Will Social Revive Interest In BPM? Will BPM Make Social Relevant?

Social BPM saw a flurry of activity last week in the BPM blogosphere for some reason; I’ve been writing and presenting on social BPM for about four years now, so most of this isn’t new to me, but it’s good to see the ideas starting to permeate.

Keith Swenson writes on who is socializing in social BPM, and how the major analysts’ view of social BPM is that the BPM application developers are socializing, not the end users; that misses the point, in Keith’s (and my) opinion, since it ignores the runtime social/collaborative aspects as well as the blurring of the boundary between designing and participating in processes. He writes:

The proper use of social software in the business will eliminate the need for process designers.  Everyone will be a designer, in the way that everyone is a writer in the blogosphere.

This last part is not strictly true: everyone could be a writer in the blogosphere, but in reality, only a tiny fraction of those who read blogs actually write blogs, or even comment on blogs. The same will likely occur in runtime collaboration in BPM: only a fraction of users will design processes, even though all have the capability to do so, but all will benefit from it.

Then, at SAPPHIRE this week, I had a conversation with Enterprise 2.0 adoption expert Susan Scrupski, founder of the 2.0 Adoption Council, about her characterization of SAPPHIRE as 2.0 Reality Rehab, and her distressing discovery that 0 out of 20 SAP customers who she interviewed on the show floor had ever heard of Enterprise 2.0.

Distressing to her, but not so surprising to me: enterprise social software is not exactly mainstream with a lot of large companies that I work with, where wikis are used only by IT for tracking projects but not permitted into the user base at large, and blogs are viewed as disreputable sources of information. Imagine the reception that I get when I start talking to these companies about social BPM concepts: they don’t exactly warm up to the idea that users should design their own processes.

Before you jump all over me with examples of successful Enterprise 2.0 and social BPM adoption stories, I’m talking about mainstream adoption, not just in the echo chamber of those of us who think that this stuff is great, and root out the case studies like the rare and valuable gems that they are.

As a champion for Enterprise 2.0, and with only a few short weeks to go before the Enterprise 2.0 conference, Susan is keen to see more meaningful adoption within enterprises: not just more, but in applications that really make a difference for the core business of the company. This is, I believe, where social BPM can help: it’s an application that lends itself particularly well to collaboration and other social aspects, while providing a core critical function within enterprises. I’d love to see Enterprise 2.0 software vendors start to tackle core enterprise software, such as BPM, CRM and ERP, and stop building more enterprise wiki and blogging platforms. Think of it as 2.0 Reality Rehab for the whole Enterprise 2.0 industry.

5 thoughts on “Will Social Revive Interest In BPM? Will BPM Make Social Relevant?”

  1. Sandy –
    I’d also point out that back-office operations may not be where you see “Enterprise 2.0” adoption first.

    I see plenty of big F500 style organizations using social media in their customer service operations – Time Warner Cable for example. Simon properties. Several hotel chains. But if you went back to their ERP system IT folks… i’m sure there is a lot less exposure in those ranks…

    Just a thought – might be sample bias making things look even worse than it is.

  2. Certainly, sampling at SAPPHIRE would tend to see more back-office than front-office people, but also more than have technical. Susan’s surprise was that they had never *heard* of Enterprise 2.0, not just weren’t using it.

  3. Sandy,
    If you look at the number of managers that actually do process design by modeling then you are absolutely right – we don’t see many of those, and no matter how good modeling tools get – probably won’t ever see many. However, if you look at the number of managers that “design by doing” processes using email and documents – the number is quite large – maybe even includes every knowledge worker.
    So maybe the question should be “Is building a process like blogging or is it more like using emailWordExcel to get your job done?” If it is like blogging then no matter how easy the tools are we won’t see everyone participating,, but if it is like creating a personalgroup document and email – why shouldn’t everyone participate? I wonder if we should call the latter “everyday” processes.

  4. Jacob, good question: there is likely a spectrum from processes that need to be designed versus those that can be designed by doing everyday actions.

  5. but, Jacob, “everyday” isn’t as sexy as adaptive or dynamic 🙂
    I think you make a good point though – will “process modeling” in the future look more like email/word in terms of usage, or more like blogging. we’ll certainly find out 🙂


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