2012: the Year of Doing More with Less! (Part 2 of 2)

This is the second part of a two-part blog on “Doing More with Less.” Part 1 focused on the cost cutting aspects of doing more with less, especially through modernization and automation. While critical, cutting cost alone will not help organization recover and more importantly achieve steady growth rates. Organizations also need robust solutions to sustain revenue generation. This blog expands on two essential and complementary dimensions for “doing more” – innovation and customer centricity. For these two areas, BPM can become the catalyst, platform, accelerator, and facilitator for revenue generation

1.      Innovate More:  Innovation is the cornerstone of economic growth and perhaps the only way we will be able to completely recover from the current economic malaise, as indicated, for instance, in the “Strategy for American Innovation.” But innovation by its very nature carries with it challenges and risks. It often takes bold visionaries within an organization to introduce a culture of change for innovation. Sometimes, this pays off in what Professor Clayton Christensen calls “disruptive” technologies (in contrast to “sustaining” technologies).  Elucidating on how organizations can achieve innovation, in his book The Innovator’s Solution Christensen notes: “Organizations create value as employees transform inputs of resources … into products and services of greater worth. The patterns of interaction, coordination, communication, and decision making through which they accomplish these transformations are processes.” Thus transformational BPM can become the cornerstone for innovation:

a.      Innovative Workers: Dynamic case management involves all types of processes and all categories of workers including knowledge assisted workers and cognitive knowledge workers. Through collaborative processes in dynamic cases, knowledge workers can easily be involved in automated solutions for innovative products and services. Feedback and social networking within dynamic cases fosters collaboration, communication, and potential innovations. This empowers various stakeholders through involvement in fresh interactions within various categories of operations. The stakeholders are immediately listened to. In some cases (pun intended!), they are able to even contribute to innovation by authoring content or building solutions collaboratively.

b.      Situational and Contextual Innovations: With situational execution, innovative versions of BPM solutions can be turned on dynamically and execute based on contexts or situations. A situational dynamic multi-dimensional organization of BPM solution assets can achieve often-conflicting requirements for innovation: re-use as much as possible while at the same time customize, specialize, and extend with innovative versions. Because of the re-use and the flexibility in specializations, organizing BPM assets dynamically along multiple dimensions such as customer category, type of product or service, geographical location etc. enables organizations innovate rapidly with new solutions.

c.      Insight from Data - Learn, innovate, and execute: the enterprise can learn from a plethora of data or information sources analyze the data, and innovate based on the discovered insights. With predictive BPM various analytics techniques are used to discover patterns or business decisions rules from existing historic data. The discovered rules are then deployed and invoked in automated dynamic cases. The predictions could be improved in real-time through adaptive techniques that continuously detect changes and adapt the decisioning models. Here the innovation is through discovering insights from data and adapting these discoveries as needed, for better business decisions.

With Less: Typically organizations have a tight window to quickly introduce their new and innovative services or products. Automating end-to-end dynamic cases through involving all types of workers greatly reduces the effort in taking innovative ideas from the “lab” to the “field.”  Silos between different types of workers can be reduced or obliterated. The robust BPM enterprise repository can be leveraged to optimize along two dimensions: reuse of existing innovative solutions; and customization or specialization for specific types of new innovative products, solutions, or services. Finally, more innovative decisions could be discovered and deployed through analyzing and gaining insight from data. The ease of discovery by non-experts as well as automatic adaptation means much less effort is involved in operationalizing innovative decisioning models.

 2.      Be More Customer Centric:  Most businesses will tell you they are “customer centric.” The reality is that few actually align their customer-facing, internal, and B2B processes to be truly driven by customer centric performance indicators or measures. Customers express their voices through a plethora of channels and most recently through social media channels. With a robust BPM platform as the foundation, enterprises have the opportunity to act even more proactively for greater customer centricity. So what is customer centricity? At its core, it allows organizations to focus on what the customer wants, when they want and how they want it.  Customer centricity has long been incorporated in process improvement methodologies such as Six Sigma. The Voice of the Customer is critical in Six Sigma and the entire improvement methodology hinges upon starting and ending with customer needs. BPM, and more specifically customer relationship management solutions that are built on top of a BPM platform, can become a powerful catalyst to foster customer centricity.

 a.      Guided Customer Interactions help the customer achieve their needs or objectives. There are a number of essential and complimentary capabilities that come together to achieve the aforementioned customer centricity. Each customer interaction has a context. A context-driven process takes into consideration the customer’s location, type of request, interaction history, etc. to guide the customer or the customer service representative towards a robust and successful resolution of the interaction. In addition, analytics is leveraged to recommend the next best action for the customer. Analytics can dynamically adapt the customer centric propositions and their priorities, as the customer behavior changes. Customer service provisioning can be radically improved through acting upon a complete contextual view of the customer.  Doing this in an end-to-end dynamic case solution radically improves the customer experience.

 b.      Real-Time Six Sigma: The objectives of improving quality and reducing variation could be achieved if the critical to quality (CTQ) measures are mapped onto properties, or status of the cases or processes that are automated in the BPM solution. This enables the BPM solution to watch and make sure the processes are under control. The BPM solution can potentially escalate or take proactive steps when process CTQs exceed or fall below the upper and lower limits. The BPMS keeps processes under control, in real-time. Contrast this to traditional Six Sigma, where data needs to be collected, analyzed, and then the processes need to be fixed after the fact.

 c.      Cross-Silo Dynamic Cases:  A case is umbrella where multiple tasks for a business objective. This objective could be the CTQ measure of a customer experience. As its name suggests, dynamic case management can handle dynamic tasks, dynamic discovery of processes, and dynamic changes to the case – to involve end-to-end information for handling the customer needs. These capabilities enable an organization bridge the gap from the world of the multi-channel customer interaction to the various back-office “silos” whose aggregate involvement is often needed to meet the customer’s needs.  The result is much better, more agile, and on-target customer experiences.

With Less: BPM can help organizations acheive real-time Six Sigma. BPM is also the foundation for a complementary process improvement technology, namely Lean. Lean focuses on getting rid of waste and increasing processing speeds. Without a complete BPM solution automating policies and procedures, a majority of the work is waste. Therefore, in Lean, the objective is to increase the percentage of “value work” in the end-to-end dynamic cases within the organization. The “less” stems from the core capabilities of the BPM platform that unifies decisioning, situational business rules with dynamic case management. Interestingly, it has been demonstrated both theoretically and through experimentation, that six sigma objectives (reflecting the voice of the customer) could be achieved much faster when we get rid of waste and focus on value work. In other words, with BPM what you get is Real-Time Lean Six Sigma.

As I write this, the Dow Jones Industrial Average again hit the 13,000 mark. This is of course good news. However, even though we have increased consumer confidence, there are still formidable challenges ahead. Economic forecasting is as reliable is weather forecasting!  One thing is for sure: organizations cannot expect to meet the economic challenges of 2012 and beyond without having the capabilities to change and become more agile.  BPM offers them the opportunity to operationalize “doing more with less.”