Monday, August 28, 2017

Journey Listening: The Newest Digital Era Skill

Today most organizations have a "let them eat cake" approach to customer service.  Organizations, today, set up the touchpoints and how the customer is supposed to interact with the systems and the people, if they are lucky enough to talk to a real human with the right skills. We all have our stories about really poor service and it's getting worse these days. This is just not acceptable, going forward, in the new Digital Era.

Listening within Existing and Constrained Journeys (reactive):

Often there are existing systems and procedures in place that were designed to save time and money for the organization. Good customer service folks will listen to the customers and try to find the best solution for the customers needs and goals. Often the best people know the ways to soothe the customer despite the difficult and unresponsive systems. This a reactive approach to listening and the customer service staff become the shock absorbers between the unfriendly / frustrating systems or procedures and customer needs.

Listening for New Approaches to Journeys (predictive):

Customers will let you know their needs over time and this information can be gathered and leveraged to design a better set of touchpoints and interactions. Systems and procedures can be improved to intercept a better net promoter score. The question is how radical of change will be necessary will be needed to move the needle in a positive direction. Leveraging customers along the way to final solution is often a technique that is leveraged in these situations.

Listening for Catch Points in Existing Journeys (proactive change):

It matters not if organizations are stuck with existing touch points bound by past decisions or organizations have newer customer experiences, there should be ongoing analysis of actual journeys that have been or are being captured in logs. These data points should be mapped into journeys over time-lines and coordinated with satisfaction scores. The most proactive organizations will leverage process intelligence and compare and contrast alternatives to suggest, implement and test changes with the goal of better customer, employe and partner journeys.


Journey listening is not only a skill for the future, journey listening will become an organizational capability that will make a difference in a hyper competitive world. Those organizations that believe that product / service design and low cost will carry the day in the new digital are sadly mistaken. When customers can buy from so many sources, the game is changing. The differentiator in extreme competition is the customer experience. Good journey listening to you all.

Additional Reading:

Existing Process Problems
Customer Journeys and Organizational Silos
Journey Mapping for All
Journey Mapping Case Study

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Customer Journeys Show the Trouble with Organizational SIlos

Every organization practices labor and skill specialization because of the limits of what people can do, organizations of people can do and the constraints of systems. The basic tenets of problem breakdown feed right into creating silos of activities and the skills that support them. We were all taught to break problems down into their smallest components. Isolation of tasks and functions are the basis of the Industrial Revolution and the Information Age. It becomes obvious when your study customer journeys that they do not fall into neat little containers of tasks or organizational and software boundaries. Will this be any different in the Digital Age? It should be and here is why.

The Abilities of Human Workers Will be Extended:

We now have the ability with AI to augment workers so that their knowledge and power can be extended. LIke robots on a modern production line, knowledge can be leveraged for workers to expand beyond their degrees of speciality and experience base. Over time people can become generalists to service customers across a number specific domains of tasks and work. This allows for better customer journeys as handoffs almost disappear except in the most difficult of situations. The side benefit of this approach is that workers can keep learning and not become speciality drones.

The Ability to Customize the Customer's Unique Journey is Here: 

Right now we force customers down standard paths that they have to self select with precision. Imagine the ability to handle multiple customer requests with one service stop with a generalized customer communications savvy support person. This support person, with the help of AI & Bots could handle the customers needs in a one stop fashion for a majority of the cases. The customer's history, likes and disposition at any specific point in time could be taken into account for a customized experience. This will create customers for life most likely.

The Constraints of Process /Tasks Will No Longer Hinder:

Right now, processes that guide the customer experience are rather rigid and slow. With the advent of case management and real time speed to knowledge, bot assisted or not, the software and the processes controlling that software no longer have to be rigid. They can be pliable and speedy, so the time to resolution can be reduced. "Flex, Fast and Ever Learning" should be our new motto for software assistance as well. Software can get a similar boost in intelligence and intelligence gathering in the context of flexible processes or cases.

Net; Net:

Don't let your customers or your employees for that matter, suffocate in your silos.
The Digital Age presents a great opportunity to change the way we treat customers while still being operationally effective and efficient. We would be foolish to fumble this opportunity. While the we will have to live with temporary bridges and transformations as we head to these targets, it is now possible to break down or dampen the effect of silos.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Are Bots the Second Coming of BPM?

Right now RPA (bots) are the talk of the digital world with the promise of the replacement of low level tasks initially and the assistance of human activity later. "Bots got the hots", right now and process (BPM) scares off folks with high levels of investment and commitment implied. This post will make the case for both sides of this argument and hopefully settle this question.

The Case for Bots:

Bots are gaining momentum as they show great promise in proof of concepts projects. As organizations ramp up larger bot projects, the benefits will multiply. This is a the same phenomena as workflow and BPM had shown early in their roll out to organizations. The difference here is bots can be leveraged and scattered quickly while independently scooping up benefits and rapidly displacing low level and redundant work. Making these bots smart empower them even more useful and can feed off the AI frenzy going on simultaneously starting with applying machine intelligence to point problems. The issues of bot management and updates don't show up for a long period of time, so bots put down roots way before the problems emerge. It's hard to turn down tactical benefits and keep the big picture in mind, so the impact of bots will last.

The Case for BPM:

Processes are essential to represent the flow and balance of work and of course they go across organizational and technology boundaries. The problem comes in instrumenting a flow to handle multiple technology and software stacks while trying to deliver on the complex goals of multiple job roles and organizational units. This takes more start up time and doesn't necessarily deliver short hit benefits right away. While these kind of efforts deliver later, they are necessary to support great customer journeys and other necessary cross organizational flows. The benefits here can be significantly higher, but they take longer. Combine this with the fact that BPM is no longer attractive as a term, it seems like BPM is the long shot. The impact of workflows and processes are here to stay and the benefits flow to the patient.

The Case for Convergence: 

We really need both of these technologies working together. The tasks that complete work have to be as automated as possible and work does flow from speciality to speciality in most organizations. There may come a day where one person or bot can handle all of the knowledge, data and work necessary to complete a business outcome, but right now we need both cooperating intimately. There may be a day that independent and intelligent bots cooperatively bid to complete outcomes, but swarming agents/ bots are not ready for prime time yet. The proof of cooperation is the near recent buying and partnering activity. Kofax bought Kapow, Pega bought OpenSpan, Blue Prism is partnering with Appian and IBM is partnering with Automation Anywhere.

Net; Net: 

BPM & Bots will work together skillfully over time and will eventually participate in or as a digital business platform (DBP) to create timely and complex outcomes with great visibility. This will become obvious over time as organizations deliver on their paths of digital transformation with positive business outcomes.

Additional Reading: 

Elastic Workforce
Bots R Us
Swarming Agents

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Stretching the Elastic Workforce

Today if you want an elastic workforce, you hire consultants in good times and let them go in down times. If your work mix changes you can either hire new folks, hire temps or consultants. These are still good coping mechanisms, but with robotic process automation (RPA) and the resulting bots, there is another option. Bots can eliminate very low level and repetitive tasks, they can assists humans in more challenging tasks and can quickly calculate and bid on work that is waiting for assistance. Organizations now have a new tool in managing work to further leverage an elastic workforce with bots.

Low Level Work:

Nobody enjoys low level work except in rare cases. Now there have been those days after a good party, but those are unusual in my case. Bots can assist with various inspections, decisions and actions. Nobody likes to re-key data or checking multiple systems while trying to service a customer. partner, employee or vendor. Why not let a bot look up all the data that is necessary to service your constituents? There is just no need to do mindless work. Manufacturers have figured this out a long time ago. It's time to let this kind of work go.

Assistance with Challenging Work: 

Sometimes getting an assist would be helpful. We can't live without the calculators on our phones or our contact lists. Imagine a bot calculating probabilities for your next action after listening to a customer and taking their best shot at a good set of alternatives leveraging your wisdom and experience. If you are missing the experience, research or wisdom. bots can help. We have all seen the ads for bots suggesting patient treatment plans under the guidance of a doctor or a group of doctors in concert with the patient.

Predicting Work Influxes:

Smarter bots that leverage deeper calculations and can look at multiple and fast changing data sources, can actually predict outcomes and anticipate waves of work arrival. There will be management bots that can suggest how to balance your workforce between bots and humans. In fact bots may bid on work on your behalf whether you own the bots or not. Things are going to get super flexible over time.

Net; Net: 

We should use bots for work that needs to be done without complaint or issues and save the human efforts for the final say or inspection of work. Creative work has been the bastion of human endeavor, but as an artist I use software in some of my work and search for methods a techniques on the web. The elastic workforce will get even more flexible and manageable over time.