(photo : Mark Richards)
In all fairness, I am not such a big fan of the Social Business moniker.
I fully agree with Andrew McAfee statement whereby the social business thing has been here for ages. Dr McAfee would rather focus on the new tools to get things done perspective which makes more sense in a business environment. (Not to mention that Social Business already has a definition of his own which has nothing to do with the one everybody is using since 2010 Santa Clara conference)
Anyway, this post aims to discuss the issue of Process Integration using Social software as this looks like a great opportunity for both parties. Solving the Business Process Management equation thanks to Social Software agillity on one hand and putting Enterprise 2.0 into the flow of business processes.
Business Process Management
I’m not an expert in BPM (Sandy Kemsley is, you really want to follow her or check her blog if you have any interest in the topic) but what I understand from Wikipedia is that it aims to implement business processes through the orchestration of activities between people and systems (ERP, PLM, CRM, SCM, etc …) to create business value.
Now, that’s ambitious. Especially if you consider that these enterprise systems on their own already are extremely complicated to implement, let alone to integrate and have them collaborate.
Would Social be an opportunity to make BPM work ? Or BPM an opportunity for Social Software to fully integrate the enterprise ?
Historically, SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) has been the first technical solution envisaged to solve this BPM business issue. #hypertextual already has expressed his rants against SOA. In one short sentence : SOA is a creation of Astronauts Architects that joined to build accidental complexity as opposed to a proper solution.
SOA is based on gazillions of hyper sophisticated standards, languages etc … while XML-RPC or Resource Oriented Architecture (based on REST API) solve the same problems while sparing the bloatware and the enterprisey approach. I’ve attended BPM training in 2007 where the expert could not name a successful implementation of an Enterprise Service Bus (the backbone component of SOA). He conceded that the solution is not worth considering unless your target is above 500 users. Below that limit, you won’t get your money back.
BPM experts has turned bitter with SOA as, simply put, SOA didn’t deliver. They started wondering where would the technical solution come from to solve their business integration problems. Forrester Clay Richardson identified Social Software more than a year ago.
Looking at public internet solutions, it just makes sense : Flickr (since 2005), Facebook (2007) and Twitter (2007) have exposed their services into dead simple APIs that millions of developers around the world have used spontaneously to build new services integrating social processes from different applications. Bottom-line : when developers make API, there are millions of happy users. When it is astronaut architects, there are millions of dollars lost.
Enterprise Social Messaging
It has been very interesting lately to witness the activity with software vendors around the Process integration / Social Software love story.
TIBCO the expert of Enterprise Application Integration has launched tibbr which allow to mix people, projects and systems activity streams on a micro-blogging platform. This is that very mix of type information streams (applications, subjects, people) that make tibbr a completely different animal from a mere enterprise microblogging solution such as Yammer or a SocialText Signals (no matter how good these are, I use Yammer on a daily basis and loves it).
Looks like tibbr have adopted social software collaborative aptitudes and ease of integration to streamline process integration.
In the flow
Now that is very interesting because while doing so, this solution addresses one core question of the Enterprise 2.0 : how to put social software in the flow ? This is one subject the likes of Bertrand Duperrin or Andrew McAfee (in his book) have been relentless about.
In other words, they don’t simply import the social toolkit from the internet behind the firewall in a holistic approach. Both tools aims to answer critical questions : how can we leverage social software best practices to streamline business processes ? And how can we integrate these tools into the daily routine of knowledge workers in order to contribute and generate business value ?
Sandy asked the question on her blog a while back : Will social revive interest in BPM ? Will BPM make Social relevant ? In the light of the above I would tend to answer YES at the first question. As far as the second one is concerned, I blog because I’m a firm believer that social software is relevant in the enterprise context.
Knowledge Management, Innovation Management, people empowerment and now Business Process Management : it looks like Enterprise 2.0 is now tackling another critical domain of value creation in the Enterprise. What do you think ?