Workshop on BPM and social software #BPM2009 #BPMS2’09

I’m back at this year’s edition of what was probably my favorite conference last year: BPM2009 in Ulm, Germany. This is primarily attended by academics and institutional researchers, and the format is as an academic conference, where each presentation is based on a research paper.

This first day is devoted to workshops, and I’m attending the workshop on BPM and social software (as I did last year). The format is that each author presenting at the workshop has 20 minutes to present and 10 minutes for Q&A; as with last year, the workshop sessions are small and I think that most of the attendees are actually delivering a paper at some point.

Rainer Schmidt of Aalen University, who is co-chairing the workshop along with Selmin Nurcan of University Paris Pantheon Sorbonne, introduced the session and provided the general topics of discussion in this workshop:

  • New opportunities provided by social software for BPM
  • Engineering next generation of business processes: BPM 2.0?
  • Business process implementation support by social software

He defined social software as software that supports weak ties and social production following the ideas of egalitarianism and mutual service provisioning, then went on to discuss the research and references that led to this definition:

  • Weak and strong ties from Granovetter (The Strength of Weak Ties, 1973): social software creates weak ties easily, and these are crucial to improving enterprise agility and innovation
  • Social production from Benkler (The Wealth of Networks, 2006), and Tapscott and Williams (Wikinomics, 2006): collaborative creation combines the best thoughts and creates more competitive products, and moves the value from products to services
  • Wisdom of the crowds from Surowiecki (The Wisdom of the Crowds, 2005): combining inputs from many people, even if not all are expert, yields better results than relying purely on experts, in part because you don’t know know in advance which experts are better/more appropriate
  • Cooperative service creation: equal partners interact to create a service

This results in some basic principles of social software:

  • Egalitarian: all users (can/should) contribute and consume content and context information, and there is no distinction between producer and consumer. There are some significant cultural barriers to this, however, in many enterprises both in terms of allowing people to contribute and having people recognize that they have a duty to contribute.
  • Self-organization and bottom-up organization: users develop the structures and taxonomy interactively without external imposition of structure.
  • Both content and context are considered valuable: links, tags, bookmarks and even tweets add necessary context to content.
  • Continuous and immediate fusioning and aggregation of information: content is immediately available without formal approval or change management procedures that inhibit its availability; there are necessary tradeoffs between corporate governance and knowledge gathering/sharing depending on the nature and reach of the content.
  • Continuous and recursive assessment: constant review of content contributions allows flaws to be detected and corrected almost immediately, which provides a governing function on content creation.

These formal definitions, backed up by the appropriate research, provide a much deeper understanding than the usual noise that we hear in the commercial marketplace. To bring together a number of popular terms, social software is part of Web 2.0, and supports Enterprise 2.0; it manifests in both groupware and knowledge management.

There are threats to social software: cultural change is often required in order to have people understand the importance of contributing and the value that they can bring; and people can contribute inappropriate content, which can in turn have legal ramifications if un-reviewed information is freely available.

Good start to the workshop.

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