contents, and so on – and of course provides the entry point to the three authoring tools.

Editor

Editor is an easy-to-use, web-based, drag-and-drop business process modelling tool that fully supports the BPMN 2.0 standard (as well as other notations). A side panel in the Editor shows attributes for any selected model element; a number of attributes (including attributes that power cost and resource analysis) are provided as standard, and you can add your own custom attributes, too (for example, in order to identify risks and controls, or to identify maturity levels for individual business processes). Figure 2 provides an overview.

Figure 2: Editing a BPMN diagram

Source: Signavio

Under the covers, attribute definitions associated with any element of any Signavio model can be stored outside the individual model in question, in a comprehensive shared Dictionary – you can think of these as metamodel extensions. Attributes, including custom attributes, can be used throughout the Suite as a basis for repository searching and filtering when browsing, or generating reports or charts.

There are some nice productivity touches: beyond the now-familiar ‘model hint’ functionality which promotes the placement of only valid model elements on the canvas as a modeller lays out a process sequentially, there’s a handy ‘free space tool’ that you can use to quickly shift large sections of an existing model around the canvas (to make room for additional elements without having to move every element individually).

Although Process Manager is at its heart a BPMN 2.0 modelling tool, Signavio’s focus on widespread engagement in process management work comes through in how it enables teams to tune the ways that processes can be designed and presented. Process Editor offers you the ability to define multiple ‘stencils’ that restrict and simplify the notation – so individuals can choose to model business processes using subsets of the full notation. Additionally, administrators can define specialised views of models for particular audiences that filter out unnecessary detail: for example, a view for senior business leaders might omit details of system resources, or swimlanes, from diagrams.

Beyond BPMN diagrams, you can also use the Editor to create visual customer journey maps that help transformation teams visualise, and reason about, the processes that customers follow as they interact with your organisation (see figure 3). It’s easy to associate customer journey maps with other process models that will likely describe the processes your own organisation enacts in order to serve customers through their journeys; this is particularly interesting, given that digital transformation initiatives typically start with considerations of customer journeys, with these journeys acting as a guide to shaping new business models, products, services and operational processes. Connecting customer journeys to business processes effectively connects ‘outside-in’ business perspectives with more traditional ‘inside-out’ analyses and improvement efforts.

Figure 3: Editing a customer journey map

Source: Signavio

As you’d expect, creating process documentation from models is easy. You can generate process documentation in either Microsoft Word or PDF format, and importantly, you can create your own custom templates for these documents, selecting the model attributes you want to include and the way those should be presented. Most customers create their own templates, for example to support audits, GDPR compliance, and so on.

Whenever you save a model, the model is automatically validated, and not just for syntactic correctness – Process Manager will show you where a model diverges from established BPMN modelling best practice, too. Additionally, every time a model is saved, a new model revision is automatically created and stored in the repository.

A powerful visual process comparison capability enables teams to explore the differences between any two revisions of the same process model; or indeed, of any two individual process models (which is very useful for process model variation analysis).Just as Signavio works to support the OMG’s BPMN 2.0 standard for process models, so it supports the OMG’s DMN standard for business decision models. This standard, currently on version 1.1, specifies two types of model: first, a Decision Requirements Diagram (DRD); and second, a Decision Table. Signavio supports both diagram types, and also enables you to connect DRDs to decisions within process models.

Just as the Process Editor enables you to specify custom attributes for process models, so you can also specify custom attributes for decision models here. And just as you can define custom views of process models, you can also specify custom views for decision models that hide certain features or attributes for particular audiences.

The Decision Editor supports the export of decision models using the DMN XML standard, for import into third-party decision automation platforms (such as those from Camunda and Red Hat); it can also generate DRL code for decisions, which is then executable by the Drools rules engine. In addition, the same documentation options available for process models are also available for decision models.

QuickModel

Launched in 2012, the QuickModel tool provides a very powerful way to quickly define first-cut BPMN 2.0 process models through a simple spreadsheet metaphor (see figure 4).

Figure 4: The QuickModel interface

Source: Signavio

Each row in the authoring table represents a process activity. By default, for each row you define the name of the activity (What) and the performing role (Who); you can also define input and output documents and supporting IT systems. As you complete rows in the table, a graphical process view below shows the corresponding BPMN 2.0 model. Administrators can also customise QuickModel, by defining the model attributes that are presented to users in the authoring grid (these can include custom attributes).

Once you’ve created a simple model in QuickModel, it can be further elaborated if required within the full Process Editor (for example, to specify gateways, timers, events, and so on).

Signavio Collaboration Hub

Collaboration Hub (originally known as Collaboration Portal) provides a number of facilities to help engage broad communities in knowledge-sharing relating to transformation efforts, and is designed to be the main point of access for all users of the Business Transformation Suite.

Whereas Process Manager includes the Explorer for process modelling specialists, the user interface that Collaboration Hub presents creates something more akin to an intranet experience than a repository browser. Rather than a tree-view navigation, the ‘entry page’ by default presents a clickable, graphical overview of your process landscape that allows you to ‘drill through’ models and categories to find models at any level of abstraction; models are shown in overview, with links to related models also shown so you can quickly navigate between related models. There’s also an advanced search function that will search across not only content but also dictionary attribute values (metadata).

When viewing a model, you can elect to show additional model attributes in ‘overlays’ that can be configured per role; for example, process owners might see processes with overlays highlighting associated risks and controls. Clicking on any element will show the detail held in the repository for that element; any user with requisite permissions can also see and add comments against any model. In addition, it’s easy to ‘subscribe’ to changes to any model, in which case you’ll be notified whenever that model changes.

When it comes to working with decision models, the Collaboration Hub provides decision simulation features through the interactive Decision Assistant. This tool provides an auto-generated form composed of all the defined input data of a decision model along with any related lists or enumerations. As you select or enter elements of input data, the Decision Assistant always shows the remaining set of possible results for that decision, given the partially completed set of inputs. You can then analyse the decision details, studying the rules that fire and how the result is determined.

Publishers of models and their related metadata can elect to publish in multiple languages; in which case, Collaboration Hub users can quickly switch between languages to see localised content.

Signavio Process Intelligence

Process Intelligence is a process analytics toolset, based on process mining technology. It’s designed to help team discover the structure and flow of existing work (reverse-engineering process models from real-world work patterns), as well as helping teams check for conformance of real-world work to existing documented process models – but it’s important to state that what Signavio’s doing here is not only process mining – the goal is to provide specialists with a set of tools that can be used to analyse process improvement opportunities and make improvement decisions through operational insights.

As with all process mining-based tools, Signavio Process Intelligence first requires that you upload case data from existing system logs to the Signavio platform. You may have to carry out significant data preparation and transformation work to get your data into the correct format; Signavio doesn’t help you with this, although it does publish the required data format (which is pretty straightforward to understand). The company asserts that Process Intelligence is architected to be able to mine tens of millions of rows of data; it’s working to further increase this.

Once you have a set of valid case data hosted in the platform, you’ll work with Process Intelligence to uncover insights using ‘investigations’ – containers for analysis work. Any given data set can be associated with one or more investigations. You shape your investigations by adding visualisation and documentation widgets: visualisation widgets (as the name suggests) provide interactive visualisations of your case data and documentation widgets are used to provide additional context (such as diagrams of existing processes, free text and so on).

You’ll likely use a blend of the process discovery widget, process variant widget and funnel diagram widget to get graphical overviews of the flow over time between different activities in your cases – and as is commonly found in these tools, it’s easy to filter the cases under investigation in order to dig into particular variations of a process more deeply. There are also a number of other complementary visualisation widgets that allow you to explore the overall case data set (for example, grouping cases according to a particular feature using a bar chart, or using a histogram to explore variation in overall process duration).

One particularly notable feature here is the process conformance widget, which gives you the ability to visualise as-executed case flows superimposed on existing BPMN diagrams. Linking the two is straightforward: you simply drag case states (as discovered by the mining algorithm) from a palette onto corresponding activities in the BPMN process.

Signavio Workflow Accelerator

Developed from the BPMN execution platform acquired when Signavio took over the Effektif team and project it had previously funded in 2013, Workflow Accelerator is a lightweight, cloud-based workflow application service.

Driving automation across the suite

Although it’s purchasable as a standalone product and can be used to address a wide range of workflow execution use cases across an organisation (there’s a Salesforce adapter, for example), Workflow Accelerator’s primary value is as an automation layer across and between the other elements of the Business Transformation Suite. Workflow Accelerator has deep access to the Signavio platform’s APIs, so any changes within the Signavio repository (a new model revision being saved, for example, or a new attribute being added to the Dictionary) can trigger a workflow, and workflows can themselves refer to repository attributes in order to resolve decisions, as well as making changes to the repository. Workflow Accelerator also stores its own configuration information (for example, for role-based task assignment) in the Signavio repository.

Workflows are commonly used to manage approvals for changes to process and decision models; but they can also be used, for example, to drive quality management and regulatory compliance – ensuring, for example, that teams (or indeed, entire organisations) are notified when a procedure is updated and then ensuring that every individual affected explicitly confirms that they have read and understood the updated procedure. Signavio typically configures these workflows in collaboration with clients through consulting engagements; importantly, though, both process models and decision models that you might define using Process Manager can be imported into Workflow Accelerator for implementation and execution.

Flow, forms, variables, actions and decisions

Although in practice workflows are often built through consulting engagements, Workflow Accelerator ships with its own simple workflow editor that resembles a simplified version of Process Manager’s Editor tool. As is the case with Process Editor, every time you save a workflow model, a new revision is created in the Signavio repository.

You can define automated script activities in workflows with Javascript; in addition, Workflow Accelerator ships with predefined ‘service tasks’ for sending emails, interacting with Box and Google Drive, creating PDF or Microsoft Word documents based on defined templates, and interacting with the Signavio repository. Gateways can be implemented with either manual decisions (in which case the choice is specified by a user in the immediately preceding task) or automatic decisions (in which case you can use the same custom rules syntax as provided when specifying dynamic form behaviours, or you can reference an existing DMN decision table). Task routing can also be defined using DMN decision tables.

Every workflow you define can instantiate a case via a user task form submission, an incoming email or an event trigger. Running cases can also trigger the instantiation of subcases. There’s also a simple email reminder mechanism for task escalation (triggered based on defined time thresholds that you specify for a given activity).

Workflow Accelerator ships with a simple drag-and-drop web form builder that supports all the basic control types you’d expect (text, date, document upload, dropdown, etc) as well as read-only and mandatory field attributes; you can also define forms that exhibit dynamic behaviour by defining simple ‘custom rules’. Form field entries are stored in variables that can then be referenced and updated through the remainder of the case’s lifecycle.

Reporting

Workflow Accelerator ships with a reporting facility that generates simple tabular reports and charts on open (running) and closed (completed) cases. You can specify which cases to include or exclude from reports based on process variable values; for example, you can specify to only report on cases that relate to automations around one particular model in the Signavio repository, on cases that relate to particular types of model, or on cases that have reached a particular milestone. You can also group results by process variable.

Collaboration and engagement

Workflow Accelerator provides some limited collaboration and engagement features operating standalone (as discussed above, these are amplified if you use Collaboration Hub). There’s a role-based access control framework around workflows: you can specify which user roles can see which workflows, start workflows, participate in tasks, and so on. Any participant in a case can add comments to that case; in adding a comment, you can ‘@’ reference other case participants either individually, or as a group. Anyone with the requisite permissions can see the overall comment stream for the current case, which also acts as a case audit trail.

Pricing and packaging

As mentioned above, the Signavio Business Transformation Suite can be licensed as a whole, or you can license the components separately.

Process Manager is available in three editions, all of which are licensed per user per year:

  • The Classic Edition includes Editor support for BPMN diagrams as well as QuickModel.
  • The Enterprise Edition includes all Classic Edition features, and adds support for process simulation and cost analysis, as well as Editor support for other process notations and types.
  • The Enterprise Plus Edition includes all Enterprise Edition features, and adds support for decision management.

Collaboration Hub is available in three licensing tiers: for use by up to 100 users, for up to 1,000 users, and for up to 5,000 users.

Workflow Accelerator is available in four licensing tiers: for use by up to 10 users, for up to 100 users, for up to 1,000 users, and for up to 5,000 users.

Process Intelligence is licensed on a per-process basis.

The Business Transformation Suite is licensed as standard in three tiers:

  • The Small tier allows for up to 1,000 Collaboration Hub users, up to 10 Process Manager Enterprise Edition users, and up to 100 Workflow Accelerator users, and a license for Process Intelligence to be used against one process.
  • The Medium tier allows for up to 5,000 Collaboration Hub users, up to 30 Process Manager Enterprise Edition users, up to 300 Workflow Accelerator users, and also includes a license for Process Intelligence to be used against one process.
  • The Large tier allows for up to 20,000 Collaboration Hub users, up to 100 Process Manager Enterprise Edition users, 1,000 Workflow Accelerator users, and also includes a license for Process Intelligence to be users against two processes.

Naturally, customers can choose to extend these packages with addition add-on licenses for individual components where required.

Signavio doesn’t publish its pricing, but as an indication: starting off with Process Manager Enterprise Edition is likely to cost you in the region of EUR 3,000 per user per year; whereas a high-end commitment to the entire Business Transformation Suite is likely to cost upwards of EUR 500,000 per year.

Recommendation

Signavio is commonly thought of as a business process modelling tool vendor. However taking its Business Transformation Suite (and the full set of its components) into consideration, it’s clear that the company has a much broader role to play in support of transformation initiatives.

If you work for a large organisation and are serious about pursuing any kind business change initiative that revolves around changing your business processes (whether related to transformation, operational excellence or risk management and compliance), Signavio’s tools will give you a powerful platform on which to build success.

In particular, Signavio Process Intelligence provides a really powerful toolkit for process insight and analytics, by going beyond the usual scope of process mining and adding features that help teams write and share data-powered improvement investigations and investment cases. And beyond that, by giving you the ability to drive engagement and collaboration across even a highly dispersed organisation, the Workflow Accelerator and Collaboration Hub combine to give you a platform that can truly ‘activate’ your teams’ process modelling and management work, and integrate that work into the day-to-day work of the business.

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