I consider myself a student of trends…not a techno-junky who leaps on every new product, but someone who watches the marketplace and decides when to enter. I was late to Facebook, and didn’t blog until two months ago…about two years after the mainstream. As you can see, once I’m in, I give it my energy. I seem to usually think it out before I try it out.

As I watch the movement of technology from the early 70′s to now, I see a movement that can be described in simple terms as the increasing consolidation of data, regardless of what we called it in the moment. In the beginning, the low hanging fruit was the core data of all business, accounting. Then came a progression of the rest…production data, customer data, transaction data, communication data (i.e. email). All along, it has continued to be a grand consolidation exercise as the tools to move, store, filter and disseminate get stronger and faster.

The slow start

While the internet was the ‘great leap forward’, finally connecting everyone, it took another ten years for people to grasp how that could be used to generate revenue. From “when will Amazon be profitable?” we are seeing business move beyond the baby steps into world-affecting applications being launched and adopted within mere months. But it still continues to be essentially the same march.

Revolution of ideas

This is a simple but profound movement to consolidate data in new and cool ways. Nothing much more complicated that that. It isn’t the technologies that lead this, but instead the ideas for how the technology can be used. Imagination is leading the revolution, not technology, which is just along for the ride. That’s a significant break from the past.

Once upon a time, television came out, and people saw technology that has never existed before and they adopted it. Now, a new idea comes out and it has to be comprehended before it can be even valued. I’ll admit that I didn’t comprehend Twitter for a while.

It wasn’t new technology at all, but simply a new idea, and I was stuck behind the new idea curve for a while. It was when I understood hash tags as categorization and filtering that it dawned on me that it was yet another step along the way of the Great Data Consolidation.

Behind the curve

The business process community is in this same place. Stuck behind the curve. The vast majority of companies have not centralized process data in any meaningful way beyond the data that could be entered, moved and used in automated ways.

Quite typically, if it can’t be automated, it isn’t a candidate for centralization, but why not? Are we missing the next enormous opportunity? There’s no reason the Great Data Consolidation should skip over the central aspect of what we do every day…true business process. Secondly, while companies implement social media, it is only a business version of what people are doing in their personal lives, and unstructured conversations only create more chaos.

Game changer

Enter social BPM. A welcome opportunity to show that data, in this case…conversation, can be at last the urgent reason to put business process data into its rightful, central place. The end of Visio as we know it. No more data locked in files, stuck in the upper tributaries of the network. Oh, and when you centralize it, you’d better govern it sensibly or it will lack authority and flexibility.

There is an enormous amount of conversation that has always taken place around business process that has just been done in low-tech ways with no central management. With Social BPM, the conversations must be managed alongside business processes that they support.

This obviously that means deployment needs to be added to the centralize and govern steps, otherwise the conversations stay locked away from those who need to participate. These aren’t new ideas for those of us who’ve been in the collaborative BPM space for years. But they do, hopefully, provide the urgency that has been missing in the broad market for a centralization of process data that is long overdue.

The Great Data Consolidation is soon to pull social BPM into its orbit, and that will a game changer for BPM as a whole.