We rarely get to see evolution in the natural world. We know it happens and we have read about why and how certain trees, animals and birds have evolved over hundreds of years. It’s also clear that this process was necessary for survival of a given species.
In the business and technology world, evolution is much more rapid—in telecom, for instance, the life-cycle of one generation of technology could last just a couple of years, if that. Others evolve more slowly as we’ve experienced with BPO and its slow but sure transformation into BPM or business process management.
Just so we are all on the same page, BPO providers were given a specified set of tasks by the client organizations primarily so that they could save time and money. Many of the tasks were routine—payroll, HR, accounts, etc.—and many were handled by the service provider at an offshore location to cut costs. Then to make the task even easier for the BPO vendor, along came a series of tools and suites under the tag of BPM to ensure uninterrupted business flow.
Over the last couple of years, however, the BPO industry has internalized the BPM tools so seamlessly that it has begun to refer to itself as the BPM industry. Around the same time, the corporate sector pushed these service providers to play a bigger role, especially in the area of customer service.
Customer service takes front seat
The economic downturn of the last decade has led to people getting used to paying less for better service. Instead of doing just routine tasks, BPO providers began to take over the challenge of keeping their customers’ customers satisfied. Equipped with the right technology and a seemingly endless supply of employees, BPOs have been able to customize service offerings according to the needs and demands of different customers. So for a management function held close to heart, customer service is now often handed over to the newly christened BPM vendor. This is not yet a widespread phenomenon, but it has taken root. In fact, according to research firm Forrester, the majority of BPM initiatives will be kicked off with customer experience improvement as a primary objective by as early as 2015.
Aiding BPM vendors in fulfilling their updated mandates will be the following:
Mobile communications: Hand-held, internet-enabled devices have disrupted many business processes and cannot be left out of any service-oriented business. Without an inbuilt mobile strategy, BPM will be seen as an outdated management concept.
Flexible, collaborative processes: In the fluid, dynamic, ever-changing global economy, companies need to be on their feet and alert all the time. The new BPM should be able to offer stability and fluidity while providing a reliable support system strong enough to withstand the storms of change. Besides, companies are no longer islands but collaborating with others and the successful BPM will need to reflect and support this new dynamic.
Tool plus or tool minus: In the era of software-as-a-service, the ready-made suite is likely to be stripped down and only relevant parts bought or hired by customers. Vendors have to be prepared to offer customized solutions with each piece delivering on its promise.
Simplify, simplify: If BPOs were eyed suspiciously by in-house employees of corporations, BPM vendors will fare no better. An effective BPM vendor will carry everyone along, even non-technical staff. Its success will be measured by how widespread it is accepted within the organization, how pervasive it is, and whether participation by all classes of employees is voluntary or enforced.
Can’t get away from social media
In a recent Trends to Watch in 2014 report on Enterprise Content Management (ECM), research firm Ovum pointed out that social BPM, cloud and mobility are all major influencers of BPM software and ECM-related product decisions. Keeping these issues in mind will help firms invest in the right BPM solutions for their needs said the report.
The benefits of high-quality BPM software in the digital era extend to social media, cloud and mobile BPM. And in doing so, they extend to the whole organization and to all customers of customers. It seems to me that there are interesting jobs about to open up at the BPM vendor: Twitter account manager, Facebook account manager, Flikr specialist and so on. And last year, we all thought social media was a waste of time.
We should have understood from the tiger that evolving stripes was essential for its survival.