Where did you do most of the Christmas shopping this year? Like many people, I avoided the crowded high streets and placed orders online. Internet shoppers spent almost £8bn online in December (16.5% more than in December 2010) and a record £68bn was spent online overall in 2011. One of the key advantages of online shopping is having your purchases delivered to your door within a reasonable timeframe.
However, one item I ordered before Christmas finally arrived this week! I know what you’re thinking; fortunately it wasn’t a Christmas present or I’d be in big trouble! Though I was relieved that it had arrived, I couldn’t help wondering what had gone wrong from a process perspective! I had placed the order with an e-commerce site and the delivery was due before Christmas. The order went through fine and was dispatched shortly afterwards, but then something clearly went wrong, when the logistics company tried to deliver the product.
This is a classic example of process pain points occurring at “hand-offs” between a business and its supplier. When I chased up the supplier to find out where my purchase was, it turned out that my telephone number had not been passed on to the logistics company so they couldn’t phone me to arrange a delivery. However they did have my address so given I waited 6 weeks for the delivery, it would have been better to send me a letter via “snail mail”!
I can think of several ways in which the use of BPM could have avoided this scenario:
- Visibility of the end-to-end process so that everyone understands the part they play, the key process inputs and outputs and the process and sub-processes they should follow
- Accountability for the process outcomes – in this case two key process outcomes were passing on the customer details (from e-commerce site to supplier and then supplier to logistics) and the delivery of the purchase. Who should have been accountable for this – the supplier, the logistics company or the e-commerce site? Ultimately I ended up taking responsibility for it because I had to chase up the order! Business process governance can prevent this by clarifying role interactions and revealing who is responsible for deciding how the process should be improved and redesigned in the future.
- Adaptability to changing circumstances, especially if something goes wrong like not having a customer’s phone number. Alternative options should be available via sub-processes to verify if other details were available and could be used e.g. email or delivery address, rather than nothing happening at all. If there are no contact details, or the given details are incorrect, an alert should be sent back so that someone can resolve the situation. This is where related areas like business activity monitoring and business rules management can also play a part in helping business to run smoothly.
Fortunately this e-commerce retailer was smart enough to reach out to me for feedback on the supplier and this is where the social BPM element comes into play. How many times does this situation arise without the retailer’s knowledge and consequently they might lose ? This is why it’s so important to invent ways to capture feedback from people who consume your processes, (especially external, customer-facing ones) so you can identify and eliminate any process painpoints or disconnects that could potentially damage your business.
I shall certainly help out by giving back my feedback to them this weekend, but I’m not sure if I would use that supplier or e-commerce site again…would you? On a more positive note, at least the delivery was free!