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Social BPM pushes process out to users, customers

Social business process management, or social BPM, promises to address the age-old problem of having a small group of business analysts or technicians create business processes, only to get pushback from frontline users.

The team has good intentions, but the people actually involved in making the business process happen end up saying, “This isn’t how we do it,” or “This isn’t what we had in mind.”

Employees end up reverting to the old way of doing business, and either all that business process improvement work goes down the drain or the BPM tools don’t get used.

With social BPM, employees — and in some cases, customers — are involved up front in changing and improving and even creating new business processes. Also called collaborative modeling by Forrester Research Inc. analyst Clay Richardson, the idea behind social BPM is to involve employees and customers in the design and planning stage. “Right now, it’s mostly top-down BPM; social BPM flips this model,” he said.

Richardson has written several blog posts on the subject, with one that discusses big process thinking, an approach that includes tying the customer experience to process improvement.

Richardson is seeing it happen among his client base. When a large health cooperative needed to transform its business processes, it brought customers into the conversation, worked with the customers’ employees and asked, “How do you think we should improve our processes?” he said.

With social BPM, a process can be changed midstream. “What’s critical is not just inundating people in the organization with a whole bunch of [business process] data, but putting it into the context of a work in progress so participants can take action on it real-time,” said Elise Olding, a research director in Gartner’s BPM practice.

Social BPM is one piece of the BPM strategy puzzle. We’ll be exploring other factors behind successful BPM strategies — and common mistakes — next week on

Let us know what you think about this blog post; email: Christina Torode, News Director

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