Workflow management social systems #BPM2009 #BPMS2’09

Next up was a presentation by Marcello Sarini, a computer scientist from the psychology department of University of Milano-Bicocca, discussing the socio-psychological perspective on process management. Processes that involve human tasks inherently are about interactions between people, which falls under the area of social psychology and the resulting theories of human social behavior.

They performed a case study examining the patterns of behavior in Wikipedia Italy, based on interviews with 28 participants ranging from contributors to administrators and higher-level mediators. What they found is that status (role within Wikipedia) affected perceptions; and that although the administrators considered Wikipedia to be self-organized, contributors and users view it as hierarchically pre-organized. This is interesting when looking at how social relations work in social software, and how this can be applied to human-centric BPM in both the process modeling and execution stages. In reality, organizations are not flat, and most collaboration occurs between peers (or near-peers); it can be difficult to motivate people to participate in social enterprise software if they feel that their management may be looking at it, although there is some research being performed to see if blind suggestions have a different impact that those that are attributed to individuals.

Prescriptive BPM, where a small group of people (usually management) determine the process designs that are executed by many other people, can lead to intergroup conflict: the participants disagree with the process designs, and a “us and them” mindset is reinforced. Easing this conflict can be done in a variety of ways, primarily through effective channels for user feedback. Aligning personal goals with organizational goals can also reduce barriers, which can be facilitated by the use of wikis to share information.

Descriptive BPM, where processes are seen as knowledge maps rather than a rigid set of steps to follow. The risks in this case are lack of standardization and reduced accountability, although most people will conform to norms due to social influence.

The goal of this research is to use social psychology to help design a new generation of human-centric BPM, as well as develop new social visualization techniques.

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