The Customer Service Journal

Volume 5 October, 2019

Knowledge for the world of customer service & support

ISSN: 2374-9296

A lot has been written about Business Process Automation.   We would like to start with a definition from Gartner’s web site:

“Business process automation (BPA) is defined as the automation of complex business processes and functions beyond conventional data manipulation and record-keeping activities, usually through the use of advanced technologies. It focuses on “run the business” as opposed to “count the business” types of automation efforts and often deals with event-driven, mission-critical, core processes. BPA usually supports an enterprise’s knowledge workers in satisfying the needs of its many constituencies.”

A lot of consultancies and software vendors combine BPA with Business Process Management or BPM to provide not only the automation of processes but also a management view for monitoring processes and a view of how well how well those processes are being executed.  Certainly we see this with IBM’s approach as well as niche vendors such as Pega Systems.  BPA has been well-established in “back-office processes” such as accounts payable and payroll.

In the world of customer service we can see BPA being adopted in a number of different ways:

  • First, there is the automation of process transaction steps that can cross a number of different systems such as in the processing of an application in the insurance or financial business segments.  In this category you will find vendors that specialize in the automated handling of paper forms.   But this is also a powerful tool when combined with the use of Web forms or mobility platforms which can remove the human element from the transaction reducing its cost and in many ways increasing its accuracy.  BPA here can strengthen its customer interactions by connecting different repositories of information providing the customer with a richer environment for streamlining interactions and obtaining data such as account information.  This leads us to the next type of BPA application.
  • Many companies and consultancies offer BPA software and services that connect the customer’s on-line experience with enterprise content.  In this aspect BPA is combined with Web Content Management (WCM) and Enterprise Content Management (ECM).  A great example of this is HP’s acquisition of Autonomy which uses adaptive pattern recognition in combination with Bayesian inference techniques to search for documents and information that relate to the customer’s request.
  • A powerful application of BPA has been in the automating of the decision processes for complicated transactions.  Warranty Claims processing is a great example of this.    Pega Systems has developed a warranty claims automated process which uses decision-making defined by their clients for the handling and routing of claims. They have been addressed the complicated nature of this process by using what they call the Situational Layer Cake.  This technique allows for the definition of exception handling based on transactional criteria such as product, geography, or customer segment.


BPA is evolving, and in the last few years a new category of tools have been emerging, that of Intelligent Business Process Management Suites or iBPMS.   This is an evolution of BPA/BPM that supports more complicated and even complex processes.  It combines more human collaboration with analytics and real-time decision support.  Gartner has identified a number of leaders in its Magic Quadrant for iBPMS; Pega Systems, Appian, and IBM.

One of the more exciting applications for iBPMS in customer service is for those service organizations that have adopted a disaggregated service value chain for customer service delivery. Over the last 10+ years more and more companies have adopted service models that use third-party service and logistics providers for establishing or expanding its service footprint in new markets and industry segments. Lenovo and Dell Managed Services are great examples of how iBPMS could be adopted to reduce operational cost and provide improved management of service transactions by automating the transactional work flow between third-party providers and the manufacturer using any number of different transaction transport methods.  In essence iBPMS could automate processes where the output from one system becomes the manual input to another by support/administrative staff.   In addition to lowering transactional costs there would be greater visibility to the movement of service parts, replacement products, field service activity, as well as, enabling shared management dashboards that are based on a “single source of truth”.   With the increased visibility, customer satisfaction would be improved as the manufacturer would have the tools for proactive management of operational challenges before they became customer issues.


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