Social Media and Business Processes

There seems to be some controversy over what constitutes “Social BPM”. Let me say that I agree with Forrester’s assessment that social BPM is a methodology for bringing diverse voices to the discussion of how to improve processes, as described in "Is Social BPM a Methodology, a Technology, or Just a Lot of Hype?" Social BPM can serve as a means of documenting those voices – a historical snapshot that can prove valuable in later years. Or at least, after the current staff has moved on, help answer the question “What were they thinking when they designed this?”

There are a variety of stakeholders who should have a say in any process (re)design or improvement project.

1-      Internal stakeholders –

a.       Executives with strategic goals – where do they feel the organization should be going? Is it meeting its goals?

b.      Management of the lines of business who have operational goals for day-to-day activities. Which current processes are painful to them? Highly manual? Fraught with error? Basically, a pain to work on? How can process (re)design help them?

c.       Internal Staff – Similar questions as those for management, but employees in the trenches tend to have a different perspective on where the pain may lie.

2-      External stakeholders –

a.      Business Partners – are you hard to do business with? Your partners may have a surprising perspective on your company. It is worth gathering their feedback on where improvements can be made.

b.      Last but not least by any means, your customers.  Which processes do they feel are broken? 

Customers are often adversely affected by broken processes. If those processes are annoying enough, they may be considering alternate vendors, or not using your type of product or service at all. As scary as it might sound to you, it’s worthwhile asking them where they want to see you change. And if you are sincere about making changes, you can garner points with your customer base for opening up the dialogue to them.

Social media, to me, is not routing a task to someone’s smartphone for approval. That’s using mobile technology—but it isn’t necessarily social. What does strike me as “social” is collaborating with key parties to gather input on processes that are broken and planned process (re)design, as well as feedback on the development of the to-be process. Feedback is also valuable after the to-be process is implemented–there may be unanticipated problems, possibly problems you wouldn’t be aware of without that feedback.

The difference in adding a social twist is the reach and speed of the collaboration. Suddenly it isn’t just a small group sequestered with IT in a room, trying to determine how to design or redesign a process. With social BPM, more parties can participate in the dialogue, including those on the other side of the world, and the discussion is more public. It can also be more volatile, which might be nerve wracking to those used to low profile projects.

Imagine what would happen if your customers voted on the areas to improve. In such a Brave New World, a company could earn tremendous loyalty from its customers by involving them in their BPM initiatives.

Is your company planning on using social BPM? If so, which groups do you plan to include in the dialogue?

Thanks for reading,

Rachel Wentink