We use cookies and other similar technologies (Cookies) to enhance your experience and to provide you with relevant content and ads. By using our website, you are agreeing to the use of Cookies. You can change your settings at any time. Cookie Policy.

Anthony J. Bradley acknowledges that, initially, “BPM” and “social media” may seem like mutually exclusive concepts.

After all, BPM is based on engineering, with emphasis on standardizing and automating processes. Social media are messy, chaotic, volatile, largely unpredictable.

“Can you combine these two into something meaningful that you can derive significant business value from?” Bradley, a group vice president for Gartner research, asked during a keynote speech to the recent Gartner BPM Summit in Baltimore. “The answer is absolutely yes. This is a new frontier in business process management.”

In fact, Bradley told a rapt crowd of business and IT professionals, “your most important processes might just be in the crowd, with all its messiness.”

Yet, he said, most businesses have no idea how to tap into that resource for their business process improvement efforts.

SOCIAL BPM: START FROM THE BEGINNING
He defined social media as online environments “created for the purpose of mass collaboration,” with emphasis on the last two words. “Mass collaboration is the differentiator for social media,” said Bradley, who is co-author, with Mark P. McDonald, of ”The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011). “Social technologies are the enablers.” Among the most obvious examples is Wikipedia, in which individuals worldwide collaborate to compose and edit information for a massive, dynamic online encyclopedia.

He divides social media into four categories:

• Social creation via collaborative projects such as wikis and Google Docs
• Social networking via “social profile management” services such as Facebook and LinkedIn
• Social publishing—that is, content sharing and aggregation on, for instance, Flickr and YouTube, among many others
• Social feedback—that is, ratings, rankings and commentary, such as customer product reviews on Amazon.com.

All can be—and are being—used in businesses as well. But, Bradley says, doing so requires thinking about things in new ways.

SOCIAL’S SECRET INGREDIENT: PEOPLE POWER
Tom Sawyer, the mischievous star of Mark Twain’s famous children’s book, was once was assigned to paint a wooden fence. If Tom had been a perfectionist, he’d have done the job himself, but, of course, he didn’t do so, Bradley noted. If Tom had been a manager, he’d have hired people to paint the fence, but he didn’t do that, either. “Instead, he convinced the community of children that it would be fun, that there was something in it for them, and they did it for him,” Bradley said.

That’s the goal for harnessing the power of people through social media, Bradley said: “Convince the community that there’s something in it for them.” As another familiar example, he cited Facebook. “Nine hundred million of us built Facebook. What would Facebook be without us? An empty shell of code that nobody would ever visit.”

The challenge, then, is: How do you extend the capabilities of your company to, or through, the community?

A KEY TO SOCIAL SUCCESS
If there’s a single best practice to using social effectively—especially in BPM—it’s this: Start with a clear, well-defined, common purpose, and mobilize your community around that. “The three most important criteria for success in social media are: purpose, purpose, purpose,” Bradley said. “If you get the purpose right, you can make a lot of mistakes and still succeed.” Get the purpose wrong, or start without one, and just about anything else you do will fail.

The right purpose will be meaningful, specific and significant, with strong value, Bradley said. It must motivate people to share their time, energy, knowledge and expertise.

Only after you’ve got a clear common purpose should you choose your technology. “Will providing access to a technology change your organization? Let’s dispel that myth,” Bradley said. “Access [alone] does not equal social-media success.”

He warned attendees to avoid the “provide-and-pray” approach—that is, providing a social technology platform, then praying that something good results from it. “Most of the time, ‘provide and pray’ fails,” Bradley said. Or even if people do adopt the technology, they may use it without creating value, leading higher-level executives wondering why, exactly, everyone’s spending so much time collaborating.

BEST PRACTICES FOR COMBINING SOCIAL & BPM
Bradley shared this advice for taking a social approach to process improvement:

1. Develop a new mindset about using social processes to enable business processes. For instance, allow for “design by doers”—the people who actually do the work that processes affect, Bradley advised. “Delegate business process design. Get the community to do the job for you. Make it people-centric,” he said.
2. Focus on business process discovery and nurturing. “Start with the purpose, then nurture the processes around that,” he advised. “Look for patterns using social analytics.” And, again, let those who must ultimately execute the process play a role in evolving it.
3. Enable new experiences. Paraphrasing another Tom—actor Tom Hanks in his Forrest Gump role—Bradley noted: “Communities are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.” Keep adding new capabilities and opportunities, such as incorporating mobile and game technologies.
4. Think process protection. Change processes that seem to stifle collaboration. Integrate structured and unstructured processes. Facilitate new processes that support collaboration.

WHERE TO START WITH SOCIAL BPM
The path to social BPM starts with learning about the combination, then figuring out where it fits in your company. “Educate yourself on the impact of social on business processes,” Bradley said. Find out what social initiatives are already taking place in your organization. Focusing on business performance, identify opportunities where social and process would play well together. And get involved in your organization’s overall social-collaboration planning and initiatives.

Bottom line: “Social BPM” is not an oxymoron, Bradley said: In fact, “every strategic process will end up being social” eventually.

And, he reiterated, success hinges far more on effective leadership and management than on tools and platforms. “It is not a technology challenge,” he concluded. “It’s all about changing human behaviors. It is the future. It is the new frontier. Good luck with it.”

READER FEEDBACK: Have you used social media and BPM to create significant business value? Or, have you faced challenges to implementing social BPM? Either way, ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experience. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.



About the Author

Anne Stuart, ebizQ's editor from mid-2010 to mid-2013, is now senior editor for SearchCloudApplications.com at ebizQ's parent company, TechTarget. She is a veteran journalist who has written for national magazines, daily newspapers, an international news service and many Web sites. She’s specialized in covering business and technology issues for 20 years. Based in Newton, Mass., she can be reached at astuart@techtarget.com. Follow Anne on Google+ and at annestuart_TT on Twitter. For general questions about ebizQ, please e-mail editor@ebizQ.net.

More by Anne Stuart, Contributing Editor

-1-

1  

Explore Our Topics

  • EDITOR'S BRIEFING
  • Virtual Conferences
  • Webinars
  • Roundtables

BPM in Action

March 10, 2011

The sixth annual BPM in Action 2011 Virtual Conference will explore cutting-edge market developments in BPM and describe how to leverage them for improved business operation and performance. More

View All Virtual Conferences

Smart Case Management: Why It's So Smart.

Date:Nov 05, 2009
Time:12:00 PM ET- (17:00 GMT)

REGISTER TODAY!

Date:Oct 29, 2009
Time:15:00 PM ET- (19:00 GMT)

REGISTER TODAY!
View All Roundtables
  • Research Library
  • Podcasts
  • News

Joe McKendrick: Part II of II: Designing Evolve-ability into SOA and IT Systems

In part two of Joe McKendrick's recent podcast with Miko Matsumura, chief strategist for Software AG, they talk about how SOA and IT systems need to change and grow and adapt with the organization around it.

Listen Now

Phil Wainewright: Helping Brands Engage with Social Media

Phil Wainewright interviews David Vap, VP of products at RightNow Technologies, and finds out how sharing best practices can help businesses understand how best to engage with online communities.

Listen Now

Peter Schooff: Making Every IT Dollar Result in a Desired Business Outcome: Scott Hebner of IBM Rati

Scott Hebner, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for IBM Rational, discusses a topic on the top of every company's mind today: getting the most from IT investments.

Listen Now

Jessica Ann Mola: Where Will BI Fit In? Lyndsay Wise Explains

In BI, this tough economy and the increasing role of Web 2.0 and MDM are certainly topics on people's minds today. WiseAnalytics' Lyndsay Wise addresses each of them in this informative podcast.

Listen Now

Dennis Byron: Talking with...Deepak Singh of BPM Provider Adeptia

Deepak Singh, President and CTO of Adeptia, joins ebizQ's Dennis Byron in a podcast that gets its hand around the trend of industry-specific BPM.

Listen Now
More Podcasts
  • Most Popular
  • Quick Guide
  • Most Discussed

Quick Guide: What is BPM?

Learn More

Quick Guide: What is Event Processing?

Smart event processing can help your company run smarter and faster. This comprehensive guide helps you research the basics of complex event processing (CEP) and learn how to get started on the right foot with your CEP project using EDA, RFID, SOA, SCADA and other relevant technologies. Learn More

Quick Guide: What is Enterprise 2.0?

A lot of people are talking about Enterprise 2.0 as being the business application of Web 2.0 technology. However, there's still some debate on exactly what this technology entails, how it applies to today's business models, and which components bring true value. Some use the term Enterprise 2.0 exclusively to describe the use of social networking technologies in the enterprise, while others use it to describe a web economy platform, or the technological framework behind such a platform. Still others say that Enterprise 2.0 is all of these things. Learn More