Michael Prilla of Ruhr University of Bochum presented his research on integrating process models into knowledge management system content, using social tagging as a semantic layer for heterogeneous content, with the goal to disseminate process models to foster feedback from users that results in process improvement. Typically within an organization, process models are used by a small group, and there is fairly low acceptance of these models amongst the process participants.
Allowing for social tagging of process models allows users to easily provide feedback in a relatively unstructured fashion. I found his characterization of the groups involved to be interesting: “core users”, “extended core” and “periphery”; more like “inner sanctum”, “enforcers” and “clueless”. The periphery, although containing most of the process participants, is fairly unaware of process modeling and the explicit process models that guide their own work. Giving everyone access to an easy-to-use process modeler does not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that more than a tiny fraction of those people are going to use that tool; more likely, they have a binder of paper documents with something approximating their processes.
If process models are not maintained in a repository of some sort, process designers search around on shared network drives to find them by name: no different from how they find any other document. It’s not surprising that if an organization doesn’t have any well-organized content management, they’re going to have the same problem with process models, which could be seen as just a specialized type of document. By putting process models into a knowledge management system (which you could consider a content management system to be) and tagging them with keywords that are relevant to the process participants, it makes it at least feasible that the periphery will locate and use these models rather than the outdated binders at their desks. The advantage of using social tagging is that the process designer doesn’t have to do this: tags can come from any of the different types of participants, and are not part of the process model itself.
At a high level, this isn’t fundamentally different from what you would experience with any type of document sharing in a content management system: you would see the same benefits from social tagging of any artifacts that may be of value to a wide audience. They have done some development of an interface for browsing the model repository based on the tags with some specific functionality for process models such as tagging at an intra-process level, but you would expect to see similar results from other types of artifacts/documents from social tagging. In fact, the challenges around social tagging are really the same for any type of content: appropriate tags, and sufficient levels of participation.
The impacts are to increase access to process models, and provide mechanisms for feedback on the process models from the participants, with an eventual goal to have process models be everyday work artifacts rather than some exotic diagram that is only within the domain of the inner sanctum.