Connectivity, Efficiency, Experiences

23 11 2011

When looking at BPM (Business Process Management) solutions, or talking about BPM the concept, many of us think of how it relates to actual business processes or business goals, cases, targets etc. This is the main aim of BPM, to address how a business achieves a goal or carries out “work”, agreed? Ok, but my observation is, Is this right? Does the term BPM limit our thinking in real sense?

 

Outside of the business

If we take everything that we do towards a desired goal or outcome as a process, then BPM applies to everything we do in life, it’s not just limited to Businesses! For example, our own bodies go through processes every second of every day to achieve a goal. Think how we breathe, there is a distinct process, think how we turn food into energy, a distinct process, think how we run, a distinct mechanical process.

Now these examples are to simply prove a point that processes are around us and a part of our daily lives massively, which means any one process is made up of many others. Me running is a process, but in order for me to run, my body goes through a number of other processes, breathing and turning food into energy. This means businesses should not see their process as “the process”, rather as simply a smaller part of an overall and far bigger customer experience.

 

Real world example needed

To get my point across I want to use a real world example. Ok, I purchase a printer from a store. On checkout I provide that store with some basic information about myself. I then get home, install the printer and start using it. I fill in the warranty card, post that off, and then forget about it. A few days later the product breaks down, and I need to get it replaced. From the point of view of the manufacturer they don’t need to take into account any of the process I have just gone through, in order to kick off the process of dealing with the fault, but should they?

I believe yes.

 

Connectivity

Connectivity of devices and processes can have massive implications on process efficiencies, and the ability for external processes (that may not be directly related) to have a positive effect on our business processes.

First off, connecting and sharing data between different processes obviously provides added efficiencies and data accuracy. If we take our printer example, the process of checking out and paying for my printer should be integrated with the process of me completing a warranty card and informing the manufacturer.  That’s a process I shouldn’t need to be doing, and with improved connectivity of processes and data, I don’t have to. Now relate that back to the process of me returning the faulty printer, you see that process will be improved because of this connectivity in a different process. Both the store, and the manufacturer now know me, the product and the warranty, I don’t need to go through a number of steps at the start of the manufacturer’s faulty product process.

Secondly, device connectivity can have a massive impact on process efficiency, especially when connecting multiple and sometimes very different processes together. In the typical BPM world, do we take this into consideration?

Since the rise of the Smartphone, we have started to take into consideration connectivity to processes from different devices; we now see not just eMail being accessed on our mobile devices, but also ECM concepts along with the ability to actually work. However, when we flit between devices, such as our laptop, tablet, PC and mobile, often we have to do things again. Think deleting emails from your mobile device you have already deleted, think re-downloading a document we were working on etc. These are small things, but they can rack up a lot of time, and frustration amongst your work force. Now think of this from the point of view of a customer? You can see how better connected devices mean we can deliver better connected experiences to our customers, which have an impact on process efficiency.

Connectivity is a big thing, and one of the problems with multiple platforms and operating systems is the lack of connectivity. As a consumer, we like single user experiences, and we now want and like flexibility to do things whenever we want and on whatever device we want. Unfortunately having a different OS on my phone to the OS on my tablet, to the OS on my laptop and PC is not great for connectivity or user experiences. I’m not sure big players such as Google and Apple get this. Apple do it better than Google, and currently Microsoft, they learnt from the disjointed approach of Microsoft in the 90s. However, Microsoft seems to understand this connectivity and single user experience far more now, and they are moving ahead of the others. With Windows 8 and Windows Azure, one connected OS across all devices is only a few months away. That potentially provides massive connectivity bonuses to business and consumers.

 

Efficiency

BPM, APG (Adaptive Process Guidance), ACM (Adaptive Case Management) all aim to help businesses in a number of ways, raising efficiency, increasing standards, increasing accountability, ensuring compliance and improving customer experiences. These are just a few arguments for BPM thinking.

Efficiency is often looked at in terms of processes businesses own. Let’s look at our example process again. The manufacturer can improve the actual faulty printer process internally; it monitors what goes on, tweaks it here and there and improves it. However, external processes and greater connectivity should be leveraged to drastically improve this process further. Make sense?

In order to get a working printer, I the consumer, will follow through a process, which is a bigger process to that which the printer manufacturer has for handling this issue. If we step back, we can see that this process of getting a working printer spans over the store and the manufacturer, but if we step back further it also incorporates the process of me purchasing the printer in the first place. Do you see how a bigger picture of a process now surrounds my manufacturer’s simple process of dealing with my broken printer? If you do, then you can start to see areas in which we can make the manufacturers process of dealing with the broken printer far easier and more efficient than what is currently in place.

Essentially, if along the entire process of me purchasing the printer the manufacturer was thinking about the returns / repairs process, then they would want to get the warranty and customer information at the point of sale. This drastically improves the process efficiency for returns, in terms of internal efficiencies but also from the point of view of the customer, improving their relationship with that store and the brand of printer they have bought. I’m not going to break down the process further, rather I believe I have made my point, that business can improve process by taking into account external processes, especially those of their customers…

 

Experience

This post is about delivering a better customer experience. Leveraging the connectivity potential of devices and the connectivity potential of processes, business is able to improve its own processes. Taking our faulty printer example we can see how improved connectivity leads to external processes improving the manufacturer’s returns / repair process, in terms of efficiency internally and for the customer. We also see how connectivity of devices makes the customer experience far easier, simpler and more efficient, including for the manufacturer.

So with efficiency in mind, we look to greater connectivity, put the two together and you get drastically improved experiences…

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8 responses

24 11 2011
Max J. Pucher

Andrew, in nature there are no processes. There are just conditions and resonances. If several conditions and resonances happen to cause each other in sequence it can be viewed as a process, but it really is not.

Therefore the complete basis of your reasoning is off. The only way to improve such processes is to make the individual agents aware of process goals and handoffs and let them use their skills but interact freely.

Device connectivity can be seen as opportunities for resonances, but it simply means that there are no longer processes, but just interactions and each one has a particular precondition and postcondition. They might turn into a process, but they can neither be designed this way nor will it happen this way.

I posted on this in terms of vertical and horizontal integration:

http://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/from-vertical-to-horizontal-integration/

26 11 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree

Max, there are processes in nature, speak to any biologist and they will agree. The process of Evolution is an obvious one…

i also disagree that we cannot predict certain processes nor integrate processes that arent whole owned by one party. As much as i agree with many of your points re fixed processes you seem to go to far the other way. Processes are not bad, and we can do many good things with fixed rigid processes.

The point of this post is to point out that processes, fixed or not, when looked at in context of larger processes always illustrate areas of improvement. Designers and BAs nees to keep this in mind. Greater connectivity of devices makes opens up the doors to even greater efficiency gains in terms of how we work, communicate and complete processes

26 11 2011
Max J. Pucher

I am sorry that I totally disagree … Please name one biologist! They know there are no processes, just potentials that unfold. Evollution is not a process as it is driven by emergence and totally unpredictable.

Greater connectivity only provides more opprtunity for emergence of social interaction but not processes.

You need to really look at the science of it before you say such things!

28 11 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree

Hi Max,

Charles Darwin! Just have a look at Evolution on Wikipedia and you will find Evolutionary processes mentioned everywhere, by a number of scientists. I find it quite shocking that you claim there are no processes, without the term “process” how do we, or science attempt to explain so many things…

Just because something may be complex, and appear chaotic, so we cannot (as humans, or analysts etc) determine its outcome in advance, doesn’t mean it is not a process. A process is something that is simply a series of actions, changes, functions that bring about a result. It can even be the “process of time”. I fear your definition of a process is very narrow as in “put through the steps of a prescribed procedure”, which is the definition often used when we think about BPM. THIS IS NOT THE definition I have of a process.

I also disagree that greater connectivity can only provide the emergence of social interaction, again I think you are thinking to narrow. In my post I mention connectivity between devices, and processes, and if we have both, then we can make processes more efficient. I can have multiple devices being connected to each other, and multiple processes potentially spanning organisations and being connected. In such examples we may not be able to predict the outcome of the bigger process, but greater connectivity of processes mean we can deliver results of a particular process far quicker.

I MUST make it clear, when I speak of a process, I don’t speak of a process defined in some flowchart, rather as an abstract series of actions and events that at some point, may bring about a result or results…This is why I like terms such as Adaptive Process Guidance (APG), as these better fit my beliefs regarding processes within the narrow constraints of business processes and IT within business processes.

28 11 2011
Max J. Pucher

Andrew, no idea why you find this shocking. All I am looking for is plausibility. You simply chose to use the word process in two very different contexts and make a connection that is not there. There is no plausibility between observed natural processes and connecting multiple business processes and consumers through multiple devices.

For business I am ok with a goal-oriented process definition. If you use process as a sequence of actions that leads to a goal without defining how in detail then I simply object to a comparison with biological processes that have neither a goal nor an external control mechanism. Only a minor fraction of natural processes can we repeat and control in very complex lab setups. Most biological processes we can not even properly observe in the true sense. For example, you can kill an AIDS virus in a petri dish with soap, but in a human you can’t. We have learned to interrupt its replication mechanism by inhibiting a chemical potential. The replication ‘process’ is a sequence of chemical interactions that require a certain chemical context. We can not change the process (definition) but we can change the context and thus the next ‘step’ does not happen. There is no goal or process definition in biology.

In terms of connectivity the devices linked to the process enable a broader social interaction that can improve process adaptation. If I can interact with the process on multiple devices does not make it implicitly more efficient.
More device connectivity does further not implicitly make the process span across businesses and to the customer. Social interaction might improve quality and innovation but not reduce cost.

29 11 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree

Hi Max,

I think we will have to agree to disagree. There are goals within biological processes, in many ways you can argue that goals are what drive processes within nature. As I said, I think we will have to agree to disagree….

I am not sure though if you have understood what I am driving at in this post. Using biological processes is an example of processes that happen external to business and outside of the scope of a business. By making us aware that processes surround us in every which way, I am attempting to widen the scope of how businesses see their own business processes within other, broader and wider processes. My example with purchasing a printer illustrates, how a returns process can be improved by remembering it is part of a bigger process (from the perspective of the customer), and as such, that process can be improved by embracing this fact. With greater connectivity between processes, then the process that the business does own, and control, can be improved. All this leads to a better consumer experience. These aren’t pie in the sky statements, these kinds of connected processes across organisations are examples of processes I have helped to deliver…

Regarding connectivity, I think you make a good point. However, you miss the fact that multiple devices and their connectivity, means I can now interact with a process that potentially I could not have done before. An example is that my mobile is now connected to a process, but if it wasn’t then I would have to find some other way to interact with that process, which may mean (as a customer) waiting until I get home to use my PC, or as a process worker, having to wait until I get back to my desk…By supporting multiple device connectivity, I can drastically improve the process efficiency and experience.

29 11 2011
Max J. Pucher

Andrew, I like your post and perspective in principle, just not the reasoning.

If you believe there are goals in natural processes then you must also believe in Intelligent Design – God’s grand plan for this world or universe? Then we truly must end this discourse because one can’t discuss faith.

Anyway, keep up the writing … it is better to have a discussion than let things just go their way. Thanks, Max

26 11 2011
BPM Quotes of the week « Adam Deane

[...] BPM Connectivity – Andrew Smith When looking at BPM (Business Process Management) solutions, or talking about [...]

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