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Leveraging social bpm for enterprise transformation


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This white paper explores the drivers behind social BPM, and provides insights into its four main manifestations: collaborative process discovery, runtime collaboration, process event streams, and BPM communities. It also discusses the network effects that fuel the expansion of social BPM, acting as a catalyst for transformation of an enterprise’s processes, performance and work culture, and finishes with a number of best practices for adopting social BPM within your organization.

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Leveraging social bpm for enterprise transformation

  1. 1. Leveraging Social BPM For Enterprise Transformation Introduction Social BPM is gaining recognition as a driver of knowledge worker productivity. But what is social BPM, and how does it compare with the more general classes of social business applications? How can social BPM be used as part of an overall enterprise transformation initiative? This white paper explores the drivers behind social BPM, and provides insights into its four main manifestations: collaborative process discovery, runtime collaboration, process event streams, and BPM communities. It also discusses the network effects that fuel the expansion of social BPM, acting as a catalyst for transformation of an enterprise’s processes, performance and work culture, and finishes with a number of best practices for adopting social BPM within your organization. Why Social Business? Why Social BPM? © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Page 1 of 1 To understand social business software, consider two key characteristics of consumer social software, or Web 2.0, as defined1 in 2005:  Uses the web as a platform, with a browser-based rich user interface that provides equivalent functionality to a desktop application. In addition to requiring no local installation, thereby lowering costs and providing greater desktop plat-
  2. 2. form support, this allows for a constantly-refreshing software upgrade cycle. To further reduce the cost of ownership, software-as-a-service providers host applications and make them available via a monthly subscription, rather than requiring the purchase and installation of software locally: Nicholas Carr describes this emerging “utility” model of computing2, comparing it to the shift from private electricity production to centralized power plants that sell electricity on a usage-metered basis.  Harnesses collective intelligence by allowing user-directed and user-created content and collaboration. Although only a small percentage of users will contribute, their contributions are available to all users. By 2006, Andrew McAfee had defined the enterprise equivalent3, Enterprise 2.0, as “platforms that companies can buy or build in order to make visible the practices and outputs of their knowledge workers.” As with their consumer equivalents, social business applications allow for emergent structure and processes rather than imposing pre-determined taxonomies and procedures. However, social business applications usually have a businessrelated purpose rather than a purely social function. These break down into two main categories:  Applications focused on social interactions that strengthen weak ties within a large and/or geographically diverse organization. For example, an internal social network that © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. allows employees to create profile pages can be used for locating others with specific skills and interests for research Page 2 of 2 and project collaboration, although that collaboration does not necessarily happen within the social application itself.  Applications focused on goal-oriented social production. For example, a wiki used to document internal operational
  3. 3. procedures can be updated directly by any worker with information on specific areas of the procedures. The past few years have seen a huge increase in the social business software market, but many organizations still struggle to identify the benefits, particularly with applications that are focused on relationships rather than production. The applications that support social production can also be problematic unless they are integrated into the main business processes that workers are tasked with completing: otherwise, they’re just one more thing that someone needs to do during their busy work day without adding significant value to their work. One solution for this is to integrate the social business functionality directly in the line of business applications that workers use every day, and business process management systems (BPMS) are proving to be an ideal platform for that integration. BPMS, used for modeling, automating and monitoring business processes, are now being extended to create a class of functionality called “Social BPM”. Social Aspects of BPM The motivation for social BPM contains many facets4:  User expectations based on commercial social software. Today’s workers expect to be able to configure their own © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. environment to suit their working style, to collaborate with others at any point in a business process where they see fit, and to combine information from multiple internal and Page 3 of 3 external sources in order to accomplish their tasks.  Benefits of distributing co-creation across the value chain. Involving workers at all levels in process discovery and
  4. 4. definition results in process models that more accurately capture the actual processes.  Greater agility in BPMS implementations. Instead of using a BPMS as a graphical development tool in a classic waterfall software development lifecycle, supporting agile methods for process discovery and implementation allows processes to change quickly to meet business needs. Over the past five years, social BPM has moved from a distant goal to an emerging set of features in BPM tools. The idea of “social” manifests in four primary ways in BPM systems:  Collaborative process discovery. Many people from a variety of perspectives – including end users, business analysts and IT – are involved in modeling processes.  Runtime collaboration. During execution, processes are modified dynamically to include unplanned participants in order to complete the work more effectively.  Process event streams. Publishing event streams for both process models and runtime process instances enables visibility and participation across a broader range of participants and devices.  Internal and external BPM communities for sharing best practices As Gartner Research states: “Social BPM resides at the intersection © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Page 4 of 4 of process and collaborative activity. It is supported by BPM and social software that makes process design more visible and holistic. It supports more effective process execution through the use of social software tools that augment human actions to better mirror the way work is performed, while also providing visibility to this work”.5
  5. 5. Collaborative Process Discovery: a Catalyst to Enterprise Transformation Collaborative process discovery in particular can have far-reaching impacts on business performance, since it allows a wide variety of participants to be involved in documenting, improving and implementing business processes across the enterprise. Since process discovery is focused on collaborative content creation, the benefits are most closely aligned with more generic social software tools, such as enterprise wikis and blogs. Deloitte, in a recent report on social software for business performance, discusses how social software can significantly enhance business performance in the short-term, and can be transformational in the long term. They highlight several capabilities of social software that can contribute to enterprise-wide adoption and transformation:6  Preservation of institutional memory, allowing for discovery and reuse in other areas. This serves a similar purpose to traditional knowledge management, but is focused on the collaborative creation of knowledge rather than the capture and publication of existing knowledge.  Facilitation of cross-silo collaboration, allowing knowledge and information exchange to transcend enterprise hierarchies or boundaries.  Harnessing distributed knowledge, to bring together skills from different areas to drive innovation. © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Page 5 of 5  Identifying emerging opportunities for innovation through insight into exception-handling trends, and serendipitous encounters with information and resources that may be applied within an ever-changing business environment. These capabilities are key in collaborative process discovery: a centralized process model repository preserves institutional
  6. 6. memory, and widely-available tools facilitate collaboration across business units and even with other organizations. As the community forms around the collaborative process discovery tools, new uses will be discovered for process discovery and management, and workers from different areas will more easily lend their expertise to projects that bear some similarity to their own. This creates a network effect – where something becomes more valuable as more people use it – causing an exponential increase in potential performance improvement. There can be barriers to collaborative process discovery, as seen in social software studies of content creation in wiki environments. In some cases, information hoarding is perceived as a source of power, decreasing the motivation to openly share knowledge. Less skilled workers may be reluctant to participate because they don’t want to appear unknowledgeable, particularly if their work is visible to a wider audience, including their management. There can also be a perception that local processes are so unique that there is little to be learned from collaborating with other departments. These are primarily cultural barriers, and can usually be surmounted with a combination of management directives and specific targeted process discovery projects to show the value of collaboration. The tools themselves can also help break down barriers to collaboration across an enterprise by providing process model visualizations suitable to the worker’s role and skill level: workers © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Page 6 of 6 unfamiliar with more comprehensive process modeling notations such as BPMN may view a simplified perspective of the model, and add their feedback using typed comments rather than having to use less-familiar graphical tools. Providing this in a web-based environment using existing enterprise authentication makes the tools available to all without cumbersome installation and signup
  7. 7. procedures, allowing everyone to have a voice in identifying and improving processes. Finally, adoption of the collaborative process discovery tools and methods can be further promoted by encouraging direct access to models in a repository for all levels of users, even if they are not involved in process discovery. For example, sending a link to a process model in the repository for review rather than a document containing a static picture or description of the model, requires management and other senior reviewers – often reluctant adopters of new technology – to use the tools and gain appreciation for the benefits of collaboration. In conjunction with this, limiting access to other non-collaborative process repositories, such as static Visio files on shared network drives, once their contents have been migrated to the collaborative platform will help to reinforce adoption. This will help the shared process repository to become the primary source when anyone is looking for process model information. Collaborative Process Execution: Reinforcing Enterprise Transformation Through Widespread Process Involvement Collaborative process discovery is a key starting point for achieving enterprise process transformation, but still only involves a © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. relatively small portion of the entire workforce. Runtime process collaboration can propagate this transformation through widespread involvement of a much higher number of people. Page 7 of 7 Runtime collaboration and dynamic modeling are often considered to be the same capabilities in a BPM system; although they are highly related, they are not identical7: runtime collaboration is the activity of adding participants to a process instance during runtime
  8. 8. who were not part of the original process design, while dynamic modeling is the activity of modifying the model for a process instance, usually to add one or more new tasks to the process. Although dynamic modeling will almost always include adding new participants, the inverse is not necessarily true: new participants may be added to existing process tasks without changing the topology of the original model. Runtime collaboration, in its simplest form, allows a user to add collaborators to his assigned task with others, without changing the process flow: he expands the visibility of that task to others, and collects their responses and decisions as part of the task history. This is critical for processes that are regulated or audited for compliance, where it’s important to know who was involved in decision-making on each process instance. There can be resistance to runtime collaboration, particularly from management that has a firm top-down control mindset. However, attempting overly-strict management control of runtime process collaboration leads to a loss of control: the collaboration will just move to unmonitored, unmanaged methods such as e-mail or telephone, and there will be no audit history in the BPMS of those activities. Providing runtime collaboration capabilities allows knowledge workers – who often understand better than the process designers who should be involved to complete a process – to improve the quality of the work completed, based on their skills and experience. © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Page 8 of 8 In addition to allowing for audited inclusion of unplanned participants in a process instance, runtime collaboration provides additional benefits: first, the process execution variations can be captured as feedback to process improvement, so that if a specific role or participant is always added during runtime, that could be added to the underlying process model, reducing the runtime effort
  9. 9. for this task in the future. Secondly, involving people who would not normally use the BPMS exposes them to the benefits of BPM without mandating their involvement in the process: just as with casual process discovery involvement, those who are occasionally (and collaboratively) involved with processes in a BPMS during runtime will begin to understand the benefits that could accrue to their own business areas from BPM. Process Event Streams: Increasing Visibilty Through Social Streaming Social event streaming, popularized by Twitter and Facebook as a method for following many people’s activities as a series of short message updates, is being adopted in business applications as a way of not just following people, but of following business events and activities that may be of interest. In the world of social BPM, this usually takes two forms:  Event streams for process discovery or modeling projects. Someone may choose to “watch” a particular process model or project, and receive updates for changes made to the project. Alternatively, following a keyword would result in updates for projects, models and other materials that use that keyword within the process repository. This will often be used by a modeling participant who wants to track other people’s input, and make updates or comments on the © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Page 9 of 9 process model when required.  Event streams for executing processes. Someone may “watch” a particular class of process instances, and receive updates whenever one of those is created or when specific milestones are reached. This will often be used to monitor specific process types, although can also be used to notify a participant when their input is required.
  10. 10. Typically, a process event within a stream will include a direct link to the underlying initiator of the event – the the process model or project within the modeling environment in the first situation, or the process instance within the runtime environment in the second – allowing for the recipient to easily click through in order to participate. The short message nature of the event stream – often derided in the consumer platforms – is actually a critical feature, since it simplifies the information into an easily-digestible update, and allows the stream to be formatted into a mobile device application, or even sent via SMS messages. This pushes the boundary of process monitoring via event streams to include anyone within an organization, on the monitoring platform of their choice. Collaboration in BPM Communities: Creating the Basis for Future Growth in Enterprise Transformation Institutionalizing the practice of process collaboration for growing business transformation is where BPM communities come into play, both internal centers of excellence (CoE) and external BPM communities. These communities help to spread process collaboration through a number of capabilities:  © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Easy availability and training on collaborative process discovery tools. This not only assists projects with process discovery, but can serve as an easy-to-use BPM education tool for a widespread enterprise audience with minimal Page 10 of 10 effort.  Process model repositories of existing enterprise processes. This facilitates process model sharing, and helps identify similar functions in different business areas that are
  11. 11. candidates for consolidation, further transforming enterprise functionality.  BPM reference and training materials. This typically a combination of internal best practices and external reference materials, and may span both an internal CoE and one or more external BPM communities.  A directory of internal process experts available for assistance with projects. This should include BPM tool experts, process improvement experts, and business practitioners who have experienced a process improvement project first-hand. A BPM community supporting collaborative process discovery and runtime helps to further propagate these activities across the enterprise, transforming them into mainstream practices. Scaling A BPM Initiative With Social Collaboration Social BPM can help to scale a BPM initiative from a single project to broad enterprise transformation. Although many factors are involved, there are a variety of techniques and best practices that you can adopt to help it along:  Remove technological barriers by selecting web-based tools that don’t require downloads or browser upgrades, and that © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Page 11 of 11 use existing authentication so that no signups are required.  Err on the side of openness, making all processes, event streams, information and tools available to everyone on every platform by default and without explicit permission. This reduces logistical barriers, increases the network effect by facilitating process reuse across business units, and
  12. 12. sends the message that management considers this to be an essential service.  Use collaborative process discovery tools from the beginning, and use them to share process designs with all levels of users. When sharing process models, provide direct links to the models in the repository for review and commenting, rather than using static snapshots or exports. This will familiarize more people with collaborative process discovery and its benefits.  To reduce barriers presenting in acquiring and installing onpremise software, consider a software-as-a-service solution for some or all social BPM functionality. For example, IBM Blueworks Live provides collaborative process discovery, and also supports a BPM community.  Migrate existing process models into the collaborative process repository, and remove access to non-collaborative repositories. This will reinforce the use of the collaboration platform for process discovery and documentation.  Discourage use of email for runtime process collaboration. Since this is often done between front-line workers and supervisors, enlist the supervisors to assist with encouraging and training workers on using runtime collaboration features.  Embed appropriate process event streams on the intranet to familiarize people with the appearance and use of event streams. © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Page 12 of 12  Replace process notifications and periodic reports with filtered event streams, where possible.  Reward individual’s involvement in internal and external BPM communities by including the amount and quality of involvement as a performance appraisal factor.
  13. 13. All of these activities require rethinking the concept of “control” within your organization: control no longer means that management dictates every action that every employee takes, but rather that appropriate levels of control are given to everyone so that they can control their environment and make it most effective for completing their tasks at hand. This paradigm shift strikes at the core of top-down organizational management and may meet resistance at all levels, but has the ability to provide the cultural shift required for enterprise transformation. Summary The combination of collaborative capabilities discussed in this paper enables true enterprise process transformation:  Collaborative process discovery allows a wide variety of participants to be involved in process design.  Runtime collaboration allow anyone to become involved in a process, at the request of the knowledge workers who are tasked with completing the process, in order to facilitate its completion.  Process event streams allow anyone in an organization to track and participate in processes, from anywhere; and  Process communities capture and spread knowledge about process improvement across the enterprise. © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Page 13 of 13 The benefits: knowledge workers leverage their tacit knowledge of other’s skills and experience to involve them at the right point in a business process, and everyone fine-tunes the flood of information that comes their way so that they are better able to manage their important tasks. Furthermore, by bringing these capabilities to a wide audience within an organization, not only individual process projects see the benefits, but the network effect comes into play to increase these benefits exponentially.
  14. 14. About the Author Sandy Kemsley is an independent analyst, application architect and blogger, specializing in business process management and Enterprise 2.0. During her career of more than 20 years, she has started and run successful product and service companies, including a desktop workflow and document management product company and a 40-person services firm implementing BPM and ecommerce solutions, and held the position of BPM evangelist for a major BPM vendor. Currently, she practices as a BPM industry analyst and architect, performing engagements for end-user organizations and BPM vendors. She writes the popular “Column 2” BPM blog at, is a contributing author on other business and social media-related blogs, and is a featured speaker on BPM and its impact on business. 1 O’Reilly, T. What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software,, 30 September 2005. 2 Carr, N. The Big Switch, 2008. 3 McAfee, A. “Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration”, MIT Sloan Management Review, Vol. 47, No. 3, Spring 2006. © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Page 14 of 14 4 Kemsley, S. “Enterprise 2.0 Meets Business Process Management”, Handbook on Business Process Management, Springer, 2010. 5 Olding, E.. Social BPM: Getting to Doing, Gartner Research, 2011. 6 Miller, M., Marks, A., Decoulode, M. Social software for business performance, Deloitte Development LLC, 2011.
  15. 15. 7 Kemsley, S. “Runtime Collaboration and Dynamic Modeling in BPM: Allowing the Business to Shape Its Own Processes on the Fly”, Cutter IT Journal, Volume 23, No. 2, February 2010. IBM Addendum IBM brings Social BPM to life through its collaborative process discovery, documentation and light weight automation offering, IBM Blueworks Live. With a simple and intuitive yet rich interface built to support different skill levels and delivered conveniently and affordably via the cloud, IBM Blueworks Live significantly reduces the barriers of entry of traditional BPM tools. This makes the case for adopting BPM practices in any organization extremely compelling. Where IBM Blueworks Live excels is in enabling the scaling of the BPM discipline across the organization once adopted. Built on a backbone of collaboration features, IBM Blueworks Live allows team members to subscribe to and be kept informed about © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Page 15 of 15 processes or topics they are in, to comment on other people’s work, to share best practices or participate in real time sharing sessions where processes are discovered and mapped on a virtual whiteboard by virtual teams, co-located or not. This creates an environment in which people from diverse parts of the organization can contribute their unique perspective to process improvement initiatives; it is this diversity of opinion that ensures better
  16. 16. processes emerge. As a secondary effect of engaging in conversations about process in a virtual water cooler, IBM Blueworks Live customers benefit from having their collective knowledge preserved in a shared repository that they can mine for valuable insights at any point. There is a lot of value in engaging the entire organization in the discovery and modeling of processes as well as in ensuring that process changes are communicated in real time. However, there is just as much leverage an enterprise can get out of applying the rules of social networking to process execution. To that extent, IBM Blueworks Live allows its customers to automate simple workflows consisting of checklists or approval chains and gives the process participants the power at any point to comment on the work being done as part of particular process instances or to reassign work to the appropriate parties. This ensures the right process is being executed by the right participants at the right time. With time, IBM Blueworks Live has become the engine behind a cultural shift in organizations that have embraced it, where process improvement has transitioned from point solutions to a discipline of continuous process improvement – which is the real promise of social BPM. Sign up for a free trial today at © 2011 Kemsley Design Ltd. Page 16 of 16