#bpmonlineGlobalTour: My newly found appreciation for process, storytelling and authenticity

I consider myself generally lucky – and as my luck would have it, my team and I were invited to be part of the bpm’online Global Tour in Boston. The header for the event, Accelerate Time-to-Strategy Execution was interesting enough, but being part of Day One was a lot more than I originally expected. Having been to more than a few industry events, I counted on some interesting keynotes, a good overview of the newest tech bpm’online is bringing to market, and a few good conversations. I definitely got more than I bargained for. I walked away with a newly found deep appreciation for storytelling, process and authenticity.

Purposeful Leadership and Storytelling

If you have not had the chance to meet Katherine Kostereva, bpm’online’s CEO, in action, I highly recommend it.

Rather than talking about how she built one of the most successful companies in the BPM and CRM space, she chose to share what inspired her. Thanks to my friends and clients at Linkage, who opened up my eyes to this new model of leadership, I was fascinated by Katerina’s purposefulness of character and vision (the execution of her vision was palpable throughout the day but not stated – which was so very classy). Instead of talking about how she got bpm’online to where it is today, she chose to share her reflections on the factors that make some of today’s most successful companies winners – like Airbnb, Netflix and Starbucks. (In case you did not know, Airbnb could not get VC funding in 2008 when they made their first rounds). The winners’ secret for success? They decompose their strategy into smaller projects, tasks and initiatives to get big wins; they make their teams commit to change and help them get ready for it; and they embrace innovative tech by weaving it into their company fabric. While Katherine was on stage, some of her staff were hard at work designing and implementing a new travel approval process based on live audience request. (This harkened back the times for me at Amex when we were building the tools to help companies automate their travel and indirect expense management – it took us months to stitch such solutions together). In less than 30 minutes, the demo was live and working to spec.

Evangelism at Its Best

Speaking of weaving innovative tech into company fabric, that fast demo was followed by one of the best storytelling on tech innovation delivered by Matt Tharp. Carrying the very assuming title of Chief Evangelist, I could not help but approach his talk with a dash of skepticism. But skepticism quickly gave way to deep appreciation and respect. Matt is one of the most engaging storytellers I have met, and he single-handedly brought the authenticity back into tech evangelism. Here’s what he shared – innovative tech today is defined by the larger trends shaping our world – not just the genius of some developer. In 2017, innovative tech is about the intelligence we can glean from the massive amounts of data we are accumulating – to drive both local and corporate relevant action in real time. That action is where …well, where the action is. To get to the action, Matt pointed to low code – and its power to drive the insights we need fast. Hierarchical decision-making is old school – the new school is distributed decision-making that enables rank and file to deliver. You could argue low code is the next transformative tech, because with it comes the ability for needed disruption across any industry or vertical.

The Process Engine That Could

If this is not a sobering fact, then I don’t know what is:

There are many reasons, the pundits say, why most of our initiatives fail. The one that made me pause and think hard was process and how often we buy tech to fill the process gap. Barton Goldenberg of ISM had a good reason to repeat his take on when to implement CRM – only when you have your process nailed down. Technologies like CRM are here for us to create efficiencies by automating our key business and marketing/ sales processes, not to backfill for their absence (Matt Tharp would add that automation based on machine learning holds one of the biggest promises for companies looking to run faster and more agile while learning at the same time). If you don’t have a process in place, don’t buy technology – or you will end up having a real mess on your hands. I say this with all the seriousness this statement deserves. Last few days, my team and I have have been trying to unravel the data and process conundrums for a client in Salesforce. Multiple Data relabeling and pivot tables behind us, we still don’t have a clear picture of the baseline or how to fix it moving forward. 

For those of you who have a good handle on your processes, then think differently about your CRM, says Barry Goldenberg – as the core of your Delighted Customer Strategy:

Many companies still view CRM as purely an operational efficiency tool, said Kate Leggett of Forrester, so if you are among them, we trust you will reconsider and think different.

Last-Min Acknowledgements 

Although I missed the Hershey’s ice cream served Day 2, Jim Holder, Training and Safety Director at Hershey Creamery Company, wins my award for the most fun speaker. Matt Tharp – the award for most authentic evangelist, and Katerina – for being an inspiring purposeful role model. Thank you all at bpm’online for the amazing experience – and for the apropos event giveaway – the “hearts and brains at work”.

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