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How disruptive will social networks be to business processes?

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A question raised here, which quotes, "Social networks will displace business processes, not socialize them."  So how big of an impact do you see social networks having on business processes? 

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  • "Although people may start thinking about the business process running in parallel with the social dimension, quickly the social dimension will simply turn the process into a flattened version of itself, just another social object in the social stream."

    It's so refreshing to read something like this because face up to facts people, this is how it's going to be from now on.

    Social is no longer a fancy add-on, it will be how work is handled.

    And again I'll bang the 'goodbye hierarchy' drum as I've done on Redux many a time because a flatter organization with flatter processes will become the more agile and competitive and over time the norm.

  • The point being made in the post is about SOCIAL INSIDE BPM and that social will erode the process functionality. Thats more or less what I said when I wrote that Social BPM is lipstick on a pig which I commented on in 2010: http://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/lipstick-on-a-pig/

    But I see a substantial problem with the social paradigm and it is not just the inherent security, authentication and authorization issue. Social interaction thrives on the ability to stream information to a large number of people. That is utterly wrong for most business processes. Yes, people may want to pull other performers into the process but there is no benefit in doing so inside a Social platform. Doing Social interaction inside a rigid process is cute but useless as it is no more than a Post-It note. Attaching process info to a Social message as a hyperlink seems cool but is not really Social because the receiver would need to be authenticated as performer in any case. What process management can learn from Social is the subscription mode that enables well known performers to be notified of certain events even if that is not defined inside a process. But once again the benefit is limited as the process is rigid. One could however bracket social interaction into a work case ...

    The main issue is that social is at the other extreme end of the people interaction spectrum. BPM flow-diagrams restrict as much as Social democratizes. Business processes are not about democracy but about doing business, which means purposeful collaboration towards process goals and (operational) targets, delivering handovers and achieving customer outcomes. Social and BPM do nothing to define those and make them transparent. They let people interact without any purpose or enforce an analyzed TO-BE process. There is a huge gap in between.

    That is the gap that can be filled with adaptive process definitions (as in ACM) that start with defining why to do a process and what it delivers explicitly! If a goal has been defined one can start a social conversation about it to define what to do. But once that is clarified someone must declare the work tasks to be done and its completion to be recorded! How would Social do this? As a free text message? Yes, but then it is worse than email today! Plus one needs business data, business content, e-forms, sub-goals, predefined work for compliance (subprocesses), business rules (that need data and content) and some UI functions that allow the navigation through the process, which really is a case with work items.

    Social is cute in the consumer world and for bringing people togther in large corporations. Let's have it. The one thing is won't do is replace process-oriented work and it won't turn a BPM product into a Social platform. It is however a natural component of a case-oriented process definition as long as it supports clearly defined goals.

    Finally, with Social there is no embedded learning and improvement for the organization. Meaning there is no Adaptiveness (in the evolutionary sense) but just total ad-hoc interaction. One can use complex social network analysis to dig out some repeatable process fragments AND THEN? You put them into a BPM system?

    All really very strange indeed ...

    • Great comment, several good things in this one, in particular broadcasting, and embedded learning (beyond the basics of security, forms, etc.!). Good food for thought. Thanks for sharing!

  • Great point. I agree with the author of the article that the social work will change business processes. I don’t think it will “displace” business processes but it will change the automation (BPMS) tools that support processes.

    The author gives a great example of a claims process that is based on an unstructured or emergent “case style” approach. It is event-based rather than workflow based and the clerk has a number of process options available. In the example she starts a discussion or question to another clerk. It may even be necessary to start a complete “ad hoc” task based on the feedback and have it linked to the activity stream of that transaction.

    This is not socialization as we see in social networking sites. This is collaboration in the context of a specific transaction. It needs to become part of the visible activity stream of that transaction.

    We find that there is a big misconception on the difference between socialization and collaboration. They are marketed under the same new tag as “social” is cool. We find that businesses want collaboration, not socialization and it needs to be in the context of the work that is done.

    The example that the author gives also highlights the fact that social is part of normal work, it is not a new add-on. BPM tools

    I just finished a whitepaper that addresses the 3 Myths of Social Work where I highlight the fact the social work is not a new tool. It is work as we know it, the collaboration is just better supported. You can find 3 Myths of Social Work here

  • Is this referring to Facebook disrupting the accomplishment of actual work? ;-)

    I hear great confusion in the real world between COLLABORATION, with which we have beat people over the head for years now, and SOCIAL NETWORKS. (BTW, we can't call this "social work." There is already a huge field called social work, and we aren't in it.)

    I agree with Pieter. The referenced post has a scenario that is simply hoc collaboration. Call it social if you will, but it doesn't help the industry nor our customers; it only helps sell "advice" and buzz.

    • +1 for Is this referring to Facebook disrupting the accomplishment of actual work? and another +1 for There is already a huge field called social work, and we aren't in it.

      File under "wish I'd said that".

  • Max really nailed this one. Social is social, and business is business. He even mentioned one of my favorite (counter-example) use cases: subscriptions. We've found numerous uses for subscriptions in the context of business processes. Are subscriptions "social"? Sure, why not. But don't confuse a useful feature with a fundamental technology driver.

    While I'm talking about counter-examples: I'm a big believer in the integration of collaborative document annotation with BPM. This is as close to "social" as a process is likely to get: multiple simultaneous actors (each authenticated and granted appropriate privileges, as Max notes), seeing one another's comments and adding their own. Collaborative, social, and valuable.

    But let's not get ahead of ourselves. These are examples of social enhancements to BPM, not examples of social transformation of BPM. I sometimes wonder if people in social media sit around speculating on how to "BPMize" their field. I imagine they don't, because they seem to understand, as we apparently do not, that while there may be areas of overlap, the technologies serve fundamentally different purposes and audiences.

  • It seems like some like to say that working together in a 'social' way to deliver a result isn't a process.

    But as a process is 'the thing' to deliver a result it is just another way of getting the desired grip on that process.

    In information-delivering processes, social networks will have impact (crowd-processing?, but in more industrial type of processes, I still wonder.

    But of course there is another impact of social networks on process; they are the ultimate process performance analysis of your process. faster then any BI-dashbord they show the performance of your process:

    #ilikeit #thissucks, all kinds of review sites, make clear how your processes are doing.

    Talking about that, seen this one? http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/this-is-the-most-epic-brand-meltdown-on-facebook-ever


    • Emiel, surely one can perform a process in a Social Network environment, but the current technology provides nothing to support well-defined, purposeful collaboration towards business goals. There is no embedded learning or feedback as to which processes produce which benefits or outcomes.

      Yes, the public social communication may point very quickly to the ability of a business to perform customer outcomes, but that has nothing to do with replacing those processes or improving them. It might lead to rapid improvement if the processes are adaptive.

  • I see "social" as the informal communications a bit like the coffee machine meetings just now wider and "digitised"? Of course such collaboration is natural as users can gain knowledge that may help them at work. As Max puts it "better supported"; so nothing really new in that?

    So will it "disrupt" business processes well I am in the camp better not disrupt "the accomplishment of actual work?” The real issue may be how to record influence from new knowledge but this could be recorded and perhaps distributed as part of the process which probably happens already? What it might do is ensure process knowledge belongs to the business but good BPM Adaptive solutions are doing that already? So hardly "disruptive"?

  • Displace processes is abit harsh in my opinion because as long as someone is performing an action physically or within the confines of a machine of some sort and if followed by another action, you have a business process forming.

    The only way theoretically speaking if this can indeed be displaced is if all work and systems are so optimised that indeed all communications and interactions are indeed not even done by people anymore.

    I guess what they said is true. Robots are going to rule the world :)

  • A few months ago I was listening to the BBC and I heard this unusual thing that a writer embarked on. As the writer was writing the new novel she was writing it live in the social media, getting feedback and reviews by her readers, chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph…etc. This was a bazaar idea, out of the box thinking for writers going through there writing process.

    I think social media will have its negative and positives towards business process. It’s the BPM expert’s responsibility to place the best process that includes social media with minimal disruption to the process. Social media is shaping the world and BPM should take advantage of it, at the end social media is only another communication portal between the business and its customers.

    By the way, it was a success, and the novel was finished but the writer claimed they will not do that again!!!!

  • Interesting thoughts. Awesome comment by Max.

    Well when the Web1.0 generation moved to Web2.0, emails made way for podcasts, websites for RSS feeds, shared workspaces for wikis, instant messaging for mash ups, instant updates for tweets, and the enterprise directory for bookmarks. At the same time, Technology has also leapt forward to make the internet a “Happening Social Space”. Business Process Management (BPM) is an approach about identifying, defining, executing, controlling, monitoring, improving, optimizing and governing business processes in an organization. BPM, which was earlier restricted only to workflows has broken barriers to come closer to us, whether it be starting the day with the morning newspaper, travelling by flight on business, the work in the office, the afternoon lunch in a restaurant, the evening shopping at a retail market, or the swiping of the credit card for fine dining — each of these industries demand a process. The world has gone “Global n Social”. Customers today demand a speedy response to their requests and want the companies to customize the services to their needs.

    So, Social Media can actually be considered as yet another input channel to bridge the gap between the end user and the business. To put it as a formula BPM + Social = Socially facilitated processes => Faster Processing, Better Visibility and Adaptability

    Now if the question arises If Social BPM a Mandate for the Enterprise ?
    No. Not necessarily. Every enterprise must decide on whether to adopt Social BPM based on the business objectives it is trying to achieve. Social BPM becomes very handy in situations where the social data needs to be exploited to reap better benefits targeted towards customer centricity. However, in some cases, the security concerns stop the enterprise from adopting and venturing into the Social BPM arena. So, every firm has to take a call based on the trade-off.

    As everyday we have a bunch of social channels mushrooming, it is all the more important for the business trying to dip their processes in the social ocean, to evaluate and exploit the social channel best suited for the business!!

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