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Do you agree that social BPM will supercharge BPM?

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As Ian Gotts blogged, Supercharged research on SocialBPM from Gartner, Elise Olding from Gartner recently declared that social BPM will supercharge BPM.  Do you agree?

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  • Not sure it will Supercharge BPM, but it will super change it. Hopefully SocialBPM will see BPM in general radically change, putting more emphasis on "discovery" of processes and greater participation in how processes are implemented - as opposed to designed by the few who perhaps dont fully understand all the process complexities / elements...

  • What a timely conincidence, having just finished a 2 week session on "social(-ized?)" BPM with several clients. What we did was rather banal but suprisingly effective as we used our Procss TestLab to let line of business people validate the project results for new processes.

    These folks would normally have their first contact with a new process during training (if they're lucky enough to be provided with process training) or during the 'going live' phase - in any case way too late to use their expertise for changes or improvements.

    Result of these validation sessions: Participants identfied a large number of process areas either requiring change or at least offering room for improvement. In the beginning they were hesitant in pointing out 'process defects', fearing that comments would be regarded as critisism of the projects. But as it turned out, they used their non-project background to come up wth issues the project teams could not have known about. In this sense social BPM offers the best of both worlds - project and goal perspective plus the knowledge, experience and input from the daily business. And let's not forget that early involvement goes a long way to gaining acceptance.

    But, but, but ...as always there's a danger of being too something - too social in this case. Do we need participation from all interested parties at all times during design, implementation and operation? In other words, do we want the social aspect all across the complete lifecycle or only on dedicated milestones for example post-design and prior implementation?

    My view would be that we need to become more social where it helps. But let's not overreach and hold company-wide opinion polls during process design and implementation. Social in the sense of making room for qualified input is fine, process anarchy is not.

  • Social BPM is not new. The principles are not new. The technoloy is not new. The 'branding' is new and has captured the imagination of BPM bloggers. In the same way that the Cloud has been around for a while as Hosting, ASP or SaaS, but only escaped from IT into the business with its new persona - "Cloud".

    Social BPM used to be called collaboration. In fact Nimbus Control has had 'social BPM' since R1.0 14 years ago. Agreed it did not look like Twitter/Facebook and this is encouraging us to change our UI.

    So based on 14 years experience does Social supercharge BPM. It certainly gets far more people engaged in process and process change. That supercharges the performance of companies. And that is what matters.

    Example: Carphone Warehouse will do an extra $80m of revenue from its 800 UK stores because all staff have accss to a consistent set of processes which were developed collaboratively.
    Watch the video to see why/how:

  • I tend to agree somewhat with Ian (but without the overt sales pitch, tut tut Mr Gotts) and Thomas.

    It's always been around and you need to socialise a process in order for it to be understood, managed, improved upon. How we do it may be changing in terms of the tools but the techniques are left a little to be desired (as always) as is the governance. Blow open the doors and invite everyone to the party and suddenly there's a cacophony of noise and opinion which will ultimately slow down any BPM endeavor. I have yet to see any discipline make strides in embracing the collaborative angle for the 21st century and beyond, only gloss over which BPM tools have 'social' features.

    If 'social' is to really supercharge BPM then both tool and methodology should start to collaborate with each other rather than stay at arms length. I did try to do this with the ABPMP and the Lombardi University, perhaps it's time to dust off the gloves and pick up the mantle again if the appetite is there.....

  • Just a few more thoughts to add to my earlier comment.

    Assuming that ‘social’ implies participation from interested parties, the difficulties already start to set in when it comes to process perspective.

    Take the usual control flow and people will usually only be able to interpret and evaluate the task their role has been assigned (modelled) to. The personal, subjective perspective of an individual of the different processes he may be involved in is not reflected in standard process models.

    Therein lies one of the challenges for social BPM: aligning individual and subjective process perception with our usual abstract way of process description. There are a small number of approaches emerging that are picking up on this issue (google S-BPM for ‘subject-oriented BPM’ as an example) but there’s still a long way to go.

    We should also keep in mind that over a long time we’ve tried to establish BPM as a ‘hard science’, based on facts, integrated or at least supported by IT. Many will have difficulties in combining that view with an understanding that processes are by nature based on interaction and communication and that any improvement to these ’soft’ aspects will actually make for better processes. Quite apart from the fact that process communication skills are somewhat underdeveloped in most enterprises.

    Process awareness is a good starting point towards social BPM but with more than 50% of employees unable to explain their tasks in the context of a process (result of a survey we conducted over the last year), what could people actually talk about? I don’t believe that social BPM should be build on guesswork..or should it for the sheer sake of it?


  • To quote Mr. Gotts’ summary of the Gartner material, Social BPM is “2 distinct perspectives: Collaboration to improve a business process or to get a job done.?

    While capturing the communal knowledge is important, we are finding that the second aspect of social computing is more impactful and meaningful for organizations.

    Don’t get me wrong – new tools that allow non-traditional modelers (i.e.: the broader process participants) to capture requirements, goals, models, etc. is really taking off. But this is really a harvesting of ideas and input in a casually structured way. This is also different than marching dozens of users in each role through review sessions or gathering input from every user.

    But the real value of social BPM that we have seen is its ability to match up the people who ‘know how’ with the people who ‘want to.’ This is especially valuable with adaptive and dynamic processes where the process contains both highly structured and dynamic components. Here we see social computing, or more specifically social analytics, as a key way of optimizing performance.

    Don’t know how a particular case should be reviewed? Then you should connect with people that have the skills, experience, and desire to help out.

    That is social BPM with bottom line impact. Is that supercharging? Or maybe just fuel-injected?

  • The comments above are an interesting and totally legitimate debate about collaboration and its effects on BPM, but nobody seems to be discussing social BPM and whether or not this is a game changer. Social BPM is definitely revolutionary, but first I think we still have a long way to go in defining what social means.

    Social BPM doesn't really have much to do with collaboration per se. Social "anything" has to do with applications that are able to collect data, usually lots of it, and manipulate that data in meaningful ways so that the overall user experience in the application is richer over time. Twitter, for example, isn't "social" because millions of people are using it. Rather it is social because it is able to create meaning from user data. Twitter's ability to see "trending topics" and to convert itself into a search engine is what makes Twitter social (and interesting for that matter).

    Sure, Facebook is about connecting with friends and sharing pictures with family, but Facebook is amassing terabytes of useful data which can be used to provide users with a contextually meaningful experiences. This is what social is all about (very big brotherish by definition), and I think Tim O'Reilly was one of the first to really spot this trend and its importance moving forward.

    So, what does this mean for BPM and will it really super charge BPM? Well there are definitely a few interesting hurdles in the way, but the answer is ...absolutely. I've written further about the topic here on my blog - http://bit.ly/hO0mFW


    Brian Reale

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