Selling Business Process Transformation To The C Suite

My colleague, Principal Analyst Derek Miers, wrote something so significant in an email today that it gave me pause:

“It’s all about helping the executive understand the causal relationship between customer (success), process (how it gets done), and business results (revenue growth, profit, and sustainability of the business model). They are all tied up together.”

I could even see the picture in my mind:





Yet all too often CIOs and other business process leaders focus on getting the business process right and explaining business process methodologies to others. They use many comfortable and familiar terms, like:

  • Process improvement
  • Process excellence
  • Process quality
  • Business process management
  • BPM suites
  • Business process transformation
  • Lean
  • Six Sigma/Lean Six Sigma
  • Or even: swim lanes, BPMN, process models, roundtripping, and so forth.

But what they often forget is that process is a means to an end. To put it bluntly, improving or transforming a business process is not the end goal; delighting customers to affect business outcomes that drive corporate performance is really the end goal. To be perfectly honest, the C suite, corporate directors, and senior business executives don’t really care that much about process per se unless they have truly bought into business transformation and have dug into the details.  If they haven’t been bitten by the process bug — and most of them haven’t — it’s easy to make their eyes glaze over quickly by talking too deeply and too much about business process and the methodologies you use.

If that’s the case, then what do C-suite executives truly care about? 

  1. Business outcomes. Senior leaders care about the stuff that matters to shareholders and Wall Street, like revenues, profits, market share, growth, and new business models that change their competitive landscape.
  2. Customers. After business outcomes, executives next care about delighting the customer and providing a great customer experience. Or at least they should care — although not all companies have gotten the customer empowerment message and internalized it yet. But the ones that do care usually care deeply; they even obsess about customers. These execs focus on metrics like the percentage of sales from new customers, average deal size, and customer penetration, to name a few. Plus, they look for feedback through voice of the customer programs (like customer satisfaction level, customer experience index (CxPi), and Net Promoter Score).
  3. Process. Lastly, senior executives care about process. Business process is the way work gets done to move from delighting the customer to experiencing extraordinary business results.  Whether the process is tackled with packaged software — like ERP, SCM, and CRM — or custom apps or BPM suites, most senior executives do not really care that deeply about  the details of how the process works, even if it is a brilliant “to-be” process and you have the process maps to prove it. That is, unless they have already made a strategic commitment to Big Process (a sustainable program of business transformation through BPM) and want to dive into the details.

So here’s the lesson learned: CIOs, business technology leaders, and business process champions, don’t expect great results if you go into the C suite with process maps, process architectures, or “as-is” and “to-be” diagrams. Remember to keep it simple: 1) business outcomes, 2) customers, and 3) improved processes — in that order.

Thank you, Derek!


3 customer service stakeholders

Hi Connie,I agree with Derek's comment. There are 3 stakeholders in the customer relationship; the customer, the business and the employee. I classify the employee as the process. CRM and BPM applications address the needs of the business but don't adequately address the needs of the customer or the employee (process).

IMO case management represents the best opportunity for meeting the requirements of all three stakeholders.

Selling Transformation To the C-Suite

I agree with your comments, particularly the point about dynamic case management. I think DCM raises the bar for BPM software, and all BPM vendors--whether they like DCM or not, will have to move in that direction. RIght now, most of the BPM software vendors do not support DCM or do not support it very well. As a result, the DCM vendors are fairly separate from the mainstream BPM market. But the two will converge--I would say within 3 years--and DCM will then become a type of BPM software. The BPM vendors that ignore adding DCM features and capabilities, do so at their peril.

Why is it important to enterprises? First of all, it's adaptive so it provides a much better customer experience. Secondly, it deftly handles paper or digital documents, recognizing that they play an important role in many service oriented, investigation oriented or incident management oriented processes. ANd finally, it's collaborative. All of these are important features when supporting processes that people are involved in--whether employees, customers or both.

Operational Intelligence

I agree that C-suite executives should care about business outcomes, customers, and improved processes - in that order. Business analysts and other business leaders must also understand best practices to minimize risk and achieve rapid payback. End-to-end Operational Intelligence reveals problems that cannot be detected by silo management reports and monitoring systems that track only individual applications.

In other words, real-time Operational Intelligence is used to improve customer service for complex end-to-end business processes.

This is not about technology

This is not really about technology - it is all about education and engagement. In one major US Bank, the BPM team instituted a learning program for C-Level execs to understand the relationship Connie is setting out here. Each exec had to give up one half day a quarter to do things like sit in the call center and take calls, to take part in a process modeling workshop, to walk a mortgage application around the 15 different departments and get the required signatures (took 45 mins instead of the 35 days average elapsed time for customer) ...

The point is that to think it is a shiny piece of tin, or some new fangled technology ... misses the point. To communicate you need to get on the same page as the exec; to shift their behaviors means you have to engage and educate ... we need to see more leadership of the overall program of BPM, which means elevating it in their agenda and mind.

Marketing Failure

This sounds like a failure by marketing to clearly articulate the value of BPM. As per any marketing initiative the BPM message must be tailored to the target audience.