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Editor's Note: In this Q & A with ebizQ's Anne Stuart, Forrester Research Senior Analyst Clay Richardson offers his definition for social BPM and discusses who should use the approach, how to start, which pitfalls to avoid and what's on the horizon. This Q & A has been edited for clarity, length and editorial style.



ebizQ: How do you define social BPM?
Clay Richardson: It's continuously evolving. The definition we currently have is that it's techniques and technology that extend the reach and impact of BPM initiatives beyond the traditional players. It's not a specific technology. It's a capability that's added onto BPM-almost an additional layer on top of a BPM initiative. It doesn't cost anything or take any more time.

ebizQ: It might be useful here to distinguish between a collaborative and a social approach to BPM.
Richardson: They're not the same, although collaboration uses some social components and techniques. Collaboration is usually [a few] people coming together to drive a specific outcome, really collaborating around a specific topic. It's usually a controlled group. When we're talking social, we're talking about something much more transparent. Anybody can see what's going on and give direct comment and feedback.

ebizQ: Why do we need social BPM? What problem does it solve?
Richardson: When you use a top-down approach, pushing a process onto users, front-line workers [often] don't adopt the new process because they weren't engaged in it or consulted about it. Now we're using social media to get that buy-in and help them feel like they have ownership. This involves what we're calling "social process discovery"-tapping into social networks inside and outside the company.

It's almost like the office water cooler. But it's not as simple as just creating a forum for conversation. You have to think through how to engage people, [consider] who the power people are that you want to bring into it. You're looking at how to leverage social to change processes.

ebizQ: So is social BPM something that can benefit every organization?
Richardson: We've found that not all environments are equipped to adopt or absorb social plus BPM. You have to have a culture of openness. We're finding that some organizations that are pretty open and transparent are already embracing social with BPM.

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