How business process management (BPM) is applied in the organisation is what makes the difference between ordinary businesses and high-performance organisations (HPOs), says international process improvement expert, Steve Towers.
Towers, who is preparing to release his eighth book, says his research into the characteristics of HPOs has resulted in the book and a new set of tools aimed at maximising BPM to enhance business performance.
"In BPM, there is a lot of focus on Lean Six Sigma, the technologies and the processes. Basically, companies are doing things right, but they are not doing the right things," says Towers.
Their metrics may tell them they are managing their processes correctly; they may be showing high levels of performance and efficiency in line with their traditional metrics, but despite this, they may still be going bankrupt. This is because they are measuring the wrong things," he says.
"They may be very busy - but are they doing the right things in the 21st century context?"
Towers says the most critical measure is that of total customer experience. "Companies cannot focus internally," he says. "HPOs focus on the customer experience. It's not just about what happens internally; it is also about what happens before that process and what happens after."
Towers has long advocated an 'outside-in' approach, rather than an 'inside-out' one. This way of thinking is customer-centric, something organisations have to be in an increasingly competitive business environment.
To align processes with HPO best practice, says Towers, organisations need to ask 'who are our customers and what are their needs?'
"Don't start with the technology or the process," he says. "By focusing on the customer first, you may discover you have been focusing too much on unprofitable customers, for example. Once the target customers are identified, you have to define what it is they need. This is often not articulated well - they may not know what they need before it exists, and often the focus is mistakenly placed on what customers think they want - not what they actually need. HPOs actually produce products and services in advance of customer needs."
Towers highlights revolutionary technologies, such as the Apple iPod, which met customer needs at a time when customers themselves did not realise all-in-one digital music management was something they wanted and needed.
"HPOs use systematic approaches to this," says Towers. "They are scientific about assessing customer needs, and measuring what customer success looks like. Classically, companies use subjective approaches like net promoter scores to assess customer satisfaction. But this is not necessarily good enough. This is a very subjective way to measure customer experience."
Towers says: "Companies need to get scientific about customer experience - they need to measure the right things, using the customer experience ratios used by HPOs."
Towers notes that assessing customer experience by asking 'how do you feel?' is subjective and reactive - it takes place after the event. "HPOs know that evaluation of customer experience has to take place at the time of the action, delivering immediate feedback that allows enterprises to manage and control the interactions as they happen."
This new approach to measuring customer experience to deliver business benefits could help fast-track organisations' growth in SA, Towers believes. "In BRICS nations, companies are now setting new benchmarks on what performance looks like. They have the potential to take these concepts, run with them and become world-class performers. In line with this, South African companies stand to play in the big league if they adopt more effective process management," he says.
Towers will deliver a keynote presentation at the upcoming ITWeb BPM Summit on market-focused approaches to strategic business improvement. He will also elaborate on these approaches in a workshop aligned with the event, when he will outline his findings on HPO differentiators. The tactics of HPOs, to be revealed in his soon-to-be-released book, will be shared with SA ahead of world audiences. Towers will also give insights into the metrics behind customer experience ratios - the new measure for customer experience. For more information about this event, click here.