My colleague, Principal Analyst Derek Miers, wrote something so significant in an email today that it gave me pause:

“It’s all about helping the executive understand the causal relationship between customer (success), process (how it gets done), and business results (revenue growth, profit, and sustainability of the business model). They are all tied up together.”

I could even see the picture in my mind:


Yet all too often CIOs and other business process leaders focus on getting the business process right and explaining business process methodologies to others. They use many comfortable and familiar terms, like:

  • Process improvement
  • Process excellence
  • Process quality
  • Business process management
  • BPM suites
  • Business process transformation
  • Lean
  • Six Sigma/Lean Six Sigma
  • Or even: swim lanes, BPMN, process models, roundtripping, and so forth.

But what they often forget is that process is a means to an end. To put it bluntly, improving or transforming a business process is not the end goal; delighting customers to affect business outcomes that drive corporate performance is really the end goal.
To be perfectly honest, the C suite, corporate directors, and senior business executives don’t really care that much about process per se unless they have truly bought into business transformation and have dug into the details.  If they haven’t been bitten by the process bug — and most of them haven’t — it’s easy to make their eyes glaze over quickly by talking too deeply and too much about business process and the methodologies you use.

If that’s the case, then what do C-suite executives truly care about?

  1. Business outcomes. Senior leaders care about the stuff that matters to shareholders and Wall Street, like revenues, profits, market share, growth, and new business models that change their competitive landscape.
  2. Customers. After business outcomes, executives next care about delighting the customer and providing a great customer experience. Or at least they should care — although not all companies have gotten the customer empowerment message and internalized it yet. But the ones that do care usually care deeply; they even obsess about customers. These execs focus on metrics like the percentage of sales from new customers, average deal size, and customer penetration, to name a few. Plus, they look for feedback through voice of the customer programs (like customer satisfaction level, customer experience index (CxPi), and Net Promoter Score).
  3. Process. Lastly, senior executives care about process. Business process is the way work gets done to move from delighting the customer to experiencing extraordinary business results.  Whether the process is tackled with packaged software — like ERP, SCM, and CRM — or custom apps or BPM suites, most senior executives do not really care that deeply about  the details of how the process works, even if it is a brilliant “to-be” process and you have the process maps to prove it. That is, unless they have already made a strategic commitment to Big Process (a sustainable program of business transformation through BPM) and want to dive into the details.

So here’s the lesson learned: CIOs, business technology leaders, and business process champions, don’t expect great results if you go into the C suite with process maps, process architectures, or “as-is” and “to-be” diagrams. Remember to keep it simple: 1) business outcomes, 2) customers, and 3) improved processes — in that order.
This blog originally appeared at Forrester Research.