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Editor’s Note: In this two-part Q & A, Neil Ward-Dutton, cofounder and research director of MWD Advisors, speaks with ebizQ’s Peter Schooff about his predictions for BPM in 2013. Here, in Part II, they discuss the future of mobile and social BPM, and why communication is key to breaking through BPM hype. In Part I, they talk about what's ahead for mainstream BPM technology, including trends in case management. This interview, excerpted from a longer podcast, has been edited for length, clarity and editorial style.

ebizQ: This past year, we saw the clear effects of mobile and social on how people work. How do you think this will continue to affect BPM in the year ahead?

Neil Ward-Dutton: I think what we've seen are actually just the very, very first signs of what people are going to do. Fundamentally, I think a lot of the stuff we see around mobile is kind of a distraction. We see a lot of people focusing on how to get a [user interface] for their process applications that works on an iPad or an Android phone. That, to me, that is just a distraction.

What's much more interesting about both mobile and social is that they both really change the cost and the benefit of information exchange and sharing in an organization and between organizations. From that perspective, you can see them as a kind of evolution of a lot of the things that have been happening in technology for decades.

Mobile and social both take the economics of information sharing even further because they make it easier to share and exchange information further and faster and with less cost to the person consuming it. I think when people figure out what to do with mobile and social in their processes in their organizations, it really means opening up new possibilities for coordinating work with less friction.

So this is about getting information and work to new places with fewer handoffs, with less opportunity for error or having to do rework, with being able to involve more people in understanding how things are progressing.

Social engagement and activity streams enable you to get many more participants and interested parties to be able to have oversight and to understand how work is progressing. When you look at it from an expertise-location point of view, clearly social technologies have the opportunity to give you a platform where you can rapidly solve problems by just pulling people together in an ad hoc fashion.

All of those things are about coordinating work and information—but it's about doing it further and faster and at lower cost in a broader sense than ever before.

So I think that we're going to see a lot more with mobile and social in 2013. I think it's going to be a lot more interesting than just, "Hey look, we got an activity stream front end!" or, "Hey look, we can run on an iPad!" Frankly, that's kind of boring. The really interesting stuff is going to come in the coming years.

ebizQ: We've certainly seen a lot of BPM hype this past year. What would you say are the key steps a company should take to make sure their BPMS [business process management suite] lives up to the hype?

Ward-Dutton: I think it really comes down to two fundamental things. The first is to really take the time to think about what any particular problem you're trying to solve stems from, and how it links into your end customer's experience. The reason this is important is that it's only by zooming out so that you can see the big picture—which has the customer in it—that you can see how the problem you're trying to solve links into that picture.

Only when you can see that big picture do you really understand what are the important things about this problem and which bits do we need to tackle first, and which are the bits are kind of a distraction or a red herring, if you like.

The other one is really about what it takes to be effective and link this into delivering stuff for the customer. You're thinking about how to actually make this happen: "How do we progress this project, how do we make the changes we need to make?" And that one really all boils down to communication.

There are so many things that are important to get right, but they all boil down to [the fact that] BPM/BPMS implementation is going to drive change in your organization. It's going to change, quite possibly, the way people work, the way they're measured, and the technology they use as they do their work. That's a lot of change for the people to accept.

[Typically,] you've got one small group of people who are trying to make a change, trying to convince a much larger group of people that they need to change the way they work. And there's no way of doing that without communicating.

So much of this comes down to making sure that you know who the people are who are going to be affected, what they need, what they want, what they're afraid of, how you can encourage them to change, how you can get them to see the big picture, and tying all that together in a concrete plan of action.

That's what a lot of it comes down to when you're talking about how do you really get the value and how do you live up to the hype. It just really comes down to people.

We often use the term "soft skills," which I think is a tremendously misleading way to talk about it. We tend to think of technology as the hard bit and the people stuff as the soft bit. I actually think it's the other way around: It's the people stuff that teams often leave until too late, and don't spend enough time on. That's really the secret.

See Part I of this Q & A, in which Ward-Dutton and Schooff talk about what's ahead for mainstream BPM technology, including trends in case management.

READER FEEDBACK: Do you have big plans for mobile and social BPM this year? If so, ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experience. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.



About the Author

Peter Schooff is a former contributing editor for ebizQ, where he also managed the ebizQ Forum for several years. Previously, Peter managed the database operations for a major cigar company, served as writer/editor of an early Internet entertainment site and developed a computer accounting system for several retail stores. Peter can be reached at pschooff@techtarget.com.

More by Peter Schooff

About ebizQ

ebizQ is the insider’s guide to next-generation business process management. We offer a growing collection of independent editorial articles on BPM trends, issues, challenges and solutions, all targeted to business and IT BPM professionals.

We cover BPM standards, governance, technology and continuous process improvement, as well as process discovery, modeling, simulation and optimization, among many other areas. We follow case management, decision management, business rules management, operational intelligence, complex event processing and other related topics. We closely track important trends such as the rise of social BPM, mobile BPM and BPM in the cloud. We also explore BPM’s use in functional areas, such as supply chain and customer management, and in key verticals, such as financial services, health care, insurance and government.

ebizQ's other BPM-oriented content includes podcasts, webcasts, webinars, white papers, a variety of expert blogs, a lively online forum and much more.

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