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Is There Social BPM?

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Clay Richardson’s definition of Social BPM as:

Processes developed and improved through the use of social technologies and techniques.

and his view of it as a way of bringing a new wave of BPM suites, including process Wikis, Process Mashups and BPM-as-a-Service started a lot of activity on the web.

A Social BPM discussion started on EbizQ generated a wealth of answers.

According to Michael zur Muehlen:

Social is all about providing context, a rich environment of data points that a streamlined workflow would be lacking otherwise. The challenge is to make this context useful, both from a social networking perspective and from an unstructured data perspective.

In Theo Priestley’s opinion, a social approach can lead to:

converging [of] multiple disciplines like BPM, CRM, Case, ECM because it too is highlighting that there is more in common between them than vendors would like us to believe. Start thinking beyond simple social media type application and see where your imagination takes you.

He perceives the social approach as a change agent for the introduction of transparency, ease of collaboration and destroying silos, a path to the BPM of the 21st century.

Tom Allanson explains that:

Social BPM is basically just collaborative business process management utilizing a collective network environment - it's about extending BPM access and decision-making to partners and select external parties without compromising the exclusivity of the core group.

According to Rashid N. Khan, BPM is still about maximizing enterprise efficiency, while bringing together business users using social networking.

Processes involve people and people are social beings who interact with each other in complex ways. BPM was (or should have been) social even before the advent of Social Media. Just like there was BPM before the invention of BPMS, we simply were not aware of it. So now the combination of BPMS and Social Media technologies is simply a way to use technology to greatly improve what we were doing before.

And finally, according to Greg Carter:

..."social" in Social BPM [is] more than collaboration or ad-hoc processes or even communication...- Social BPM needs to be frame-worked with rich and meaningful context. In the case of Social BPM that means more than just using social media as another broadcast approach to solve problems - you need to provide context to the network you are reaching out to... social computing and BPM technology naturally complement each other. Social BPM is BPM - you are still managing and executing your processes on the same platform - but, thanks to the added benefit of real time, human input - you are finding quicker and more insightful ways to do it.

Analyzing the results of this discussion, Keith Swenson suggests the separation of the process implementation, done by process analysts and developers, from process users. He further suggests thinking about BPM as a specialized type of application development and notes that social media can make this development more effective by allowing managers, customers, executives to have input into process design and implementation:

Using social software for development of traditional BPM applications will certainly help improve those applications, and is important. But this is just an incremental improvement over traditional BPM. Thinking about social systems improving BPM application development is like thinking of using social software to make the writing of newspapers... [or] books more collaborative. There is a quantum leap that might be experienced when business learns to use social software directly, and when they learn how to adapt their process templates directly, at run time, and in collaboration with the rest of the business.

Swenson continues by explaining that social systems introduce more than just collaboration, they change the nature of things. In his opinion:

... blogs don’t just make the writing of newspapers more collaborative, they completely change the nature of how information is spread. A wiki is not about getting people to collaboratively write books that are published in the traditional manner, but it is about eliminating the divide between the author and the reader.

Social networks have already profoundly changed our lives. It is becoming pervasive, whether we are dealing with knowledge - Wikipedia - events, restaurants and other everyday activities - Yelp - and so on. It is changing the way we write and use software, open source projects, development Wikis, internet searches, etc. Usage of social media will create a similar impact on BPM design and implementation. Will it create a new type of BPM or just a new way of BPM implementation remains to be seen.

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