Another trend, another LMS and BPM comparison. Part 2 in my series of postings on what past trends in the learning management software industry might say about future trends in business process management software. In this post, I took a look at the trend of social media tools for business.
Many enterprises are already using blogs and forums. In the past few years, LMS software vendors have rushed to add these social media tools to their features by providing ask the expert panels, access to mentors, and communities of best practices. Business process management hasn’t been immune to the social media hype and the possibilities that Web 2.0 tools may hold for the industry. Does it make sense for either industry?
One of the driving factors for LMS software vendors to adopt social media tools has been to improve the efficiency of informal learning. The great majority of learning is informal, occurring between individuals in conversations and other casual communication. By adopting these tools, LMS software has hoped to demonstrate a way for corporations to facilitate this type of learning and capture that knowledge into a searchable database. Is there an analogy to informal learning in the BPM market that would validate the use of social media?
At its surface, it would seem that social media or Web 2.0 tools are the antithesis of business process management. The purpose of BPM software is to establish predetermined, formal paths to follow when performing a task. How can social media be contained in a process diagram? I can think of at least one example—providing customer service or technical support. It is not uncommon for companies to direct customers to blogs, forums, or wikis to get support before they submit a support ticket or talk to company staff.
Another place that social media can have a place is in process design. I recall hearing a pre-Web 2.0 story about an airline company where employees at one particular terminal transcribed best practices for processing passengers in notebooks. When discovered, these best practices were distributed throughout the company. (This is an example of informal learning in action.) Social media can facilitate this type of information exchange. For example, an automotive company could use the wisdom of the crowds to arrive at the best process to deliver customer service at dealerships.
Of course, including these social media tools in a business process requires a lot of work. It requires community building and a customer base that can contribute to these communities. Too many companies launch the social media technology, but they don’t do the necessary community building or they don’t have the active customer base required to make the use of these tools a true business process benefit.
If done right, however, it seems that social media can be contained in a process and the following could be true: