The reality is that CRM and BPM are complementary--they just represent successive steps in customer-facing technology's evolution.
Posted Jun 21, 2004
Explorers who land on uncharted shores or Marines who hit the beach first are heroes. However, in the customer service realm the technology that established the first beachhead between customer and IT systems is treated like a goat. Since adoption of CRM began in earnest about five years ago, many CRM applications have been widely, and unfairly, derided as failures. Business process management (BPM) technology is often posited as the savior that's going to supplant CRM and deliver on its broken promises.
Besides being untrue the perception sets BPM up for the same fall that CRM took. The reality is that the two technologies are complementary--they just represent successive steps in customer-facing technology's evolution.
CRM established the missing and vital link between frontline customer service and IT systems. When CRM emerged, customer service representatives no longer had to navigate separate customer, financial, shipping systems, etc., to complete a customer transaction. CRM unified relevant systems under a single, easy-to-use interface. The Achilles heel, however, was that these systems lacked sufficient access to corporate data sources, which were themselves poorly integrated and unable to provide a coherent, unified customer view. That's where BPM cames in.
BPM encompasses and extends CRM, providing a link to enterprise data sources, processes, and practices. BPM applications unify corporate data sources and give managers control over customer service-related practices and procedures, usually through their CRM application interface. Automating the core practices and process of the business--the touchstone of true BPM technology--enables business analysts to quickly change procedures to respond to shifting customer demand and market conditions, often without adding any workload to the IT department. This powerful combination of workflow and rules engine technologies will realize CRM's promise, and solidify its position as a vital step in the evolution of customer service technology.
Taking care of business, front and back
Process is how people and systems interact to do work. Practice is the corporate policies and guidelines that define and drive decisions. True BPM systems offer practice and process control in a single, integrated package. BPM's role is to provide a flexible data integration framework that supports all enterprise applications and is the primary vehicle for controlling customer-related practices and processes.
BPM extends CRM by picking up where CRM has traditionally left off, which is usually at the entrance to the back room. Until now CRM had little if any "pre-call" research capability based on real-time data retrieval--that is, CSRs would take incoming calls with little or no advance information on the customer. CSRs have to ask the customer repetitive questions and populate on-screen forms manually, often when the company has the data in other systems. A BPM system can support an existing CRM system as, for example, a button on the interface that CSRs use to populate a new screen.
For example, if a customer calls an insurance company and wants a rate for a new car, the company needs to know the customer's address, age, driving record, etc. An insurance company has business rules for quoting a rate, so the BPM system should support the process by automatically collecting the data a CSR needs to complete the transaction. That way the CSR doesn't have to ask the customer for information the company already knows, or keep them holding while they leave their CRM application to search other systems.
Marriage of equals
CRM is a pioneering technology, not a failure. BPM, with its ability to automate practice and process rules and report activity with graphical monitoring, is the next generation of customer-centric technology. There is no subordinate role in this relationship: The technologies need each other to succeed in the customer service arena.
BPM is built to take advantage of the investment companies have already made in CRM. Rules-based BPM solutions that manage practice and process surround and extend CRM, preserving its value and expanding its functionality. BPM gives business analysts the ability to change customer-facing rules and processes immediately, to avoid problems and risks, at the enterprise and department levels without going through IT. Together, BPM and CRM will help forward-looking companies increase profitability through greater customer loyalty.
About the Author
Robert Thaler is director of product marketing, PegaRULES, for Pegasystems. Contact him at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org
Appian, a provider of business process management software, partners with enterprise architecture specialist Mega automates and streamlines business processes.
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