How BPM Technology Helps CRM Deliver on Its Promise

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The secret nobody talks about is that managing customer relationships involves three times as many people inside your organization than have a CRM application on their desktop. Effective customer management does not occur inside of CRM software, even when accompanied by a well-developed strategy. CRM tools are powerful front office applications that enable sales, marketing, and customer service professionals to effectively collaborate and gain insight all in the name of building a better customer experience. Customer management, however, is not merely a front-office activity. You cannot manage a complex customer relationship without timely involvement from finance, legal, supply chain and others in the back office that do not and will not have a CRM application on their desktop. Processes like deal management, order fulfillment, and exception handling may be triggered inside of a CRM application, but they require an orchestrated effort between the front office and the back office to be performed properly. So, how do you get everyone to participate in a CRM-triggered process who needs to without sacrificing control and visibility? The answer lies in a profound business case for joining BPM technology with CRM software. BPM is the definition, execution, and management of business processes. BPM is not a synonym for workflow (which is process management around a document) or EAI (which is process management around data integration). BPM brings the best of workflow and EAI with the added out of the box capability of folding human worker activity into an end-to-end enterprise process. BPM's emphasis on the process itself rather than an entity (i.e., document, data, or person) gives process owners the ability to define what the process should be first and then determine how to effectively orchestrate interactions between the people, data, and documents that make up the steps within a process. Lastly and most relevant to this article, BPM is not married to a specific application (like embedded workflow). This allows BPM to facilitate a myriad of business processes that span both people and disparate systems across the enterprise, including those that impact effective customer management. Putting CRM on everyone's desktop is impractical. The notion of requiring back office personnel and C-level executives to learn and proactively-use an application that was not designed with them in mind is a strategy doomed for failure. Setting the software discussion aside, the objective is timely, organizationwide participation in managing customer relationships. You can get there by blending CRM software with BPM software. BPM software enables everyone who plays an important role in a CRM-triggered process to participate without needing to learn a new software package. Everyone has Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and Internet access on their desktop. BPM facilitates effective interaction because the learning curve is so low and in most cases, people do not even know they are interacting with a BPM technology. Let's say a sales representative is working on a deal for a big customer that depends on an ability to turn up manufacturing output. The opportunity is captured in CRM and now the finance people need to run the numbers and the Manufacturing people need to figure out if they can do it. BPM would orchestrate this collaboration with the back office by grabbing the pertinent information out of CRM and routing it to the right people via email and populated Excel spreadsheets, a method largely used today, but now in a controlled environment that yields full visibility into the process.

The value that BPM brings to CRM is an ability to deliver the extended enterprise in a cost-effective way with low barriers to adoption and a non-existent learning curve to each CRM-extended user. The marriage of CRM with BPM empowers company-wide ownership of the customer experience from your number one resource: people.
About the Author Jeff Mills is vice president of channel development and partner enrichment, Bluespring Software. He has focused his life's work on leveraging technology to make better business decisions. Jeff is a graduate of Miami University in Ohio, and is president of the Cincinnati chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners. Jeff can be reached at or at
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