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Is the Customer the Boss With Social BPM?

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As Doug Mow writes in, Is the Customer the Boss in the Age of Social BPM? "As consumer facing BPM applications define how customers interact with organizations they will increasingly use social media to tell the world about it." So does Social BPM put the customer in charge, and how does this change BPM?

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  • This is an interesting question for two reasons; First of all the Customer is always the boss – and is always right – should be what the customer wants to customer gets. So IMHO Social BPM or whatever shouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference.

    The second point may be a little controversial – I’ve been hearing and reading quite a lot about social BPM. It’s hard to get a feel for what it is supposed to be – some say it’s to do with the interaction between customers and the process, others that it’s to do with holistic modeling capabilities etc. I’m not so sure about any of this – all these are important aspects but I don’t think any of it is new – certainly not a new category of BPM – at least not from a technical perspective – so in answer to the question – it’s not the BPM that determines if the customer is boss – it’s pure economic and commercial imperatives that decide that.

  • From personal experience, I can tell you that would really prefer to be more of a boss in situations where I have called in for customer support. Like most people I have been through a few nightmares where the company with lousy service lost records, gave me different and inconsistent information, and required me to spit out endless details about the problem time and time again.

    What I would like is a "personal support process" that works like a normal support process in reverse. I would start it when I first call their support line. It would track all the details: where I called, who I talked to. I would note down the obnoxious phone menu so I don't have to listen through every time. It would automatically send regular timed reminders to those support people when they forget what they promised. And ultimately, when the problem is solved, send an automatic thank you to the people who helped.

    Imagine a world where the customer had such processes which drove companies according to the customer desires, and not according to the company's desires? Wouldn't that be interesting?

    Is Social BPM going to provide this? Not yet. But it is a step in the right direction. And it is a potential in the long term.


  • The customer is almost always the boss, and there's no doubt that any product or service organizations will ultimately be held accountable for success and failure by its customers - saying that "the customer is the boss with social BPM" is a little misguided. BPM is designed to make companies and departments improve their internal operations and collaboration; whether these processes are ultimately designed to impact the customer is tangential. It's up to businesses to determine how best they can streamline daily tasks and workflows. The "social" modifier may in some cases invite external feedback or opinion from a variety of sources, including customers, but when all is said and done, your
    customers do not understand your business as well as you do.

  • I think that provisioning excellent services to each customer is the boss. A technique which I use to achieve this with BPM is to define the customer as an _explicit_ participant in business process diagrams. So the power of BPM is used to give to the service provider the “view? of a particular customer on this service.

    An example from e-gov processes - http://www.slideshare.net/samarin/process-practical-patterns-si (PPT to be downloaded to see the animation).


  • The customer does not become the boss and that should not be the objective - at the end of the day no matter what any new technology or technology paradigm brings to this area, its impact will only be on some or all of three aspects of customer interaction - ease with which customers can reach the organization, the actual nature and experience of customer-organization touchpoints, and the approach adopted towards actual fulfilment of customer need. Behind each of these is a machinery whose basics remain more or less the same - regardless of how you leverage technology. In the end though how effectively the actual fulfilment is done will be most critical - and to do that you need to be the boss and in total control of what goes on there and how effectively.

    Though he is not becoming the boss, the customer certainly becomes more powerful. Doug used the right word - Influence. Customer Influence and the resulting pressure on your machinery is really what will grow significantly.

  • The tech savvy customers who are familiar with BPM in some size and shape are demanding greater collaboration and inclusion across all phases of the process lifecycle. As rightly said by Jaisundar, they influence the process evolution.

    Thanks Sunil

  • Um, call me old fashioned but THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS IN CHARGE!

    What is different with social BPM/CRM/PDQ is that we now have the tools to let the customer take on the vendor. Why write a letter that might not ever get read when you can blog/tweet about a positive or negative experience in real-time. Good news for the consumer with increased visibility to their situation. Good news for the vendor because even a bad situation can be turned into a good one if played right (Dell).

    I'm not sure what makes "Social BPM" a term, anyway. Are we just tacking "social" in front of everything because of the hype behind Facebook/Twitter?

  • Doug’s post is spot on. Social BPM is defined as “leveraging social techniques and tools to expand the types of roles and interactions that participate in process improvement activities.? This means extending BPM to include front-line workers, external partners – and most importantly - customers as key players in defining and improving business processes. Whether you have someone “role play? the customer as Doug describes, or you actually bring in real customers as part of the process, it’s critical that process professionals begin to cast a wider net to truly implement process improvements that drive value and have profound impact on the enterprise. Social BPM – or BPM using social tools, as some like to call it – is one approach to casting the wider net and getting greater front-line worker and external customer involvement.

    In September, Forrester will release “Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business?, which highlights research and best practice for tapping social and tech populism to better engage customers and improve customer experiences. Most importantly it provides strategies and stories for bringing customers into process improvement efforts.

  • user-pic

    I agree with Clay's definition of how the concept of 'collaboration' is entering the practice of Business Process Management. Though a lot of emphasis is being placed on 'Collaborative Process Modeling' and other aspects of the overall BPM Solution Implementation Methodology lacks alignment, acceptance and understanding of a wider user base within an organization.

    For example, the User Interface & Forms also need to be designed and developed in collaboration with a wider group (not just a few SMEs). The requirements around business rules, visual representation of the Key Performance Indicators (Process Analytic, Business & Velocity Matrix) also needs to be defined and recorded collaboratively.

    The conventional idea of 'freezing the scope & design' is being challenged with 'Social BPM" tools and techniques. Therefore, we have realized that there needs to be a comprehensive BPMS implementation methodology (requirements artifacts, iterative approach, budgeting approach, delivery and continuous process improvement approach). The customer has to be onboard with the methodology and needs to be aware of the value, the method, the need for an innovative acceptance approach and in realizing that the Customer, the Consulting Partner and the Product Vendor are all in this together and hold an equal share of responsibility in ensuring collaborative success.

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