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The journey to BPM success requires process pros to develop effective and efficient ways to engage everyone across the value chain—business stakeholders, partners, employees, and customers. Unfortunately, BPM has traditionally only focused on engaging narrow silos within departments and functions, often leaving customers, partners, and the bulk of frontline workers out of the communication loop.

Left out in the cold, overlooked constituents turn to their own devices (both figuratively and literally) to build shadow processes outside of the enterprise's control. Leading architects now add social BPM techniques and tools to their arsenal of BPM implementation techniques and methodologies to engage all voices across the value chain.

SOCIAL BPM MINDSET: NOT JUST FACEBOOK AND TWITTER
Ask any enterprise architect—or any business leader for that matter—about social, and you're likely to get a response along these lines: "Oh, yeah, my teenager uses social media all the time to stay in touch with her friends." Unfortunately, this perception of social media—that it’s all about Facebook and Twitter—causes many business leaders and business process professionals to quickly dismiss its potential for their enterprises.

It’s time to drop incorrect assumptions that:

* Social creates more of a distraction than an opportunity. Because social is now synonymous with tools such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, business process professionals sometimes see little value in social media. And given that email and voicemails already bury today's knowledge workers with more work while they wear multiple hats and juggle increasing responsibilities, organizations are loath to add yet another potential distraction. But there's tremendous value in linking social media with business processes—for instance, connecting sales and marketing processes to external social sites for monitoring purposes, or integrating human resources processes with LinkedIn for candidate recruiting.

* There's little value in using internal social networks. While some business process professionals quickly grasp the value of mining external social networks, these same professionals often turn a blind eye to the business value that could be gleaned from mining their internal social networks as well. Smart process pros realize that "shadow" processes—that is, undocumented processes that used by frontline workers—are often quite different from the imposed processes driven from the top down. Mining internal social networks can help companies identify and better understand these shadow processes and improve adoption for newly improved and deployed business processes.

* ”Social" only relates to knowledge management and collaboration. The term "social" is sometimes used interchangeably with “collaboration” and “knowledge management”—which, in turn, causes many business process pros overlook the potential of connecting social to their BPM initiatives. At its core, social addresses how to contribute to, monitor, and tap into conversations—both inside and outside your organization. And when we take a close look, all phases of BPM are really about managing various conversations—between business workers and process analysts, between process analysts and developers, and even between customers and business people.

SOCIAL BPM BEST PRACTICES
To better understand key patterns and best practices for social BPM, Forrester conducted detailed interviews with 12 leading companies that have successfully folded in social tools and techniques as key ingredients of their BPM programs.

Our interviews revealed that forward-thinking business process pros use social for:

* Process discovery, to bring more voices into process improvement discussions and scoping sessions. Some BPM teams now use social techniques and tools to host virtual process modeling sessions in the cloud, allowing greater involvement from nontraditional players that are typically left out of process discovery. This group includes partners, customers, geographically dispersed process stakeholders and business users.

* Process development, to empower business stakeholders during process definition. Some teams incorporate social platforms (for example, Jive) to facilitate greater business involvement during development. In other cases, teams turn to BPM Software as a Service platforms to allow business stakeholders to rapidly prototype solutions before engaging process developers.

* Process guidance, to power smarter decisions during process execution. Before completing a particular process step, knowledge workers often must consult multiple applications and resources to make a final decision. Leading BPM teams provide business people with contextualized news and event feeds that deliver relevant content for a given task, ultimately helping business workers make better, faster decisions for process tasks. Additionally, some process teams now connect BPM with crowdsourcing tools to automatically suggest how best to complete a process step based on how other team members completed similar activities.

SOCIAL BPM: ARE YOU READY?
While social BPM represents a significant step forward in the evolution of business process management, not all BPM teams will readily reap the benefits offered by embedding social techniques and technologies. Based on best practices gleaned from client interviews, Forrester developed a "readiness assessment" to help teams evaluate the potential benefits and risks of adopting social BPM approaches.

Bottom line: Business process experts seeking to accelerate BPM initiatives should look to social technologies to help drive consensus and adoption. Social BPM is not just about better collaboration among process stakeholders: It can become the vehicle for piercing insight into a company's execution throughout its entire value chain.

To fully embrace social into BPM, you must realize that social BPM involves more than just technology, develop guardrails to avoid potential pitfalls of social BPM, and develop your game plan for social BPM.

READER FEEDBACK: As Forrester Research Senior Analyst Clay Richardson notes in this guest column, surveys indicate that some leading BPM pros are using social approaches for process discovery, development and guidance. Is your organization using social for those or other aspects of BPM? ebizQ’s editors would love to hear about your experiences. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.



About the Author

Clay Richardson is a senior analyst at Forrester Research, where he serves enterprise architecture professionals responsible for driving BPM excellence within their organizations. He's a frequent speaker at Forrester events. For more information on the readiness assessment, contact him at crichardson@forrester.com.

More by Clay Richardson

About Forrester Research

Forrester Research is a global research and advisory firm providing insights and services to professionals who make complex business and technology decisions every day. To learn about Forrester's research, consulting, events, online communities and more, visit www.forrester.com.

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