Business Digitalization and the Customer Journey

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Mathias Kirchmer

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Peter Schooff: Hello, this is Peter Schooff, managing editor of and today I have the great pleasure to speak once again with Dr. Mathias Kirchmer. Probably are familiar with his name, he is one of the founders of BPM-D. Dr. Kirchmer is an innovative executive and thought weaver in the ever-evolving world of BPM. He was also the managing director and global leader of BPM for Accenture as well as the CEO of IDS Scheer for the Americas and Japan. Also, Dr. Kirchmer is just finishing up, I think, his third edition of the book High Performance Through Process Excellence.

Peter Schooff: Fantastic. Everybody, I think we're both aware, everybody's talking about customer journey. Where does customer journey fit in in all of this?

Mathias Kirchmer: I already referred indirectly to this topic in my definition of design thinking and the little example I described. Customer journey mapping is nothing else than a specific application of design thinking that has been operationalized so that you can really apply it very quickly and efficiently. It's all about identifying improvements of processes that are used to interact directly with the client. Processes that have direct impact on the experience the client has, or that impacts such client-facing business processes. Instead of optimizing them from the view of your own organization, you model, describe, and optimize those processes from the perspective of the clients. That means you have new or modified process description and modeling methods, you have different input into the optimization, mainly external input from your clients. You connect those client-facing customer journeys with your internal operational processes that are used as enablers and you check that those processes have no negative, or even in a best case, positive impact on the client journey.

At the end, you have business processes and business operations that deliver the best suitable client experience possible, and with that help you to increase your revenue. The client journey mapping is a great example for applying design thinking to your customer-facing processes to move customer experience to the next level.

Peter Schooff: Definitely. Another keyword everybody's talking about is digitization. Where does digitization fit in with all of this, what we've discussed?

Mathias Kirchmer: That's very, very big topic and we could, of course, discuss that now for the next hours. If we just take a step back and look how digitalization is defined, then we will see that it's normally the integration of physical products or objects, of people, and of processes through the internet of things. If you look at that definition and what happens in companies, then you see that most of companies have a good management discipline around their product, they have a great management discipline around their people, with human resources, but also with customer and supplier relationship management. They have a discipline around the internet and the technologies required, but what it's missing in many organizations that is discipline around their processes. That's why so many companies don't realize the full potential of their digital initiatives and they don't get the full value out of digitalization.

That's something confirmed through recent studies like one published at the end of last year by the Gartner Group: It says that only one percent of organizations have a handle around their processes that makes agile enough so that they can really benefit from digitalization. Other companies have implemented a lot of digital toys in their organization, but don’t get the real value out of them. The BPM-Discipline has become the value-switch for digitalization. That's also something we have verified in studies with over two hundred organizations worldwide. We have just published this study and you can find that on our webpage at

On the other hand, I also have to say, that digitalization, of course, is a huge opportunity for the BPM-Discipline because it delivers lots of possibilities to improve processes to a level never been possible before. There are, for example, opportunities of mass-individualization and customization. There could be a furniture company that offers their furniture through the internet, and the user can change the measurements. The relevant measure are automatically transferred in code that is understood by the machines and robots used to cut the wood and manufacture the furniture pieces. Hence it is possible to produce the furniture exactly to the specifications of the individual clients but nevertheless in a mass-production environment. This mass-individualization is something not possible without this digital revolution and key concepts like Industry 4.0 and related technologies. BPM is the value-switch for digitalization. So: no successful digital initiative without the right BPM-Discipline in place. On the other hand, every process and process improvement initiative should look at the opportunities of our digital world and apply them appropriately.

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