I was recently invited to participate in the ‘Social BPM Handbook 2011’ to be published by Future Strategies in June 2011. This is an important subject covered by a great collection of expert articles. Nevertheless, I need to say that I don’t fully agree that BPM and Social are natural complements. Rather the opposite!
My contribution is thus titled: How to Link BPM Governance and Social Collaboration with an Adaptive Paradigm.
Social BPM, which—much like BPM itself—still lacks a congruent, accepted definition, is mostly understood as being an orthodox BPM product that has some add-on social collaboration facilities such as Twitter-like chat. This kind of social collaboration consists mostly of real-time text messages linked to the context of the activity being performed. The people empowerment of social networking is however understood as an evolution of what was called Web 2.0 and named Enterprise 2.0 for business use by Andrew McAfee. This potential of the Internet has already been described in the 2000 cult book The Cluetrain Manifesto coining the phrase ‘Markets are Conversations’.
Social networking is also often seen as one way to improve creativity and innovation in large organizations. To keep their companies competitive, executives do not only need to think about how to reduce costs but more importantly how to use IT to enable knowledge and innovation. They need to understand the immense potential of change that information technology can provide when it is used to empower people to improve business processes and to reach goals defined by management instead of disenfranchising them through bureaucracy. And BPM is just that bureaucratic control effort that Social Media tries to bypass. BPM is virtually always about command and control cost-cutting while Social enables people to do as they please.
While human processes in Business Process Management support social activity in principle – because they enable people to perform business interactions – these are not social in the sense that they empower people. BPM is in my mind the opposite of empowerment. Therefore I see a huge gap between BPM and Social. The claim that BPM collaboration and communication patterns can now be referred to as “social computing” is in my mind very far-fetched.
Adding Social to a BPM product does not transform it. WfMC Fellow Dr. Michael zur Muehlen, “If you only focus on streamlining process execution and making it as efficient as possible the social aspect diminishes. But if you consider process discovery, the development of a shared understanding of what your operations look like, and monitoring your process environment, then social plays a big role.”
I am in utter agreement with zur Muehlen, but we have to make the step from ‘talking about analysis’ to actually ‘creating or modifying the process and templates by the participant’ and that step does not happen in your typical BPM product with a social twist. This is why I propose in my contribution to this book that an ‘Adaptive Process Paradigm’ has to be employed. While analysts still consider that ‘dynamic’ (ad-hoc add-ons and changes) are enabled by social, I propose that ‘adaptive’ is about an evolutionary approach to process creation and innovation that happens through business people empowerment in the process environment and dumping the bureaucracy enforced through Process Centers of Excellence.
You will find this book to be very helpful in understanding the trends and opinions on the interactions between Social and BPM that are out there.