BPM and Twitter (and other social destinations)

Professor Michael Rosemann of the BPM Research Group of Queensland University of Technology has published a short paper on BPM and Twitter on the ARIS Community site, where he lists three possible uses of Twitter with BPM:

  • Use Twitter to update you whenever there are changes to a process that you’re following. In this case, he’s talking about following processes, not process instances, so that you receive notifications for things such as changes to the process maps/roles, or new aggregate monitoring statistics.
  • Have a process follow you on Twitter (or an automated stream that knows when you’re scheduled to be unavailable), so that it knows when you’re away and assigns substitutes for your role.
  • Have a process instance tweet, either for milestone notification or with a link to the process instance, acting as a BPM inbox.

I’m not so sure about the second one, but the first and last are really just a matter of capturing the events as they occur, and sending them off to Twitter. Most BPMS can generate events for some or all of these activities, potentially available through an RSS feed or by posting them onto an ESB; as Rosemann points out in his article, there are a number of different ways to then get them onto Twitter.

My other half did a series of experiments several months ago on process events, including output to Twitter; he used a GPS as input (I wanted him to use a BPMS, but he was keen on the location events) and simple Python scripts to send the messages to Twitter. He tested out a number of other interfaces, including Coral8 for event stream processing, two blogging platforms, Gtalk, email, Google’s App Engine and Amazon’s Simple Queue Service; the idea is that with some simple event processing in the middle, you can take the relevant events from your BPMS (or any system that generates events) and send them pretty much wherever you want without a lot of customization.

I think that using Twitter to monitor process instances is the most interesting concept of the three that Rosemann presents, since you can potentially send tweets to people inside or outside your organization about process milestones that interest them. If you’re nervous about using Twitter, either for security reasons or fear of the fail whale, you can run your own microblogging service using an open source platform such as laconi.ca or a commercial solution such as Socialtext’s Signals.

I’ll be attending the workshop on BPM and social software at the upcoming BPM research conference in Ulm, Germany; I haven’t seen the papers to be delivered at the workshop (or the rest of the conference), but I’d be very surprised if there isn’t a lot of discussion about how to incorporate Twitter and other social tools into our more enterprise-y BPM existence.

2 thoughts on “BPM and Twitter (and other social destinations)”

  1. Integrating business processes to social sites is definitely catching traction in the BPM space for a few reasons:

    • Social technologies have done a great job of offering easy to use integration capabilities (APIs) are part of their initial offerings

    • The ability for process participants and/or external users to custom define how they wish to remain in contact with key process activities is what I believe to be part of today’s “awareness standard”

    • Email alerts and notifications, while purposeful, many times do not provide enough explanation and “color” to what’s really occurring

    Re-purposing sites such as Twitter / FaceBook so that business processes can be followed is a great way to provide richness to process awareness outside of the confines of a BPM Suite’s out-of-the-box offerings.

  2. Chris, your second point is the key one for me: people want to be able to define how they want to receive updates, not be forced into someone else’s idea of communication.

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