The Social BPM Handbook 2011

Social BPM Handbook 2011

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.

I am the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Papyrus Software, a medium size software company offering solutions in communications and process management around the globe. I am also the owner and CEO of MJP Racing, a motorsports company focused on Rallycross or RX, a form of circuit racing on mixed surfaces that has been around for 40 years. I hold 8 national and international championship titles in RX. My team participates in the World Championship along Petter Solberg, Sebastian Loeb and Ken Block.

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Posted in Adaptive Process, Social Media, Web 2.0
10 comments on “The Social BPM Handbook 2011
  1. Chris Taylor says:

    I find that my customers want their interactions to be automated where it makes sense. Conversations on BPM can be cross-referenced, tagged, and joined and dropped as necessary, which are all ‘social’ concepts. I agree that it has to be data/IT enabled and that requires that IT departments understand what is and isn’t ‘social’ BPM. It can’t logically be everything.

    I also agree that structure and ‘social’ sound like opposites, but a couple of years on Facebook and other social sites has shown me that conversations need an ‘owner’ or moderator and that what may look like the opposite of structure is just a a conversation about a topic. Process is about business to business conversations and therefore the two can align if the technology gets it right.


    • Chris, thanks for reading and commenting! I do not think that we disagree, but I feel that Social BPM is more than adding conversations about processes.

      The first question would be who is ‘the customer’? Is it management, process owner, performer or end-consumer? What does automated mean? Straight through processing? Strict enforcement? Simple guidance. Just documentation? Defining goals? Actually verifying goals and KPIs? And what does make sense? Lowest cost, better quality, or any other possible interest? Social communciation has nothing to do with processes and data or content are if at all simply embedded in an arbitrary manner without process structure. Conversations may be improved by an owner and clearly processes do need one! This is my point of going ADAPTIVE. The Adaptive Process paradigm does provide the organiizational structure that neither Social nor most BPMS have. The process owner is not defined in the BPM process but in the management bureaucracy. In Adaptive the PO can directly influence the changes that performers make. In Social BPM they would chat or blog about it and then the normal change bureaucracy would be needed to get them implemented, because it is mostly too complex to do so. If you talk about only documenting the processes and people just using that, then clearly the concept of Adaptive Process I see as a bridge between BPM and Social is on a different level of actually executing the process.

      The most ignored problem with Social is adoption and demographics. I always ask in my presentations how many people actually use Social and only 1% actually blogs or uses Twitter productively. Around 20% use Facebook casually mostly for family. Maybe 10% are intense users. Thus we cannot expect that simply adding Social to anything will improve a business in a larger sense. It will be simply a more flexible style of email. Structure in terms of authority, goals and means are essential elements of empowerment, but authority in this sense means AUTONOMY in how to achieve goals! Process is not about conversations whenever I look at it. It is mostly a top-down enforcement of rigid flows. Adding chat or a wiki to that does nothing.

      Social Networking in the modern sense does require IT and so does a modern concept of empowerment. Empowerment must enable authorized users to create those processes in terms of tasks and resources and they must be structured around capabilities and goals. So yes, the technology is relevant for Social and therefore for Social BPM. Also that is in conflict with those who say that BPM is not related to technology but is simply a management principle. So Social BPM means to me to provide transparency that empowers people to perform processes as they see fit according to the goals defined. Neither Social nor BPM do that and that why I see Adaptive Processes as the enabler.

      Thanks again, Max


  2. Can’t quite agree when you say “BPM is in my mind the opposite of empowerment. ” – I think GOOD BPM can empower staff, but often it is implemented poorly and rigidly, with an unswerving focus on efficiency (mostly due to outdated industrial revolution based techniques!)


    • Hi TPN, can you explain HOW the empowerment does actually happen through a typical BPMS, if one considers it to be autonomy in how provided means are used by the performer to achieve process goals?

      Or are you just referring to the principal BPM mindset of organizing a business into processes, which the ‘adaptive’ process paradigm also follows? I admit that it is difficult to seperate the two despite my tries to use BPM for the concept and BPMS for the systems that execute. And if you are referring to BPM as an empowerment tool then it must employ an adaptive, evolutionary concept anyway, which means we are in agreement.

      Adaptive Process (as it is also employed for ACM) actually implements the management methodology into the BPMS and does no longer require additional governance bureaucracy. It does use social-like people empowerment, but provides a lot more facilities than just typical chat, blog, or wiki functionality.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Max


  3. Hi Max – I think we are in agreement. To me BPM is not just software, so I was commenting from an holistic BPM perspective. As far as I’m concerned BPM doesn’t even need a system – think small businesses – they can still use BPM but they don’t have the cash for systems – I know because I’ve done it myself. I once had a cafe that I ran based on BPM principles. This allowed great guidance for my staff – on the weekends (the busiest days of the week) my cafe was run by an 18 year old girl and a 19 year old girl. Good Process enabled that – and they were certainly empowered to run the business their way (within the boundaries of the process!)


  4. […] Social BPM – Max J. Pucher BPM is in my mind the opposite of empowerment. Therefore I see a huge gap […]


  5. […] see it in a recent Mark Cotgrove piece making passionate arguments against Max Pucher’s blog on social BPM where Max stated that “standardization is fine for manufacturing, but you […]


  6. arjkay says:

    Max, BPM I agree IS opposite of social. The difference is B&W, BPM is 100% about consistency and social interactions are anything but.

    The time, energy and a consciousness it takes to nurture online communities of practice and discussion boards, can be captured by underlying BPM but would it be a useful, meaningful measure? For example, the system could track how much time I spent on this page, similarly this thread and the amount of words I’m posting or even extract some of the sentiments or how I rated the responses, and it may truly correlate with my engagement relative to others.

    But the sentiments, and my interest in what others think as they read this, or desire for feedback is a dimension of social that is present in the other platforms but is in fact counterproductive to efficient process.

    My point is that we need both. Unlike robots, our motivation level is not as easily linked to BPM type measures. Frequently it is the social side of us that wants to either conform (good for BPM) or feel a part of something bigger –impulses to do the right thing, belong or feel connected in order to be human


  7. […] see it in a recent Mark Cotgrove piece making passionate arguments against Max Pucher’s blog on social BPM where Max stated that “standardization is fine for manufacturing, but you […]


  8. […] Pucher in a post in “The Social BPM Handbook 2011” says that “BPM is in my mind the opposite of empowerment. Therefore I see a huge gap […]


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Max J. Pucher
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