Companies entire BPM approaches are being built on staff collaborating to improve processes.  Some critical elements to this

–          Process mapping application supports live workshops rather than detracts from workshop.

–          Process content displayed via end user web application that has collaborative capabilities (social) when allow discussion linked to a process, document, metric.

–          There is a streamlined approach to driving any change through the change cycle so governance is not a barrier to innovation.

So SocialBPM is not new… it is collaboration.  The way it now looks (a la Facebook, Twitter) is new.   Mirroring that interface will engage thousands more individuals in organizations who would normally run at the mention of the word process. My blog Are you the victim of process discrimination described the problem with process.

Some customer stories to bring this to life and make it real ( BTW Head over to Chris Taylor’s BPM for Real blog for some great customer insights)

Avaya: process discovery workshops using webex for remote SME (subject matter experts) around the world and local teams together in workshops. The business case for the collaborative software was based on saving cost of airfares/hotel/travel

UTi Pharma – heavily regulated but wanted to innovate to improve. SocialBPM capabilities within a governance framework allowed innovative suggested for improvement to be implemented which still maintaining regulatory compliance

Carphone Warehouse: 1,800 processes deployed in 6 months using store managers as SMEs, then they established a Center of Excellence to focus the collaborative efforts from both front and back office staff, as you can hear in the video

New Balance:  Ran live workshops but didn’t deliver the results initially as they had no way of capturing and locking down the improvements , described in first 40secs of this video

So in summary:  Collaboration is made easier (crossing geographical / time boundaries) with the right technology.  But simply implementing a social tool in the enterprise (facebook, twitter, yammer) won’t help improve business processes sustainably across the business.  It will simply allow subsets of people to “chat” about how they get around the lack of clearly documented processes.

This is like putting band-aid on a major wound.  Or lipstick on  pig.

8 thoughts on “Why social technology is lipstick on a pig #bpm #socialbpm

  1. Hello Ian, while I said the same thing half a year ago
    I feel the need to comment further.

    Neither Social nor BPM is collaboration, so putting the two together won’t make it collaboration either. BPM is more than anything about delivering outcomes as defined in the business objectives and no way of documenting or enforcing processes is going to improve that. Empowering the user with the right technology to perform the processes within a business architecture as they needed to achieve those outcomes and thus making them transpartent is the only way to make both social and process management concepts work.

  2. Ian, I agree with your point that “…simply implementing a social tool in the enterprise (facebook, twitter, yammer) won’t help improve business processes sustainably across the business.” I suspect many companies will take this route as the CIO struggles to answer all of the voices clammoring for social solutions, if they haven’t already. Like all trends, those who pause and find the most thoughtful way to bring technology to bear in a way that doesn’t create more choas and churn will have adopted solutions. I’m fascinated to see what the social norms for business conversations will be.

  3. A recent article on Harvard Business Review “Want Value From Social? Add Structure” echoes the point that social needs structure.

    The summary is

    Purely social applications are too social, and purely structured applications provide too much structure. Combinations of the two are where the work gets done fastest and most effectively. I’m betting we’ll see a lot more of them.

  4. Great points. Interesting that Google this week made the decision to kill off Google Health, a site they created where people could store their online health records and…well…

    That was just the problem. There was nothing to actually do with that data. People didn’t enjoy the site because there was nothing interesting (or social) to make use of having such a capability. Maybe it was a website ahead of its time, or maybe just storing things for your own good isn’t enough of a reason. In the past we called it hoarding.

    So social without structure has no value. Storage without purpose has no value.

    I have an idea…what if the real value is found in storing AND being able to do interesting (and social) things?

  5. Dear Ian,
    a couple of comments on this:
    1. I see that the role of the pig is played by BPM: I agree on this, BPM is starting smelling bad in while trying to keep in line with the modern requirements.
    2. The fact that “Social” has the role of the lipstick may not be that realistic, especially in the enterprise scenario. Most people would think that it’s a toy lipstick for their daughter’s doll only.

    This being said, I agree that social will not be the panacea for all the BPM problems today. However, I think that it could help solving some critic aspects, provided that it’s not used simply as a tool for enterprise chatting. In particular, I think that social BPM should address problems like: assigning tasks to communities of users, process improvement based on a broader set of inputs/ performance sensors (i.e., the users themselves playing as sensors), and so on.
    A more detailed view on the levels I was envisioning can be found here:


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