Don Your Green and Blue Hats, BPM-the-Social-Way is much more!

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Any-whichever way we look at it, technologically or as a way to make businesses better, BPM-the-social-way is much more than what Social BPM seems.

Keith Swenson, when asking ‘Who is Socializing in Social BPM?’, raised a pertinent question and stated that

If you think of BPM as a kind of application development (i.e. develop process applications for use by business people) then using social software to help with the development of applications means that the developers (i.e. process analysts, programmers) are the ones using the social media to make them more effective.  It is the developers who are socializing.

As for BPM being treated as application development, I blogged some time back to Not Treat Process Solutions as Applications. So, my point of view is very clear that BPM is not an Application Development approach. Refer my other posts on Defining BPM and BPM Ecosystem also on that.

There has been some real activity around collaborative process design environments (such as Alignspace, BlueWorks). Most have been quick to call it Social BPM. Well, that could be, but part of it.

In the whole lifecycle of BPM, Process Discovery or Process Design is only the beginning. And my experience shows that spending more effort than required in process discovery without really doing anything about executing the (right) process doesn’t get one anywhere.

So far as I can see, these collaborative techniques around Process Design may be making the templates or process resource repositories richer right now. Of course there are actual and live process discovery projects being driven on these platforms, but all that is just a tiny portion of what all could be made possible with social platforms and BPM coming together.

Social BPM is a shortened term (and could be a misnomer) for what in actual interpretation should be “BPM leveraging Social Networking technologies, disciplines and contexts”. Now, we can mix and match this with various ways in which BPM can be done and get enormous leverage. I had earlier blogged that in the context of how it related to BPM, Social is a Phenomenon that should enable BPM and supporting technologies to collaborate and synergize better toward customer centricity.

Forrester’s Clay Richardson, here, maintains that, Social BPM, apart from collaborative process discovery, delves also into more collaborative Process Development as well as better optimization techniques such as enhancement tagging. He does go on and cover the lifecycle, but lot of it still sounds a lot like an IT side of the story.

The objective of business process is to get the expected throughput as efficiently as possible to the beneficiary of the process, namely, a customer. It is here, that I will diverge slightly from what Keith mentioned that the way to conduct business should change in the sense that customers become part of the process in getting the end-product. I agree to that, but there would still be whole lot of business processes that traverse within the organization before they eventually end up with the customer. You still have lot of opportunities for dealing with the processes in a traditional way with better social leverage, even in that quantum leap context.

Take, Retail sales call centers, for instance. It is not uncommon for multiple calls from the same company to a prospect within the same day or over few days. Customer ends up repeating the same thing over and over again to every one of them. In a social leveraged environment, this simple process can be made enormously more effective with the tagging of comments from the customer, so that any other rep working on the same list can accordingly act on it. Simple, but effective.

The same applies to customer services. It’s evident that every request or complaint, when traversing through multiple routes and through various stages, keeps losing the context. A more efficient collaborative process (within the company or even involving the customer) should prevent the information loss through the process. Another great way to make this more efficient would be to use the available tools (similar to, if not the same) such as Twitter, Facebook. A lot of companies are already using Tweet hash tags as a funnel for the possible complaints (except that they choose to automate the ping – hey do you have a problem – part right now!). And there are many other ways to leverage these.

Another area that appeals to me is on managing, optimizing and automating business rules. Most business rules go from completely manual decision making to completely automated one over time by the system (or someone in the system) recording the most commonly adopted practice by the experts that become policies and then fixed and then automated rules over time. A simple “FB – Like this” kind of a feature can be internalized within the system every time an expert makes decision in the context. It’s pretty much an artificial rule automation intelligence built around simple tagging mechanism.

I also see the mash-ups as a great mechanism to pull together all the information that the process participant would need while completing the task. Even better, the widgets could be driven by the user choice than dictated by the process. In fact, some of these things don’t need to be captured in the process at all, only the scope of what the participant may or may not be able to include in the task/activity.

There are plenty of ways in which the process paradigm should drastically change as we embrace social networking as the way of life for process participants. However, the BPM vendors would need to also decide which capability of the product they need to “not bother about” rather than building all the technological components within the product. They need to leverage certain basic and simple technologies available elsewhere better, and that’s why I earlier said that social is a context setting in which we should expect the BPM technologies to synergize better for customer centricity. I think that’s what Sandy is also hinting when referring to 2.0 Reality Rehab!

Time to don our Green and Blue Hats! BPM-the-Social-Way is much more than what Social BPM seems right now…


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  1. Don Your Green and Blue Hats, BPM-the-Social-Way is much more … | Green Company Report
  2. Don Your Green and Blue Hats, BPM-the-Social-Way is much more … « Social Computing Technology
  3. Social BPM Quotes of the week « Adam Deane

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