• October 1, 2015
  • By Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal, Beagle Research Group

Today's Business Is All About the Process

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One of the most interesting parts of our industry right now is CRM's often-unheralded transition from supporting transactions to supporting whole processes. Part of the reason the transition is overlooked is that no movement is afoot to promote the advantages of a process approach. But that doesn’t stop vendors from churning out products that sometimes receive head-scratching acknowledgement from the market and little more until their use in support of one or more processes becomes obvious.

Journey mapping is a great example. In its modern construction, a journey map enables us to define the beginning, middle, and end of a customer interaction. Usually, the interaction is part of a larger effort that begins before making contact and lingers afterward. A journey map helps keep us from failing to plan for important parts pre- and post-interaction, as well as handoffs. There's nothing more frustrating for customers than to discover that they've gone down a path that wasn’t well thought out.

Two great examples of process orientation are CPQ, or configure, price, and quote, and compensation management. Each has been around for a while, and each has taken on new importance as technology has advanced. They've both been thoroughly redefined because of technology, too.

Until recently, CPQ was a completely manual process that sales reps engaged in without much oversight. Generating a quote was something they did frequently, as they iterated toward a solution with every sales call. Today we try to generate just one quote, and the available technology helps us avoid making what were once common mistakes. For instance, modern CPQ can help ensure that if product B needs to be included with a sale of product A, it is. Rules pervade CPQ, ensuring that discounts aren't too generous and that final configurations are routed automatically to the people who can approve them. Best of all, the technology can accomplish all this much faster than email or other types of authorization that salespeople sometimes forget to follow through on.

Perhaps the bigger change has been in compensation management. In the spreadsheet days, compensation management happened at the end of a quarter, and it involved the CFO's team plus lots of coffee, or a TV in the office for watching football as commissions were tallied through a long Sunday afternoon.

That kind of scenario still goes on, but increasingly automation is taking compensation management out of the back office and into the front, and in the process it is changing the nature of incentive compensation completely. Back-office comp processes are retrospective. They can't influence outcomes for the quarter; they simply add up what happened. In the front office, though, a modern compensation system is a management tool for setting goals and incentives at a more fine-grained level than was ever possible or attended to in the spreadsheet age. Most importantly, it is proactive; like CPQ, modern compensation systems can affect outcomes for the better.

I've just described two automated processes. Each is future-oriented, and each leverages our investments in data capture and storage. But each is also less about transactions and more about doing good business between or in advance of transactions. This is CRM’s emerging orientation, and it comes at a good time. Business is more complex than ever. There’s more competition and more people are involved in decisions, and they're expected to always be reachable. To compete in this environment, you really need to think in terms of processes.

Most importantly, your process is not the same as another company's. You might call them by the same name, but each process will be governed by the idiosyncrasies of company, customers, employees, product, brand promises, and so on. That's good news, for it implies that once you take such an approach, you can truly make your business stand out from the competition. Competing on process beats competing on price anytime, in my book.

Denis Pombriant is the founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group and the Bullpen Group. He is a widely published CRM analyst in the U.S. and Europe, and his latest research spans all areas of social CRM, cloud, and mobile computing. His latest book, Solve for the Customer, is available at Amazon.com.

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