Increasing Business Value From Customer-Centric Business Processes with @AlexPForrester

The last session of the day at Forrester Business Process Forum (and the last for me, since I’m headed home tonight) is Alexander Peters on increasing business value from customer-centric business processes. Looking at a case study from the energy trading and retail sector, he described how the speed of change requires new ways of thinking, and how processes need to become more responsive and cross-functional.

He believes that process discipline – e.g., Lean, Six Sigma, change management and governance/COE – is the critical differentiator, combined with business knowledge and smart technology such as BPM. His focus is definitely on change management, and sees a change approach based on the level of process maturity, beginning with a maturity assessment. Being at a higher process maturity level means that an enterprise has moved from being fragmented, reactive and tech-driven to a more holistic, business-driven approach to BPM. There’s quite a bit of variability in process maturity levels within organizations, with business architecture receiving the lowest maturity score.

It was a bit late in the day (after a somewhat late night) to be using a lot of my brain on governance, but the basic idea is that governance establishes the roles, responsibilities and interactions of the process stakeholders, and the COE provides support to the business operations and projects. Also, apparently, Lean Six Sigma tools are critical to drive improvements at key points of the maturity curve. I’m not sure that there was anything strikingly new in this message; I also had the sense that the “customer-centric” message was overlaid on existing research and presentations that really didn’t have that orientation in the first place, making the titles a bit incongruous in some instances.

Empowering The Customer Through Process Improvement And BPM

Nick Deacon of Nokia Siemens Networks (they do the mobile networks for 65M users, not the phones) gave a presentation on empowering the customer through process improvement and BPM. With the recent acquisition of Motorola networks, they have almost 80,000 employees in 150 countries, with over half of their employees in service areas. Telecom is pretty volatile these days, with telecom, IT and media eco-systems mixing to create a data traffic explosion. This means that the networks needs to be both efficient and resilient while delivering the desired customer experience, so that we can all watch YouTube on our smartphones.

It used to be that you could just make your customer work the way that you needed them to work within your predefined efficient processes; now, however, the customers need more control over the services that they consume. NSN looks as their customer interaction points – much like what we heard from Bill Band this morning on analyzing the customer journey – and focus on improving those interaction points that are the most critical to improving the customer perception.

They are a big SAP customer, but find that they use Appian BPM to fill the gaps that SAP just doesn’t do without major customization, and to bridge between different systems. They’ve implemented BPM in five major business areas with more than 22,000 users. By reusing some components but adapting to each particular business area, they’re able to roll out new systems in a matter of months. They are pushing into social capabilities to facilitate faster decision-making, and mobile platforms to better support remote users.

As Deacon said in his summary, BPM enables them to react quickly to meet business needs and to respond effectively to better serve their customers.

Delivering Exceptional Customer Service at Citigroup

Hosted by Global 360 (now Open Text), Tim Burns of Citigroup Fund Services discussed their customer-centric dynamic case management. As the fund services end of the business, performing transfer agency, trust accounting and fund accounting services, their customers are not end-consumers, but rather fund companies for whom they provide those services. That means that the customer experience equation is a bit different from most of the case studies that we’ve been hearing about so far today, but even more critical since losing a single customer is a huge event for a fund services firm such as this.

Although he’s fairly new to Citi, he’s been working in BPM (from the technology side) in financial services for a number of years, and has seen movement from the old way of doing business – paper-based, manual processes with a lot of disconnects – to the new way, which is flexible and adaptable for each customer through integration, provide skills-based work routing regardless of geographic location, and include audit and compliance.

They’ve implemented Global 360’s dynamic case management as part of varied portfolio of other operations systems, providing visibility into client transactions and enabling collaboration for their knowledge workers. In spite of the focus of the presentation on customer experience, Burns discussed the benefits as mostly around FTE reduction, the ability to handle more work without adding staff, and reduced disaster recovery costs: none of which are related to customer experience. Interestingly, when I first implemented a system very much like this almost 20 years ago at CI Mutual Funds, the focus was on improving their DALBAR rating for customer service (which we did, from #9 to #2 in a year); I’m sure that someone in Citi is looking at numbers like this, although Burns is more focused on implementation efficiencies.

Customer Experience And Business Processes with @waband

I left Progress Revolution behind and headed across town to Forrester’s Business Process Forum for the day, where we’re seeing a strong focus on improving customer experience instead of just improving business processes. In line with that, Bill Band, who covers CRM for Forrester, presented on how business process professionals can help deliver breakthrough customer experiences. As we saw earlier in the keynotes, we’ve moved from the age of manufacturing of 1900-1960, through the age of distribution of 1960-1990, the age of information of 1990-2010, and have entered the age of the customer. Consumers now have too many choices for you to expect them to stay with you if you provide a bad customer experience.

Forrester’s research shows that only 7% of customer experiences are rated as excellent, and Band encouraged us to put customer experience at the heart of any process transformation efforts. He has a bit of a strange view on business process professionals: I have the sense that he thinks we’re all Lean Six Sigma black belts who like to enforce rigid, structured processes. There’s a huge variability between good and bad customer experience, and that difference can result in huge differences in revenue opportunities. He pointed out that customer experience is what the customer perceives, not what you design for them, as they move through stages of discovering, buying, getting support and other steps along the customer journey. Furthermore, that customer journey may happen across multiple channels, for example, as the customer moves from a web order to telephone customer support.

Looking at processes in customer experience, we need to use Lean principles to eliminate waste from the customer viewpoint, not just the company viewpoint. We need to understand the full customer journey and all of the touchpoints that need to be managed, and ensure that the end-to-end customer processes are properly defined and orchestrated. This can lead to businesses reorganizing to eliminate business functional silos in favor of process-focused organizational models. This process-centricity that is starting to emerge in organizations puts more pressure on business process professionals, since we’re expected to be the change agents for customer experience while continuing to improve efficiencies.

Some of the lessons learned for improving your customer experience (CX) IQ:

  • Centralize customer experience governance
  • Create or enhance voice-of-the-customer programs
  • Tap into the voice of the employee
  • Implement customer centric-design processes
  • Measure customer experience consistently across the enterprise
  • Reward customer-centric behavior

It’s important to find and communicate your business case for customer obsession, and understand the customer journey. As process professionals, we have a big role to play in this.

There was a great Q&A – Bill has a great manner of providing thoughtful and informative answers on the fly, obviously based on a lot of practical experience.

Also, be sure to track the conference hashtag, #BPF11, since there’s lots of great activity going on over there.

Thriving In A Process-Driven World

Clay Richardson and Dave West (definitely the two snappiest dressers at Forrester) opened the second day of the Forrester Business Process and Application Delivery Forum with a keynote on thriving in a process-driven world by shifting both your business and IT culture. These shifts are hard work and fraught with risk, but necessary in order to achieve transformation. It’s critical to lead change, not just manage it, by creating change agents inside your organization.

They discussed some tools for doing this: identifying value streams that can point everyone in the same direction; using process as a common language for transformation, although not necessarily a common process representation; extending agile thinking to the entire enterprise; and lean governance that starts at the top but pushes down responsibility to empower teams to make decisions.

To achieve agility, it’s necessary to align business and IT into integrated process teams and adopt agile processes for those integrated teams, as well as selecting tools and architectures that support change.

Good governance is less about telling people what to do (and what not to do), and more about educating people on why they need to do certain things and empowering them to make the right choices. Many successful organizations adopt not just centers of excellence, but build communities of practice around those CoEs.

Since Richardson focuses on business process and West on agile software development, this was an interesting hybrid of ideas that spanned both business and IT.

Dynamic Case Management In the Public Sector

There was nothing that could have entice me to attend the Lean Six Sigma presentation this late in the afternoon, so instead I opted for the public sector track (which is not really my area of interest) for a discussion on dynamic case management (which is my area of interest) by Craig LeClair.

Government workers have low levels of empowerment and resourcefulness, for both cultural reasons and lack of technology to support such activities. So why is dynamic case management important in the government? He lists several reasons, including the increased need to manage the costs and risks of servicing higher numbers of citizen requests, the less structured nature of government jobs, demographic trends that will see many experience government workers retiring soon, and new regulations that impact their work.

Forrester defines dynamic case management as “a semistructured but also collaborative, dynamic, human and information-intensive process that is driven by outside events and requires incremental and progressive responses from the business domain handling the case”. A case folder at the center of the case is surrounded by people, content, collaboration, reporting, events, policies, process and everything else that might impact that case or be consumed during the working of the case. It’s a combination of BPM, ECM and analytics, plus new collaborative user interface paradigms. Forrester is just wrapping up a wave report on dynamic case management (or adaptive case management, as it is also known), and we’re seeing a bit of the research that’s going into it.

Le Clair discussed the three case management categories – service requests, incident management and investigative – and showed several government process examples that fit into each type as well as some case studies. He moved on to more generic Forrester BPM advice that I heard earlier in sessions today, such as leveraging centers of excellence, but included some specific to case management such as using it as a Lean approach for automating processes.

39 minutes into a 45-minute presentation, he turned it over to his co-presenter, Christine Johnson from Iron Data, although he assured her that she still had 15-20 minutes. 🙂 She walked through a case lifecycle for a government agencies dealing with unemployment and disability claims through retraining and other activities: this includes processes for referral/intake, needs assessment and service plan, appeals, and so on. Some portions, such as intake, had more of a structured workflow, whereas others were less structured cases where the case worker determined the order and inclusion of activities. There were some shockingly detailed diagrams, not even considering the time of day, but she redeemed herself with a good list of best practices for case management implementations (including, ironically, “clutter-free screens”), covering technology, design and process improvement practices.

Interestingly, Johnson’s key case study on a federal agency handling disability claims started as an electronic case file project – how many of those have we all seen? – and grew into a case management project as the client figured out that it was possible to actually do stuff with that case file in addition to just pushing documents into it. The results: paperless cases, and reduced case processing times and backlogs.

Building Process Skills To Scale Transformation

Connie Moore (or “Reverend Connie” as we now think of her 😉 ) gave a session this afternoon on process skills at multiple levels within your organization, and how entire new process-centric career paths are emerging. Process expertise isn’t necessarily something that can be quickly learned and overlaid on existing knowledge; it requires a certain set of underlying skills, and a certain amount of practical experience. Furthermore, process skills are migrating out of IT into the business areas, such as process improvement specialists and business architects.

Forrester recently did a role deep dive to take a look at the process roles that exist within organizations, and found that different organizations have very different views of business process:

  • Immature, usually smaller organizations with a focus on automation, not the process; these follow a typical build cycle with business analysts as traditional requirements gatherers.
  • Aspiring organizations that understand the importance of process but don’t really know fully what to do with it: they’ve piloted BPM projects and may have started a center of excellence, but are still evolving the roles of business analysts and other participants, and searching for the right methodologies.
  • Mature organizations already have process methodologies, and the process groups sit directly in the business areas, with clear roles defined for all of the participants. They will have robust process centers of excellence with well-defined methodologies such as Lean, offering internal training on their process frameworks and methods.

She talked about the same five roles/actors that we saw in the Peters/Miers talk, and she talked about how different types of business process professionals learn and develop skills in different ways. She mentioned the importance of certification and training programs, citing ABPMP as the up-and-coming player here with about 200 people certified to date (I’m also involved in a new effort to build a more open process body of knowledge), and listed the specific needs of the five actors in terms of their skills, job titles and business networks using examples from some of the case studies that we’ve been hearing about such as Medco. The job titles, as simple as that seems, are pretty important: it’s part of the language that you create around process improvement within your organization.

Process roles are often concentrated in a process center of excellence, which can start small: Moore told the story of one organization that started with four developers, one business analysts and one enterprise architect. Audience members echoed that, with CoE’s usually in the under-10 size, and many without a CoE at all. You also need to have a mix of business and IT skills in a CoE: as one of her points stated, you can do this without coding, but that doesn’t mean that a business person can do it, which is especially true as you start using more complete versions of BPMN, for example. There’s definitely a correlation (although not necessarily causation) between CoE and BPM project success; I talked about this and some other factors in building a BPM CoE in a webinar and white paper that I did for Appian last year.

She had a lot of great quotes from companies that they interviewed in their process roles study:

“These suites still required you to have [a] software engineering skill set”

“The biggest challenge is how to develop really good process architects”

“They [process/business analysts] usually analyze one process and have limited ability to see beyond the efforts in front of them”

“Process experts are a rare type of talent”

“We thought the traditional business analyst would be the right source, but we were horribly disappointed”

A number of these comments are focused on the shortcomings of trying to retrain more traditionally-skilled people, such as business analysts, for process work: it’s not as easy as it sounds, and requires significantly better tooling that they are likely using now. You probably don’t need the 20+ years of experience that I have in process projects, but you’re not going to just be able to take one of your developers or business analysts, send them on a 3-day course, and have them instantly become a process professional. There are ways to jump-start this: for example, looking at cloud-based BPM so that you need less of the back-end technical skills to get things going, and consider alternatives for mentoring and pairing with existing process experts (either internal or external) to speed the process.

Phil Gilbert On The Next Decade Of BPM

I missed Phil’s keynote at BPM 2010 in Hoboken a few weeks ago (although Keith Swenson very capably blogged it), so I was glad to be able to catch it here at the Forrester BP&AD forum. His verdict: the next decade of BPM will be social, visible and turbulent.

Over the past 40-50 years, the hard-core developers have become highly leveraged such that one developer can support about five other IT types, which in turn support 240 business end users. Most of the tools to build business technology, however, are focused on those 6 people on the technical side rather than the 240 business people. One way to change this is to allow for self-selected collaboration and listening: allowing anyone to “follow” whoever or whatever that they’re interested in to create a stream of information that is customized to their needs and interests.

Earlier today, I received an email about IBM’s new announcement on IBM Blueworks Live, and Phil talked about how it incorporates this idea of stream communication to allow you to both post and follow information. It will include information from a variety of sources, such as BPM-related Twitter hashtags and links to information written by BPM thought leaders. Launching on November 20th, Blueworks Live will include both the current BPM BlueWorks site as well as the IBM BluePrint cloud-based process modeling capability. From their announcement email that went out to current Blueprint users:

The new version will be called IBM Blueworks Live and you’ll be automatically upgraded to it.  Just like in past releases, all your process data and account settings are preserved. All of the great Blueprint features you use today will be there, plus some new capabilities that I think you’ll be very excited to use.

Blueworks Live will allow your team to not only collaborate on daily tasks, but also gain visibility into the status of your work. You’ll be able to automate processes that you run over e-mail today using the new checklist and approval Process App templates. Plus, you’ll have real-time access to expert online business process communities right on your desktop, so you can participate in the conversation, share best practices, or ask questions.

It’s good to see IBM consolidating these social BPM efforts; the roadmap for doing this wasn’t really clear before this, but now we’re seeing the IBM Blueworks community coming together with the Lombardi Blueprint tools. I’m sure that there will still be some glitches in integration, but this is a good first step. Also, Phil told me in the hallway before the session that he’s been made VP of BPM at IBM, with both product management and development oversight, which is a good move in general and likely required to keep a high-powered individual like Phil engaged.

With the announcement out of the way, he moved on with some of the same material from his BPM 2010 talk: a specific large multi-national organization has highly repeatable processes representing about 2.5% of their work, somewhat repeatable processes are 22.5%, while barely repeatable processes form the remaining 75%, and are mostly implemented with tools like Excel over email. Getting back to the issue from the beginning of the presentation, we need to have more and better tooling for those 75% of the processes that impact many more people than the highly repeatable processes that we’re spending so much time and money implementing.

With Blueworks Live, of course, you can automate these long tail processes in a matter of seconds 😉 but I think that the big news here is the social stream generated by these processes rather than the ease of creating the processes, which mostly already existed in Blueprint. Instant visibility through activity streams.

BPM: The New Language Of IT To Business Technology

Alex Peters and Derek Miers presented in the business process track with a session on BPM as the new language of IT to business technology. Forrester has been pushing the phrase “business technology” instead of “information technology” for the past year or so, and it was funny this morning to hear John Rymer say that he didn’t like the term at first, but he’s really bought into it now, since it really describes the role of IT in supporting the business, rather than off in their own world.

Peters discussed three recent technologies that have become game changers: social computing to expand the customer interaction channels, dynamic business applications for cross-functional processes, and the cloud as a delivery platform. There are also new key actors in business process transformation initiatives, characterized as VP process improvement (“change agent”), business architect (“guru”), process architect (“prodigy”), business analyst (“wannabe”), and manager of IT business systems (“operator”). Business analyst = “wannabe? That’s gotta hurt, although it was Forrester that claimed that more than half of all business analysts couldn’t cut it as a process analyst.

In moving to this new world order, where technology is focused on business, it’s necessary to evaluate the maturity of the organization’s business process management, and start the journey by eliminating waste in processes. Suddenly, this is sounding a lot like Lean. He showed some examples of companies at various stages of the journey: an organization with immature processes, where IT uses a plan-build-run structure; an aspiring organization starting to move from reactive to proactive, with more of a demand-supply structure and the beginnings of centers of excellence; and an organization with mature process management, leveraging cross-business process centers of excellence and shared services.

Miers took over to explain how the language of BPM can be used along this journey to process maturity and a business technology focus. He’s not talking about a graphical notation for process models like BPMN; he’s talking about the natural language words that we use to describe processes and process improvements, and how we need to decide what they mean. In other words, what do you mean by process? Task? Process model? Object? Capability? And does everyone else in your organization use the same words to describe the same concepts? If not, you’re going to have some alignment problems, since language is key to building a common understanding between different roles.

He stepped through each of the five actors, the challenges that they encounter in doing their business transformation work, and the language that they need to use to describe their world. Although the call to action at the end was to do your process maturity assessment and portfolio analysis, there was little of that in the rest of the presentation.

A bit of a meta topic, and a bit unfocused due in part to logistical problems at the beginning of the session, but some interesting nuggets of information.

Fidelity Investments’ Evolution To Product-Focused Software Delivery

Darrell Fernandes, SVP of advisory solutions technology at Fidelity Investments, finished up the morning at Forrester’s BP&AD Forum with a discussion of their IT transformation: how they changed their software delivery process to become more like a software product company. They created “fences” around their projects in terms of centers of excellence and project management offices, with the idea that this would drive excellence on their projects; what they found is that the communication overhead started to bog them down, and that the silos of technology expertise became obsolete as technologies became more integrated. This is a really interesting counterpoint to Medco’s experience, where they leveraged the centers of excellence to create a more agile enterprise.

For Fidelity, the answer was to structure their software delivery to look more like that of a software product company, rather than focusing specifically on projects. They looked at and introduced best practices not just from other organizations like themselves, but also from software companies such as Microsoft. Taking a broader product portfolio view, they were able to look for synergies across projects and products, as well as take a longer-term, more disciplined view of the product portfolio development. A product vision maps to the product roadmap, then to the release plans, then ties into the project high-level plans. They’ve created an IT product maturity model, moving through initiation, emerging, defined, managed and optimizing; Fernandes admitted that they don’t have any in the optimizing category, but told about how they’ve moved up the maturity scale significantly in the past few years. They also started as an IT-led initiative before coming around to a business focus, and he recommends involving the business from the start, since their biggest challenges came when they started the business engagement so far along in their process.

They’ve had some cultural shifts in moving to the concept of IT products, rather than IT providing services via projects to the business, and disengaged the project/product cycle from annual IT budgets. Also, they drove the view of business capabilities that span multiple IT products, rather than a siloed view of applications that tended to happen with a project and application-oriented view. Next up for them is to align the process owners and product owners; he didn’t have any answers yet about how to do that, since they’re just starting on the initiative. They’re a long way from being done, but are starting to shift from the mode of IT process transformation to that of it just being business as usual.

Interesting view of how to shift the paradigm for software development and delivery within large organizations.