Politics – the 3rd Wave of Social Media?

Growing up, a recurring joke in our house was mum and dad’s inability to use our video recorder. I still remember the excitement of the top loading VHS arriving in the house and, as was the case with any new gadget, it was left to the kids to work it out. My brother took charge of the manual; I took care of the cabling and TV hook up. For the most part this arrangement worked fine. We had some great times with that machine. There were times however when we had forgotten to program the video and an urgent call home to get the football recorded was met with at best a recording of Brookside or at worst complete bemusement.

The same technology generational separation occurs regularly and is happening today with social media. Nowhere is this more apparent than in politics.

A few years back we saw the impact of social media on President Obama’s election victory but it would appear that social media for most established political parties remains an anathema. The success of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in this week’s Italian parliamentary elections off the back of social media campaign however shows what’s possible. Previously political movements and parties were formed by like-minded individuals, locally connected. Now local connections are no longer necessary. We can find like-minded individuals anywhere.

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A meteor shower in Russia is on our screens within minutes. I live in Ireland yet I talk face to face with colleagues in the U.S. on a daily basis. Horses from Romania are in my evening meal. We are connected as families, employees and businesses across countries and continents as never before.   While technology has made the world smaller, more connected it has also made our lives more susceptible to a wider spectrum of influences.

So it seems strange to me that while our personal and working lives are increasingly influenced by global factors our political structures remain organized on a national basis. Global warming and the financial meltdown show the powerlessness of national governments and nationally organized political parties. It’s only a matter of time before the establishment of continental and international political parties enabled by social media. In recent years we have seen tentative moves in this direction through the Green Party and the Occupy movement. Social media has been central to the national political changes in the Middle East.

The use of social media has experienced a number of waves, from its initial use in our personal lives to maintain bonds with distributed family and friends to its use in a business context to flatten organization hierarchies and remove business siloes.  Politics represents the third and potentially most disruptive wave with national boundaries proving to be irrelevant. Depending on your view point politics and social media is a match made in heaven or hell. Politics is about conversations and social networks take conversations to a hyper level.

It’s often said that social media has made customers more empowered than ever. Not only can a single customer refuse to do business with you they can also destroy your reputation in minutes through amplification of their issue on social media. This empowerment is extending to constituents as well.

The web and social media is borderless.  Politics will soon be borderless too.

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Is BPM now a Tactical Play?

Is the future for BPM strategic or tactical? A recent client engagement has thrown into focus a debate that is beginning to emerge about the future of BPM. To give you some background, the client is looking for an expense management solution and is having an internal debate on whether to choose a prebuilt, off-the-shelf application or whether to build their own in house solution using a BPM suite. The accounting department, who will use the solution, are recommending purchase of the pre-built application, emphasizing speed of deployment and lower cost as their key motivating factors. The IT department, who hold the budget, are recommending acquisition of a BPM suite, motivated by the classic BPM reasons of process flexibility and extensibility into other departmental processes. The accounting department is thus looking for a quick tactical play; the IT department is looking at a longer term strategic play.

Is BPM Tactical?

Is BPM Tactical?

BPM has for a long time been regarded as a strategic play. It’s often said that successful BPM projects require both cultural and strategic change within organizations. Establishment of BPM centers of excellence, back office integration and the optimization of processes that cut across multiple departments all require that the organization and its employees are in sync and are willing to review established practices. But all of this takes time, effort and significant cost, creating barriers for widespread BPM adoption, putting the BPM suite out of reach for many smaller businesses.

Increasingly however BPM will be viewed as a tactical rather than strategic play. For example Forrester believe the smart process applications market will be a $35Bn market by 2015 and Gartner expect the business process as a service (BPaaS) market to have grown to $84.2Bn in 2012. While the figures may be so big as to be almost meaningless and a significant proportion of this market will not be BPM opportunities what is clear is that the market for on demand process applications is significant and growing rapidly.

In our personal lives we expect to download an app and begin using it in minutes and with no training. Increasingly we are expecting the same user experience in business. Today this is most apparent in the increased trend towards BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and BYOS (Bring Your Own Software) and the exponential adoption of generic SaaS applications like SalesForce.com. It was inevitable that business process applications would follow this path.

Process On Demand

Process On Demand

The growing demand for pre-built business process applications is a challenge and an opportunity for BPM vendors. A challenge because any organization with process expertize in a specific market segment can now quite easily set themselves up as a business process outsourcer (BPO). An opportunity because ultimately prebuilt business process applications extend the market for process optimization from medium and large organizations to smaller organizations for whom the cost of a BPM application, development, training etc. is prohibitive.

While the classic strategic reasons for deploying BPM suites will remain, increasingly organizations will deploy process solutions for shorter term tactical reasons. In this tactical scenario the role for BPM will be as a cloud based, on demand, process delivery engine. The future for BPM is tactical.