Gone with the flow

On a Linkedin group, David Mottershead started a very interesting question: Is BPM only suited to processes that lend themselves to structured flow modeling?

A lot of opinions chimed in around the hot debate about ACM is not BPM and in the middle of the discussion Russell Swanborough asked me  how BPM can handle in the real enterprise world unstructured processes.

Due to the fact my response got long and I think is a god example, I mirrored and share with you here:

Imagine you are a CEO of an airline company and you are facing negative feedback from your customers in Facebook or Twitter or others. As a CEO you realize that this unmanageable channel is acting like a megaphone against your company and even worst this kind customers that complain do not care about submitting a formal complain, despite you provide a contact center, a web page even a facebook page, they just want to spread the word that your airline is miserable and inflict bad image.

You gather your troops and try to structure a new scenario for this kind of complain handling based on event triggering (automatic/manual detection of bad feedback). You try to map the situation (draw a flowchart): Detect event > Carry initial risk assessment > Contact customer > Provide solution > Confirm resolution > Close complain .

The flowchart looks nice. It’s an old fashion / old School structured process.

Them you start implementation an this is what happens in real life:

> Most negative feedback is expressed in natural language meaning that despite advances in IT is human judgment that needs to make the call, executing manual data mining. The way people look for it is totally arbitrary meaning that you need to rely on the people qualification to perform the job and simultaneously they must be tightly engaged with the company (otherwise they don’t care about someone shouting against the airline).

> If what is reported is a safety issue (leak of jet fuel, followed by an explosion) that somehow you company is not prepared despite all the risk management detailed procedures, red books, and you need to execute something very quickly (remember what happened with Japanese nuclear power plant).

> The solution provided is offering a new suite case, but unfortunately the shops the airline have a partnership agreement does not exist in the location where the customer is, or the customer does not like the brand of the suite case, and a workaround must be executed to minimize the customer loss. In the end the the airline makes a cross sell of a luggage insurance product and reimburses the customer.

The next time the complain is executed is going to be a very different story, thus there is no way to try to map all these highly coupled interactions, because the trick here isn’t the sequence, but the way information flows, how decisions are made regarding the interactions with the stakeholders, the status, the events, the responses, the availability of things.

Now despite this process is a spaghetti way of execution, this process is:

Monitored (how many complain cases are open);
Balanced (there is someone that is handling more complains that others);
Controlled (time to close the complain; money paid to customers);
Improved (implementing tools to facilitate information streaming).
Cross Improved (improving operations to minimize the causes of luggage loss).

This is what BPM is all about. A CEO and a management team detects that the complains handling process must be adapted to a new communication / interaction reality and changes it, providing means to do it.


3 thoughts on “Gone with the flow

  1. Alberto, I am not sure I understand. Do you propose that you can handle this process with a flowchart or not?

    How does the orginal tweet or message get into the process/case? Manually?

    Why not load the tweets automatically and do text analysis for sentiment and open service cases automatically?

    Could you explain? Thanks, Max

    • Hello Max:

      Regarding this particular example you can flowchart it, but only the big blocks. When you try to get into details you will be lost and it’s impossible to go through all the possibilities. The complain management system must provide the different scenarios to process execution.

      Anyway the key point is not the flow, is the fact that today companies must recognize some processes must be assumed inside the company when some circumstances arise despite the fact it was not thought to be that way.

      Regarding the tweet it must be a hybrid solution: automatic: based on the event processing, like a scada system that detects #fail word and connected information around the airline, but it must also be a manual process because customers cannot express disappointment on a structured way, thus natural language interpretation is needed by a human person.

      Your suggestion seems god to me also, but I put someone making a manual screening.

  2. Alberto, Processes are about outcomes not flows, espcially when they are regulated. You need rules to assure that, not flows. You need langauge to define those rules first. You need a business architecture.

    Adaptive processes are hybrid structured and unstructured: they use flows, events, goals, ad-hoc tasks.

    Actually language sentiment analysis goes a long way to clarify in which tone a message is.

    Additionally, one should not even need to measure tweets, If each customer is given the opportunity to comment on the outcome of a service process IMMEDIATELY, they do not need to tweet. If a CSR can perform actions to make a customer happy and is not forced to follow some process, then there will be a lot less negative tweets or unhappy customers.

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