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The Intimate Relationship Between The User Experience (#UX, #CX) Arms Race & Business Process (#BPM)

On his popular ebizQ blog, Peter Schooff, asks (December, 2012) "How central of a role should BPM play in customer experience?"  Readers interested in this question should visit the original discussion as there are some terrific contributions and insights; the question concerning the centrality of the role that BPM should play in customer experience is a good one.  (In the context, "BPM" means "business process management software and practices".)

A short answer is this: "In a competitive world, and for both technical and economic reasons, BPM is likely to play an increasingly important role in customer experience".

This blog entry explores this proposition in more detail.  But first let's qualify our short answer above by defining the terms "customer experience" and "BPM". (For the purposes of this discussion, we'll focus on BPM as "technology" or "software" and on customer experience as "customer experience system").

With a nod to Wikipedia, consider customer experience as the sum of all experiences over the course of "a relationship" with a supplier, or more narrowly over "one transaction". Wikipedia lists "awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy" as individual aspects of (a B2C) customer experience. One could also add "support".

While the term "experience" includes psychological and other aspects of the customer/vendor relationship or transaction, we are interested in the technical/transactional aspects of the relationship, in other words, the aspects of the relationship that are amenable to machine mediation. And the result of this definition is that the customer experience in which we are interested here is a kind of "work", which is to say the "purposive expenditure of effort" related to changing states of objects in the real world. Each of the aspects of customer experience listed here can be defined as involving some kind of work.

And thus we come to BPM. Because business process management software is "the" software which is concerned directly and explicitly about "work", and because as we have shown elsewhere, customer experience is very much about work, therefore it's an easy step to consider a strong affinity between BPM technology and customer experience systems. And insofar as providing the best possible customer experience likely involves using technology to facilitate the easier execution of the "work of customer relationships", then BPM technology is ideal for the job.
 
Certainly ancillary technologies, especially around presentation and design, and also including back-end database technologies, are important aspects of customer experience. But none of these technologies are, like BPM, directly and explicitly about the modeling and execution of the work in question, the central work of customer experience.
 
Despite the clear affinity between customer experience system requirements and the inherent capabilities of BPM technology, we still need to determine when and if BPM software technology is an appropriate choice for the job.
 
The main alternative to BPM technology is to program the work of customer experience in code. And given the power of software frameworks, possibly enhanced with business rules engines (although rules engines can also be used in conjunction with BPM), it is absolutely possible to do everything that can be done with BPM, also in code. And in fact, this is likely how most user experience systems are delivered today.  Where the "work to be done" is extremely simple, mounting a simple workflow in code can be very cost effective.
 
The world is not standing still however. The context of the ebizQ question is a user experience arms race with ever higher expectations in B2C and B2B environments. The work implied by these higher expectations is becoming increasingly complex. And further, the rate of change for deployed user experience systems is also increasing. For these reasons, it increasingly makes sense that BPM technology (i.e. BPM software) would be the choice for organizations that want to deliver the richest user experiences.
 
Such leading-edge organizations will be constantly learning and adjusting the work that they support. And because the work of user experience is abstracted out as BPM process models, along with separate database, rules and presentation layers, the organizations that have made this choice will have a clear advantage. The choice for user-experience-by-BPM-technology is a choice for flexibility, adaptability and ultimately, much lower cost-to-maintain the best possible user experience.
 
The argument here that BPM is suitable for a situation involving “work” can of course be applied to almost any domain. However, the argument for the use of BPM in the specific domain of customer experience is particularly acute because of the gap between current practice and technical possibility, a gap highlighted all the more by competitive pressure. This gap is an opportunity for leadership by customer experience advocates, BPM technology champions, BPO BPM experts and especially business leaders.
 
It’s time to “take responsibility for the work of customer experience!”

Another Reference To CX: The Battlefield Of Tomorrow

Awareness is buildling about experience as an attribute of brand.  Here is a short but incisive analysis tying the two together, from SuccessfulWorkplace:

June 20, 2014

Jeanne Roue-Taylor

The battlefield of tomorrow is customer experience

"A platform approach, rather than cobbling together point solutions, is a key part of making sure that the data necessary to create great customer experiences is available to the marketer, and ready for analysis and action."

Our comment is that the core of the "platform" will be business process technology first, supplemented by business rules.

Samarin: Formal Analysis of BPM and CX Intersection

Alexander Samarin (June 2013) has posted an excellent formal analysis showing customer experience (CX) "as-a-process"

Improving Enterprise Business Process Management Systems

Practical Process Patterns: Customer eXperience As A Process (CXAAP)

Dr. Samarin's work is excellent because it is based on rigorous formal analysis, which is both accessible to people and usable for systems design.

Aberdeen Asks If UXD "The Next Arms Race" In Software

Aberdeen Group asks if software differentiation is now moving into a phase focusing on UX design

Apparently it's all about "emotional connections" and "experiences", and less so about "tasks".

Your host is in favour of good software design and in favour of ice cream in summer.  And software UX design is improving all the time.  But the purpose of software is to help humans "get things done", which in formal terms is about "work".  Experience and emotional connection are derived from a successful working relationship, and cannot be addressed directly.  Any rhetoric which suggests otherwise is technically incorrect and therefore not helpful in figuring out how to make better software interfaces.

Here's the reference:

Software People Love — is UXD the Next Arms Race?

How Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX) Relate

On the ebizQ dialogue, Emiel Kelly made the important point that UX and CX are not exactly the same thing -- although it's easy enough to find well-argued items that say they are, even if from different starting points.

Therefore, it's a good idea to distinguish the two. In his article, Clay Richardson is focused on UX; the context of the ebizQ discussion started from CX.

If in broad strokes we can see CX as a superset of UX, then it makes sense that UX is the linkage between CX and BPM.
 
In English this means that an organization wants to optimize the experience of the customer through the entire relationship lifecycle, i.e. the complete "customer experience".
 
And insofar as the technology user experience is a primary interface through which the customer interacts with the company (including mediated interactions via a call centre which would also be supported by software), then the "work" of those interactions is a prime opportunity for instantiation via BPM software.
 
The primary customer experience outside of software would of course be the direct experience by the customer of the product itself. That product may also include technology, and in the future will likely include more and more technology.

Coincidentally, Oracle Also Says UX and BPM Belong Together

Maybe it's an "end of the year thing", but coincidentally to the Forrester item, Oracle's Ajay Khanna also posted today the following thought linking user experience and business process management:

"Customer experience was at the forefront of trending topics in 2012. Organizations are trying to understand their customers better and offer them more personalized and differentiated services. Customer experience is paramount when companies design sales and support processes. Companies are looking to BPM to consistently and efficiently orchestrate customer facing processes across disparate systems, departments and channels of communication. Oracle BPM Suite provides just the right capabilities for organizations to design and deliver an excellent customer experience." (Bye, Bye Year of the Dragon, Hello BPM, Ajay Khanna, Director, Product Marketing, Oracle Corp.)

This posting is extracted from an article covering the hottest trends from 2012 and leading into 2013.

Also Coincidentally, Forrester's Clay Richardson Links UX & BPM

Forrester's Senior Analyst for EA professionals and BPM specialist Clay Richardson today posted an item on Information Management that exactly links better business process solutions with good user experience design.  

In fact Mr. Richardson suggests even starting with UX: "I am beginning to refer to this approach as 'Experience First.' Instead of putting the process model first and giving the process model highest importance, these teams put experience design first and then optimize and transform underlying business process to deliver on the desired experience"

Interestingly, according to Richardson, this is the same approach that IBM's Phil Gilbert, of Lombardi fame, is also taking.