Mobile Processes: Optimizing the Happy Path

Design from the outside-in. Iterate quickly. Respond in real time. Innovate faster than the competition. In defining the characteristics needed to lead the digital charge, I found myself agreeing with everything Steven Wastie had to say. But it was his final point in his excellent post, The Fourth Digital Wave: The Age of Application Intelligence that had me nodding most emphatically. “Creating user experiences that drive success” has become the stumbling block for so many tech companies. None of our developers are surely short on talent, so what’s behind Apple’s success and BlackBerry’s failure? Closer to home, why do some companies get the front-facing experience so right where others get it wrong?

mobile devices - happy path - bpm leaderLipstick on a pig?
It sounds obvious yet like Phil Jackman said in another excellent post (thanks Phil…), many of us still think in an analogue way. And it’s the process of adaptation that causes the pain. In my world, this means taking the long-held, back-office view of business process management (BPM) and turning it on its head.

Take an expense claim. You’d think that taking this mobile would be simple. Pick the process map off the PC, define the process participants, route it around various departments; and because we’re doing this for mobile, ensure we take into account different devices and screen sizes. Job done.

Not so fast! In fact, we’ve found that this approach is the single biggest mistake providers make when taking an established process mobile. Why? Because it assumes that mobile users behave in the same way that desktop users do, which as we know, is far from the truth. To adopt that well-known expression: You can’t put lipstick on a pig!

Real-life example from healthcare
Let me illustrate with a real-life case study. Prince Sultan Military Medical City (PSMMC), a leading hospital in Saudi Arabia, had a pressing need to deliver better customer care. So instead of approaching the problem from the traditional business process management perspective, (which, as you would imagine, focuses on business and process), the objective of the initiative became care process management instead. This meant that core hospital processes were to be optimized and accessible through mobiles.

By carefully mapping the hospital’s user journeys – literally, following the footsteps of the men and women in white coats – we created a mobile-first process that not only enabled doctors to access patients’ notes on the go (leading to faster and efficient care) but allowed them to issue prescriptions a couple of steps earlier in the process. (On the ‘non-mobile’ version, updating the central system with patient information could only happen once the doctor was back at their PC).

5 key points
Going “process-mobile” as described above does need careful thought; but it’s not all hard going. Taking advantage of apps and devices’ native capabilities can both serve to optimize those magical touch points between process and function. For example, our healthcare customer needed to access information held in boys’ growth charts. Instead of painstakingly working the data into the process, we simply dropped a ready-made app into the build, saving hours of development time and effort. And the final piece of the puzzle? Data. The beauty of the mobile process is that consultants are completely oblivious to the fact that what they see on a tiny mobile screen has to be pulled and reconciled with remote data sources.

So in summary, my experience for optimizing the mobile “happy path” can be captured in 5 key points:

  1. Don’t shrink, rethink: while there is no magic number, users should instantly recognize that each touch or swipe takes them closer to their end goal. Look for unnecessary layers and remove them; see if tables, forms and buttons can be simplified.
  2. Incorporate navigational cues: have you included a button that links to the start screen? Do your labels make sense – or do they scream ‘marketing’? Can you reduce call-to-action labels to three, two, or even one per step?
  3. Maximize native functions – image and signature capture are both simple yet highly effective ways to streamline processes that are simply out of bounds for PC users.
  4. Incorporate apps. They’re quick, easy, and can cut development time in half. For our expenses claim process, adding a calendar, currency converter and mileage calculator were no-brainers.
  5. Get your (data) in order: a delighted customer doesn’t see any disruption when completing a transaction. So whether you’re linking with ECM (for documents), ERP (to update transactions) or CRM (for customer interactions) it’s essential that every link takes place as cleanly and efficiently as possible. Data virtualization and / or replication can be a very sound investment here. More of that next time!

In conclusion: redesigning processes from a mobile perspective is a skilled job requiring thought, time and vision. But by thinking about processes from the perspective of the mobile users that we all are, we will ultimately be on the right road.

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By Jolanta Pilecka @ Bizagi | September 11, 2014

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