Image Above Copyright: Mike Lane

A sales executive at an automation software firm was recently bragging to me that his company’s platform automated more than 600 processes in a call center at a large telecommunications provider. After spitting out my coffee and laughing for a few minutes, I explained that there are nowhere near that many business processes in a call center, to which he replied “Well I guess it depends on your definition of a business process.”

NO IT DOES NOT. There are industry standards for the classification of business processes that have existed for more than 40 years, so it drives me absolutely insane that these standards continue to get ignored by the sales and marketing teams in the Intelligent Automation ecosystem. It’s reminiscent of the 1990s Steroid Era in American baseball when fans were enamored with the gaudy statistics but conveniently ignored the underlying truth.

In the US, most consulting firms that perform business process re-engineering use the APQC’s Process Classification Framework to map the activities in an organization. If you’ve ever heard a consultant dropping the terms L1 through L5, they’re referring to this standard. They have a fantastic image that explains the difference between each level:

Copyright: APQC

Regardless of an organization’s size or industry, all activities, processes, and process groups fall into 12 categories. Across those 12 categories are approximately 1,000 business processes total. So you can imagine my disbelief when someone claims that their software platform automated 600 processes. It’s disingenuous and misleading to prospective customers, and only serves to add more confusion to a software category that is flooded with misinformation.

So customers beware. If something seems odd with the gaudy statistics you are being shown, do a little digging. And sales and marketing teams, please exhibit a little more honesty in your success stories.