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Editor's Note: In this interview, Forrester Research's Craig Le Clair speaks with ebizQ's Stephanie Mann about combining enterprise social platforms and dynamic case management (DCM) for improved business agility, collaboration and communication. Le Clair discusses why the approach is gaining traction and how business processes can benefit from such initiatives. Le Clair, a Forrester vice president and principal analyst, is among the speakers at Forrester's upcoming "Embracing Digital Disruption" conference. This Q & A has been edited for clarity and editorial style.

ebizQ: Why use enterprise social platforms and dynamic case management (DCM) together? How do they relate?

Le Clair: Enterprise social platforms are really a form of collaboration—or extreme collaboration—that is targeted at knowledge workers. In one sense, it's bringing a kind of Facebook-like experience, a Twitter-like experience, or a micro-blogging type experience into the workforce to try to generate better communication and more transparency among knowledge workers.

But because it comes out of that consumer technology, it doesn't really understand what I call "enterprise IT requirements." The idea of content and document management; the idea of running a process or managing a process to get a business goal done; the whole notion of enterprise IT security—those might not be things it does well.

That's why [enterprise social platforms and DCM] come together. They both have complementary strengths and weaknesses. Business process management and dynamic case management—those more process-oriented capabilities—don’t have great communication.

The beauty of why social has really taken off is that it's such a great way to communicate. You have real-time, in-moment activity that's well-communicated. That's very, very important for certain types of processes that require that—but not all do. If you're doing more straight-through, production or back-office type processes, you don't want that. You want the worker to stay, head-down, at a high RPM, and just work on task, after task, after task.

But as you move toward the case management area, where you're dealing with more human judgment or a dynamic type of exception management, that's where you can really take advantage of enterprise social.

ebizQ: When used together, what can DCM and enterprise social platforms achieve for business processes?

Le Clair:
For one thing, a lot of important business happens in email, which is not managed. It just goes away. Maybe it's archived or there's electronic discovery, but it's not maintained in the context of the business process. If you're using enterprise social, then you're bringing all that communication within the business process, and you're tracking and maintaining it. That's really powerful.

Some of the strongest future benefits are around analyzing the activity streams, whether it be posts to a social type of site or micro-blogging. Being able to analyze that activity, you can surface expertise in an organization that you may not have been able to before.

There's been a long history in business process management to try to incorporate skills-based routing, or expertise location, or trying to import enterprise organizational models into the process. Those have worked to some extent, but they require a lot of maintenance and management. [With enterprise social and DCM] we can, just from the activity streams, understand that George is the guy solving certain types of problems. Then we can fold George into that particular problem, and get it solved quicker and sooner.

The creation of cases [is another benefit]. I was at a company in South America a while ago, and they had about 50 staff workers that were manually monitoring Twitter feeds to generate responses to them. Imagine if instead you had social events or activities being monitored, and by using analytics you could actually create a case and route it to personnel who are able to solve it.

So those are just three areas [where DCM and enterprise social platforms are successful]: being able to start cases from the social world; expertise routing; and having the email communication be part of the process, instead of having it be separate from the process.

ebizQ: Are some types of enterprise social platforms more conducive to this approach than others?

Le Clair:
I think that they all have the potential. The ones that have better management of activity streams are probably stronger. There are also ones that have strong community, voting and ideation—those can all be used in a case environment very effectively.

One of the real challenges with enterprise social platforms is that they're being used mainly to make knowledge workers just a little more productive, to make them feel better about themselves. But the problem is that they are not being integrating in with the core systems that run companies. That’s where business process management comes in, because it's really running the process layer. It gives social more directed value by trying to reach and achieve business goals.

ebizQ: What common challenges do companies face when using enterprise social and DCM side by side?

Le Clair:
There aren't that many companies that are doing it yet; that's the first thing. I've been interviewing companies that are doing it, but a practice for it hasn't really been developed yet. But companies see the potential, for sure.

If I were to envision a real problem, it would be that you need to really get the executives, operations managers and business managers on board so that they see value in what you're implementing. It has to be in the context of solving business problems.

One mistake I have seen is where social comes in as a kind of consumer technology that's helping in a vague, undetermined way. It's not being viewed as a really critical component of improving the agility of the organization. Many companies can't respond fast enough to changing market conditions. They have to listen for them. Social allows them to listen more and it allows them to have that antenna that they need to be more agile. But it's not being viewed that way yet.

ebizQ: Can you give a real-world example of how DCM and enterprise social platforms have helped modernize systems or provide new business capabilities?

Le Clair:
There's a company that does repairs to wind turbines and it has very specialized equipment, always in funny places—such as three miles offshore, and not in major cities. The use of mobility with enterprise social and dynamic case management was a combination that really helped them figure out whether the right part was being deployed to the right location.

They did that by having conversation threads that were constantly monitored, as part of the case. The case was set up when there was a repair problem with a particular wind turbine. So they were keeping that activity stream alive and, on a post-basis, were able to analyze why some repairs and people were more effective.

Enterprise social will not be successful at the enterprise level until it is integrated with more IT-reliable, process-oriented technologies, like case management. It will continue to be more or less a slight improvement for knowledge workers without really affecting business goals and outcomes.

READER FEEDBACK: Have you combined dynamic case management with social enterprise platforms? If so, ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experience. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.



About the Author

Stephanie Mann is the former assistant editor for ebizQ and its sister TechTarget site, SearchSOA. Before joining TechTarget, Stephanie was a contributing reporter and proofreader for a Boston-area weekly newspaper and an editorial intern at a Cambridge, Mass.-based publishing company. She has also worked for several nonprofits and as a freelance editor.

More by Stephanie Mann, Assistant Site Editor, ebizQ

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