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Editor's Note: In this Q & A, Forrester Research Senior Analyst Clay Richardson speaks with ebizQ's Peter Schooff about trends in social BPM, including how organizations are beginning to use the approach. Their conversation, excerpted from a longer podcast, has been edited for length, clarity and editorial style.

ebizQ: Do you see social as a key to success with BPM?

We've been talking about this combination of social and BPM over the last two and a half or three years. I can't say it's the key to success.

But it's a very effective tool for bringing more voices into the conversation when it comes to transforming business processes. That's ultimately one of the goals of BPM: its transformation. We see customers that have been effective at bringing social in and combining it with BPM. They're actually able to get more input from the front-line workers, and they're also able to take that input and drive change so that it's adopted by the people that are actually running the processes.

So it is a very effective tool, out of the different tools that are in BPM professionals' toolkit.

ebizQ: Why exactly should a company decide to go social with BPM? What are the advantages?

[One is making] BPM more democratic. I know it sounds kind of cliché, but if you're really looking to get ideas from the people who are actually out there in the trenches dealing with the process every day, if you want to get that feedback and actually tie it into the process improvement initiative, that's really when you want to start looking at different social techniques [such as streaming].

And when I say "streaming," it's like having a Facebook-style stream where people can see what's going on with the initiative. But they can also post their own updates and provide feedback on what they're seeing on the ground. When you want to get that type of democratic input and feedback,that's when social makes sense for BPM. [For example,] if we look at what happened in Egypt [in the uprisings of 2011], it's the people on the street level who are dealing with the challenges in Egypt every day. At some level, they got kind of fed up and said, 'You know what? We're not going to put up with this.' They were effectively able to use social to drive change.

We're seeing the same thing happen within organizations: The people who are running and dealing with the process every day are getting fed up and starting to go find their own ways to deal with those processes. What organizations want to do is tap into that frustration and use social tools and collaborative tools to bring those voices in to drive transformation from the bottom up, as opposed to constantly looking at BPM as a top-down activity.

ebizQ: What are some guidelines for successful social BPM?

Among the organizations looking at social and starting to work with social in their BPM initiatives, the ones that focus less on the technology and more on methodology have a good success record.

What we're finding is when we talk about the methodology, it's really about embracing this idea of social as a way of driving change. So instead of saying, "We're going to go and get a social BPM tool" and then saying "We can go out now engage the business," they're saying, "What is the relationship that we want to have between the business and IT?"

And then [they're asking about] the front-line workers who are doing the process: "What is their relationship, and what specific approaches will we embed as part of our BPM initiative to go out and engage?" So it's really more about trying to get a different engagement model that leverages this social conversation and the social streams that you can bring in. It's about using social techniques that drive and capture conversations at the front end, but then bring in the tools to support being able to get that conversation and put it in context.

ebizQ: Conversely, what are some of the biggest mistakes that need to be avoided in social BPM?

The biggest mistake I see is organizations thinking of social BPM as connecting BPM to Facebook or Twitter. I think a lot of companies overlook their own internal social network when they're thinking about social BPM.

I've seen customers that say, "We get social BPM. We're going to go out and mine our Facebook feed and our customers on Facebook." That's an important part.

But really, you want to think about the internal knowledge and internal networks that you can bring into the business processes. That's one piece. And I also see where customers looking at social BPM sometimes get stuck in the collaboration side, which is just with internal...What I'll see is that teams don't think holistically about social and BPM and also bring in the social aspects to running processes.

So when you're approaching social BPM, don't just think of it as only fitting into one part of the lifecycle for BPM. You really want to think of it fitting into the entire lifecycle across BPM, the BPM program, the BPM initiatives.

READER FEEDBACK: In this Q & A, Forrester Research Senior Analyst Clay Richardson argues that social BPM can make process-improvement efforts more democratic. Do you consider a democratic approach important for your BPM initiatives? What priority do you place on it and why? Please let us know. 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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