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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Forrester v Gartner and the Future of BPM

Long regarded as the software equivalent of the offside rule in football, BPM might just be starting to get interesting. At long last there appears to be some debate happening in the BPM world with a gap emerging between analyst firms Forrester and Gartner on how they see the future of BPM (and Case Management).

First of all Gartner applied the paddles to the BPM corpse earlier this year with the announcement of their iBPMs (intelligent Business Process Management suite). They state that a iBPMs suite has all the features of today’s BPMS complemented with more advanced technologies like advanced analytics, business intelligence, social media and mobile applications. iBPMS use cases will integrate more analytics, social and mobile capabilities into processes making them more intelligent.

Confusingly though Gartner describe iBPMs as a new usage scenario, stating that it should not be compared with their previous BPMS MQ, yet they go on to state; “Our research indicates that the IBO use case represents the future of BPM tools and is experiencing rapid adoption.”

If Gartner have revived BPM Forrester might just have lobotomized the patient, completely changing its personality and how we will view BPM moving forward.  In contrast to Gartner, Forrester have a leaner, packaged, application vision for BPM and have defined a new process category called Smart Process Applications (SPA). These are packaged process apps that encompass many of the characteristics we associate with case management business processes including collaboration and variability. SPA characteristics include ease of use with the ability to be modified rapidly in response to changing business and market conditions. Crucially they expect the cloud to be the primary delivery infrastructure for SPAs making them easier to deploy, support and continuously improve.

Forrester’s confidence in the SPA market is such that they have put their neck on the block stating that they expect Business Process Management suites to be renamed “smart process platforms”.

So what’s my view? Who’s right Gartner or Forrester?

The cloud and the app. internet, as is the case for many SW applications, is a game changer for BPM. In our personal lives we are used to obtaining SW on demand, with little or no configuration required. We will and increasingly are expecting the same of our business software.

Like the software equivalent of Mr. Creosote Gartner’s iBPMS vision sees BPM moving in a different direction, continuing to expand and devour every new or emerging business trend its path. But is a BPMS really the best place for advanced Business Intelligence, Analytics and Social media capability or is it better to integrate with best practice elsewhere?  By adding all of these capabilities are we not continuing to make BPM more complex? Gartner’s iBPMS is a useful BPMS capability reference but iBPMS fails to address many of the issues holding back the wider adoption of BPM suites.

Gartner View of BPM

             Gartner View of BPM

Business process on demand, whether we call it BPaaS or SPA is the future of BPM.  BPM suites will continue to play an important role but increasingly as a cloud based engine for the delivery of on demand pre-built process applications rather than as an on premise application.

BPM in the cloud and BPaaS/SPA transform the business case for BPM applications extending the target market to small and medium sized organizations.  Increasingly organizations will look to these pre-built, good enough, on demand process applications rather than deploy and design their own in house processes. As a result I think Forrester’s leaner SPA vision rather than Gartner’s bloated iBPMS view represents the real future of BPM.

Forrester View of BPM

                                                              Forrester View of BPM

 

Social Marketing – You’ve been framed!

Like a You’ve Been Framed clip of a dancing granny whose had too much sherry and falls into the Christmas tree or watching your uncle trying a bit of hip hop at a family wedding this week’s attempt by UK supermarket chain Waitrose to “get social” was both hilarious and deeply worrying at the same time.

Waitrose this week challenged shoppers to “finish the sentence: ‘I shop at Waitrose because …’ #WaitroseReasons“. It backfired spectacularly as Twitter users piled in to ridicule the brand for its posh image.

The failure to understand social media is not restricted to Waitrose though.  Marketing departments globally have been guilty of failing to understand social media. Using for example Linkedin groups to promote your brand is like breaking wind in a tent and many organizations are abandoning their Facebook marketing strategies due to mixed results.

Social networks take conversations to a hyper level. The key word is conversations. Conversations are not about broadcasting marketing messages via social media channels nor are they about scanning or listening to social media networks for your company name. Conversations involve participants both talking and listening, not broadcasting and monitoring. Using social networks as a marketing channel is doomed to failure. As we have seen with Waitrose failure to understand social media can harm your brand and make you look completely out of touch.

Unsourcing – The Future of Customer Service?

Why bother outsourcing customer support when you can get your customers to do it for you. I’ve been watching the success of giffgaff with interest for a while. For those not familiar with giffgaff it is a UK mobile service provider where customers participate in the company’s business operations, specifically Marketing, Sales and Customer service.

As well as via the Giff Gaff community web page Facebook and Twitter provide additional channels for customer support. Support is provided socially, by fellow customers rather than using Giff Gaff employees.

This trend of setting up online communities to deliver peer to peer customer support has been dubbed “Unsourcing” and is not limited to Giff Gaff. The obvious reason for many organizations choosing to unsource is cost. Gartner estimates that using communities to solve support issues can reduce costs by up to 50%.

However viewing unsourcing as an opportunity to reduce customer support risks repetition of the same problems that have beset organizations who have chosen outsource their customer service to emerging economies, most importantly creating a disconnect between the organization and its customers. Simply viewing customer service as a cost center rather than for example an opportunity for differentiation and as a source of new product ideas is doomed to fail.

Unsourcing has a number of benefits. It allows Gen Y customers to interact with organizations via the social channels with which they are most familiar and to engage with fellow customers who share a common interest. In addition it creates a bond between an organization and its most important customers.

Unsourcing will become a key aspect of the customer service mix rather than a panacea. Organizations will still need to ensure that their customers aren’t left high and dry should they not get the right answer. If it’s a complaint they will need to ensure it is addressed as quickly as possible. They must monitor the channels to detect emerging trends, product problems or new product opportunities. In other words they will still need to tie the social or unsourced customer to business processes.

Social BPM – Reducing the Cultural Obstacles to Process Improvement

As BPM folk we are well aware that one of the major obstacles to BPM success is cultural. Most organizations are functionally orientated, organized on a vertical department basis; R&D, Manufacture, Customer Support, Marketing, IT, Finance, Sales and HR. Many business processes like warranty repair, complaint handling and order fulfillment however cut horizontally across many departments. As staff report to their individual department leaders naturally this is where their loyalty and commitment lies. Business process owners, if they exist, thus have the responsibility for the success of their process but none of the authority to ensure it is delivered.

A cultural as well as IT change is required if successful business process improvement is to be achieved. Organizations must begin to view the organization from a process rather than a departmental perspective.  Staff must perform the mental shift to realize that the department is there to support the process and understand that the business is in effect is the sum of its individual processes.

Outside of complete reorganization, businesses make regular attempts to facilitate this mental change. From goal setting to team building organizations attempt to forge stronger bonds between departments in order to improve process performance. In many cases despite initial good intentions to foster improved cross departmental bonds over time departments drift back to the norm.

This represents the big opportunity for Social BPM. Many commentators view Social BPM from the context of collaborative process design or the ability to trigger processes from social media events. While interesting use cases the major opportunity for Social BPM lies in its ability to support business process improvement initiatives by fostering closer alignment of the organization along process lines. Enhanced collaboration between departments facilitated by enterprise social networks help to blur the lines between departments, building trust and supporting the rapid sharing of ideas and problems. While organizations remain in their department structures enterprise social networks will help to improve interdepartmental collaboration ultimately improving process performance and the likelihood of process improvement success.

Social BPM thus represents an opportunity to eliminate one of the key barriers to success for many BPM projects, organization culture. Social BPM will allow organizations to deliver not only process change but mental change at the same time.