Do you need BPMN for Social BPM ?

Something which struck me whilst watching the lightening storm outside the window in Amsterdam this morning. I looked over a few vendor sites, some small, some large, open source and not, and whilst in my opinion BPMN still struggles to be a de facto notation it’s going to face a very tough time trying to convince people once Social BPM steps up a gear.

Why ?
Simply because in a social context there are no set standards, it’s meant to be accessible for all. If you built a collaborative process discovery tool but tell everyone they have to use BPMN then you’re going to turn off a large audience in the organisation. There’s no need for ‘experts’ per se in the same way we have now because to all intents and purposes everyone can get involved and help shape a process. If you had a scenario where you were modeling in an open environment and inviting business staff to help out would you seriously start barking at them because they didn’t use the right notation ? Instant #fail if you ask me.

But it reveals another interesting situation here. Social BPM is layered. There’s the analysis and discovery layer, collaboration and engagement layer, modeling layer, execution layer etc, at what point do you introduce something like BPMN ? And actually, should you ? (primarily because you’re introducing a silo’d approach in one layer and shutting out further collaboration)

Can’t have both. Shouldn’t have both. So consider both before you think you have a Social BPM tool…..

5 responses to “Do you need BPMN for Social BPM ?

  1. Fascinating,
    I totally agree, in fact earlier today I was talking through a process with someone. We had captured it using what I call a goal/outcome driven approach. It’s who does what, when and why. That’s all, no fancy shapes, symbols or other confusing notation. After 10 minutes looking at the process he said “this is Social BPM”.

    Because it’s inclusive, anyone can read it. Only if it’s inclusive can it really be considered social. Some say you can use BPMN in the same way, but why bother, that’s not what it was designed for.

    Great post and I love your WordPress theme!

  2. Pingback: Social BPM and Social Enterprise Transformation roundup #socialbpm #bpm #socialenterprise | BPM redux·

  3. I think it’s better to say “Socal BPM can help users of BPMN.”
    There is value in a standard notation for modeling processes. I agree that BPMN is overly complex for the majority of business people’s needs, but it serves a purpose and shouldn’t be thrown out completely. Does it have a place in social BPM? Absolutely. Just not at the highest levels or layers. Maybe a little further down. Who’s to say that folks using BPMN aren’t social?! 🙂

  4. Lookout – Hedgehog in the road!

    You raise a great point Theo and in my mind, you hit the nail right on the head, because Social BPM and BPMN are not compatible. Bruce Silver ‘BPMN Method and Style’ talks about three layers of BPMN – Descriptive, Analytical and Executable, each of which introduces more symbology (and in the case of Executable is the transition layer to BPA).

    Descriptive BPMN is roughly equivalent to the Discovery component you describe but it would be a complete fallacy to assume that BPMN will ever facilitate Social BPM. Even BPMN 1 is too complex a notation for the general business user. So, what happens next? We get BPMN 2 which takes an already impenetrable notation to the end user, and adds so many symbols that the spec runs to 500 pages (more than a typical novel). This additional complexity was added to extend BPMN’s usability to the technical community.

    Let’s be sensible about this. BPMN has only one objective – to enable process automation. But around 80% of process is people doing stuff outside systems.

    The suggestion that BPMN notation can percolate up into those areas is nonsense and BPMN and Social BPM are a road crash waiting to happen. Actually that’s not quite right. Unfortunately, the BPMN community is a hedgehog compared to the Social one. If it marches into the middle of the road as the Social road train approaches, it will not only get flattened, but the Social juggernaut won’t even notice they flattened it.

    So what you gonna do hedgehog? Roll up when you see the headlights to see if your spines will protect you? Or get the hell out of the way?

    BPMN is essential at some point, but for the 99.99% of people who don’t speak it and don’t want to learn it, irrelevant.

  5. Great discussion (and I wish there were more great discussions). BPMN is a useful language for moving toward process automation, where the technical aspects need to be mapped out in standardized notation so that it can be developed from a system approach. There is no benefit to showing BPMN to the typical process community, which, by definition, means it is anti-social.

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