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24 November 2008

No blogging due to Bad Business Process Design

Regular readers will notice that the blog is quieter than usual at the moment.

There are two reasons for this;

1. I do the blogging at home after hours, and
2. The way the Australian telecommunications industry works.

The industry was deregulated in the late eighties and the first 'challenger' company was started; Optus.

As the nineties progressed more competitors jumped in, mostly as resellers rather than full networked service providers. The historic national carrier was insurmountable in fixed line telephony but the mobile market expanded rapidly and plenty of businesses developed their markets.

A decade on and some things are the same; Telstra, our monolithic (almost) monopolist runs most of network connections to people's houses. And all the resellers plug into their management and billing systems.

So when I tried to switch my account with Dodo they followed a process that resulted in a data error and two months of no phone or internet connection (which I am about half way through.)

And unfortunately there are no real alternatives for us consumers.

I know the problem that has occurred. It isn't with a particular call centre operator, nor is it data issues in the database. And it ain't customer error either.

The problem is the lazy business process that has been developed for Dodo by project managers and business analysts. They copied the dominant model in the industry. It is the same one I saw implemented for Optus' reseller product when I was there.

Essentially one physical property account has to be terminated before a new physical property account can be commenced, introducing a series of finish - start dependencies on a process (that can drag on for 2 months if anything goes wrong.)

I wasn't on the project at Optus but I did share my views with the analysts on it - and was ignored, so any Optus readers that have customer service woes as a result of moving house - my sympathies.

Each of these reseller organisations is guilty of building a process that is simple to implement - it plugs easily into the Telstra interface standards, uses the same concepts and mirrors the internal Telstra process (from years ago.)

Each of these companies has made the mistake of playing into a business model that has been designed by their most powerful competitor.

And it could have been so easy to deliver a vastly improved solution to people moving home. It would have been very easy (relative to the amount of customer inconvenience felt across Australia) to implement a system that allows for two concurrent services to be active for one customer.

There is a lesson here for all of us. We are the consumers of the products and services we create.

Try your best to do good for the customer (and yourself)

Hopefully I'll be back online soon.