Over the past few months I’ve been interviewing companies that have successfully applied social to their BPM initiatives. As part of this research, we’re identifying best practices for combining social with BPM and identifying specific patterns on how BPM and social are coming together. The patterns identified thus far include:

  • Collaborative Discovery – Extending process discovery and design to include interactive real-time involvement of business users, customers, and partners.
  • Shared Development – Extending process development methodology and tools to support development collaboration between business and IT roles.
  • Process Guidance – Provide real-time suggestions and guidance for completing a particular activity based on real-time analytics and/or social network analysis (e.g., crowdsourcing techniques).

Of the 12 BPM programs interviewed for research, most are applying social for collaborative discovery and shared development. But only a few of the companies interviewed are trying to apply social to runtime executable business processes – e.g., connecting BPM to Jive or Twitter to provide context during process execution.  

So what gives? Why are so few BPM programs applying social to runtime processes – and those that are fall into the bucket of “social CRM”, applying social to customer service or customer experience processes. Yesterday, fellow blogger Sandy Kemsley and I discussed this over lunch at the BPM 2010 Conference, and we both concluded that BPM programs are all over “collaborative discovery” and “shared development” patterns because vendors have been supporting these capabilities for a while. And fewer vendors have implemented the “process guidance” pattern because it requires a new way of modeling and analyzing processes and individual process tasks – as evidenced in our recently published "Forrester Wave™: Business Process Management Suites, Q3 2010" report.

It’s funny how things work out. Just after I wrapped up my conversation with Sandy, the next set of sessions focused on the topic of process guidance with researchers from academia and high-tech outlining different strategies for implementing guided processes and recommending best-next-action for process steps.

I was impressed with the researchers from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and Vienna University of Technology. Their presentation, “Self-adjusting Recommendations for People-driven Ad-hoc Processes”, hit the nail on the head. In short, their presentation and prototype applied social “crowdsourcing” techniques to improve outcomes for in-flight business processes. Very innovative stuff.

Although their solution was not completely integrated into a BPM suite environment, it was the first tangible – and well thought out – application of internal crowdsourcing I’ve seen applied to business processes. They walked through a very intriguing algorithm for evaluating and recalibrating recommendations and process guidance. I have to admit, seeing the algorithm got me excited :-). Using this crowdsourcing approach, teams could learn from one another very quickly without the need to constantly analyze and make changes to business processes. Or as one customer recently shared with me:

“We want everyone to adopt speedy Maria’s best practices, now that we realize speedy Maria gets her tasks done 10 times faster than the rest of the team.”

This might sound like science fiction, but this type of functionality will become standard in BPM suites over the next several years as companies search for new and better ways to drive productivity and real-time process collaboration. For more details and best practices for connecting social to BPM initiatives, keep an eye out for my upcoming report: “Social Breaks the Log Jam on Business Process Improvement”.    

Sound Off

I want to hear from you. Let me know what you think is the next big thing is in BPM. Do you think process guidance will really help reduce the amount of analysis needed for continuous improvement? Or do you think it has potential but is too complicated to be implemented in commercial BPM suites? Post your thoughts in the comment section or feel free to shoot me a quick email at crichardson@forrester.com.