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Customer Communication versus Adaptive Case Management?

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I have been quieter on my blog for the last year as I did not see any noteworthy movement in the process and content management arena. But the recent CCM Magic Quadrant Report by Gartner Group needs to be commented in the light of our business and product strategy, that they fail to understand or more accurately chose to ignore. We have generally pretty good relationships with Gartner Group as we go to all their CIO conferences and we met many of our (also CCM) prospects there. I have thus no problem with Gartner but I find their analysts responsible for CCM lacking.

The Magic Quadrant reports by Gartner are not without criticisms and I personally find Gartner’s own claim in court that it is pure analyst opinion very telling. Gartner Group was the target of a federal lawsuit (filed May 29, 2009) from software vendor, ZL Technologies, challenging the “legitimacy” of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant rating system. Gartner filed a motion to dismiss by claiming First Amendment protection since it contends that its MQ reports contain “pure opinion,” which legally means individuals opinions which are not based on fact. 

At ISIS Papyrus Software, 2015 was one of our strongest growth years ever and much of it came from the completeness of our solution in content, process, integration and user front-end. We are both expanding our existing customer base into Adaptive Case Management (ACM) with inbound and outbound content and find new midsize customers who need a fully featured and consolidated solution that also provides Mobile functionality.

This broad offering of our Papyrus Platform is however a substantial problem for analysts because it does not fit the artificial market segments created for their reports. If analysts can’t compare they do not have a job and therefore no business. Thus what can’t be compared must be made comparable. Gartner Group has a substantial conflict of interest because they make more money with the vendors they rate than the business customers they are supposed to advise. We have been a leading vendor in Customer Communications Management (CCM) since WE CREATED the market space by consolidating document mass production, individual correspondence writing and postal and print management. We still are the leading vendor in functional capability and customer satisfaction as the specialist analyst firm Pentadoc recently states.

With the recently published Magic Quadrant for CCM by Gartner Group the following statement appeared in the beginning of their paper: ‘Isis Papyrus no longer meets our inclusion criteria and is transitioning to focus more on case management.‘ They intentionally wanted to make it look as if we no longer provide CCM solutions. We asked them to revise that statement and they declined. To be included in the CCM report you need to have your own software, have more than $10 million in revenue in two major regions, and must provide five customer references. We met those requirements, but the analysts at Gartner Group did however not spend more than ten minutes to look at our solution and showed no interest in the substantial functional enhancements that are our key differentiators. All they wanted was filled out checklists that contained mostly outdated questions mostly in regards to company market position and strategy.

After a few fruitless discussions, WE DECIDED to pull out of the study as it was  misrepresenting our product and our business, both within the CCM domain and especially with the consolidated functionality of our platform that is incredibly valuable to all our CCM customers. Gartner’s rating system is skewed to support large vendors and analyst darlings as it rates a simplistic perspective on CCM through checklists. The company ratings are purely subjective and weighted to enable any chosen outcome.

Gartner gets vendors to fall in line by saying that they ‘can’t opt-out of a marketplace study‘ so we declined to provide references, which in the previous study they had not even spoken too. Thus they state that we do not fulfill the participation criteria and say that we are not active in the CCM marketplace. While they at least mention many other vendors who did not meet the criteria, we were not even included there. To me that behavior is not professional at all, but whimsey, weak and childish. Gartner should really get rid of such analysts as they do hurt their reputation.

So what can you get from the report? Gartner analysts consider CCM a ‘strategy and a market fulfilled by applications that improve the creation, delivery, storage and retrieval of outbound and interactive communications. CCM supports the production of individualized customer messages, marketing collateral, new product introductions and transaction documents. CCM software composes, personalizes, formats and delivers content acquired from various sources into targeted and relevant electronic and physical communications between an enterprise and its customers, prospective customers and business partners. CCM software delivers targeted communications through a wide range of media including mobile, email, SMS, Web pages, social media sites and print.’ Given the way they rate it, one can do much of that with Microsoft Word.

There is no doubt that my core principle of CCM is valid: There is no process (aka customer interaction) without content and content without (being managed by) a process is waste. So to take a view into content creation and not consider how this must be integrated and managed through a process shows either a lack of understanding or other intent. CCM also requires the ability to consider and manage inbound content which ISIS Papyrus was the first to provide in an integrated manner. Already in 2000 a Gartner Group analyst said: ‚ISIS is this strange company who wants to combine scanning and printing and no one knows why.‘

But those Gartner analysts for the CCM market demand that it purely has evolved from the convergence of document printing and output management technologies. It is in fact so much more than a design tool, a composition engine, a workflow/rule engine and multichannel output management. They still discuss our 15 year old background of providing forms design. They claim that our software is ‘old’ because we were the first vendor to combine interactive documents with mass production in the output management channel! New York healthcare provider Wellpoint installed our system for 3000 users in 2002, ran it virtually unchanged for 10 years and then tried to replace it with a ‘more modern solution’ from the Magic Quadrant. They could not even replicate our ten year old software. After they lost two years trying this, we were asked to upgrade the system to our latest software functionality in 2014 and did that in less than three months. The reason is that what Gartner already considers a workflow capability and a (document) rule engine is rather funny. At the same time we designed for them a document component model that reduced the number of templates from 2500 to less than 300. Without the necessary version control and embedded development, test and rollout processes, changes to a document template become a nightmare. Getting an interactive document integrated into an application is at most corporations a large development project. Gartner isn’t interested in all that.

Rather than looking at the capabilities of the products and what benefits they bring to customers, those analysts want to assess everything through questionnaires only. One has to check off a broad list of feature sets, many rather ambiguous and quite irrelevant, missing many core functions we couldn’t sell without for decades. They can’t include those essential CCM features in the lists because we would be the only ones to have them. The rest is a convoluted mess of vendor viability, sales execution, market responsiveness, customer experience, operation assessment, market understanding, marketing, sales and product strategy, not to forget ‘innovation’ and ‘geographic presence.’ But as we had too many unique innovations they were considered not relevant to the CCM market. The weighting is such that the product and service become in the end fairly irrelevant if they rate you low in any of the other areas. With this scheme it is easy to create any rating desired especially if you consider that all ratings are pure opinion!

The simple fact is: The Papyrus Platform is the leading CCM capability in content and process functionality and we are known for our outstanding service quality. If you are interested in CCM then we can show that leading capability in a two week Proof of Concept installation of our platform, which we charge for as professionals and then you REALLY know what such a system can do. You won’t learn that from an analyst ‘Magic Quadrant’ pure analyst opinion.

As it happens, the standalone CCM market is also in saturation. The ‘customer experience’ projects are about content becoming an embedded capability in customer and partner collaboration. So we are not moving away from CCM as Gartner tries to make you believe but we have given it its long-needed home inside customer-focused applications. Yes, we have more new CCM projects with Adaptive Case Management as the driver of content related processes.

Back-Office Applications versus Digital Collaboration

You will have noticed by now that I have retracted from the rather useless BPM versus ACM discussion. One reason is that as I predicted many years ago, the approach used in ACM has been assimilated by the big BPM vendors. Not necessarily in true function but for certain in their marketing approach and material. Additionally I find that the people responsible for process management in most businesses are just thinking of processes in terms of controlling work and not in terms of empowering people to achieve process goals, which is a rather short-sighted approach.

As pointed out so many times that I truly feel like a broken record, it is not the predefined process that insures outcome but a well-defined goal that people pursue. I yet have to see goals being implemented in process management that are no more than milestone definitions.

At our ISIS Papyrus Open House we had great discussions at the management circle on this subject. It became quite clear that large organizations are simply not capable in their current structure and culture to take a different view of processes. Unless the large consulting companies will start to recommend to them to do this differently they will continue to work the outdated way. Unfortunately both the consulting companies and the BPM vendors would have to speak up against their own business to make that happen. So it won’t. It therefore also makes not much sense to try and sell such an approach to large businesses. I have to admit that despite my opposing stance to the purely sales-driven concept, what can be sold are pre-packaged applications that some call ‚Smart Process Apps’ as they bypass some of the immense effort imposed by a BPM bureaucracy. But those apps are back-office focused and lack the crucial ability for goal-driven, digital collaboration with customers and partners. These apps represent additional silos and typically struggle with the dynamics of integrating with content and communications abilities as that would break their rigid processes.

The 'Digital' Collaboration Contract

The ‘Digital’ Collaboration Contract

In the meantime outside the business and IT illusions of the large enterprises the world has changed and continues to change. The change imposed by those forces won’t be subtle nor elegant as promised by the consulting firms. It will be brutal and disruptive as the businesses that can’t adjust will disappear one way or the other. While the principles of Uber or Airbnb in a much broader range of new markets can’t be generalized they show that the infrastructure for a different kind of business-to-employee-to-customer relationship does already exist. It is utterly unused by the large corporations who fail to see the writing on the wall.

Karl Marx had proposed that the world would be divided into people who owned the means of production – the idle rich shareholders – and people who worked for them. Those large businesses still operate that way. Following the Industrial Revolution, having a good job meant it was unionized and secure, with company benefits, such as health-care insurance, vacations and retirement pensions. Both governments and unions are still doing their part to reduce the agility of businesses with labour laws that are supposed to protect employees from being laid off. In effect, those laws are stopping companies from hiring more people. Automation and outsourcing are the consequences with the disappearance of job security.

Ronald Coase, the British economist and 1991 Nobel Prize recipient in economics published in 1937 ‘The Nature of the Firm.‘ He proposed that a firm should be able to find the cheapest, most productive goods and services by contracting them out in an efficient, open marketplace. The realities of employment complexities however caused the creation of ever larger companies that were supposed to dominate and control their market space at all costs. All that growth generally leads to organizations becoming bureaucratic, with a focus on planning, efficiency and costs, destroying the ability to quickly embrace new ideas and technologies when market conditions change.

Advances in information and communication technologies are having a huge impact but not the one we would initially expect. Economies of scale and network effects are leading to organizational consolidation and a winner-take-all world where still only the largest survive. Fragmentation and consolidation will co-exist with each other to a greater or lesser extent across different companies and ecosystems. Apple has found the ideal combination of continuous customer-focused creativity and its amazing ability to manage a huge world-wide supply chain.

How is that possible? It won’t happen by hiring a consulting firm or implementing BPM. Just as language shapes our brain’s ability to think, the use of information technology shapes our behavior as customers and the ability of businesses as suppliers. The most valuable and fastest growing companies are those that use technology to satisfy their customers needs in new and visionary ways. It used to be heresy and unimaginable to IT architects that customers would be allowed to directly access a banking system. Today it is the gold standard by which a bank’s customer service is judged.

It is further no longer possible to ignore that the four layers of customer interaction, business interaction and content, compliance and policy rules, and data transactions have to converge. Back-Office Applications will continue to enforce a customer disconnect. Mobile and browser front-ends must connect to a homogeneous digital collaboration infrastructure that does not restrict but empowers company staff to service in a flexible but still compliant manner.

But clearly it will not be open and unmanaged interaction like on Facebook. Those interactions will have to be private and secure and driven through the goal definitions of a customer service contract. It is the applications that enable this kind of digital collaboration with customers that will make or break a business these days regardless of its size. Digital Collaboration provides the only true real-time ability of a business to interact with its customers and not an illusionary real-time view of old Big-Data analytics and predictions. What nonsense!

It is the executive who decides how technology will reshape the way a business works and he needs to fulfill his vision in a much shorter time than typical software development projects, regardless if in-house or outsourced can deliver.

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