You can’t have a social enterprise without a sprinkling of sociology

I thought it appropriate to pick up the old quill and ink again given there is still a lot of chat around Social BPM (business process management) but nothing really being pushed forward or tangible. Whilst vendors are still scrabbling to implement process collaboration tools within their suites they’re still lacking a fundamental understanding of what it means to be ‘social’ within the enterprise. It takes a lot more than just a set of funky and glossy web 2.0 widgets and a project space for multiple players to create process models.

To truly understand Social you have to start to look at Sociology, and perhaps more specifically Social Network Theory and Analysis.

Let me play with an analogy here; you can’t stick a Porsche engine in a VW Beetle and expect it to perform like a Porsche. Roughly translated in social enterprise speak, you can’t shove a 21st century application in a 20th century organisation and expect it to perform either. Why ? Because it’s still built internally like a Veedub. Which goes back to the post Iabout restructuring for the social enterprise  just tweeted, about losing old hierarchical structures.

I’m a firm believer in the social paradigm but time and again have said it goes way beyond the simple applications vendors are dreaming up right now. Not only that but realistically are the methodologies we use today actually fit for purpose in today’s age ? No. If we’re looking to understand and streamline/ improve/ optimise organisations and systems shouldn’t we look at how the internal social business network actually operates ?

  • Who are the brokers of information ? In reality it’s not data owners but individuals within the organisation that people go to. They’re not necessarily the Subject Matter Experts either, be careful you don’t fall into that trap. In sociology and network analysis it’s all about centrality.
  • How dense are the informal groups that people operate within ? I’m not talking about business divisions and formalised hierarchies, I’m eluding to the underground network of people who are connected to each other, what their sphere of influence is.
  • Who is really connected in the enterprise and why ?

Remember the Cabal process from Valve I wrote about too ?

Lateral communication ?

How HR could be revolutionised by examining internal networks ?

They’re all pointers to how Social tools and methodologies can really create an adaptive organisation. When I read ‘organisation’ I think of ‘organic’ in the context of Social, not ‘organised’.

Social (BPM) tools should be used not only to allow collaboration for process discovery and sharing of wiki-fied information but also to discover the hidden network within the enterprise and promote it. Not only promote it but make it completely replace the old rigid structures from the 18th century we’re still languishing in today.

And the (BPM) methodology should be adapted to follow suit, instead of focusing on statistical analysis and particle physic equations, methods like Six Sigma and Lean should adopt ways to examine the social network within the enterprise and translate this into the Social (BPM) infrastructure.

Until there’s a mini Eureka moment that cascades across the industry and people make the connection then Social (BPM) (or however you want to deem the term) will remain a hotly discussed topic but with no real tangible benefit to sell other than collaborative workspaces.

Make the connection, someone, please. Isn’t that what being social is all about ?………

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