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.

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