Consumerization - Is BPM relevant?
‘Consumerization of IT’ has been a buzzword and it can be seen as one of the thrust areas in most of the technological conferences held in last couple of years. Product companies are aligning their offerings to support this. The term itself was coined way back in 2004 and reported widely in 2011 made the awareness well known among enterprises.
One of the byproducts of consumerization is business users can directly go with a self-service option bypassing IT to improve their efficacy. This is quite argued on how far this can help or destroy the fabric of IT.
For e.g. Agencies use their own spreadsheets to store relevant information and also communicate directly with their customers on Instant messengers such as Skype, Yahoo to respond to any adhoc customer queries. Most probably none of these IM tools are supported by their company’s IT. But the perceived benefits far outstrip the IT supported tools. It helps the consumer who does not want to pick up the 800 number and wait or use the internet chatter functionality by going to the site where the consumer will have to first answer standard questions to get through his specific question. This props the question - whether BPM can handle such agility and expansion required with consumerization?
Lets look at a layman example: A customer goes to Olive Garden, the front desk directs him to a table, and he goes through the menu. The waiter takes the order, transfers to chef’s queue and goes for the next table. Chef receives the order, creates it as per pre-defined ingredients, puts it on the rack for pick up. Waiter picks up and delivers to the customer. This is a good example of Structure process with pre-defined steps by employee, pre-defined menu, predictable quantity of materials for the plate, wait time depending on the queue size etc. A modeling with BPMN should be fairly easier.
Now compare this with Chipotle. Customer waits for her turn, choses from the menu written boldly on the wall, even selects the quantity of how much beans, meat and sauce. This case as we call ‘self-service’ and thereby the process less structured comparitively as the quantity of the parts of the food are not defined by Chipotle but directed by the Customer. There is no front desk, the order is not given to chef rather batches of pre-defined products are made available batch wise. What is defined is only the steps and pre defined choices. The modeling is here even easier for the structured activities but there is no specific activities to handle the quantity. Process Optimization is also a challenge with the supply as a reaction to demand for no direct relation between cook and customer order.
Now compare this with a roadside Falafel vendor. The customer goes there looks around what is available, asks questions, negotiates the spice level, quantity of falafels, meet, rice, bread, whatever he thinks he needs and orders it. The vendor cooks and provides it.
The analogy to point here is that though the different themes are followed worldwide and have their loyal consumers the tilt is towards self-service and particularly in IT the increase in handling of unstructured demands even if the tools are not there directly to support it. Even the traditional ones are changing to accommodate the consumer choices today even if it is not explicitly written in menu. You can always ask the waiter to add an additional eggplant or more of spaghetti. The cook now has to deal with this ‘special requests’.
More the consumer wants to have the dish his own way rather than the chef’s way.
Going back to BPM, the traditional argument on handling a structured process versus an unstructured process stays here. Any enterprise has more unstructured processes than a structured one and the ratio is increasing. My colleague blogged way back in 2010 on handling the differences.
But taking the example of the Insurance agent, how will any IT process handle the query resolution through IM? Straight answer is that you don’t need to ‘Structure’ it. If you try structuring, it will kill the efficiency. Can you ‘manage’ this unstructured flow? Kinda!
One cannot predict what the customer is asking and how many iterations it will take to completely satisfy the request. Only statuses are Open and Close. But can you collect enough metrics and put in process and application monitoring to get a timely report as well as link it towards a survey link for the customer to gain a report on customer experience. It can be done and that’s one way to do it and IT can help a long way in doing that.
‘Governance’, ‘Monitoring’, ‘Analytics’ and ‘Management’ can be handled by BPM and supported technologies in IT to organize the consumerization in enterprises.