Why customer centricity calls for a 3-dimensional view of processes

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Vinay Mummigatti is an UnitedHealth Group employee but the views published in his articles are his own and they do not reflect those of UnitedHealth Group or its affiliates

Time for new approaches to process modeling?

Even though business process modeling is a mature space with well-established principles and standards, a renewed focus on customer centricity means that new approaches are needed, says columnist Vinay Mummigatti. Here’s why.

We have come a long way in terms of business process design maturity since the early 90’s when Michael Hammer evangelized business process re-engineering as a transformation approach. With the advent of business process management tools in the last decade, we are now enabled with a full life cycle capability of process design, automation and continuous optimization. In spite of this advancement in a relatively short time period, new approaches are still needed to help businesses better respond to the shift in customer trends, behaviors and social interactions.


Does your map have everything you need on it?

To understand why this shift is necessary, it’s important to understand how the current generation of modeling approaches have evolved. Business process improvement efforts have often been focused on increasing efficiency. So when we undertake business process analysis and design, our focus is on identifying the key actors within our companies – both human and systems - and mapping the key process activities at varying levels of detail. From there you can identify opportunities to streamline the process and automate.

This approach to modeling makes perfect sense when you’re focused on an internal goal (i.e. increasing efficiency or reducing costs). However, increasingly companies are realizing that in a hyper competitive environment, increasing efficiency cannot be the only purpose. When you’re competing for customers you want to simplify how they do business with you and how you can make their experience from first engagement through purchasing a product and ongoing service is managed.


The customer is no longer just the recipient of our goods and services. Customers have become key influencers and contributors to our innovation process, leading to successful launch of new ideas and products. Companies like Amazon, Paypal, American Express have proven how customers embrace the services when they have high degree of personalization and context sensitive responses. Finally, our customers choose to maintain or ditch our relationship based on how we handle their issues through resolution across all aspects of customer service.

When we want to achieve customer oriented transformation, merely identifying the key actors within our companies and mapping the key process activities does not suffice. The reason? We tend to leave out the fundamental touch points with our customers.

Mobile and social technologies are raising the customers’ expectations as the number of touch points that customers have with our business processes are exploding – a customer may view their bill online, send a payment via text message, tweet a customer service request, like or dislike a product, offer feedback on products and the list of possibilities goes on.

Yet in much of our traditional modeling approaches, we don’t capture all the possible access points through which a customer interacts with our business processes.

The element of "customer experience" is adding a new dimension to our processes. The industry value chain and the "customer journey map" must have linkages. A customer journey map illustrates the steps customers go through in engaging with your company, whether it is a product purchase, an online experience, retail experience, or a service.

Every touch point with our customer is an opportunity to build longer terms relationships with our customers and engage with them in a structured and repeatable manner.

If we do not keep the customer as a reference in process models, we are missing a tremendous opportunity to leverage customer touch points throughout the value chain.

We have talked about two dimensions of process modeling: One relates to internal "value chain process model" and the second dimension being the "customer journey mapping". We cannot ignore the third dimension of "situational awareness" which has a key influence on any process outcomes. A business process is not a static diagram but is influenced by various external events, which dictate the outcomes and the direction of the process steps. As we analyze our process models and customer touch points, we also need to capture all the influencing events so that our process is managed continuously to deliver the business outcomes.

The concept of business agility is a false promise unless our process models are able to capture these events and reflect their influence in terms of process paths and decisions. Managing the event value chain is equally important as managing the process value chain. Our ability to identify, capture and intelligently map the key processes to these events can turn every customer interaction into an opportunity.

As we see better capabilities evolve in our BPM tools, the business needs to get a better handle on their processes through identifying customer touch points and real time events that influence the direction of the process. When we get a handle on these 3 dimensions of "process model", "customer interaction map" and "situational awareness or event value chain", we would have moved higher in the maturity index on customer experience management which is driving every enterprise today.