Business Process and Social Media : Good bedfellows?

(Hopefully this will be the first of a series of posts regarding the interaction of social media with the world of business process).

Ken Evoy (CEO of has stated that he can't, yet, see a valid business case for using Twitter to promote your business. Or rather he has yet to see a valid case study where someone has successfully built their business using Twitter. Personally I'm not sure that's still the case. Hopefully someone will let me know if there is one out there.

But I want to be a little more parochial now and focus on business process and how the use of social media might help that in some way.

What is social media?
In this context when I am talking social media I am referring to applications on the web which enable social interaction between the great mass of internet users. Typical tools include Plurk, Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook, Myspace etc. They all work on the basis of having a 'pool' of contacts or friends that you interact with on either a one-way or two-way basis. (On Twitter, for instance I follow about 70 people, but I am being followed by 3 dozen. What I try to do is make sure that the people who are following have a wide reach)

So: Business Process
Looking at business process and social media I can see at least 1 major interaction: The inclusion of some sort of social media interaction within a step of a process.

  • Use Twitter, for example to communicate the status of a piece of work
  • Use Friendfeed to review this status (especially using their new 'auto-refresh' functionality)
  • Use Twitpic to send a photograph or scan of a document to someone else for review

However this is effectively using SM as a substitute for Instant Messaging (or similar). In itself this is not using Social Media in the way that can provide the best value: as a mass communication vehicle.

I would be interested in other ways readers might feel that this could work. Is there an example you know where something like this is being done? Are you working on something similar already? What about items such as Facebook? Can that be part of a business process?

What other ways could the worlds of SM and BP interact to add value and reduce complexity?

Next Steps
As I said at the start I would like this to become a series of posts about Social Media and business process therefore if anyone would like to take this theme and post a further entry about their take on SM and BP I would be happy to host that entry here on the Process Cafe as a guest blog. Alternatively if you have similar posts already and want to link into them in the comments, please feel free to do so.

I look forward to an interactive and interesting discussion.

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

For more about me check out my "About Me' page

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

Your Business process projects are STILL failing! - survey says....

A new study from Logica Management Consulting and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) indicates that nearly one third of business process change projects fail to improve process or corporate performance.

One third!

I originally thought that was a little high, but when I remembered that recently a survey indicated that over 50% of business processes are not working it now seems a little on the low side.

Putting some financial figures to the survey numbers, the global cost of failed business process projects is reaching around £7.8b, with the UK alone accounting for £1.7b. In the current financial climate these figures are very disturbing.

Looking at the study in more detail,
James Campbell, management consultant at Logica Management Consulting stated “The spate of mergers and takeovers in the financial sector for example, over recent months has led to wide speculation about companies making redundancies in order to achieve savings. The key to delivering such savings, however, will be a complex transformation programme which will require significant investment in both people and technology. Such a programme of change will likely have several key elements, including alignment of business processes and supporting technology; real estate rationalisation and the disposal of non core businesses. Each of these elements brings both challenges and opportunities.

A key finding indicates that companies who are successful in this arena tend to
be more ambitious when planning change projects. They are much more likely to run cross-regional,
cross-departmental projects than unsuccessful companies. They are also more proactive
when planning change projects, don’t wait for problems to arise such as customer complaints or lost market share before implementing change reactively, but plan for change in order to improve business performance and involve customers and partners in that planning.

Of course running projects such as these does create other problems and these are discussed in my ebook "The Perfect Process Project", but overall it is clear that business process change is now more crucial than ever before, but also more likely to fail if not done correctly.

The 2008 Securing the value of Business Change report outlines findings from 380 executives in Western Europe, and assesses how companies evaluate the impact of business process change projects on process as well as corporate performance.

The Leonardo Da Vinci approach to process

How would Leonardo Da Vinci approach process modeling? Would he be a good business process analyst?

Leonardo da Vinci was born April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Italy. He was an Italian polymath, having been a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. With this impressive list of credentials behind him, it would be interested to understand how he would have approached the business of process.

Leonardo's approach to science was an observational one: he tried to understand a phenomenon by describing and depicting it in utmost detail, and did not emphasize experiments or theoretical explanation. This puts him squarely in the field of a process thinker.

Whilst he never learned more than a rudimentary amount of Latin he possessed, to a prodigious degree ,other skills of much greater significance; notably the ability to perceive, to record, to examine, to think and to speculate.

Which leads me nicely to the first point:

He was a big picture thinker - that's good. As a scientist, he greatly advanced the state of knowledge in the fields of anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics. A lot of vital process information is missed because people don't think about the big picture relating to process: They think "If I remove this quality check in my part of the process it will speed up my throughput". But what they don't understand is that it will also create issues further on in the value cycle when that quality check results in rework during manufacturing

He was an illustrator - That's good too. People react differently to pictures. The saying 'A picture paints a thousands words' is never more true than when looking at processes. The ability to take a complex set of words and distill them down into an image or set of images that can explain the process to the masses is a skill that many process modeling companies have siezed on as key to their approach

He was a theorist - That's good as well. Process improvement is about the ability to be able to theorise what a change will mean to an existing process. Consider this. In any process the key questions to ask are 'What are the inputs and outputs', 'Where do the inputs come from?', 'Where do the outputs go to?' 'Who uses the deliverables?'. With an existing process it isn't too difficult to answer those questions - it's a matter of observation or following a trail. With new processes this is far more complicated. Having the ability to theorise what will happen when a process is implemented is key to understanding how that process will work

He was both an artist and a scientist. This, I think, speaks more closely to Leonardo's ability. Sure he was an inventor with a scientific twist (he conceptualised a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, the double hull and outlined a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics), but this is also the man who painted the 'Mona Lisa' and 'The Last Supper'. What he was able to do was to take both sides of his personality (the artistic and the scientific) and meld them together to create the perfect role. This resulted in items such as 'The Vitruvian Man' - an artist representation of scientific measurements whereby the proportions of The Vitruvian Man correspond to known scientific measures. Often creating or defining a process is part science and part art. You have to know when to make the scientific decisions in the process ("The quality approval step goes here") and when to let some art play into it ("Gain understanding of the customer problem and document it") It is, fundamentally, the difference between a prescriptive process step and a less prescriptive one. Both work in the right place an at the right time.

So would Leonardo have made a good process analyst? Probably one of the best. However his range of vision and ability to inwardly digest large amounts of information and turn them externally to himself in order to apply them may have caused many people to doubt his ability. After all he did design a 'machine that would fly' back in the time when flight was considered impossible.

Maybe he would create a perfect process, but the world wouldn't be ready for it...

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

For more about me check out my "About Me' page

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford