By  John MulhallWhy a company’s approach to meeting customer expectations matters in today’s world!

It’s amazing to think of how some big businesses have become so big with no real investment in integration of process management into their organisational structure by their senior leadership team. The structural heroes in many of these companies are the CFO, CTO and/or the COO. Responsibility lies as an endpoint(s) with them as they interface with the board and in the case of the plc’s, the shareholders.

By taking the old industrialist view of capitalism and attempting to frame a future path for business, we overlook how the world has changed. A divergence occurs between past approaches to business and future realities. This creates a mismatch, which must be remedied for the journey forward.

Societal Ignorance is no longer a dominant force in today’s hyperconnected world. Education and technology place more and more power into the hands of people seeking to understand, discern and be educated on worldly affairs that affect them. Educated awareness has seen more discerning and independent consumers grow and prosper, which makes the consumer experience a priority for good businesses. The Industrialist model view of Capitalism arose through the 18th century in Great Britain. It prospered and progressed into the 19th century in Europe and the United States where new and lucrative markets beckoned.

Society was ignorant in education and a proper understanding of the world around them. This formed part of the reason for the near disregard for consumer wants and needs in business. Business was highly effective in developing market sectors like Clothing and Transport due to new technological innovations along with the rebirth of mass production techniques that focused solely on producing maximum amount of products as cheaply as possible. Given the underdeveloped tastes and culture of the day, the industrial model and approach to capitalism successfully thrived across continents, which had a large lower class and a very small upper class with little to no middle class to speak of. Success, wealth and education truly belonged to the few. The resulting direction and focus allowed for process management to be a production only affair with no objections from government, the employee or the customer.

Technology and Data Management has advanced more in the last 100 years than in the last 10,000 years. From mechanical computers to mainframes and distributed clusters; software developers, innovators and visionary data architects are driving rapid technological advancement. Science Daily in 2013 reported 90% of the world’s data was generated between 2011 and 2013. This shines a light on how society, the customer and the employee matter like never before. Technology allows society to become more aware and informed regarding what affects them. The need for companies to embrace the information era is extremely important, which means developing complete and integrated process management infrastructures. They should be flexible, transparent and auditable yet effective in achieving their goals by process, function and by company unit. Engagement with people in a data driven manner becomes a headline priority in boardrooms that embrace technology, building their processes in partnership with their people and a best fit for their technology stack.

The Sarbanes Oxley Act 2002 in the United States obliged public companies to protect themselves against financial and non financial exposures. This required many companies to upgrade their processes to acceptable audit standards. For some companies following in the cultural footsteps of 19th century industrialists this is a real challenge. The inability to grasp the benefits of sustainability over time, often at the cost of lower short term returns, has led to a low priority placed on process management. The audit team and not a wish to create longer term effectiveness has become the driving force in process change and improvement.

With the information era driven by an educated and informed public, the mechanism of flexibility, engagement and commercial development in an ever changing world needs to be embraced. It must be able to identify consumer wants and needs, engage with employees in a socially responsible manner; making use of technology in all areas and build upon service delivery along with the brand of the company. The voice of the internal customer (employee and/or contractor) and the external customer is vitally important. Employees become as important as the data management technology in delivering life to the future of modern companies, which in practice mitigates the risk of strategic error in today’s boardroom.

Some modern process management techniques have proven their worth in reaching company wide states of readiness. Lean Six Sigma, combines manufacturing and lean customer facing process management into an integrated company wide infrastructure. It can listen to the market, to employees and to customers of all kinds for direction on its future and transforms it into actions that keep companies lean, effective and relevant. Blockbuster is a great example of a success story that lacked the business process structures to stay informed, responsive and relevant to the needs of their customers. They missed the threat and opportunity that video streaming brought. With the mass adoption of video streaming by their customer base through vendors like Netflix, Blockbuster went out of business.

Business Process Management represents the approach and attitude of the leadership team. If responsive design, continuous engagement and a wish to stay relevant to customers through its employees is the goal, then the value creation potential of a well designed business process infrastructure is indeed limitless. If the team think market forces are controllable by insulated decision making, then the same infrastructure becomes nothing more than a cost centre to satisfy regulatory requirements for the next quarterly return. The future will shine for one and rain on the other! It is only a matter of time before society’s journey will determine the winner!

John Mulhall has over 12 years in business leadership and management covering five different industry sectors. He is also a blogger and currently transitioning to software. 

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