Trading Places, Part 3

Arthur O'Connor

Updated · Jul 03, 2002

Photo Arthur O'ConnorThis is the final installment of a three-part series on what CRM is quickly evolving into: EAI and business process management (BPM). In parts one and two we examined the overall trend and discussed EAI. In this column, we’ll look at BPM.


CRM has been viewed largely as an enabler of two business processes: attracting clients (via sales force and marketing automation) and serving or supporting customers (via call center and help desk systems).

To compete more effectively and better identify and capitalize on market demand, companies are taking a more sophisticated and integrated approach on how to best attract, transact, fulfill, service, and support their customers.

This end-to-end process spans many different applications and touches many disparate data stores. So, businesses are turning to BPM to model, test, implement, and change processes across different applications and manual workflows.

Elements of BPM

BPM’s real value is the ability to extract “process logic” encapsulated in lower-level processing applications and data to improve performance. It represents a combination of process knowledge and expertise, graphic modeling tools, process management, and workflow software.

The ideal BPM solution would be a single design, development, and execution platform allowing any user to simply drag and drop business objects. These objects would generate the code to interact with one another and automatically map to the users’ technical environment/infrastructure.

In real life, it doesn’t work quite that way (yet). Many tools offer nontechnical users (as opposed to expensive programmers) the ability to model, execute, and optimize end-to-end processes using a combination of products.

More important than tools, expertise is the true value in BPM. It provides professionals with business process knowledge and/or a predefined library of model processes to common business flows.

BPM is used to:

  • Optimize customer-facing workflows
  • Provide real-time process visibility and reporting
  • Automate collaborative exception/problem resolution (eliminate manual and error-prone intervention)
  • Identify and fix process bottlenecks
  • Reduce cycle times

We recently created a practice focused on these process-specific solutions: various areas of business expertise straight through processing for securities trade and settlement, operational risk, and (last but certainly not least) customer-facing processes.

Estimates of the BPM market vary, ranging from a few hundred million to a billion dollars annually. Although dollar amounts fluctuate, the expectation is the field will grow rapidly. Considerable efficiencies can be achieved by modeling and automating business processes that typically cross over application and data stores.

I hope you liked this recent trilogy of the evolution of CRM. Got an interesting insight, opinion, or real-world example to share? What are your thoughts? Please write. And thanks for reading my stuff.

Reprinted from ClickZ.

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