Support for Business Processes (Theirs and Ours)

Your Customers' Scenarios Drive; Your Business Processes Support

April 17, 2003

What’s the relationship between customers’ business processes and your company’s business processes? They’re orthogonal. Your business processes need to support your customers’, (and your partners’, and your suppliers’) constantly-changing scenarios. We use our understanding of the relationship between the two to help us in evaluating products and platforms.


One common theme you’ll find in our current research is support for business processes—your business’s processes—and your customers’, partners’, suppliers’, or end-users’ processes (which we call Customer Scenarios).

What’s the relationship between Customers’, or end-users’, Scenarios and your company’s business processes? They should be orthogonal. Picture the Customer’s Scenario as running horizontally from left to right (with lots of iterative loops and hard-to-predict twists and turns), and your business processes as the vertical pillars to support each step or task in the Customer’s or end-user’s Scenario.

Customer Scenarios Drive

The consumer customer wants to replace his car, invest money to ensure a comfortable retirement, or buy and learn to use a digital camera in order to capture pictures of a new child to share with family and friends. An employee end-user wants to get his travel expenses reimbursed, find an in-house expert who can help solve a customer’s problem, or put together a recommendation using the company’s latest competitive research. These are Customer Scenarios.

Business Processes Support

To support these scenarios, there are a variety of technology platforms and business processes that come into play. For example, to support the car-buying consumer or the camera-buying consumer, the manufacturers need to hone their inventory management business processes to ensure that the right models are available in the appropriate locations. The same manufacturers need to refine their content management business processes to ensure that consumers, trusted third-parties, and retailers’ personnel have the right information at their fingertips to support each step in the customer’s decision-making. In fact, for each Customer Scenario, there may be a dozen different business processes that will be in play.

To support an employee’s expense reimbursement scenario, we need to streamline our company’s expense submission, approval, and reimbursement processes. Today, we often deliver these business processes through a portal. To support an employee’s efforts to locate an expert, we provide expertise and knowledge management business processes. Competitive intelligence business processes support our employees who need to make recommendations about product marketing decisions. And so on.

You Can’t Dictate Customers’ Scenarios

While you can hone your business processes, you have no control over your customers’ preferred scenarios. So, when companies come to us saying “we want more of our customers to buy direct from us via our Web site,” we begin by showing them how their customers actually want to accomplish their scenarios.

As Ronni Marshak illustrates in her discussion of common patterns in consumer Customer Scenarios1, many consumers rely on trusted third-parties as they research and buy products. They do rely on the manufacturer’s authoritative Web site to support them in critical moments within their scenarios. If you’re a consumer product manufacturer seeking to build closer relationships with those consumers, you need to streamline the customers’ entire end-to-end scenarios, including all the linkages to and from trusted third parties. The most sobering realization for most marketing VPs is that customers rarely begin their scenarios on your company’s Web site. Your job is to make sure that the information they see when they go to their preferred sources of information reflects your products accurately and consistently.

Spotting Patterns in Customer Scenarios

There are repetitive patterns in consumers and business customers’ Customer Scenarios. One of our research projects for 2003 is to codify and to identify many of these patterns using the database of Customer Scenarios that we’ve been building up over many years. If you’d like to participate in this research, let us know!

1) See “ It’s a Matter of Trust: In Consumer Customer Scenarios, Don’t Underestimate the Importance of a Trusted and Independent Third Party .”

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