Anyone who wonders what the future of the web, the future of the enterprise and the future of business process holds, look no further than paper.li. The ability to take your Twitter account and use the feed to create a ‘newspaper’ for people to read based solely on what you follow.

Automated and personal, by following interesting people, categorizing followed accounts into different segments, and prioritizing, a ‘newspaper’ is born. The fact that it can be done in minutes by anyone is a remarkable example of how quickly the world and the nature of information are changing.

Compare going to the village theater forty years ago, to the Cineplex of twenty years ago, to Netflix today. From one choice, to many, to an almost unlimited ability to choose what suits you.

In journalism, the model has shifted from edited, published (controlled) content to an enormous number of content providers that can be found and consumed whenever and wherever desired. It will only accelerate as more people become networked in more places across the planet, driving new business models and markets.

Great expectations

The same is true of business process. Even before social media becomes the norm, we are in a place where the ability to find and consume process information in a personalized fashion is a growing expectation. Creaky, complicated systems that serve us stale or unmanaged information are no longer acceptable.

Imagine telling the ‘Playlist Generation’ that there’s no centralized way to retrieve the information that is core to how business is conducted. The most competitive workplaces are thinking ahead to how to attract and retain the brightest by providing them with a work environment that isn’t twenty years behind their personal life.

Process as data

Like IMDB or Wikipedia, we should expect to see all processes (not just automated ones) in an enterprise context but in a way that relates to our role in creating value. From a process, we should see supporting information and know where else that supporting information relates to our business environment. We should know where strict controls are in place and why.

Above all, we should know when important things change and have an avenue to suggest those changes ourselves. These things can only happen when our process information is treated as critical data to be created, managed and pushed or pulled as the situation demands and to each individual based on both their role and individual identity (and preferences).

Paper.li was the trigger that opened my eyes to how big this shift really is. I suspect the winners and losers in business process management can be accurately forecasted by looking at who understands this shift and meets or is ready to (quickly) move toward systems that will meet the growing expectations.