Why BPM, ECM and CRM struggle with Social Media

26 11 2010

There are a number of reasons why individual projects struggle with social media, hell there are many reasons why organisations continue to get social media “wrong”, but in this post I want to look at why these three “silos” fail to get to grips with social media….

Very much individual silos

Now this may at first not seem to be a bad thing. But when you think more on the subject you start to see issues. There are big areas of cross over amongst these three, massive even, yet they still are considered individual (and they should be for the time being, because almost all vendors see these as single silos).

Social Media though is very flexible, and the end user (customer) expects to be able to interact with the organisation via Social Media (especially Twitter and Facebook), and what’s more they expect whoever communicates with them to understand their “account”, or “details”. But this form of interaction within Business at the moment still wants to be highly structured. The comment may be viewed as content, but the process that may be kicked off by that interaction is very much in the BPM world of things. So immediately you have twigged that all three, ECM, CRM and BPM are required to deal with a single interaction…

So the first big problem here is that ideally, each “silo” (BPM, ECM, CRM) should know and understand what I term as CCS, and in this case of the other silo as well as itself.  CCS being “Content, Context, Status”. As individual silos though, this is hard to actually do. Sure we can put together some costly integration, but this integration is at certain points and offers certain information, so does this type of integration understand CCS?

Too structured too rigid…

Let’s now through into the equation that all three, ECM, CRM and BPM are very rigid. ECM requires that you know the type of content and often that you state its “type”. However, social media means we could be talking about anything, so a tweet could go over any number of “types” within our ECM platform, or it may warrant a new type, a new classification. This is where we have an issue, ECM is too rigid to adapt to the new requirement, that our agent has discovered there and then. This leads to a hell of a lot of content being dropped into rather large, and not that useful classifications, probably “Social Media” as its type…Great use…But this is nothing compared to the issue we now find with BPM…

BPM enforces strict processes on our agents, they follow (almost all vendors do this) a flow chart approach and as such, means we cannot move away from that process. How frustrating is that for an end user? Knowing that something different needs to be done, but having to allow the social interaction to trigger off a very strict process flow which could be completely wrong…

Finally CRM. Our CRM silo is often at this stage completely unaware of anything at all. If it is integrated it may have a “tab” for “Corres” which means a big old list of correspondence with the customer that is documented. That’s fine for 10 years ago. But now imagine the number of “corres” records stored that may make up a rather simple interaction between the customer and your business. You could have any number from 1 or 2, up to hundreds, and that’s just on a single topic being raised via social media….

The solution?

Here I have a couple of pointers for a far better solution….

A Holistic approach. As a business, demand a holistic approach, not just for social media requirements (though it serves as a great example of illustrating the problem), but in general. With a holistic approach, the solution delivers far more accurate information to the agent. It empowers them with all the information they need. Think of all the customer information they may need to have to hand to understand the customer, all the related content, the context and of course the status of the interaction. Now think of the variety of work this form of interaction could generate. What the problem could be? Is it a problem or a serious complaint? If a complaint, what areas of the business does it relate too? (The potential for work is huge, which leads me onto my second pointer…

Adaptive work processes. Note I haven’t said BPM here. BPM I feel is far too restrictive (based on the version of BPM put forward by most vendors and BPMS as a practice). However, we are talking about processes that the business executes. In this situation the agent needs to understand what process to kick off. However, it could be a brand new one. In this case that agent needs to be able to identify that processes, the work that needs to be done and then, kick it off.

Single Silo for ECM, BPM and CRM. As a business, a great opportunity arises to use vendors that provide a single silo for ECM, BPM and CRM. Not only does a single silo provide a far better solution to deal with Social Media, but it provides a far better solution full stop. A single silo will understand CCS at all times, be you in a process, simply looking at content or reviewing customer details. A single silo also simplifies the agents experience, while delivering flexibility to them to allow them to do their jobs. There are of course other big benefits, think of savings on licensing, think of savings on administration and think of savings made on integration costs / development / that classic which so many vendors term as config (which is development).


Social Media has shown a real weakness in the way we currently structure a business in terms of delivered IT. We use IT now very much on a “product” basis. Business purchases a product for x, a product for y and if x and y need to talk, look at integration. However, a bespoke solution would have been better, one that incorporated x and y…But bespoke just isn’t something business wants to hear (probably because they cost more and because businesses have been burnt with bespoke development in the past)

…The solution is for “products” to deliver more and merge x and y itself. A break away from single silo approaches is required, and ECM, BPM and CRM are very obvious silos that should all be as one, the social media problem illustrates a bigger issue…



4 responses

26 11 2010
Why BPM, ECM and CRM struggle with Social Media « Wilmerdon

[…] Click here to read more… […]

26 11 2010
Why BPM, ECM and CRM struggle with Social Media « Andrew One … : : crm

[…] Adres URL: Why BPM, ECM and CRM struggle with Social Media « Andrew One … […]

27 11 2010
Sean R. Nicholson

I agree with most of your points. ECM, ERP, BPM, CRM, etc… all are very siloed approaches to data. However, is it possible that they are siloed that way for a reason? CRM systems solve very customer-focused problems, while ERP systems solve those problems encountered by the back-office. Each was designed for a reason and each does what it is supposed to do.

I would challenge that the failure of most organizations is their Intranet. The purpose of an Intranet portal is to bring all of those different systems together into useful dashboards and to give employees a “single place to work”. In an ideal situation, a portal should leverage the services offered by each siloed application in a service-oriented architecture to bring the data together into mashups. Employees would then be able to use an enterprise search tool to find what they need and interact with the various applications via the Intranet portal.

Unfortunately, most vendors have siloed their Intranet applications, just like they silo their ERP, CRM, and BPM solutions.

Just my $.02….


27 11 2010
Andrew Smith @onedegree

Silos have been developed because business has looked for products to solve business problems. However, ERP in your own example will still overlap with other business needs, even with CRM. The reason why these systems have been delivered so much as silos is because business breaks down its problems into smaller easier chunks, and as such, looks for a product to solve that chunk of the bigger picture. This sounds great, but the bigger picture suffers because of this. I therefore target ECM, CRM and BPM as these three really overlap greatly, and as such need to be delivered as a single silo. Other technologies could also be merged with other silos, but thats a post for the future.

You are right a good intranet as you described is of great value to an organisation, however, it doesnt deliver real understanding between the silos. I would also argue that the user experience with dashboards is no where near as efficient as what is required from an end user. I also would add an intranet environment will be far too restrictive for dealing with real complex business processes, or real collaboration or swarming on workitems, not to mention adaptive capabilities of a solution. Also, dashboards still dont overcome the issue of silos understanding CCS of the other. If it doesnt understand this then efficiency gains will be missed, flexibility is also limited within the actual solution or the way in which the work is to be completed. An intranet is a great place to share information, but I would not want agents using an intranet dashboard to work real business processes….

Thanks for the comment, you have raised some good discussion points, and highlighted the lack of use of a good IT resource witin organisations…Their own intranet…

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