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Has social BPM fallen short of expectations so far?

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Having read some recent complaints about social BPM on various blogs (as in this from Scott Francis), has social BPM fallen short of expectations so far?

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  • He is absolutely correct that the "out of band" collaboration will and SHOULD exist. The key is to tap into that collaboration, capture all its vast details, and to embed that as part of the archive of each process instance. This is the prime focus of dynamic business process management and why it is a standard feature of products like BizFlow (full disclosure I am employed by HandySoft for those not aware).

    The intent is to keep these valuable collaborative threads from getting lost into the black hole of email, texting, and the like. A process is really only as good as its repeatability. Without capturing this tacit knowledge you have no hope of a repeatable process. So in essence, NO social BPM has not fallen short if you possess the correct features in your BPM platform solution.

  • Good identification of a challenge around "social" anything, including social BPM.

    Some of the challenge is associated with expectations and hype -- and the technology itself is not really delivered yet. There is a huge amount of research around "narrative" and "story" and "annotation", but this work is not yet delivered in product. And the result is that most current social products are not built on a solid model of how narrative works in the human mind and as communication transactions between actors. And typically, a model of "work", i.e. what should be the subject of conversation, is also missing. But, over time we should see these challenges addressed, and surely the result will be very exciting.

    However, I believe there's another challenge beyond technology, which may be more difficult to solve. This is the challenge of "social technology governance".

    The world "social" actually misleads us when addressing this challenge, because the governance issue is not first of all about the "social" but about the "individual".

    All so-called "social software" is first of all about capturing personal thoughts in a more intimate way than has ever really been done by technology until now. To participate in "social" is to deliver one's quotidien personal observations to technology, and more importantly to the corporation.

    From an ideological perspective, you can find critics on both the "left" and the "right" on this topic. On the right, we have former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's infamous comment that "there is no such thing as society", which just as easily could be updated to refer to "the social". One doesn't have to be a fan of Margaret Thatcher to see a certain truth to Baroness Thatcher's comment. The "idea of the social" is a little bit of a convenient corporate "fiction", in the same way that "temperature" is a convenient scientific fiction. Useful in the large, but not an absolute category.

    On the other hand, from the left, we can hear all sorts of criticisms about "corporate colonization of individual thoughts". Both sociological/governance criticisms capture what I think are intuitive concerns by participants in corporate social technology experiments. (One can add an economic dimension as well, and ask about the personal cost of participating in social versus the benefits to the individual.)

    The social technology governance question is a question of sociology, power and economics and whether or not the individual, i.e. the autonomous human actor which is the driver of social, benefits from and perceives benefits from this participation in the social.

    In summary, social BPM is immature as a technology and especially important, social BPM is beset by unresolved personal governance issues.

    Personally, I have high hopes for the category, and like many, am already benefiting from social technologies. But we have a long, long way to go. Compared to where we will be a generation from now, it's hardly even a beginning.

    • The world "social" actually misleads us when addressing this challenge, because the governance issue is not first of all about the "social" but about the "individual".

      That statement doesn't make sense to me. I see no justification for governance, or its attendant issues, w/o a theory of communication. Communication is fundamentally intersubjective, or social.

      I don't think social is about individuals transferring inner thought into technology or media. Rather, its about mediation of social interaction and of social relationships (egoistic, interpersonal, and social included). The trick to systems design would center on architecture and emergent social dynamics -- or the processes of society and the habits of culture.

      Or so it seems to me.

      • Adrian,

        Thank you for you thoughtful comments. They are certainly right on the mark as far as identifying that a theory of communications should underlay any social technology. And also that social is about facilitating interpersonal communications.

        However, consider that "emergent behaviour" cannot "emerge" except that you have an actor (or atomic) population each member of which has some independence, although subject to common rules and characteristics by virtue of being in the population.

        You can't have "inter-subjectivity" without first having subjectivity. To ignore individual autonomous actors, i.e. the people which are the users of software technology, is to create a governance problem. I don't think that we can continue to "assume", as has the entire IT world since its inception, the individual.

        The movement to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is just one example of something that I think we will see a lot more of. Here's an item I wrote on this topic:

  • Social BPM is nothing.

    A process is a process. If you choose to manage your organization by process, you really start using those processes.

    Soon you will see that every process has it's own characteristics that are needed to deliver the result of that process.

    Then you might discover that some processes need collaboration between a lot of process players.

    Social tools can help in that, but in the end it's about the information that is shared and used. So if you expect that social tools will make your process better just by installing them, It's no surprise you will be disappointed.

    So what's the use of talking about social BPM? It's about using techniques to improve the social aspects of process execution and management.

  • If social BPM has failed to meet expectations, it's because of problems with the expectations, not the social BPM.

    I agree with Emiel that "a process is a process" and with John that "governance [is not] about the 'social' but about the 'individual.'" Get that right and you'll do a better job of setting your expectations and getting value from your technology.

  • Yes it has, in fact it's failed to materialise into anything more concrete than Facebook or Twitter for the enterprise and not really pervade into process definition, discovery and handling as we would have dreamed. On top of that none of the methods have even bothered picking up on the additional collaboration so it's still seen as a geeky plaything and of little value.

    Outside of BPM companies like Salesforce really understand how it ties together as a business to customer collaboration channel, shame the BPM industry has to hang onto someone else's coattails again and tie ourselves in knots with trying to come up with another new buzzword.

    Why not gamify your social BPM.....I'm sure we'll be talking about 'that' subject next year anyway.... ;)

  • Interesting discussion, though process just means process, social means beyond social these day, the social enterprise means the new mindset, the new way to do business in order to adapt to the new generation of customers, always on, hybrid business environment and extended enterprise without border.

    In this regard, social BPM maybe just not fully grow up yet, and social BPM means to converge BPM with CRM, BI, MDM and other cutting-edge technology, and go beyond inside-out business process, to delight customer via outside-in viewpoint, well, actually, embedding gamificaton mechanism into BPM to encourage positive behavior and improving staff satisfaction is anther good trend. thanks

  • You can even attend summer school for social bpm:


  • I think this "Social BPM" is certainly overhyped hyped and yet again another jumping on a "bandwagon". A “summer school for social bpm" is a good example?
    Having said that there is undoubtedly what I would call "informal" processes where social networking tools will be used by users to help them make decisions in their daily jobs. When an organisation uses good BPM supporting technology the management philosophy will change from the old command and control to empowerment and measurement. You are basically recognising the intuitive skills of people to do a good job and freeing them to do it better. Formal processes need to be flexible to adapt as required. Informal ones sit outside and should be recognised such as people using their own mobile devices. Such informal outcomes will result in becoming part of the formal process. However in any area where compliance is an issue a court is unlikely to differentiate business from such “social” activity and as such should be recognized in the process build.

  • user-pic

    Well, why is it so: "If social BPM has failed to meet expectations, it's because of problems with the expectations, not the social BPM"?

    If expectations were low, why would we care about social BPM? Actually, what does "social BPM" mean? What is its area of applicability and efficiency? Who benefits the most out of it - the process worker, the process manager or the consumer? Is the whole deal about it triggered by tools like social/collaborative Web sites, i.e. there were no objective business needs in social BPM?

  • Its fallen short due to a failure to understand what social really is. Social is about conversations, the applications themselves are irrelevant. The next step is to understand what benefits these conversations can bring to BPM and I believe there are a few, in particular to bring about the culture change that hinders many bpm projects.

    You can read more here..

  • Social BPM is not fallen short of expectations.

    Social interaction is still in early adoption steps. Adoption will increase as managers realize that customers are taking control of process execution. Those that does not make the sift will suffer from poor customer experience and will harm business.

    There are two driving factors that are making the change.

    1- The type of company value chain. If the company sells / provides directly to consumers, means that they cannot control the touching points with the company (consumers can now express freely frustration, disappointment, change the execution path because they have mobile ammunition on the go to access and send information).

    2 - Social technology. People are getting used to replicate communication habits with every entity they contact. This means they will or are keen of exchange information with companies they buy products, what information, support, whatever.

    But this not enough. Again we ear all the time about social technologies that will make the change. On one hand is true that tech increases information flow speed making the organization more horizontal, improving communication, information exchange, building better, more participative teams; on the other hand you need alignment between these three layers:

    1- The social practice, or the business process, instead of thinking about the typical process flow with activities, that don’t have the granularity and the detail to express the dynamics of social interaction, think more about a conversation to achieve a process goal. That conversation can be carried using different, mixed technologies, voice, text or video. Conversations involve people that belong to network nodes and conversation occurs within the arcs of the network.

    2- The organization layer, not the organizational structure with business units and departments and roles, but the social network, that shows the communication flow and how people are connected with.

    3 - The Technology layer, the applications people use to communicate and socialize. Some examples are activity streams, e-mail, wikis, instant messaging, whatever it fits their needs. It can happen, that different people in different organizations communicate the same piece of information using different tools, because they tend to adapt to its needs or regarding IT rules (for example IT Dept, don’t like to allow Google docs, because of its lack of privacy and security concerns).

    Thus social tech is not only what it counts. Putting all the three layers is what makes the difference.

    I would say that the company social network patterns will make the difference regarding the type of knowledge that is applied. Something a got deeper in this blog post:


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