BPM Milan: From a social wiki to a social workflow system

Selim Erol of the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration presented the first paper of the afternoon, co-authored with Gustaf Neumann, on using wikis in an organizational context, in terms of which aspects may have influence on the success of the implementation. They have also developed a prototype of wiki-based editor for workflow definitions, including enacting a web-based workflow based on the workflow definitions.

He gave a summary of wikis — again, likely unnecessary to an audience of academics who are all presenting papers on BPM and social software — and used Wikipedia as an example of how placing content authoring in an open space (public) ensures critical mass of community, which in turn ensures critical mass of content and artifacts; and how mutual control enables content negotiation and self-healing.

He summarized the characteristics of BPM, then looked at applying wiki characteristics to BPM, particularly in process (and rules) design. He sees a number of aspects that determine the degree to which collective intelligence can be used in a wiki environment:

  • Size of crowd/community participating
  • Level of crowd/community organization
  • Degree of objects’ structuredness/specificity
  • Degree of objects’ completeness

The risks of wiki application are much different in public and enterprise applications, however: in a public domain such as Wikipedia, there are issues such as edit wars and vandalism, whereas in an enterprise environment, the issues are more of lack of subjectivity, domination based on corporate rank, and desertion by the community due to smaller size and more politicized environment.

He gave a brief demonstration of the XoWiki-based workflow system that they have created, providing a wiki environment for specifying process flow collaboratively. It’s still a bit of a code-like interface, although also provides a graphical representation, but it’s great to be seeing process modeling done in a more generalized wiki context. I think that there needs to be more crossover between academia and the vendor world, however: he stated one key differentiator as being that it’s web-based, but a number of BPMS vendors have web-based process modelers now.

2 thoughts on “BPM Milan: From a social wiki to a social workflow system

  1. Thanks for summarizing my talk at BPM’08. Concerning your comment on my summary on wikis: You will find it astonishing how many people from academics especially academians from formal disciplines like workflow theory are not familiar with wikis in particular and social software in general. As speakers we do not have any idea who sits in front of us, and also academians are very heterogenous. It was a bit disappointing that very few people – or let’s say not even one key player – from formal side of workflow management have attended this workshop.

  2. I think that you’re correct in general about academics and wiki knowledge — it’s no different than in industry. However, my point was that the audience for this session was all people who are in social media, and almost everyone there (except me) was giving a paper on social media, so I would assume that they all know what a wiki is.

    Agreed that it would have been nice to see the formal side of workflow management represented here too.

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