July 10th 2008 was a watershed date in personal computing. On this date Apple launched the App Store marking the first time that software applications could be purchased and installed onto a mobile device without having to sync with a PC or laptop. The App Store, launched with 552 applications, has now over 1 million apps. The launch of the App store wasn’t just a key moment for personal computing; this event also triggered fundamental changes in enterprise computing as well.
Our personal technology experience has changed our business IT expectations. The ability to download a game or a lifestyle software application in seconds and use it intuitively without recourse to a user guide is now taken for granted in our personal lives. When it comes to how we use software in our professional lives things have moved much slower. In the enterprise long software purchase lifecycles with large up front license and professional services costs still dominate. However this model is now under pressure from post pc employees frustrated with delays in software selection, approval, implementation and change timescales as well as business leaders determined to drive down upfront cost and total cost of ownership.
The consumerization of IT is the manifestation of employee desire to bring their personal IT experience into their working lives. Employees are increasingly creating their own technology solutions to address business problems. Bring your own technology (BYOT) has been most aggressively adopted by senior executives with Forrester reporting that 77% of executives buy their own hardware and 45% self-provision software. With this senior level endorsement BYOT is an issue that’s not going away for IT departments.
Into this brave new world steps the Business Process Management (BPM) suite. Established BPM practices are an anachronism in the post pc, consumerized business environment of today. Creation of BPM centers of excellence, the complexity of many BPM suites, heavy implementation, integration and professional services costs contrast greatly with the demands of the consumerized employee. Employees and executives are looking for a short term tactical play where previously BPM only offered a strategic one.
This too is now changing. Newly cloud and mobile enabled, today BPM suites now have the tools to respond to consumerization. Business Process as a Service (BPaaS) and Smart Process Applications (SPAs) are emergent BPM trends that represent the evolution of the BPM market to address the requirements of the post pc generation.
Rather than product or price, in the new millennium business agility and customer experience are the key competitive differentiators. Whether it’s a pop-up store or Instagram, where a $1Bn business was built on 13 people and scaled to over 14M users in little over a year using a variety of cloud technologies, the ability to rapidly deliver processes gives an organization the edge. Step forward consumerized BPM.
Like a solar eclipse it’s not often one of my hobbies and work align but a terrific blog post recently on the coaching methods of Jose Mourinho did just that.
For readers outside Europe or unfamiliar with football/soccer Jose Mourinho is pretty much the most successful club manager working in Europe today having won league titles with teams in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain and the European Champions League 2 times. Witty, charismatic, controversial, Mourinho is equally at home on the front or back pages of newspapers and is pretty much a publicity generating machine.
The Special One
From a football point of view he’s also quite strange in that he never had a top flight playing career. Mourinho instead arrived in professional football management, at a young age, via a career path that included spells as an internal assistant and coach and not via the old boy’s ex-professional footballer network. As a result it’s not a surprise Mourinho’s coaching methods are slightly different from his peers who entered management through the more traditional route.
Mourinho’s coaching focuses on replicating specific situations within training so that when they occur within a match situation the players instinctively know how to respond. Nothing new here you may think. The key point however is the objective of these exercises is not to produce a robotic, inflexible playing style but instead to improve player decision making. By locking routine game situations into procedural memory or the subconscious the mind of the player is clearer when unexpected situations occur within the game.
Mourinho’s method, as defined by Corriere della Sera columnist Sandro Modeo, is instead structured but open, robust but plastic.
Sound familiar? Well it should if you are familiar with BPM and Case Management.
In the same way that Mourinho locks specific game situations into a player’s procedural memory BPM and Case Management applications automate routine or predictable processes. By automating routine processes BPM and Case Management applications not only reduce execution costs but free knowledge workers to focus on where they can add most value. Like Mourinho the objective of Case Management is not to deliver robotic inflexible business processes and employees but to deliver processes and employees that have the flexibility to adapt in response to a unique or unplanned situation.
Whether we are talking about nature, business or football the ability to adapt is what separates the best from the rest. It’s much easier to adapt when we are not distracted by other tasks. So while he may not be familiar with BPM or Case Management Jose Mourinho is certainly using the same principles.
Showrooming is a relatively new phenomenon where a customer uses a bricks and mortar store to test and evaluate a product before buying it cheaper online. You’ve probably done it yourself. It can’t be long before, like a shoplifter, we see people thrown out of a store for using their smartphone to compare prices. It may already have happened.
The high street is suffering the double whammy of both the recession and the rise of ecommerce. While ultimately I think legislation will be necessary to protect bricks and mortar stores from their web based competitors the high street can begin the fight back by improving its business processes.
Retailers worried about showrooming can fight back but to do this they need to be clear on how they differentiate themselves from their online competitors. Many people for example will pay a small premium to get a product immediately rather than having to wait a few days for delivery. What this means is bricks and mortar stores must focus on their supply chain business processes. In addition the high street stores can offer customer post sale support, product training and immediate warranty replacement or returns that are more difficult do online. Again this requires a focus on post-sale business process.
It would be naïve however to ignore pricing. The recession has raised the importance of price to high levels and most people showroom to do a rapid price comparison between the price in store and the price they can get the same product online. Again this is an opportunity for business process improvement. Bricks and mortar stores can do price comparison as well.
Many high street stores are wedded to out of date, expensive to produce, catalogues of products whose prices are probably uncompetitive as soon as they are printed. There is no reason why bricks and mortar stores cannot automatically monitor competitor pricing and update point of sale prices in real time or produce a mobile app, with pricing that changes in real time, instead of a product catalogue.
Retailers are correctly looking to customer experience as a life raft for the high street yet incorrectly see customer experience in terms of gimmicks such as offering customers free wifi or a coffee shop without addressing their core business processes and the reasons why customers shop online.
When a customer enters a store the business has already done the hard part by getting the customer interested enough to get off the sofa and to visit their store. Improved business processes give them a better chance of converting that visitor into a customer and getting them to put away their smartphones.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.