Let the Feud End with Pragmatism

For customer service, data and process must go hand in hand.

Data and process: They are IT's version of the legendary Hatfield and McCoy clans, forever feuding to settle old scores and claim their primacy. Each has a legacy of visionaries certain of the true path to business/IT enlightenment. The history of software tells us that each clan has enjoyed domination, only to be brought down by its foibles and superceded by the other.

Frustration with procedural applications in the 1980s created an opportunity for relational database systems and the pursuit of data independence. Then, impatient with slow and incomplete data architecture and modeling efforts, businesses stampeded toward packaged enterprise applications. Left in the dust were IT's database architects and application developers to sort out, after the fact, ERP systems' complex database table structures and low-level attempts to build processes out of transactions, programming routines and other application tasks. The data clan charged back with data warehousing and business intelligence (BI), which brought better return on investment from enterprise applications.

Today, we're seeing business process management (BPM) mature beyond what application packages and integration middleware could achieve. Will BPM's maturation also signal a final resolution of the data/process feud? To reach BPM goals, organizations clearly need data intelligence. And for BI and data warehousing to move out of its batch-oriented, "build it and they will come" legacy, the data clan must embrace process orientation.

In this issue, with a little (well, a lot) of help from our friends at Network Computing, we take you on an extended tour of BPM. Editor Doug Henschen and Network Computing's Lori MacVittie highlight aspects of BPM suites crucial to goals pursued by Intelligent Enterprise readers. Doug's lead article sets the context by describing how companies such as Blue Rhino and Citigroup are blending BPM with analytics and performance management. Lori's comparative testing reveals what nine leading products do to support "intelligent" BPM.

Nowhere is the urgency to blend data and process more acute than with customer service. Customer relationship management (CRM) and call-center applications initially encouraged the idea that service should be efficient—even automated through interactive voice response. "Years ago, incentives were focused on efficiency (number of calls handled per hour), with the goal to get the client off the phone as quickly as possible," says Morgan Stanley's executive director of BI and CRM Tony LoFrumento. Now, Morgan Stanley and other organizations view inbound customer contact as a prized opportunity to interact with their clients.

Communications Data Services (CDS), a subsidiary of the Hearst Corp. and provider of fulfillment services to publishers and direct marketers uses Epiphany Interaction Advisor to manage data intelligence and inform customer service representatives of finely tuned sales offers to present to callers. Marc Francisco, product manager for CDS's Information Services Technology Group says that blending sales and service must be delicate: "We don't want to leave people wondering what happened to the service portion of their calls."

In other words, sales-oriented customer data intelligence must not trample the integrity of the service process. Competing sales and marketing objectives can put IT in the middle of the crossfire; CDS stays focused by using Epiphany to boil down competing campaigns to "actionable" offers that make sense within the context of the service call.

Debates about which comes first, data or process, may be good for the intellect but miss the pragmatic answer: They go together. Their fusion will determine BPM's success.

David Stodder is the Editorial Director and Editor in Chief of Intelligent Enterprise. Write to him at [email protected].

Editor's Choice
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Salvatore Salamone, Managing Editor, Network Computing
Kathleen O’Reilly, Leader, Accenture Strategy
Cassandra Mooshian, Senior Analyst, AI & Intelligent Automation, Omdia