Monthly Archives: January 2011

Is the Process Industry Pigeonholing Itself Out of Existence – or are We Taking a Scope Leap Outside of Process?

Let’s examine an historic process breakdown – Sprint’s intent to “fire” unprofitable customers – that nearly put Sprint under after news of the plan went viral. It took all five primary, customer-centric process elements being badly out of whack to allow Sprint to assume that its “targeted” customers were at fault for repeatedly calling customer service and tying up phone lines and staff time.
1. Workflow:  Sprint decided to take a meat cleaver to its customer base for cost-cutting reasons. It never drilled down to identify why customers were calling so often. Any workflow analysis worth its salt would have culled out that information.
2. Communication flow:  Customer service reps sure knew why customers kept calling – Sprint kept mis-billing a myriad of them – but management apparently didn’t know.
3. Data flow:  Basic information capture indicating reasons for customer calls would have raised a gigantic red flag no one could ignore.
4. Enabling technology:  Where was Sprint’s technology platform while critical customer input went un-captured and un-assessed?
5. Organizational design:  Rudimentary assessment of all three flows would have clearly indicated that such a high volume of billing calls – where service often had to engage billing – did not belong in customer service.
Now, here’s what I mean by “process pigeonholing.” Based on process threads I read almost every day, most process professionals would call what Sprint set out to do “bad management,” not “bad process” leading to uninformed management. Why? Because traditional process deals primarily with with how work is done – not about what work gets done why and when; not with how customer input is communicated throughout the company; not with how data is routed and analyzed (except for BPMS, which is often a hammer trying to sink a screw); and especially not with whether the organizational design supports customer-related work. Of course, many are now claiming their process approaches cover all this ground. But where are the too lsets, the training, the skill sets?
As a postscript, do you think the small community (by percentage) taking the expansive view of process should just leave the “P-word” to narrowcasters and start calling what we’re doing something else? How about “building customer-centric organizations?” :-)
Okay, a little tongue-in-cheek here. The suggested name is actually the name of a new group bringing together the multiple professions involved in creating customer-centricity. We’re at:

Does becoming customer-centric mitigate resistance to change?

I realize I may be setting myself up for some backlash here, but many articles, presentations and dialogues about resistance to change go deep into the weeds in human psychology and behavioral theory – at the expense of acknowledging field-tested, common sense solutions for dealing with change aversion.

For example, when we redesign process to help organizations become customer-centric, we almost always change in place organizational structure. But if the set-up is correct – empowered, cross-functional team backed by top management determining with us what work should be done how and who (functionally) should do it – resistance is relatively low, compared to what we read about up here. And for two simple reasons: 1.) Our goal is adding value to customers, not an internal goal; 2.) We’re changing roles and functions to suit customers rather than assessing individuals.

Most managers and staff readily accept the premise that adding new value to customers is becoming a competitive necessity; and most are far more adaptable when change is driven by customers rather than executives perceived to be interested only in profits.

Simple solutions are often the best solutions.

Business Software: Lots of upgrades, little improvement, even less service

Yeah, we’re all bombarded with arresting tales of how this new application or that will either double your productivity – or save your network or personal computer from threats lurking around every corner. Plus, we’re all bombarded with ceaseless upgrades, most of which require we stop what we’re doing and reboot. Hell, if I stopped for a glass of wine after every Adobe Acrobat upgrade I’d be permanently impaired. So that means our software is getting better, right? And in today’s day and age you’d think customer service would be getting better as well, right?

Wrong on both counts, IMHO.

I recently experienced a fatal workstation crash. Data all backed up, but the old machine had so much uninstalled or never used software shrapnel slowing the machine –which registry cleaners weren’t  flushing out – that I wanted to start clean (yeah, I love new toys). So I bought me an even bigger honker of a workstation and started loading software. Oh, what an ugly and expensive experience – lots of cash outflow with little benefit to show for it other than better start-up and processing speed.

Here’s just a partial list of my disappointments.

Windows 7:  That’s the other reason I started over, to have a current OS. But aside from being more secure and less likely to crash, W7 is two steps forward and two steps back from XP. Basically, it’s more different than improved.

Office 2010: Another “two steps forward two steps back” experience compared to Office 2007. Word in particular has become slower and less intuitive – plus less friendly than ever to power users who want to click once, not five times. And the worst part of the conversion is finding how to download the second license for laptops that comes with the purchase. Microsoft is so hell bent on discouraging human contact for technical support – including warranty service – it took me days to wiggle through all the obstacles to find the Digital River URL for downloading the second copy I’d already paid for (I “ran” rather than “saved” the first time).

Adobe Acrobat: A while back I’d screwed up by tossing the original CD and keeping only upgrade CDs – which don’t load without the original. When I loaded my old machine I had to contact Adobe, which was very helpful then. This time I wound up offshore with technical support staff telling me: “Tough luck.” I finally reached stateside service and had to upgrade to get an installation file. Funny with Acrobat, non-stop point and version upgrades both but I never see any difference.

SmartDraw: I made the same mistake as with Acrobat. Once again I had to upgrade to a new version to get an install file. They do send a CD following each download, so once again I hit “run,” knowing I’d have the CD. Which didn’t work, so I had to jump through hoops to get my second download. And to boot, so far the new version seems less intuitive than the last and has proven to be a pain in the butt.

Online back-up software: Entry barriers for selling software online have dropped so low that every Tom, Dick and Harry with storage capacity can offer online service. Never mind their software sucks. Thankfully, most offer free trials, because I ran through 5 programs before finding one with: either granular enough retrieval functionality to avoid downloading a house to get a window; or set-up instructions showing the same screens as in the stuff I downloaded. Mediocrity squared.

QuickBooks: At least this time I had the original CD. But didn’t matter. Intuit, among the least customer-friendly software companies around, no longer offers upgrades. So I had to spring for a full version of QB2011 that offers me not a single improvement over QB2008. Now that’s customer-centricity.

Xerox: The driver for my color laser, which ain’t that old, is not being upgraded for Windows 7, and doesn’t work with W7. Fortunately, my very good local Xerox service shop has a workaround, but it still cost me time, hassle and a service call.

Hewlett-Packard: Mercifully, the drivers for the last piece of HP hardware (we used to be 100% HP) actually worked. I say “mercifully” because HP’s service is now 100% offshore; their techs the most ill-trained I’ve encountered; and the one time I had a serious problem with my exotic, rotating screen monitor (for process mapping) I could find no one with any training or information about the unit. I had to resolve the issue on my own. If this thing hadn’t worked – time to shoot myself.

You get the picture. And that’s not the whole list. Lots of software systems offering different rather than better. Customer service in the toilet.  Lots of wasted time. Lots of expense for no discernible new value. And validation – as if we needed any more – that the whole business universe is NOT moving towards customer-centricity.