Business Process Dilemma; blending traditional w/ social

There seems to be a general concensus these days, one I emphatically agree with, that adoption of social business will hinge on the success with which it is integrated into business processes. Successful social integration will require a detailed examination and transformation of existing business processes in light of this new transparent social culture.

One interesting article I read over the weekend, thanks to a pointer from Sameer Patel (@sameerpatel), was entitled “How does social meet processes?” by Emanuele Quintarelli (@absolutesubzero). The article touched on a number of points that resonated with me, specifically highlighting what I believe to be one of the more interesting challenges of social business transformation.

So what did Emanuale Quintarelli say that had me nodding my head? :-)

  1. “rigid a-priori designed processes break down in front of an increasing uncertainty, volatility, competition … being reactive quickly, constantly learning, anticipating issues when they present and improvising becomes important” This highlights the dichotomy we face, where we want to keep some of the structure & governance of traditional processes, while at the same time benefiting from the flexibility of social. We want our cake and eat it too.
  2. “identifying a ROI from collaboration is probably the first question most managers have … starting from an existing process and its baseline is a great way for seriously evaluating the improvement participative work provides” I couldn’t agree more and would go so far as to say that its the only way of accurately measuring social ROI integrated into existing KPIs. Which is what “Systems of Engagement” is all about, right?
  3. Our organizations are not designed to be connected across boundaries and silos… compliance are still refusing to adapt” This hits on the interesting social challenge I mentioned above which is “how do I keep some level of governance and capture provenance with socialized business processes when social is inherently ad-hoc”.
  4. “structured approach to peer-to-peer participation brings with it a long list of positive side effects” And this hints to the solution for this social ad-hoc problem…

As I hinted above, a key challenge we will face as we “socialize business processes” will be addressing this dichotomy between traditional tried and tested business processes and these new flexible and ad-hoc social ones. One gives you control, governance, traceability, and provenance, but is slow and rigid. The other gives you speed, responsiveness, transparency, and broad engagement, but is hard to govern. If we can “combine the discipline, governance, and structure of traditional decision making with the agility, flexibility, and broad engagement of social” we will have a new generation of business processes that will meet the needs of the entire business from marketing through to HR, finance, and compliance.

If social “grows up a bit” and traditional “chills out”, we might just have something that gives us the best of both worlds :-)


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