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Is Social Media the Next Frontier for BPM Suites?

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From Forrester's Clay Richardson: Forrester's recent BPM Tech Radar report highlighted the emergence of "Social BPM" technologies such as process mashups, process wikis, and BPM-as-a-Service.  Will new social capabilities drive the next wave of BPM adoption or is social not a good fit for BPM?

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  • There are a number of inter-related but distinct social concepts in the question. Let me focus on BPM and “Social Networking.? There is actually quite a bit of synergy between social networking and BPM. BPM continuous improvement has different phases: model development, execution, and performance monitoring. Social networking and collaboration can be organized along both time (synchronous vs. asynchronous) and place dimensions. The BPM user community spans functional units, cross departmental value chains, trading partners, and general BPM communities. Each community and each option of networking in the taxonomy of BPM continuous improvement phases and the BPM societies can leverage social networking solutions. Furthermore, often social networking is siloed and void of process context. BPM provides the process context of the collaboration and networking. So while business processes provide the context of the collaboration, social networking supports and augments the various activities of the BPM continuous improvement lifecycle.

    For more details see: “MyBPM: Social Networking for Business Process Management? that I published in BPM /Workflow Handbook 2008 and in fact you can get the pdf from http://www.futstrat.com/books/downloads/BPM_and_Social_Networking.pdf

  • Architecture is certainly a social experience; this includes process architecture as well as other viewpoints such as services, information and rules. Many of these architectures have been done by professionals using very custom tools that create files. Most modeling tools today include a way to publish these models to web artifacts for viewing by stakeholders.

    Notice how similar this sounds to a “Web 1.0? scenario! It is a one-way push of silo information. Using the web as a social architectural platform is a natural. This would allow stakeholders easy access to the viewpoints that make sense to them – integrated with the other viewpoints. Services, processes, information and other ways to look at the enterprise can’t stand alone – the point of architecture is to understand how things work together to provide value.
    We have explored the crying need for this capability to support the President’s open government initiative (see http://www.GainInitiative.net). We need to be able to do more then put a process on the web, we need to be able to link, federate and evolve them to enable collaboration, transparency and participation. This applies just as much to industry as it does to government.

    However, we are a long way from an integrated architectural social environment, the standards, tools and thinking in the industry are just starting to move in this direction. Our view is that we will get there over time.

  • Of course it is. Most processes in business are informal tacit interactions - and most of these take place in email (by far the most pervasive social media in business) and documents.
    By ignoring social media, BPM suites are missing a huge part of the real world process landscape in business.

  • Clay is a very savvy analyst and speaks to everyone in this space... so I certainly believe that he has a real trend in mind here.

    From the Software AG perspective, our Alignspace.com project heads in this direction very clearly.

    From our perspective, one of the key requirements is to be able to collaborate on processes across organizational boundaries... including both internal and external participants such as System Integrators, Customers, Suppliers and even regulators in some cases.

    Improving the transparency of process optimization for these constituencies improves the likelihood of process acceptance and increases the rate of success.

    "Social networking" is becoming a ubiquitous part of the younger (18-32) set in the workplace. Services such as Twitter perform an interesting function whereby messages that previously went between one person and another are made sharable and discoverable. With this trend, the ability to both define and execute more dynamic process discovery is made available.

    My 2 cents,

  • Yes, I believe so and this is also what we hear in discussions with our customers. Technologies like this will be important ingredients for agile collaborative business architecture.

    For example: today, organizations are challenged with long lead times for customer enrollments, management of customer profiles and visibility into business processes, which usually has an impact on how fast new products and services can be rolled out within a community.

    Using social networking concepts together with technologies like BPM, B2B and MFT will help to address the root causes of high operational costs and long lead times for adding, changing and deleting members or services in commercial ecosystems.

  • Social Media and BPM are polar opposites.

    Just look at who is using and who is producing each one. On the one hand, we have the BPM industry - stiff, tie toting, analytical, mechanical, and totally conformist. Now, let's look at Social Media - young, hip, innovative, and leaning a little more to the left of center.

    This is true even inside the enterprise itself. BPM initiatives are run by mechanical engineers, PMPs, and process specialists while the marketing department is usually the first to begin introducing social media initiatives inside the enterprise.

    Ok, I'm generalizing, but you get the picture. Most BPM companies are going to have a hard time innovating around Social Media because they really don't understand it or the culture it comes from. Nonetheless, the two exist in the enterprise together so of course it begs the question of how the two fit together. As an open source bpm provider, we tend to have a deeper understanding of social media than most BPM companies. After all, Social Media has long been an integral part of open source software culture.

    We are envisioning an integration between social media and BPM around a concept we call "socially aware bpm." Think about it this way - what if bpm users were empowered to improve their process performance by harnessing an interlaced, interactive, and living knowledge base. That is the idea of "socially aware bpm" and that is where a key point of interaction between BPM and Social Media resides. If your interested in further thoughts on the subject check out my blog post on the same topic - http://bit.ly/18DJIs

  • I come from a school of process designers who look at process as conversation – or rather as a network of conversations. This network of conversations is the senior process that gives rise to and drives all the secondary processes. These secondary processes are the ones that Brian Reale is talking about when he declares that BPM is run by mechanical engineers and PMPs. This sounds more like a Quality initiative. When did the Quality folks take over Business Process Design? When did Business Process Design stop being strategic and become tactical ‘tweaking’? Did this happen when technology took over and it became BPM? When we stopped thinking and designing and expected the software to do it for us?

    If we are serious about Business Process Design and Management as a strategic initiative not simply tweaking the status quo, then, YES! A resounding YES! Social Media (as distinguished from Social Networking) can be an integral part of a strategic BPM initiative, in fact, it can be a very powerful support tool for ad-hoc processes and can be an extension of more formal processes. It can potentially save a corporation millions of dollars and a process root canal, and still drive the hoped for business results.

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