Is Social BPM A Methodology, A Technology, Or Just A Lot Of Hype?

Over the past three months, I've been heads down working on our upcoming "Forrester Wave™ For Human-Centric BPM Suites, Q3 2010" report.  I've also been on the road over the past five weeks attending and presenting at different BPM vendor conferences - gotta love Vegas!  I must admit I have barely had time to keep tabs on my different BPM tribes - blog sites, Twitter conversations, and LinkedIn discussions.  I've been checking in here and there around different camp fires and adding a little spark occasionally when something interesting caught my eye.  

But today, I ran across a simmering debate around social BPM on different blog sites, here and here.  Seems like this is fast becoming the hottest topic in BPM.  Guess I shouldn't be surprised since I helped drive the conversation around social BPM over the last year.  It's very good to see the conversation evolve and also good to see different perspectives on how social can help improve all aspects of BPM initiatives.

Earlier this month I delivered a presentation on social BPM at IBM's Impact 2010 event. This presentation provided the most up to date perspective on how we see customers using and applying social techniques and methodologies to BPM initiatives. During the session, we framed social BPM in the following way:

In the blogosphere there seems to be divergent views on how social BPM should be used within organizations.  On the one hand, some feel that social BPM is all about tools and technology (i.e., process wikis, process mashups, etc.).  And on the other hand, I see another camp emerging that believes social BPM should focus on transforming the organization and the organization's processes.  

I say, they're both right.  We see customers adopting social BPM along a continuum.  Of the handful of examples of social BPM we have scraped together, we see some simply using technology - such as wikis - to improve communication and extend the process improvement conversation (to frontline workers, customers, and partners) during process discovery and development.  While others are looking to do social mining to transform the way their processes engage with customers at runtime.  One size doesn't fit all here.

During the IMPACT session, I highlighted different social BPM patterns we see emerging from process improvement initiatives:

Many speculate that social BPM will have the greatest impact at runtime.  I refer to this as "runtime process guidance," and we are starting to see really good examples of this emerge for customer service/customer experience processes - where processes use social analysis to determine "the next best action."  But it's early days for this aspect of social BPM.

I'm currently wrapping up a research doc on building the business case for social BPM and social BPM best practices.  If you're a process pro and your team is starting to dabble with social BPM, please shoot me an e-mail or post a comment to tell me your story.  Also, drop me a line if you have adopted a social BPM pattern other than the ones we've seen from customers thus far (described above).  


Social BPM: real-life example

Hi Clay.

When we last talked, you mentioned you were looking for real-life cases of Social being pulled into BPM. If you have not seen my post on about such a case, here is the link:


BPM-The-Social-Way is much more...


Great Post!

I just posted my thoughts on how BPM can leverage the Social technologies/discipline/context-setting for better customer-centricity, and the need to think beyond the design and development of business processes. Should have read this as well, but it just criss-crossed through posting :) I did refer to your earlier slides though.

There are whole lot of ways enterprises can benefit from BPM and Social working together... we just need to keep the holistic picture in mind and get some creativity in. Vendors need to be careful about where they need to leverage existing simple capability for tremendous leverage rather than building everything in their products...

- Ashish

Hi Clay, Nice article. I am

Hi Clay,

Nice article. I am building the Social BPM vision at so you could definitely call me a "process guy". We're currently building our story, but it would be great to get your feedback once we've completed this phase.

All the best,


Social RBA = Social BPM for Technology Ops Process

We're having significant success with our Web 2.0 based Run Book Automation solution in large enterprise and communications service provider clients. Technology operations process integration and optimization in these areas, across global data centers and operations centers begs for a collaborative ecosystem (Social RBA).

Please take a look at our website, case studies, and my blog- would love to get your thoughts!

Social BPM

We see one of the challenges is that Social Networking tools are event based. Users follow events from the business applications (eg sales orders, purchase orders etc). Business processes are often built around workflows and service oriented interfaces to the existing applications eg SAP. This requires a re-design of interfaces (event based architecture not SOA) and the user interface. Especially bi-directional communication between social tools and business processes. Posting a status to news feed is one thing. But actioning on it and integrating back into the business process is another.

Patterns As A Service

I will consider social BPM or dynamic case management or adaptive case management kind of architecture or business patterns in an overall architecture (or business discipline) of BPM. Since, BPM and social technologies are maturing, we are seeing some new business patterns as you have also highlighted. Sure, some vendors would like to sell the concepts as a new BPM platform. In my view, vendors need to sell the technology by patterns, i.e patterns as a service for business innovation.