Opinion Business Process - What v. How v. Why

Published
  • May 04 2010, 3:16am EDT

At the upcoming IT Forum in Las Vegas (May 26-28), I will be collaborating with Bill Band on a piece around using the customer experience to drive breakthrough process improvement, and with it, business performance. When you think about it, satisfying the needs of customers is what all business is about (OK you could argue that governmental organizations don’t have customers, they deal with the needs of citizens, but you get my drift).  

In the first part of our presentation, we will present research to support the view that improving the outcomes delivered to customers adds dollars to the bottom line of the business. Then, I will switch to a theme dear to my heart -- that business process is at the heart of all significant customer experience efforts. And that comes down to:

  • How We Do What We Do -- Of course, the relationship between the customer experience, and how you do things, is pretty clear. I put this in the category of “Doing Things Right” -- i.e., the way in which the processes of the firm work and the employee behaviors.
  • What We Do -- But in order to deliver compelling customer outcomes, it’s also a question of “Doing The Right Things.” Which is about the business offering -- the services of the organization and the components that make it up. The business capabilities are, of course, a better way of thinking about this rather than the org chart (which is what so many folks seem to do ... decomposition of the org chart as a way of understanding processes).
  • Why We Do It -- And then it comes back to why we do this, and how it implements organizational strategy and the impact/benefit to the overall brand.

As an aside, in last Tuesday’s Financial Times, there was an interesting article, “Big names prove worth in crisis.” The piece explored the impact of the recession major brands. In the words of Joanna Seddon, chief executive of MBO (who performed the research): “Brands outperform in good times and when there is a recession they do go down, but they come out the other side with a sustainable advantage.” Indeed, the top 100 brands (the BrandZ Brand Portfolio) outperformed the S&P 500 average by just under 30 percent; now they are +18.5 percent in total returns compared with the S&P 500 who are still at -11.5 percent (where Jan 2006 was taken as the zero start point). To me, this spoke loudly of the care and attention given by major brands to what they do, how they do it and why that happens.

I suppose the questions we will pose to the business process professionals at the event (and especially the change agents) revolve around, given a customer experience oriented goal, do they feel confident:

Delivering against that evolving customer-led agenda? What really are the challenges, how will you deal with them?

Their organization has the skills and capabilities in process architecture (in order to avoid having to change systems and processes every 5 minutes)? There are, but I would love to hear about any that you know of.

Could they hold a conversation with their business peers on the methods, approaches and technologies? This is about giving the change agent a set of methods, techniques and talking points to explore with their colleagues.

How about building an organizational engagement program targeting employee behaviors? Now the hard one ...

In the end, these are the sorts of things that the Forrester BP Council will be discussing and exploring in detail - the Discipline of BPM.  I am deep in the process of developing a series of research pieces that focus on these areas. Expect more in the future. But in the meantime, I would dearly love to hear of methods and techniques - especially around Process Architecture.

Derek also blogs at http://blogs.forrester.com/derek_miers/.

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