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If youíre going to spend money for something, doesnít it make sense to try to get the most value you can? Of course it does. But when it comes to buying a solution for business process management, the value youíre getting may come more from the problem youíre trying to solve than from the solution itself.

While that may sound strange, itís fairly logical. For example, automating a business process that uses an EDI feed to enter data into an SAP system may help an organization save money, reduce the time required to enter data, and perhaps even streamline exception handling (if the process kicks transactions out to an order-entry clerk or manager when there are abnormal inputs). But if the automation of the EDI to SAP feed (along with the exception handling) is all there is to it, the ROI and potential payback of the business process automation is probably limitedóeven though it still may be worthwhile and a net benefit to an organization.

Now, contrast that type of BPM implementation with one in which a telecom company (or for that matter, any company that bills its customers and has customer service representatives) uses a BPM solution to automate its billing disputes process. Say a customer calls in to dispute $15 worth of calls (or merchandise, credit card charges, etc.) on his or her account. If the customer service representative canít persuade the customer that the charges are valid, or is unable to adjust the bill or waive the charges, the matter will typically be raised to a supervisor (who, by the way, is more highly-paid than the customer service representative). At this point, the supervisor may waive the charges and make the account adjustments, or refer the matter to a different internal group that can investigate further and make recommendations.

In most cases, organizations will have pre-determined metrics for how much (and when) both the initial customer service representative and the supervisor can waive charges. For example, it might decide that any dispute under $10 can be adjusted by the customer service representative or any dispute under $50 can be adjusted by the supervisor. In almost all organizations, the more time, steps, and people that get involved increase the cost of handling the specific call (or incident). Supervisors cost more money than customer service representatives and research departments and lengthy dispute processes cost even more then supervisors. The quicker the problem can be resolved, the less money it will cost the organization.


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