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CRM and BPM come together at Gartner summit

Customer-facing processes have a huge effect on the customer experience, and that's why CRM vendors are adopting BPM functionality and vice versa, according to Gartner.

Business process management (BPM) and CRM are not such disparate disciplines anymore. Gartner Inc. saw enough of a connection to host its CRM and BPM summits back to back in Washington, D.C., this month.

And it's not just the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm either. BPM vendors are beginning to offer more CRM capabilities, while CRM vendors are doing the same with BPM. It's a process that began several years ago. Onyx Corp. (since acquired by M2M/Consona), for example, began shifting its emphasis toward creating BPM applications in 2005.

As the challenges around CRM have moved from technology to processes, business process management has taken a greater role in CRM. In fact, Gartner revealed this when analysts asked attendees at its London CRM summit what their top CRM-related challenge was. Technology didn't even make the top three, Gartner research director Isher Kaila said during a session at its U.S.-based CRM event. Attendees cited business processes affected by CRM as their top challenge, followed closely by synchronizing information across the enterprise and assessing tangible returns. For all the investment in CRM, it seems it still fails to meet expectations.

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"In the last decade, interest in CRM has grown exponentially," Kaila said. "But we look at the ASCI [American Customer Satisfaction Index] scores and are we seeing a transformation? The answer is no."

BPM, according to Gartner, now holds the promise of improving the customer experience. The problem is many BPM vendors are still focused on operational efficiencies, rather than improving processes for growth. For example, a Gartner review of BPM vendors' customer case studies found that less than 5% focused on client retention or customer service.

"If you're shipping out the wrong product, how effective is a tight supply chain?" Kaila asked. "BPM and CRM investments have not bridged the divide."

Take, for example, the process of signing up for DSL service, Kaila said. The customer calls into the contact center, which confirms the customer order, thereby touching the provisioning system; and the agent schedules an engineer and installation, which touches on the supply chain. Yet the contact center is likely measuring the average time an agent spends on a call, while provisioning is measuring how many days it took to respond and how quickly the DSL was installed.

"Is there any match between these metrics?" Kaila asked. "Who's talking about the end-to-end processes? You need to look horizontally, not vertically, within your organization, because that's how your customers experience your organization."

A shifting CRM and BPM vendor landscape

For Gautam Bhat, project manager for enterprise applications at Stamford, Conn.-based Pitney Bowes, the time has come to look to BPM systems to improve customer experience.

"We have to. There's no choice," Bhat, an attendee at the conference, said.

Yet Pitney Bowes needs its CRM vendor to help it along. It is heavily invested in Siebel across multiple departments and has been investing in that implementation for at least 10 years.

"We have been constantly evaluating what's new in the market," Bhat said. "But when you have a customer base of 7,000, it's hard to switch to best of breed."

It appears they'll have some technology choices, though.

CRM vendors like Amdocs, Oracle's Siebel product, SAP and eglue are all emerging with BPM attributes, Kaila said. BPM vendors distinguish themselves with two features, process execution engines and business event managers.

Kaila breaks BPM into different groups. In one group are vendors with BPM in a model-driven architecture based on applications, like Oracle's Application Integration Architecture and Fusion and SAP's NetWeaver and Business ByDesign products.

"These vendors have sold technology in the past based on functions," Kaila said. "Within five years at a minimum they will be marketed to you by processes."

The vendor pitch, for example, will be based on a specific process like order to cash or lead to opportunity.

Additionally, there are vendors who approach BPM from a model-driven framework, like Portrait Software, Chordiant, Graham Technology (Ciboodle) and Pega Systems, Kaila said.

"When we look at this landscape, it's very fragmented. There's no clear leader," Kaila said. "If BPM players say I have CRM and CRM vendors say I have BPM, how do you decide? Across the board they all offer some CRM benefit. What's different? The underlying architecture."

Using BPM for CRM

Yet one of the greatest challenges for organizations is identifying the business processes that affect the customer experience. Kaila offers seven steps for organizations that want to adjust their customer-facing business processes to make them more customer-centric.

  1. Audit the processes that affect customers.
  2. Identify the processes customers care about most.
  3. Prioritize the customer-selected processes by those that have the most impact on growth.
  4. Give each process an owner, cross-department if required. It doesn't have to be a vice president or a director, but someone responsible for the end-to-end process.
  5. Implement changes in the back office and front office that affect customers.
  6. Set up a service-level agreement for customer-selected key processes.
  7. Measure the success and refine the process changes for different customer segments.

"If you start with the top 30% of customer-facing processes, it will save you 70% on CRM," Kaila said.

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