Is there a danger of being too social?

27 06 2011

Social concepts within business have really started to take off, there are number of product offerings that now support social interactions, allowing these social activities to add real value. In the world of BPM and Case Management, this is no different, with many advocates of more adaptive solutions pointing to Social as a way of building process maps / templates. And why not!


Social benefit

There are no doubt many benefits of embracing social with BPM and ECM. Think of all the business decisions that get “lost” because they were made in a conversation, the reasoning why a processes is the way it is, lost because it was all decided in a social fashion that was not captured. So the benefit of capturing social interactions is plain to see.

Likewise, allowing business decision makers to make decisions in a social fashion is also an important step in the right direction, especially if you want your processes to be able to adapt to real time needs.

The problems…

So what is the problem? Let’s look at capturing social interactions to understand why a decision was made. The problem is the same as not capturing it at all, the problem is that of not finding that information (in this case lost due to information overload). To put it very simply, if we capture far too many social interactions that relate to a particular business decision, then we find it hard to pick out the key valuable information found within those interactions that lead to that decision. Sure we will be able to find it in time (which is far better than it being lost for ever), but how long will it take, what do you do if you have certain time constraints to meet?

Now, let’s look at the problem of too many people being involved in a design / adaptive capabilities of a particular process. What we have is individual’s perspectives and needs, which may not necessarily all align with each other or the business. All these people have input, and they can adapt a process based on that social input. The problems arise when a process adapts to a need, but then is “adapted further” because of another need, but in reality they overlap. That saying, too many cooks spoil the broth is very true. What we see here is the benefits of social being lost, and processes that should adapt to meet the business need quicker and more accurately, actually become more inefficient and stray from the business need.


The solution?

Like most things in life, moderation is the key. I mean this in terms of how much of social we embrace, and in the sense that we moderate what we are capturing. We need to capture relevant social interactions, and we probably need to moderate some of these and drop them out, capturing just the relevant social interactions and not everything that goes with being social. Let’s face it, how many of us have Twitter streams we simply cant keep up with, and how much of that social information would we actually like to keep?

We also need to be moderate in allowing people to socially have influence over process definitions. Though it sounds great, all these people socially engaging to define business processes, it can lead to mass confusion, missing business needs, SLAs and essentially, become very inefficient. So keeping strict control over contributors is key, just as it is to constantly analyse process performance and process alignment with the business need. Processes shouldn’t be created and forgotten, rather constantly reviewed, analysed and refined. This is where being social really puts you ahead of the game, but only if you use it wisely…


Remember sometimes we have to start with a blank bit of paper and be a solitary figure in a room to start refining processes…