October 28, 2013

Free Whitepaper: Process Documentation: Practical Tips to Get it Right

image from www.orbussoftware.com

My latest whitepaper "Process Documentation: Practical Tips to Get it Right" is now available for download from the Orbus website:

Documentation is part and parcel in the way we do business. From operations manuals, to procedures, to process maps and models, organizations are resplendent with a smorgasbord of pieces of paper and information systems. But, in today’s age of fast moving technology, is process documentation redundant or does it still remain “a necessary evil”?

In this paper, I attempt to identify whether process documentation still has any relevance and if so, how to get the best out of it. In particular, Business Process and Procedural Analysts, Business Analysts and Technical Writers can use this white paper to identify what is necessary to document and how to do so effectively.



August 27, 2013

Free Whitepaper: Big Data and Process

Big Data has become one of the most talked about trends in technology today. It has been pinpointed as a marketer’s dream – a way of targeting customers like never before – but there is little understanding about how Big Data could or should interact with Business Processes.

In this whitepaper paper, I attempt to identify how we can use Big Data and Business Process together to improve our organizations. In particular CIO's, Data Architects and Business Process Analysts can use this white paper to identify how to use the two together to provide benefits to the organization and to customers.

In summary, this white paper explains:

What Big Data is

Why organizations need to examine the impact of Big Data on Business Process

• The benefits of using Big Data and Business Process together

Examples of how organizations are using Big Data and Business Process to add value.

The whitepaper can be downloaded from the Orbus website by clicking here (registration required).



July 17, 2013

Free Whitepaper: How To Build a Compelling Case for Business Process Improvement

Often, the hardest part of bringing business process improvement (BPI) to life in an organization is in building a compelling case to get the initiative up and running.

In this paper I provide a structured approach to building a compelling case for business process improvement (BPI) that will get staff at all levels of the organization involved and motivated to make the change a success.

It is intended to be used as a practical guide for Process Analysts, Change Managers and Business Architects to get buy-in to a programme of organizational change.

In summary the whitepaper details:

  • Why you need a compelling case
  • A nine step pathway to ensuring business process improvement initiatives obtain the necessary commitment to ensure success.

Please click here to download.



July 01, 2013

Free Whitepaper: Business Process & The Customer Experience - A Quick Start Guide


My latest whitepaper is available for download from the Orbus website.

In this white paper, I introduce the fundamentals of how business process and the customer experience work together. It is intended as a practical guide for Business Analysts or managers to quickly understand the concepts of customer experience management, and how to improve business processes using ‘outside-in’ thinking.

The paper considers the difference between the customer experience and the process, why a customer experience approach is critical and how to improve the Customer Experience Management using the Customer Experience Management (CEM) Method.

Click here to download (registration required).



May 30, 2013

Improving The Customer Experience - A Chat With Gartner's Ed Thompson

Ed Thompson

I had the luck of getting a 1 hour one on one with Ed Thompson  at the Gartner BPM Summit in Sydney. Ed works for Gartner and is a world expert in Customer Experience.

I spoke to him about what I do, my passion for customer experience and what I try to do for my clients. In return I received some great tips on improving the customer experience.

Here are my notes from the session:

Customer Satisfaction Measurement

Most companies are moving away from long CSAT surveys and are typically using NPS (Net Promoter score) - . However the latest trend is to use Customer Effort Score (CES) – which measures the amount of effort a customer has to put into a particular interaction with the company (customers don’t like effort!)

Process Improvement Implementation

He recommended process improvement efforts are undertaken in 6 month sprints – if it takes longer than that you’ve lost momentum and you’ll lose the enthusiasm of the business

We should describe our processes the way a customer would – for example a customer would never call a process “provisioning”, to them it’s “getting the service”.

Getting high level engagement

To maintain an ongoing focus on the customer experience he recommended getting 20 minutes at least once a quarter to talk to the senior managers / exec of the organisation. These sessions would not be focussed on stats (everyone gets bored of stats) but focussed on real life examples of where companies the had particularly bad customer experiences and what they are doing to fix them. This is a bit of a shock and awe tactic but it really helps to bring things to life for those that are disconnected from the front line. He suggested using call recordings, mystery shop videos or even bringing in customers to talk about their experiences.

Ed also suggested getting everyone at the senior level from the CEO down to do a “back to the frontline” day – a bit like undercover boss except, err, not undercover so that they can really reconnect with what the frontline troops have to deal with.

Customer Experience Days

He also suggested that companies have a “customer experience day” where anyone from the company who is involved with customer experience should get together to discuss how they can help each other and co-ordinate ideas.

Customer Complaints and Compliments

It’s important to really take control of the feedback process – the ability for customers to provide feedback should be there as quickly as possible after the interaction. This is particularly the case with compliments. People fester on complaints and will tend to lodge a complaint up to twice as long on average compared to a customer leaving a compliment. So the lesson is – you snooze, you miss out on compliments.

He also recommended having an option to ask permission to use the customer’s compliments so that these can be used e.g. in a twitter feed, facebook wall or any other marketing.

He also mentioned that the top 5% of organisations with the highest customer engagement were those that gave feedback to customers on the customer’s feedback. 35% don’t give feedback to
the customer but will use the feedback to improve the organisation. 60% of companies will ignore the customer feedback and do nothing with it.

Building a Customer Community

One of the key things he recommended is to build an online community. i.e. forums that customers can join and discuss the companies products and services, etc. This provides an extra channel of contact. It helps to deflect some of the contact via other channels and doesn’t require a huge amount of staff involvement once enthusiastic members get on board (generally the 1% contribute 90% of content).

Staff would act as moderators and step in if a question remains unanswered after a few hours. It’s success is dependent upon a recognition scheme of some sort where they would be rewarded with points / stars / guru status, etc for contributing. e.g. companies could invite the top 10 contributors to a dinner or awards day on behalf of the company.

Ed recommended checking out Lithium which is the software that many organisations use for social customer experience.

Those organisations that do adopt a multichannel approach have increased levels of loyalty and profitability.

Social Media

Obviously Ed recommended companies getting on facebook and twitter ASAP if they aren’t there already and he mentioned that it’s a good way to engage facebook followers with quirky / weird / interesting novelty topics. One example that he has seen being popular is showcasing people with collections of old bank piggybanks. This apparently appeals to older customers!

Facebook is also an excellent place to showcase charity / socially responsible activities.

Ed also stressed the importance of undertaking continual social media monitoring using software such as Radian6 so that companies can be aware of what everyone is saying about them on whatever social media they are using. He even mentioned that some companies publish live feeds from Radian 6 to show what people are talking about at that instant.


Ed mentioned that apps are critical and can greatly boost an organisation if done correctly.

He also said it’s essential to  have separate apps for separate products / services as this way you can track number of downloads (usefulness) and feedback (useability) – otherwise you get a mish mash of feedback and no indication of why they downloaded the app.

A shining example

Ed mentioned USAA as a good example of a company that has engaged customers (I should say members because it is a membership based organisation) and has paid great attention to the customer experience. They have an astonishing average of 6.5 products per member - have a look at their community focus and you'll understand why they've been so successful.



May 24, 2013

Social BPM: The Watercooler Just Got Cooler

I never quite got social BPM. "It's like facebook but for corporations" the BPMS marketing departments screamed! "It will change the way we do business" they cried!

The success of social media is primarily that it's fun and easy. We get a laugh out of sharing our catbearding photos (well I do...) and having innane conversations with people on the other side of the world that we haven't seen for years. It's an escape from the day-to-day humrum. So what is social BPM given that it's focus IS the day-to-day humrum?

At the Gartner BPM summit last week I met Edward Hughes from Appian. Edward was kind enough to take the time to show me the Appian app on his iPhone and explain social BPM to me. Then it struck me: social BPM is the new watercooler. All those little conversations we have in passing, all those chats in the corridor or at drinks after work - they give us those snippets of information about "what people are up to". The same is the case with social BPM. "I'm working on project X" someone might say "Oh I didn't know you were working on project X!" someone else might say - "maybe we can collaborate?"

So the social BPM interface is like all those little watercooler conversations, except it's much, much cooler and the exposure is far greater. There are plusses and minus to that, but if the social BPM conversations can be encouraged and made a habit by employees the ability to communicate and collaborate will be worth it's weight in gold...or at least water...



May 16, 2013

The Straw Point: How Process Can Win or Lose Customers

In every process we have customer interaction points - how well we manage these "moments of truth" with our customers influences their levels of loyalty towards the firm. Loyal customers spend more and are more likely to recommend the firm to friends or collegues so making customers more loyal should be a major focus - and to do this we need to look at process from a customer experience perspective. How should we do this?

When we look at processes we must take an outside-in view. The process does not start and end at the front door of the organisation. Take, for example, my recent experience with travelling with virgin on holiday. The flight is a small part of the customer experience - it's up to organisations to influence and manage as much of the process as they can outside of their traditional view of the process.

Managing moments of truth is critical. Each interaction with a customer has a different level of impact on customer dissatisfaction and consequently loyalty. Example: for the last couple of years I have been ordering my groceries through Woolworths online and in the last couple of years woolworths online have made a mistake with every single order I have received. Usually it's only a couple of items which is a minor dissatisfaction and not enough to make me either switch to a competitor or to trudge to the supermarket myself. However, minor dissatisfactions have a cumulative effect which can break a relationship with the firm.

Conversely, positive moments of truth can help to reduce the dissatisfaction that builds up. After I complained and said I was going to stop ordering with them Woolworths gave me a credit and refunded my delivery fee - which like pouring water on a fire, died it down for some time until the next event to trigger dissatisfaction...which wasn't far off...

I then received a delivery where all of the frozen foods were missing. I contacted Woolworths and received a cut and paste email saying that they'd refund the missing items - this only inflamed my dissatisfaction before a couple of weeks later I received none of my fruit and veg (half of the order). Cue the straw point.

The straw point is the final incident of dissatisfaction that leads to the termination of the relationship with the company - it is "the straw that breaks the camels back". All loyalty is broken. For me the straw point was when I called the Woolworths call centre 10 minutes after receiving my delivery to see if my fruit and veg was in the truck and I received a message saying that "due to unforseen circumstances the call centre is now closed". After which I sent the following terse email:

"Hi - please refund the items marked with a cross which we did not receive. You will note this includes all of the fruit and veg. I called your call centre but you are strangely closed.

We will be shopping with Coles online from this point forward (if only you cared about losing a customer!)"

I did receive a response the next day - yet another cut and paste saying that the missing items would be refunded. And I was right, they didn't care to lose me as a customer - a family of 6 who spend in the region of $20k a year in their supermarket.

So what lessons can organisations learn to avoid the straw point?

  1. Look at the process from the outside-in - look at the customer experience
  2. Identify all of your customer interaction points in the process
  3. Identify the dissatisfaction impact level in the event that the interaction goes wrong
  4. Reduce the number of customer interaction points to reduce the probability of things going wrong
  5. Optimise the customer interaction points that are left - focus on reducing the customer's level of effort.

We are all customers, so do unto them as you would expect yourself.



P.S. My first shop with Coles online was last week - and I am pleased to advise that not a single item was missing.

May 09, 2013

If a Process Isn't Documented - Does it Exist?

At one of my clients we have two deliveries of fruit a week. When I started working with them I was told to "help myself to one piece of fruit a day". However, when chatting about my love of the daily dose of fruit one of the staff members exclaimed "you're only supposed to take one piece of fruit per delivery!" - to which another staff member popped up and said "No, I was told one piece of fruit per day!". My response was pretty typical of a process consultant: "Show me the process or it doesn't exist!"

This may sound like a trivial discussion, but there's an important point to be made: if it isn't documented in some manner there is no official record of the process. There are no rules and no-one can be held accountable. Who is to say what the process is? Who is to say what is right or wrong?

When we have gaps in documentation (and by that I mean many ways of having the process documented - either in softcopy, in a content management system or in a BPMS for example) we create grey areas and we create inconsistency. Grey areas aren't always bad - after all employees do some of their best work when they are given freedom within boundaries, but inconsistency of process can lead to chaos and a highly negative customer experience. 

We also allow incorrect behaviour to continue...whether it's the skinny girl who only eats two apples a week or the fat Scottish guy in the corner that eats 5 fruits a week - there's no saying who's right or wrong unless it's there in black and white.



April 29, 2013

Free Whitepaper: A Practical Guide to Planning & Running Process Improvement Workshops

My latest whitepaper is available for download from the Orbus website.

In this guide I detail a step-by-step approach to planning and running effective process improvement workshops. It is intended as a guide for Business/Process Analysts to ensure workshops are run in a practical manner which will rapidly take the organization to an improved future state.

The guide includes:

  • Why organizations should utilize process improvement workshops
  • Common mistakes in planning and running workshops
  • Key activities required to plan effective workshops
  • A practical approach to facilitating effective workshops

Click here to download (registration required).



April 16, 2013

Process Glue - Explaining the Benefits of a BPMS

With so many different software products available today it's often a hard ask to fully explain the benefits of a particular piece of software. But this is where a BPMS (business process management system) is truely unique.

Whilst many pieces of software try to package themselves up to service a particular need - an ERP for example fitting the bill for many support processes - a BPMS succeeds because it doesn't wedge itself into a box. BPMS tools focus on having the fluidity to design processes the way the business needs them without compromise. But more than that they are built to expect that change will happen, and as a result are designed to have flexible and adaptive business rules that can be altered faster than regular "off the shelf" systems.

Another strenth of BPMS is their ability to interface and pass data to and from disparate systems. It's often hideously expensive to replace legacy systems - so why do so when you can wrap a BPMS around the system as an integration layer? It adds the functionality, without the pain.

I like to think of a BPMS as process glue. Organisations will always have manual processes and disparate systems. These are the areas where work slips through the cracks, where time is lost, where customers are forgotten. A BPMS helps glue the process together. It provides process visibility, it stops the errors, it speeds the process up, it kills manual work, it provides meaningful data, it gives the customers what they need...(if the process is optimised first!)

In my experience the best approach is to optimise the process then implement a BPMS. Benefits can be staggering if you do it properly - not just in efficiency savings, but in aligning the process with the customer need...

Look forward to the vision you need to make real - find all the pieces, remove what you don't need, arrange them in order and glue the process together!



P.S. Please share your experiences of implementing a BPMS to improve your organisation's processes...