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Social BPM: Is It Social, or is It BPM?

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A question raised on Doug Mow's excellent blog: Social BPM: is it social, or is it BPM?

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  • BPM is a big tent so there is no simple answer. If you only focus on streamlining process execution and making it as efficient as possible the social aspect diminishes. But if you consider process discovery, the development of a shared understanding of what your operations look like, and monitoring your process environment, then social plays a big role. Social is all about providing context, a rich environment of data points that a streamlined workflow would be lacking otherwise. The challenge is to make this context useful, both from a social networking perspective and from an unstructured data perspective.

  • I'm working with a couple of mid-sized organizations in state and local government that play into Doug's discussion. And they are delving into BPM in very different ways.

    Organization #1 is keen on mapping out their business processes, to ensure the processing rules they have today are enforced, and that the customer has a good view of where their work is in the process. Technology for actually automating this process will come later (not my decision, but common for traditional fixed process BPM where budgets are tight or methodologies are rigorous).

    Organization #2 has looked at BPM and thinks that it is too complex to be applied to 80% of their processes. Something simpler, less constrained, and more collaborative is needed to help those parts of the business track their work, rather than automate every little finicky detail of it. The project is driven from the CIO, so as Doug suggested having some IT control and direction is essential, as well as ensuring that the result is not just the equivalent of an online spreadsheet list of tasks.

    I don't know if the Social BPM play is just a tag BPM vendors have put on their products to try and consume a bit more market space. It seems we need a name, to put an enterprise price tag on commonly available technology.

  • I'll reiterate my reply here too :)


    Time and again the analysts and terminology seems to focus on the technology aspect and simple Customer use cases and yet there is such a bigger picture at stake.

    At an internal enterprise level this can really blow away the cobwebs. I would love a Greenfield organisation to embrace this from the start and create a legacy free success story, right now we have years and layers of old entrenched beliefs to wash away.

    But it doesn't stop here, as indicated in the recent Forrester #crmjam last night the term 'Social' seems
    to offer a glimpse at converging multiple disciplines like BPM, CRM, Case, ECM because it too is highlighting that there is more in common between them than vendors would like us to believe.

    Start thinking beyond simple social media type application and see where your imagination takes you.

    In context of the question itself, it's neither. Some people call it a phenomenon, others a discipline. Actually I see it more as a change agent that affects these markets I've talked about, it's the transparency and ease of collaboration that is the key element, dropping silos where really none should actually exist.

    Perhaps the question should really be, "what is BPM for the 21st century ?"



  • It's BPM. Social BPM is basically just collaborative business process management utilizing a collective network environment - it's about extending BPM access and decision-making to partners and select external parties without compromising the exclusivity of the core group. It's a means of unifying people to work together more efficiently and keep everyone on the same page. The emphasis isn't on the social element.

    While social networking can allow business users to meet other likeminded individuals, the core of BPM is still about maximizing efficiency for a specific group of people.

  • It is Social and BPM. Why does it have to be exclusive? Processes involve people and people are social beings who interact with each other in complex ways. BPM was (or should have been) social even before the advent of Social Media. Just like there was BPM before the invention of BPMS, we simply were not aware of it. So now the combination of BPMS and Social Media technologies is simply a way to use technology to greatly improve what we were doing before.

    Chatty Solutions

  • user-pic

    We are seeing two distinct trends. One is the expanding scope of BPM applications and focus on leveraging processes behind all business transactions and customer interactions. The other is the increasing adoption of Social media by business, with social media coming into the mainstream of business applications. There is lot of discussion / debate around the convergence of these two emerging concepts. Any evolving trend will be greatly successful when we are able to attach a tangible ROI and repeatable business benefits across business value chain. The melting pot of BPM and Social media is one such trend waiting to be embraced. One area of exploration is how to tap into all social transactions and capture the intelligence and data to trigger processes which can either help with customer service or Innovation or product engineering. This would be more of an OUTSIDE-IN approach. The other approach is to build social capabilities such as collaboration, knowledge sharing, expertise, communities etc around process automation where we are leveraging the emerging social media for improving process efficiencies and KPI’s. This is more of an INSIDE-OUT approach. The broader conclusion will be Not if, but when do we start seeing real life solutions bringing these two concepts together.

  • Rashid +1 - Like many things in life, it's not either-or, it's both-and. Process is a spectrum, from rigid procedure at one end through to evolving (social) practice. Depending on the domain and culture of the organization and its value chain, your going to be somewhere across that spectrum. Indeed, in a given domain, you often find the process flip-flopping from one end to the other.

    The problem is a cultural one - people who think it is all about standardization and control, they just dont grok the more adaptive, goal oriented aspect of practice.

  • Basically social capabilities are now assumed to be baked into BPM offerings. I think the real question now is how do you move your organization to harness social BPM capabilities.

    I recently presented to enterprise architects on this topic at Forrester's EA Forum. In many ways, enterprise architects hold the keys to bringing social BPM into organizations in the right way. I love to use the movie "Avatar" to make the point that social BPM (or any enterprise social initiative) is a good thing but could also hurt companies if not managed properly. If you recall in Avatar, Humans came to a strange planet inhabited by the Naa'vi people. Using the Avatar analogy, the business is like the Naa'vi people, living in a new, wild, and exotic world - think SaaS, mashups, wikis, Lean BPM, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all of the other social tools business stakeholders are using to get their work done. On the other side are the Humans who come to Pandora - they are like IT, really focused on control and security. They - IT - realize that business stakeholders can hurt themselves - and the company - if there is no governance around social BPM. So, EA must act as the Avatars to help identify where social BPM (and social BPM tools) fits in and what type of governance should be put around it.

    Here's the deck I used at Forrester's EA Forum to highlight specific steps and strategies companies should follow to take the journey to social BPM:



  • We see the ‘social’ in Social BPM as being more than collaboration or ad-hoc processes or even communication, and Michael nailed a big part of it – Social BPM needs to be frame-worked with rich and meaningful context. In the case of Social BPM that means more than just using social media as another broadcast approach to solve problems – you need to provide context to the network you are reaching out to. This is where we are looking to apply the techniques of human capital management, talent and experience discovery, and indexing to match problems with the people equipped – and experienced enough – to help.

    Imagine you are an investigator working on a clinical trial and you use BPM to organize, track, and manage the responses. You have a question about the results of a particular experiment, and want to find someone to talk to. Not just anyone, but someone who can actually add value.

    You already know the principle investigator for the trial – it is right there on your screen. You also know the trial type, the investigation in question, etc. But what you want is to speak to someone who has worked on the same or similar trials for the same investigator who successfully completed this step in processing the trial’s results – someone who is in the building and not lf overwhelmed with work – basically someone who can and likely will help you out.

    With Social BPM you bring together static information – trial type, and historical performance – who has successfully done this before; then apply social computer technology – real time communication, and finally BPM data – who is likely available to help. This is applying the context provided by BPM to the ad-hoc/broadcast nature of social computing.

    We think that social computing and BPM technology naturally complement each other. Social BPM is BPM – you are still managing and executing your processes on the same platform – but, thanks to the added benefit of real time, human input – you are finding quicker and more insightful ways to do it.

  • Thanks everyone, these are great posts. I just posted another blog on this topic - (http://www.ebizq.net/blogs/tech_tomorrow/2010/04/forget-the-buzzwords-how-do-we-improve-the-customer-experience.php). Clay's and Greg's posts were so in line with the post that I had to reference them. Great stuff.

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