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BPM and Social Software

As I near completion of my Masters of Business Process Management at Queensland University of Technology, I have undertaken to write a literature review on how Business Process Management could be supported by Social Software (web 2.0 – wikis, blogs, twitter etc).

The following are just my workings as I go through this process over the next couple of months…please excuse my initial rough drafts!!
Of course, any feedback is appreciated.

BPM and Social Software

Rainer Schmidt1 and Selmin Nurcan2,3
D. Ardagna et al. (Eds.): BPM 2008 Workshops, LNBIP 17, pp. 649–658, 2009.
Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Key terms:
Social software; social interaction; social production; model-reality divide; collaborative marketing; reputation; fusioning capabilities; trust

A great paper that hits the mark with the application of social computing to BPM to challenging the traditional organisational paradigms of Fordism and Taylorism.

The authors defn social software as “software that supports the interaction of human beings and production of artefacts by combining the input from independent contributors without predetermining the way to do this” The key outputs from this statement are that the contributors are independent & don’t necessarily know each other & that there is no prescribed process of interaction to follow.

Social technology has been defined as “software that supports the interaction of human beings and production of artefacts by combining the input from independent contributors without predetermining the way to do this”, Schmidt and Nurcan (2009). It is through this knowledge exchange process that social technologies can be applied to overcome deficiencies with traditional BPM methodologies. Some key benefits include more inclusive integration of process stakeholder requirements, detailed aggregation of process impediments, improved codification of knowledge and an enhanced process improvement cycle Schmidt and Nurcan (2009). It is their belief that the improved knowledge exchange will enhance business processes and models.

Schmidt and Nurcan 2009, define the concept of a model-reality divide as the “divide between abstract process models and the executed processes”. The inferred meaning is that well defined and structured process models created by BPM experts are not followed and are often replaced by locally derived and executed processes. Typically users develop local processes when it is perceived to be too difficult to include optimisations into the official process (Schmidt and Nurcan, 2009). The Authors believe that the reason for the model-reality divide is that process users are viewed as “Consumers”, these users in turn view the terms and concepts of the abstract models as imposed.

SS – “The continuous fusioning of information originating from different self-organising users”.
Their point is that it is through the exchange of knowledge & information (supported by ss) that business processes can be enhanced. This paper explores the different phases of the BPM lifecycle & how wiki’s blogs, recommender & reputation systems can be used to enhance these steps:
Design -> integration of user needs via the “fusioning capabilities of ss & lowers the threshold to contribute. Also supports a participative modelling approach with common understanding of models.
Implementation & deployment -> easier aggregation & detailing of constraints & helps to collect & broadcast issues.
Evaluation & improve -> collection & community evaluation of suggestions & continuous assessment.

SS supports social interaction & production:
Social interaction – the interaction of non-predetermined individuals
Social production – creation of artefacts by combining independent/non-predetermined input. These artefacts may be context or content focussed – “the interaction of the contributors controls the creative process”

The paper discusses how ss follows an egalitarian and meritocratic approach where trust & reputation are crucial and hierarchic structures of authority are avoided. This concept of “trust” was also mentioned in the paper “Social Software for Modelling Business Processes” by Koschmider A, Song M, Reijers H

SS can enhance business processes by –
* improving the exchange of knowledge & information.
* speeds up decisions
* provides new communication channels between customers & organisations – with customers & among customers
* integrate customers into product/service/process development using blogs etc to capture new ideas

The authors discuss the Model-Reality Divide as the “divide between abstract process models and the executed processes”. The inferred meaning is that the well defined BPM models & structures created by the process dept or Consultants are not used and are replaced by “locally” derived & executed processes.
NB. “Employees tend to do their own private processes which contains the optimisations that they have regarded as too difficult to integrate in the official process”.
A reason is given for this divide -> process users are viewed as “Consumers” and not involved (lack of ownership/responsibility) in the BPM process & the terms & concepts are viewed as imposed.

The information pass-on threshold suggest that:
* “ideas for improvement are not passed on to those responsible because this creates too much effort for the user”
* “further processing is not transparent”
* “success is considered improbable”

Another good point raised by the authors is that “formal process models create a threshold for participation, because users without modelling knowledge cannot bring in their ideas”. -> information is lost & improvements stifled.

Weak ties -> “crucial to improve enterprise agility and innovation”.
Wisdom of the Crowds -> combining many different voices & not just from a few experts.
Service-Dominant logic -> “collaborative marketing” – the Customer is not just a consumer of value but a co-creator.

Benefits of social software approach to BPM:
* self organised & bottom-up approach – community of users develop structures interactively
* egalitarian – all users have the same rights & no separation between contributor & consumer, this lowers the threshold to contribute.
* continuous, immediate fusioning & aggregation of information – immediate visibility
* continuous & recursive assessment
* use of tags/links/bookmarks

The author states that “reputation is a substitute for trust in social software” because most users don’t know each other.

In summary, “social software enhances business processes by improving the exchange of knowledge & information to speed up decisions”. SS can narrow the model-reality divide, lowers the threshold to contribute, integrates user requirements & supports the collection of process improvement ideas.

I believe that we still require facilitation by experienced BPM Practitioners to convert the “wisdom of the crowds” to documented process models and methodologies.

Improving knowledge exchange
Aggregation & fusioning of knowledge
Egalitarian and meritocratic
Trust & reputation
Model-Reality divide
Information pass-on threshold
Weak ties; wisdom of the crowds; social production; service-dominant logic

Categories: BPM, Enterprise 2.0, web 2.0

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