Social BPM is Dead, Long Live Social Case Management

I participated in an interesting debate on bpm.com this week on the topic “has social BPM failed”.

First of all I don’t think social networking has any place within a Business Process Management (or Case Management) Suite (BPMS), the BPMS should integrate to best practice elsewhere. As I have said elsewhere on this blog I think social has its greatest opportunity within a Case Management and not a BPM context. Social BPM was always going to fail because BPM focuses on the needs of the business and not the knowledge worker. Social Case management is really where it’s at. Case Management after all is about empowering knowledge workers and giving them choices as to how they want to execute a case. Adding social capabilities to a Case Management platform empowers the knowledge worker to choose with whom, how and when they wish to collaborate.

Integration with a case management suite will allow organizations to extract value from their Enterprise Social Network (ESN) investment. Tools like Yammer, Chatter or Jive have limited value and will continue to struggle for adoption unless they are plugged into some actual work. Plugging social into knowledge worker based business processes helps people to establish and strengthen personal relationships, develop trust, reduce friction and accelerate the business processes in which people are engaged. Social integration has the potential to reconfigure the BPMS and Case Management suite for the post email world and the next generation of employees.

Enterprise social

Anyway looking at what some of the ESN vendors offer today I’ve had a bit of a brainstorming exercise and have come up with some features that could be delivered through the integration of the Case Management suite with an ESN platform. At a basic level all of these features are focused on enhancing knowledge worker productivity by delivering enhanced collaboration and support opportunities. Let me know what you think:

  • Enhanced collaboration and file sharing
  • Collaborative creation of content within a case
  • Automatic creation of temporary team workspaces or groups focused on a specific process or a specific case to facilitate the collaboration and sharing of ideas among co-workers
  • Runtime guidance from subject matter experts
  • Rapid access to shared content and content ranked on utilization by co-workers and teammates
  • Crowdsourcing or distributed problem solving
  • Social Stream and BPM work queue integration i.e. the Social work queue which many BPM platforms already offer today
  • Shared team folders and shared case management folders
  • Collaborative process design and continuous process improvement.
  • Leveraging social awareness to deliver automatic process routing based on availability
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It Was, Is and Always Will Be about Empowerment

Does anyone pay for mobile ring tones anymore? A few years ago it was usually the first thing I tried to do when I got a new mobile.  Now I can change my ring tone in seconds and choose from my own music catalogue.

Does anyone still rent DVDs? We’ve moved from watching films in a cinema, to watching them at home, to being able to choose from a catalogue of movies and TV programs and stream them on demand. Each step has been about increasing consumer choice and providing more options about what, how and when we choose to consume.  The music industry has followed a similar journey of increased consumer choice. Successful IT companies don’t deliver new features; successful IT companies give customers more choices. The iPhone would have been just another expensive phone were it not for the explosion in choice driven by the App Store.

Chocie = EmpowermentEmpowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. As humans we’ve always searched for empowerment. Whether its civil rights, politics, medical care or in our personal relationships it’s a basic human instinct to try to strive for right to make choices. It seems that with choice comes personal freedom.

While empowerment is a hot topic in the IT industry to date almost all of the focus has been on the customer rather than the employee. There are no shortage of analysts, consultants, speakers and quacks out there ready to bore you to death and tell you what you already know, that consumers are more powerful and connected than ever before. Yes we all know it’s never been easier to research buying decisions or switch suppliers. Yes we all know that a single tweet or review can have a long term negative impact on a business. Yes we all know that our customers are increasingly using mobile as their first choice system of engagement with organizations. We get it. Enough already.

We read much less about employee empowerment. Why, because at heart most businesses still view many of their employees as a cost center rather than as a value center. Yes even those zeitgeisty new technology firms with pool tables and bean bags all over the foyer are quick to reduce the cost of their service desks by focusing on a web only strategy that funnels all customer problems down the same fixed process. Chances are you’ll struggle to find their call center number.

There are few, if any, business processes that don’t have exceptions and that’s when you need your employees. Your employees fill the gaps business processes can’t reach.  At some point customers will engage directly with employees. However what’s the point of spending all that money optimizing digital customer engagement channels if when the customer reaches an employee they are greeted by a person who is disengaged, demotivated and tied to inflexible business processes. All that work you’ve done to address the needs of the customer goes up in smoke. It is estimated that 70% of us are disengaged at work, using business processes and software applications into which we have had no input and which may not suit our working style.

Employees Fill The Gaps Your Process Can't Reach

Employees Fill The Gaps Your Process Can’t Reach

Most of us are both customers and employees.  It was thus inevitable that our personal quest for empowerment would extend to how we use information technology in our work environment. Trends such as the consumerization of IT and the rise of enterprise app stores are the manifestation of the desire for employee empowerment. Tech savvy knowledge workers are no longer prepared to wait for or accept IT driven business software and hardware decisions and are bringing their own hardware and software to work. Increasingly we’ll do the same with business processes. We want the same choices and experience in our business IT environment as we have in our personal IT environment. Personalizing the color and layout of our home screen is no longer enough. Instead we want to be able to choose both the hardware, software and the business processes we use to carry out our work.

Understanding the business user need for empowerment is essential for the successful future adoption of new products, services and business processes. If you are looking at transforming customer experience within your organization avoid organizations that focus only on the needs of the customer and ignore the needs of the employee. Look for products features that provide new choices for employees and recognize that how work gets done within an organization varies between employees. Evaluate new products not on features but on the choices they provide for both your customers and employees because the IT industry was, is and always will be about empowerment.

If This Then What is the future of Workflow and BPM?

IFTTT (If This Then That) is a service that lets users connect multiple different mobile apps based on a simple rule. “This” is the process trigger, “That” is the process action. Today the tool lets users rapidly create connections between 71 applications or what IFTTT calls “channels”. The simple workflows created between channels using the IFTTT rule are called recipes and can be shared within an IFTTT community.

iftt

So what’s the big deal?

In the BPMS suite we’ve been executing simple and complex business rules like If This Then That for years. The emergence of IFTTT is important because it does two things that BPMS does not do well; integration and simplicity.

Many business processes cut horizontally across organizations and as a result touch multiple business applications. There is thus an ongoing drive among BPM and Case Management vendors to continuously enhance their integration capabilities. This is however a continuously moving target and integration remains one of the greatest obstacles for the successful deployment of both cloud and on premise BPM solutions, often adding considerable cost and time to projects.

When it comes to the integration of cloud and mobile applications into business processes the difficulty multiplies. We are only just seeing the emergence of smart process applications and on demand business processes. Mobile BPM applications have emerged with integration to back end systems but is any BPM vendor doing mobile app to mobile app integration?

Mobile and cloud app integration is a key IT battleground. As business software users we regularly use mobile apps and on demand software to address business problems. This consumerization of the business IT landscape however sits uncomfortably with IT heavy BPM projects.

IFTTT radically simplifies the process of stitching together and automating web services and as such throws down the gauntlet to other business applications that are heavily reliant on application integration.

Consistent with consumerization IFTTT empowers users to integrate and develop their own workflows. It doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to expect this simple IFTTT rule to be extended to support more complex rules and events and ultimately encroach into the market for workflow and BPM applications.

IFTTT Channels

IFTTT Channels

Why has the BPMS Market Stalled?

The BPMS MarketAccording to a recent Gartner report after years of double digit growth the total BPMS market declined by 1% in 2012 to £2.3Bn.

So what’s the reason for this decline? Gartner propose quite a few reasons including M&A activity in the BPM vendor market creating uncertainty and the hype surrounding other SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud) technologies that has had the effect of putting the BPM baby in the corner.

While many of the reasons for the decline proposed by Gartner are valid in my opinion I think there have been two primary reasons for the decline:

The Cloud

BPM was late to the cloud market and remains today primarily an on-premise play.  There were a variety of reasons for this delay and my own thoughts on this can be read here.

For IT leaders evaluating or executing on their cloud strategy a meeting with a BPM vendors pushing on premise deployments must raise some concerns. “Should I really be considering an on-prem BPM investment at this time when my gut instinct and my execs are telling me to focus on the cloud?”

In the long term there’s no need to panic. The BPM market is, I think, in the process of making a right hand turn. As more demand BPM and Case Management process applications emerge e.g. BPaaS and smart process applications, underpinned by a BPMS growth will re-emerge.

It’s the Economy Stupid

Many of the IT planning and funding decisions for 2012 will have been made in 2011 when the economies of both the US and Europe were still struggling to recover from the crash of 2007. The EU continues to recover extremely slowly and it’s noticeable from the Gartner report that the BPM market in Western Europe actually declined by almost 7% in 2012. The economic impact hasn’t just been felt by BPM vendors. Outside the BPM market the Business Intelligence market growth slowed considerably from the approximately 17 percent rate experienced in 2011 to 6.8% in 2012.

What do you think? Is this a temporary blip in the BPMS market or the first sign of a much bigger problem?

BPMS - No Need to Panic

BPMS – No Need to Panic

Intelligent Process Applications

Check out my new blog Intelligent Process Applications. This blog will be about the future of business process, what I refer to as Intelligent Process Applications.

This blog will continue to be focused on transforming customer experience and employee empowerment using BPM and Case Management.

Intelligent Process Applications

BPM – Have we been flying upside down?

I was watching the current season of Mad Men last night and a bit of dialogue struck a chord. Ted Chaough was flying his new colleague Don Draper in his small private plane to a meeting with a client. After some bumpy weather Ted uses an airplane analogy, “Sometimes in life you think you’re the right way up when in fact you’re upside down. Gotta check your instruments.”

Mad Men - Ted and Don

Mad Men – Ted and Don

This got me thinking about BPM. 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 and medium sized businesses. All this time we’ve been recommending building this huge BPM ecosystem within enterprises and have then wondered why BPM has struggled to take off.

Maybe all this time we’ve been flying upside down. Maybe we should have been deploying rapid, pre-built or almost pre-built BPM applications, with clear business value and rapid ROI. Maybe we should have been searching for the quick win, to show off the potential of BPM suites before thinking about broader, more strategic process improvement.

With the emergence of BPaaS and Smart Process Applications it would appear that at long last someone has taken a look at the instruments.

The BPM v Case Management Debate – this time it’s in the Cloud

It’s happening again folks. Just when we thought the BPM versus Case Management discussion had been finally put to bed Forrester have gone round blasting their car horn and woke the debate up with their publication today of their Smart Process Application (SPA) wave. In this sequel the debate has moved to the cloud.

Forrester define Smart Process Applications as 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.

Cloud Processes

Cloud Processes

However an already established definition, BPaaS (Business Process as a Service) exists for business processes delivered based on the cloud services model. So what’s the difference between a SPA and BPaaS? Are they the same thing? Are SPA’s a subset of BPaaS? Or are we about to have another debate over transactional versus variable business processes, BPM versus Case Management?

Is BPaaS BPM in the cloud and Smart Process Applications Case Management in the cloud? Are BPaaS applications high volume, cloud based transactional business processes and SPA applications lower volume, variable, knowledge worker focused processes in the cloud? Do we really need another term added to the cloud services model?

In my opinion SPAs will be viewed as a subset of BPaaS, as enhanced BPaaS functionality in the same way that Case Management features are viewed as enhanced BPM functionality today. In the same way that some BPM suites offer case management today some BPaaS platforms will be able to offer SPA capabilities and others won’t.

(P.S. Click here if you want a free copy of the SPA Wave)