Amazon Dash – A Gimmick but an Important Step in the Evolution of the Internet of Things

To be perfectly honest when I saw the announcement I, like many others, thought it was an April fool. No one shops for groceries on an individual basis. The implications for the environment would be horrendous if we did. Most of us on a budget also like to know the price of things before we decide to buy. Then there’s the issue of Wi-Fi reliability and battery life.

Despite these drawbacks Amazon Dash however represents an important step in the evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT). Here we have a smart device linked to business processes. A push of a button triggers automatic payment and logistics processes that ultimately lead to the delivery of an item to your door.

At the moment, discussion of the commercial IoT has focused on the devices or things themselves rather than the services that can be triggered by connecting sensors and devices to the Internet. Many of the commercial and smart home technologies we see today are really just gimmicks as already available sensor and Wi-Fi technology wait on other essential components of the IoT ecosystem to catch up. When we start thinking of the commercial IoT not in terms of devices, but instead in terms of services that could be triggered through connection to the Internet, more compelling use cases start to emerge.
Amazon dash is different. It is focused on delivering an IoT service not an IoT device.

Press for Service

Press for Service

Forget B2B and B2C. What about B2D?

For a while we’ve gotten used to the B2B and B2C acronyms so today I’m going to suggest a new one, B2D or Business to Device.

It has been said elsewhere that the best customer service is one that doesn’t need to happen. As the Internet of Things (IoT) market begins to really heat up increasingly organizations will provide ambient customer service, directly to devices themselves without any human involvement. Over the past few years we have gotten used to this with new software releases and patches being delivered directly to our laptops, pcs, mobile devices and applications. Business relationships will increasingly be B2D or directly with their own products rather than with customers and other businesses.

Business to device is however subtlety different to IoT. IoT refers to ability of everyday objects to connect to the internet and their ability to store and process information. B2D takes IoT a step forward connecting the smart devices to business processes, for example triggering a support case when a product fault is detected.

In a previous post I stated that all of the data generated by OT devices is only of use if it is connected to business processes. There’s no point analyzing the data to predict a future product performance issue if a support process isn’t triggered or collecting customer usage data if the data doesn’t find its way into the hands of a sales person or the product development team.

IOT really has the potential to disrupt the supply chain, marketing and customer service processes of almost all industries. The potential efficiencies however will only be fully achieved when the smart devices are integrated with smart processes (or smart process applications). That’s what I’m calling B2D.

IoT + Process = B2D

IoT + Process = B2D

Are Bosch the First Mover in the BPM Internet of Things?

Earlier this year I posted an article on BPM and the internet of things. I suggested that it’s pretty pointless having smart devices unless they can trigger business processes and to do this smart devices will inevitably be linked to BPM applications.

Internet of Things Ecosystem

Internet of Things Ecosystem

A number of companies Philips, Rest Devices, and Bosch have now started combining process management with the IoT. Of the established BPM vendors Bosch seem to be making the first move with yesterday’s announcement of their integrated BPM, Rules and Device Management software suite.

While traditionally BPM has focused on the automation and optimization of human centric tasks integration with smart devices will see BPM increasingly used for the orchestration of machine to machine and human to machine based business processes.

Much of recent BPM vendor and analyst focus has been on the extension of process to mobile devices with BPM being used to bridge the gap between what has been termed Systems of Engagement (Mobile, Tablets, App Internet, Social Media etc.) and the organization’s Systems of Record (ERP, CRM, legacy databases etc.). The systems of engagement v systems of record debate however ignores the role of smart devices. Many, many more smart devices will be connected to the internet than smart phones. GSMA estimates 24 billion devices will be connected by 2020, while Cisco and Ericsson think we will hit 50 billion.

The internet of things isn’t just a major opportunity for BPM it’s an opportunity for business intelligence, analytics and automatic capture vendors as well. Increasingly we will connect processes to smart devices in the same way we connect processes to CRM, ERP and legacy databases today.

Customer Experience – Do we really need more Governance?

A recent Forrester post on customer experience grabbed my attention. Governance: The Key to Customer experience management.

Do we really need more governance within organizations? Will more governance really transform customer experience?

A few nights ago I was at a restaurant with some friends and the waiter spilled drinks over three of our party. On receipt of the bill, we (half) jokingly asked the waiter if we’d be getting compensation for his error. The waiter said that he was unable to give us a discount or a free round of drinks as the manager wasn’t working that evening.

Governance is key to many business critical business processes and especially business processes requiring compliance to specific industry standards or legislation. As we have seen in the example above governance however can have a detrimental impact on customer experience. Governance locks employees into fixed, inflexible business processes which from a customer point of view can deliver a terrible experience.

Governance may help deliver consistency of service but what if that service isn’t very good to start with? What happens if we quickly need to change the process? Governance then acts as a roadblock or at least delays the ability of the business to perform a rapid change to procedures. Customer experience governance simply adds another management layer for the customer service representative to navigate in search for an answer.

It may seem naïve but surely every customer facing employee should perform their own customer experience governance. We may not be able to define it but we all know what good customer experience is. After all we are all customers. As employees do we really need more layers of management within our organizations telling us what good customer experience is?

From a customer experience point of view the solution should not be more governance, instead the business objective should be to devolve as many decisions as possible to your customer facing employees. Let your employees do their own customer experience governance.

Do we now have a Legal Definition for Social Networking?

As I said in a previous post social networks are about enabling conversations. Social networks take conversations to a hyper level.

It seems that the law, at least in the UK agrees with me. Following the successful appeal by Paul Chambers in the Twitter Joke trial last week the judges provided this definition of twitter

 “‘Tweets’ include expressions of opinion, assertions of fact, gossip, jokes (bad ones as well as good ones), descriptions of what the user is or has been doing, or where he has been, or intends to go. Effectively it may communicate any information at all that the user wishes to send, and for some users, at any rate, it represents no more and no less than conversation without speech.”

Conversations involve both talking and listening, not broadcasting. Without understanding the conversational aspect of social media its use within the enterprise for marketing purposes or to improve business processes is doomed to fail.

The Cloud – Transforming the Business Case for BPM

Despite rumours of its demise, or at the very least it’s description as a doddery old man who’s gotten lost after accidentally wandering out of the old folks home, there might be life in the old BPM dog yet. Like the movie Cocoon where a bunch of old folks are rejuvenated by alien visitors, the cloud has the potential to regenerate BPM.

The cloud is an opportunity to transform the business case for BPM and process improvement. Today many BPM applications are largely the preserve of large and multinational enterprises. BPM SaaS/PaaS presents the opportunity to extend the market reach of BPM applications into the SME market. Low start off costs and the ability to only pay for what you need with the reassurance of elasticity and scalability on demand has the potential to transform the business case for BPM for many organizations. The availability of on demand, pre-built process solutions delivered via cloud based BPM platforms takes this a step further giving SMEs the opportunity access to process solutions and industry best practice that they would have been unable to develop in house.

BPM in the cloud creates a business process outsourcing (BPO) opportunity for organizations with a specific area of process expertise. Organisations with specific domain expertise in for example financial services, healthcare or legal services can now not only deploy cloud based process solutions within their own enterprises but rapidly enter the BPO market and resell their intellectual property (IP) through the development of BPaaS (Business Process as a Service) process applications.

Deployment of business process solutions is de-risked through the ability to carry out rapid prototyping and testing of BPM solutions in the cloud. For organizations still developing their cloud strategy business process solutions can be incubated in the cloud before bringing on premise.

Most BPM vendors offer applications across a variety of mobile devices and form factors. Cloud computing extends the mobile capabilities of BPM suites through access to cloud based storage and processing and delivers process access via web browsers on any device, anywhere.

While it’s been slow to develop the cloud is a major opportunity for BPM. BPM SaaS/PaaS is an opportunity to strip away, the sometimes self-inflicted, barriers to entry for process improvement, to stimulate much broader adoption of BPM technologies and to engage with a whole new audience.

CRM – Pimp My Ride

I’ve only watched the MTV program Pimp My Ride a couple of times, I actually prefer Trick My Truck for some good ole boy, big rig action. On Pimp My Ride car enthusiasts take an old banger and add a bit of bling to it. The end result usually confirms the age old saying that you can’t polish a turd.

I got round to thinking about Pimp My Ride this week while reading this article on the “5 trends that will change CRM”. In the responses to the “5 trends that will change CRM” the usual suspects appeared; mobility, social, data analytics as well as some new ones gamification, customer influencing factor. This is all fine and I expect that all of these will influence CRM in some way over the next five years. The problem is though that at the moment CRM is still a bit of an old banger. Adding social and gamification to a CRM suite is the IT equivalent of pimping your ride.

My call centre colleagues are going to be jealous as hell when they see this.

Despite spending huge sums on CRM suites many organizations still struggle to deliver competent customer service. Within the CRM suites themselves the horizontal integration between the Sales, Marketing and Support functions of the CRM suites remain poor let alone CRM integration with other business applications.

Call centres remain the modern equivalent of the workhouse. A production line where employees work to a script or fixed workflow and have no opportunity to use their own discretion or to suggest alternative paths for their customers. All of this leads to high employee turnover, demotivation and poor customer service.

If there’s one trend that will change CRM my vote goes for, focus on your employees. It may not be sexy, it may not have chrome bumpers or jewel encrusted cup holders, but it’s likely to be more effective than pimping out your CRM application with social, data analytics and gamification features.

BPM and CRM – Inside the Social Train or Outside?

There’s a little known business proverb, actually it’s little known because I’ve just made it up. It says that in business it’s easier to urinate out of the window of a moving train than it is to urinate in. This is why businesses acquire or partner with other businesses rather than start up new lines of business or try and catch up themselves.

Social networks are throwing the rule book, of how businesses engage with customers and with themselves, out the window. BPM and CRM applications are right in the middle of this change with their responsibility for both customer and business processes. As a result many BPM and CRM applications are starting to add social capabilities, rebranding themselves as social BPM or social CRM platforms. But is adding social capabilities to CRM and BPM applications a sensible approach? Is this approach the business equivalent of trying to urinate into a speeding train?

In a previous post I suggested that successful enterprise social solutions will require a cultural change within an organisation. Successful social adoption must be enterprise led rather than by individual departments. Businesses must have a strategy for social adoption rather than acquire social capabilities via the back door through their BPM and CRM suites.

Not all employees will have access to the BPM or CRM application. Where is the value in a social BPM or social CRM application only accessible by a fraction of the organisation? If an enterprise social network is to be successful it needs to have enterprise wide reach, it must reach everyone the process can reach.

BPM and CRM applications should integrate with social applications rather than embed or mimic or social capabilities within their suites. BPM applications already orchestrate ECM, CRM and legacy applications so why would social applications be treated differently?  Why not integrate with the best of breed enterprise and public social networks instead of developing in house?

The social train has left the station, the best BPM and CRM applications can do is try and get on at the next station. Choo! Choo!

If You Build It They Won’t Come – Enterprise Social Networking

Following my earlier post “Broken Social Scene – Social BPM and Social CRM” two bits of “social” news caught my eye this week. First of all this post by Tammy Erikson in the Harvard Business Review discusses the difficulties business leaders are having realizing the benefits of adopting social technologies within their organizations.

The second is the news that a number of retailers are shutting their storefronts on Facebook due to a lack of interest.

The social media stampede is on but it appears many organisations are getting trampled because of a failure to understand what social really is. So what is social?

  1. Social is about conversations, taken to a hyper level. The vast majority of social conversations are public and on a one to many level. Most organizations don’t have the critical mass to support a vibrant internal social network.
  2. Social isn’t about the applications. Social is a human trait. It’s the human need to converse and engage with one another on topics of common interest. Social Media applications merely amplify or extend the reach of these conversations. No matter how many social applications you deploy within the organization they’ll wither unless there is something of common interest to discuss.
  3. Social networks grow organically. You aren’t mandated to join Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. As an individual you make the personal decision to engage with others. This presents a problem for organisations deploying enterprise social applications or adding social to CRM or BPM suites. You can’t tell your employees to “become social”.
  4. Social engagement is peer to peer. This contrasts with the hierarchical structure within organisations which again presents problems for enterprise social or CRM and BPM applications.  How social can you become if you know your boss is monitoring you?

In common with process improvement activities successful enterprise social solutions will require cultural change and a willingness at the organization level to do things differently. Without cultural change if you build it they won’t come.

3 Reasons Why CRM Needs Case Management

1. CRM is Business Focused

The customer relationship has three stakeholders, the Customer,  the Organization  and the Employee.  CRM however has an business centric view of the customer relationship delivering tactical benefits to the organization in the form of better management of sales processes and customer information. CRM views customers in an abstract way identifying customers as a lead, a deal or an incident (link) but not as an individual.   When combined with CRM, Case Management applications allow organisations to meet the needs of all three stakeholders; the employee through increased empowerment, the business through reduced costs in handling both predictable and unpredictable processes and the customer through and improved case handling by service representatives and better personal data integration.

2. Customers Are Unpredictable

CRM applications assume that customers are predictable and that customer centric business processes are linear and can be delivered using straight through processing (STP). Customers are unpredictable (thankfully). When it comes to customer processes CRM attempts to shoehorn customers into a fixed script driven processes that are inadequate when an unpredictable customer request is received.  Customer processes must be able to handle exceptions and unpredictable requests. CRM is fine for handling low to medium volume, predictable customer requests but unlike Case Management CRM doesn’t handle the unpredictable.

3. Employees Must Be Empowered

Successful customer service organizations empower their employees. Customer service organisations can empower representatives by providing them with a 360 view of their customer e.g. purchase history, account/issue status, preferences, lifetime value, upsell opportunities etc. in order to make the right decision on behalf of the customer and the organization. Empowerment also means allowing employees to choose alternative paths towards handling customer issues maximizing the opportunity for resolving customer enquiries at the first point of contact. Case Management empowers employees, allowing them to choose alternate process steps for resolving customer issues and supports their decision making by integrating multiple data sources (CRM, ECM, ERP etc.) and presenting data context at the right place and at the right time in the process.

BPM and Case Management Cloud Integration

As well as introducing (to me anyway) yet another Gartner addition to the cloud taxonomy in the form of “integration platform as a service (iPaaS)” this article by Ross Mason “Will loud hit the wall without good integration?” poses some interesting questions for BPM and Case Management.

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Gaming or Shaming? Questioning the benefit of Gamification in Business

First of all I’m in agreement with many in the gaming community with my dislike of the term “Gamification”. Gamers have criticised the term gamification because in many cases business only adopt the incidental features of games e.g.  Leader boards, points, badges and levels ignore the real reasons people are passionate about gaming e.g.  scenarios, role play, collaboration, strategy etc.

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Customer Service – The Rise of the Machines

What links a celebrity shoplifting incident, the UK’s biggest retailer Tesco and a Channel 4 program called “On Hold”? The answer is automatic customer service (hopefully you weren’t thinking this was a review of the latest Michael Bay movie). In the UK this week customer service and customer experience has just become a hot topic.

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Not Again! Why do Customer Complaints Continue to Rise?

Customer Complaints continue to rise in the UK energy sector, British Gas alone saw a 30% rise in 2011. Common themes include incorrect billing, poor call center response and poor treatment by staff. Fundamentally mistakes in bills and meter reading are a failure a failure of business processes. On many occasions what is perceived as poor treatment by staff is in reality a staff member tied to an inflexible business process and poorly integrated business applications.

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Mobile BPM Apps and Agile Businesses

Most of the leading BPM and Case Management vendors emphasise the business  agility benefits delivered by their solutions. Whether it’s Dynamic BPM or Adaptive Case Management the vendor focus is on enabling businesses to be responsive to change, delivering business fluidity and managing the unpredictable. The mobile ecosystem with its multitude of device types, form factors, operating systems and speed of evolution epitomises this dynamic, unpredictable environment across which today agile business processes must now be able to operate.

Currently mobile app developers have three choices; Native, Web or Hybrid. All three can be used to extend BPM or Case Management solutions to mobile employees or customers however as I’ll discuss below, at present, only the Web apps can deliver business agility.

Native mobile apps have a number of difficulties when it comes to delivering business agility, specifically approval time, extensibility and cost.

Approval Time

At the moment it can take two weeks or more to get a native app approved on the Apple app store, post-Christmas this could be even longer. This fact does not sit well with the requirement for BPM applications to deliver real time process change. Leading BPM vendors are selling solutions today that allow business processes to be modified in real time in response to changes in their business environment. Waiting two weeks to deliver a change to a CEO’s mobile dashboard or to change the process steps required to execute a sale in the field just won’t cut it.

Extensibility

BPM mobile applications are unlike applications traditionally found on mobile devices such as games, social media or retail apps where the app is identical for all clients. No two BPM customers will have identical business processes and back end integration requirements. Business process improvement is a continuous process and customer requirements will evolve over time. Mobile BPM applications must therefore be easily extensible and allow organisations to react quickly to change which today is difficult to achieve via the native app route.

Cost

Business Process Management solutions are now increasingly to be found at the edge of the organisation through integration with for example with CRM systems. Mobile will take this a step further delivering BPM solutions not only to your mobile employees but directly to customers, all of whom will be using a variety of mobile devices. Within the organisation operating system fragmentation will continue to grow as organisations increasingly allow employees to bring their own devices to work. The onus will be on BPM vendors to deliver mobile apps across a multi-device, multi-operating system infrastructure. Developing and supporting Native Apps for this multi device landscape is prohibitive and as a result will constrain business agility.

While Native apps have definite advantages for specific market segments and business models e.g. gaming and retail where user experience and route to market are key factors for BPM customers these advantages are less strong and are outweighed by the business agility benefits of Web Apps that bypass the approval time, extensibility and cost difficulties of native apps.