CRM is all about managing sales and marketing interactions with customers and potential customers. Business process management (BPM) is about optimizing workflows and business processes. So what have they got to do with each other?
"Without BPM, your CRM is just an expensive Rolodex," said Alan Trefler, CEO at Pegasystems.
If that’s the case, sales people are unlikely to be appreciative of new CRM systems. In some cases, CRM systems make business processes simpler for management but burden sales teams with additional steps that slow them down. In other cases, CRM software can make it difficult to customize customer-facing processes so they fit how marketing, sales and service personnel operate in the real world. Productivity can suffer, and CRM utilization will falter.
"Cumbersome CRM processes can lead users to neglect key steps, resulting in fewer sales and a decrease in customer loyalty," said Michael Rooney, senior vice president and general manager at bpm'online. "CRM success requires a change in business processes toward a customer-centric approach."
How BPM Improves CRM
A process-driven BPM approach to CRM software helps in several ways, Rooney said. Let’s start with automating routine operations. A system that automatically prompts users on the next step will free up time for more lucrative activities like generating quotes and meeting with prospects.
Another plus is supporting each operation with actionable data to improve the customer experience. While traditional CRM systems are good at customer data integration and management, Rooney said, it isn’t always easy to transform this data into actionable insight. By aligning BPM with CRM, organizations can put data into the context of the process to help personnel carry out the required steps.
Don Schuerman, CTO of Pegasystems, explained the relationship between CRM and BPM this way: CRM provides the latest information on the customer at hand, while BPM analytics glean insights and drive action with personalized offerings and services.
"This personalization helps make every customer feel like they are an individual, not just a number, which ultimately leads to deeper brand loyalty and higher sales," said Schuerman.
But encouraging CRM and BPM integration is one thing and accomplishing it quite another. That starts by merging customer data that is typically distributed across different sources. Schuerman thinks the hype around Big Data has gotten organizational attention centered upon the wrong area. While organizations look to Big Data to solve their problems, they don’t yet have a good handle on the "little" data sitting inside their own enterprise.
"It’s only once a company can tackle this that they can expect to extract meaningful insights from their data and drive real value from integrating CRM with BPM," said Schuerman.
There are many types of integration. There is integration of BPM and CRM systems, integration of data sources within the company and, in addition, integration of legacy systems with the central database.
"It is important to have business processes that can leverage data or be triggered with specific events from third-party systems," Rooney said. "The better your business process management system is integrated with other applications you use, the bigger the business outcome."
Before integration begins, Rooney said an organization must formalize its business processes. For some companies, this could mean standardizing activities that are being done across the company. For others with more mature processes, it might mean streamlining and automating existing processes. However it is accomplished, it has to be finely tuned to user goals and match their level of understanding.
"If the automated process is too high level, it doesn’t guide the user through the required sequence of actions but rather serves a reminder for this or that task," Rooney said. "If the automated process is too low level, it puts the boundaries that are too tight for successful operations."
If you get it right, however, sales professionals can instantly evaluate past customer experiences to better cross sell or upsell products that are most relevant to a customer. Marketing, too, gains the ability to drive campaigns in context by better understand potential customer needs. And customer service representatives can better connect and engage in order to resolve issues.
When and How to Integrate BPM with CRM
Users should look for tools with best practices and processes already built in, Rooney suggested.
"Having processes that are pre-set in the system means they don’t have to be built from scratch," he said. "Following predefined processes also makes it easy for companies to jump start using the system and bring industry best practices to their work."
Schuerman added that you should work with a platform that has all the pieces on which to build. Integration is made easier when there’s a common platform powering the decision-making engine. Organizations can then build applications on top of that foundation for any part of their organization that touches customer experience in any way.