Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Computerworld Relates BPM to Customer Experience Transparency (But Not in Those Words)

According to Computerworld (www.computerworld.com, October 30, 2006, “BPM Is Helping Firms Control Critical Business Processes”), Business Process Management (BPM) has graduated from improving departmental processes to coordinating mission-critical activities across an enterprise. Click here for the article.

That’s nice. But what’s really important from a Customer Experience Management perspective is the article’s claim that BPM provides transparency to both managers and customers about the processes it controls.

Transparency—complete, up-to-the-minute information about the business relationship--is a critical component of improved customer experience. This is partly because customers have come to expect the data to be available, both in a self-service mode and when they ask a company representative for help. But it’s also because transparency opens new opportunities for customers to take charge: changing an order before it’s shipped, rerouting a package that’s on its way, updating account options, and so on. In a world where security and control are lacking on so many levels, gaining even a small measure of power gives customers great psychological comfort and tightens their bond to any organization that is kind enough to do so.

Managers gain from transparency because it lets them understand what’s happening in their organizations, and thereby improves their own ability to make changes. This ties directly to process simulation, another BPM capability highlighted in the article. Building an accurate simulation model is one way to know you truly understand a process, and of course it then lets you estimate the impact of proposed changes without the disruption of actually testing them.

Simulating something as complicated as an entire customer life cycle is incredibly challenging and well beyond the capabilities of most BPM systems. But simulating even discrete portions of the customer experience can be helpful. This does run the danger of optimizing local results in a way that actually harms the greater whole (that is, customer lifetime value). But that’s a risk worth taking in return for greater understanding and control of the customer experience itself.

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