At the Intersection of BPM and CRM: Happy Customers


Companies appear to be spending a fair amount of money on CRM. So why aren't customer-satisfaction scores improving?


A number of speakers at Gartner's recent Customer Relationship Management Summit tried to answer this question, based on TechNewsWorld coverage of the event. Several speakers mentioned refreshing CRM applications with advanced analytics or Web 2.0 technologies. This all sounds fine and good, but I was more intrigued by the growing convergence between CRM and business process management (BPM).


It's an eminently logical trend, since customer satisfaction isn't likely to grow without end-to-end process improvement. Gartner stressed the connection by scheduling its BPM Summit back-to-back with the CRM event and in the same general location, making it easy for folks to attend both if they chose. Microgen's COO David Sherriff took advantage of the opportunity. He said:

CRM is about the stuff that's ultimately customer-facing, but without the right processes underneath it all, the best CRM strategy can't work. I think co-locating these events was a great message to send about the need for holistic business process technologies, which impact every customer.

I like Sherriff's use of the word "holistic." Too often CRM is a disjointed mishmash of departmental or divisional activities. CRM touches a number of enterprise systems, including operations, accounting and e-commerce, so companies must make a better effort to integrate their CRM data with these other systems, a point made by IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson last month. BPM is fundamentally about taking a holistic view and figuring out how to streamline and improve end-to-end processes.


Need further proof of process improvement's importance to CRM? According to a SearchCRM.com story about the CRM Summit, attendees at another recent Gartner event cited business processes affected by CRM as their top challenge, followed by the related issue of synchronizing information across the enterprise and assessing tangible returns. (The latter is a niggling problem that never quite goes away, and it's certainly not exclusive to CRM.)


While the connection between CRM and BPM appears clear, most BPM vendors continue to focus on operational improvements rather than boosting customer-satisfaction levels, says Gartner. Fewer than 5 percent of BPM vendor case studies focus on customer retention or other satisfaction-related issues.


A customer requesting DSL service begins with the contact center, notes Gartner research director Isher Kaila, with the request likely progressing to the order-provisioning system and ultimately the supply chain. Yet all of these systems examine unrelated metrics. Said Kaila:

Who's talking about the end-to-end processes? You need to look horizontally, not vertically, within your organization, because that's how your customers experience your organization.

According to Kaila, BPM vendors mostly fall into two camps: those employing a model-driven architecture based on applications, such as Oracle's Application Integration Architecture and Fusion and SAP's NetWeaver and Business ByDesign products, and others that use a model-driven framework.


Many organizations struggle to identify all the business processes that affect their customers, the first of seven steps in a process-improvement plan offered by Kaila. While some, like contact centers and order fulfillment are pretty obvious, others are not. One of the other steps: Give each process an owner, cross-department if required. (This is also often a challenge, as I wrote on Friday.)