Social BPM Adds Value for Enterprises and Employees

The next generation of employees expects your business processes to be collaborative. However, don't adopt business process management for just them, though. Move to BPM for your bottom line.

By Allen Bernard
Tue, January 08, 2013

CIO — Social media is everywhere today. But what does social really mean? If you're just sharing the latest news about who you are dating or a great recipe you just tried for Thanksgiving, then social networking is just about sharing with friends and family. In an organizational context, though, social becomes much more, enhancing and changing the very definition of "work."

"Right now, BPM [business process management] seems like its own industry and enterprise social seems like its own, but they are both going to be [made] obsolete by this merger it's so powerful," says Matt Calkins, founder, president, and CEO of BPM provider Appian, a company that has reinvented its offering around bringing these two worlds together.

Getting Social BPM Right May Mean Redefining 'Work'

If you define work as a group of people striving towards a common goal, whether it's building a car, designing a toaster or running a hotel, then what you are really talking about is a group of people collaborating to get something done. For this group, being social isn't about sharing who they are; it's about sharing what they do and how they do it. In other words, being social means coming together to achieve a common end.

In a business, these activities are defined and, more importantly for the sake of this discussion, bounded by processes. This is where the idea of social business process management comes in. BPM is all about modeling and automating workflows to make them more efficient and effective. When you integrate social—or, in this case, collaboration—capabilities into these platforms, you can dramatically affect how well people perform their jobs.

"Software features do not do that. They are not the catalyst for doing that," says Michael Krigsman, president of Asuret, a technology change and IT project consultancy. "What's necessary is to change the behavior of people, to change how people interact with one another, how they share information and how they communicate, whether it's on projects or across departments or what have you."

Wolfram Jost, CTO of German BPM provider Software AG, agrees. Technology in and of itself solves few problems, but technology coupled with stakeholder buy-in and adoption does.

"Order to cash, for example, is order to cash, but the point is how innovative, how efficient, how effective is this process?" Jost asks. "To have a desktop application and then to mobile-enable it is technology. But if I have now mobile capability how [does this] improve the processes? If I do it the same way, what is the benefit of having a mobile device?"

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