Most of us understand the criticality of creating and maintaining a single version of the truth for business data. We “get” the problem instinctively because so often, as individual consumers, we are the victims of disjointed, inaccurate, siloed information.

To operate effectively, businesses must have trusted data that provides a 360 degree view of the customer and a comprehensive, accurate view of product information. This need has driven many companies to invest in master data management (MDM) and has even fueled the acquisition of MDM software by BPMS vendors who have a vision for how process and data technologies can work together.

As my colleagues have noted in other research reports, a single version of the truth for data helps companies:

  • deliver a consistent and reliable experience across multiple communication channels — such as voice, email, chat, and social channels
  • optimize customer-facing processes such as contact management, customer segmentation, and campaign management using trusted customer, transaction, and third-party data
  • deliver product information management for merchandising
  • maintain an official system of record for employees. 

But here’s an interesting question – does a single version of the business process truth exist in most enterprises? And if found lacking, is it an important, unaddressed need?  What does it mean if an enterprise ignores the lack of a single version of the truth for a business process?
The answer is unequivocal – far too many companies have multiple versions of the same process and no single version of the truth for the ideal process. Sometimes it’s the by-product of many acquisitions that catapult the company into new global markets or new lines of business; sometimes it’s the predictable end-result from years of siloed thinking created by a highly decentralized organizational structure. Insurance companies often tell us they have 15 to 20+ different ways to process an insurance claim or underwrite a policy. 

Yet in reality, there are very few unique ways to process an insurance claim efficiently and effectively while providing a good customer experience.  Increasingly, these companies and those in other industry sectors now realize they pay a very high cost for duplicated processes that are expensive and hard to scale across a global operation. It’s hard to cash-in on being global if you can’t move work from one location to another in a 24X7 operation – because the processes clash.

Standardizing a core process across a global operation, yet localizing it for national regulations and customs is a tough challenge. But business process transformation teams increasingly zero in on duplicated processes. BPM suites can help by providing the ability to configure a standardized process for local needs and regulations while creating a consistent process that can be delivered as a shared service.  What do you get from doing this?:  1) a more globally leveraged workforce; 2) lower cost of operations and maintenance; 3) more consistent support for regulatory compliance; 4) a more consistent customer experience; and 5) a more focused way to deliver consistent business outcomes.

So, whenever you hear someone talk about the need for a single version of the truth, ask this question too:  “Do you have a single version of the process?” 

This blog originally appeared at Forrester Research.