‘Social’ BPM drives collaboration. So it’s always good, and more is better – right?

That’s the core idea that underlies the rush for ‘Social BPM’: that maximising communication is what matters.

Best results will come, it is assumed, when process owners, end users and other stakeholders are communicating all the time, and in whatever format suits them.

But real life is more complex. ‘Social’ BPM that will drive effective collaboration needs a degree of subtlety.

‘Social’ BPM took off with the BlueWorks Live launch in November, incorporating for the first time Facebook-like features and a Twitter feed in a process mapping tool. Others are scrambling to catch up. Metastorm and Tibco just made Social BPM announcements. There’s many more in the pipeline.

At the risk of sounding like the old guy in the rocking chair in a Jack Daniels whiskey commercial: at my company we’re taking things a little bit more slowly. Deliberately. We want to get it right.

Recent McKinsey research on the impact of information overload on productivity and wellbeing, together with Tom Davenport’s call for a radical new approach to meeting the needs of knowledge workers, reinforce the idea that Social BPM needs to be about much more than just maximising communication.

What every enterprise needs is a framework for effective collaboration. As Professor Davenport argues, that calls for structure, and some governance as well. The optimum communications mix, he notes, will depend upon the degree of interdependence of those involved, and the level of complexity of the work. So free-for-all or cookie cutter approaches aren’t going to find traction, or last for long.

So Social BPM is much more than Facebook or Twitter-inspired features that allow everyone to see, follow and comment on everything. It’s about leveraging the innovations in social media to nurture more effective collaboration.

These are some of the thoughts that have been informing our own product development – and one of the reasons why we were keen to deploy Chatter internally, to learn first hand.

A topical reminder if you know anyone who needs reminding that effective collaboration really matters…

Stephen Elop, the new CEO of Nokia, in a memo to all staff, sets out the enormous challenges facing Nokia as its stands on a burning platform, with flames coming from all sides:

“We fell behind, we missed big trends, we lost time. We thought we were making the right decisions… we now find ourselves years behind. The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don’t have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable.”

He concludes his call to action with these words:

“We haven’t been delivering innovation fast enough. We’re not collaborating internally.”