Evolving From Human-Centric to Social-Centric BPM

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Industry Principal, Infosys
Ashok Kumar C. S. is a Industry Principal with Infosys’ Digital Process Automation Practice. He is responsible for Digital consulting and delivery of strategic initiatives leveraging the technology areas of enterprise integration and business process management.

The need for evolution from Human BPM to Social BPM

With the significant cultural revolution brought about by social media resulting in a new set of social capabilities, enterprises are discovering value in collaboration and engagement of process users in the BPM execution environments. By traditional definition, human-centric business process management is an approach to BPM that focuses on human activities and human interventions in business processes, and supports them with automated functions 1. The emphasis was on operational efficiency, process visibility and control with business agility. Now, the adoption of social models and opportunities for collaboration are extending the traditional boundaries of human-centric BPM systems.  There are many dimensions that necessitate this change in outlook.

a) Dealing with unstructured processes: Traditional BPM processes are designed upfront and executed in repetitive fashion thereafter. The focus is on user accountability, benchmarking processes for efficiencies and supporting changes over a medium term to ensure alignment with business needs.

Social BPM, however, helps address the white space beyond traditional processes that don’t have a standardized design or defined standard operating procedures. Customer interactions are becoming highly complex, with increasing demand to deliver mass customization and personalization along with right customer experience. There are several situations when regular process choices are inadequate and the case cannot be resolved by a single user (for example, when the customer servicing representative of a bank has to provide a high value account holder from the UK with a replacement credit card while the customer is on a vacation in Africa). The usual response to such abstract situations is to spin off a sequential email thread to locate the right expertise. In such situations, Social BPM brings in a streamlined platform for collaboration along with contextual integration with the process artifacts needed for effective resolution. As one observes, the focus in on effectiveness, rather than just efficiency. Users and SMEs collaborate and solve process or policy issues on the real time, hence leveraging the collective expertise and building common consensus at the same time. Modern BPM platforms offer a social interface that enables authorized users to post queries, comment and collaborate in real-time.

b) Mobile workforce: Another dimension to the change is the increasing penetration of mobile devices among the workforce. IDC research forecasts that mobile workers will account for more than one-third (37.2 percent) of the global workforce by 2015 2.  Thanks to the staggering variety of devices, the workforce now has the ability to be connected, available, effective and productive across remote locations and time zones. Today’s BPM platforms allows the rendering of BPM user interfaces on all major web browsers and enables native operation on all major mobile platforms with minimal additional development. The increased penetration of devices along with the flexibility of engaging users through a variety of mobile devices ensures wide participation and helps build the community required for Social BPM.

c) Collaboration in Process Design and Improvement: Process Optimization and Improvement has been key value proposition for BPM-led transformations .While traditional approaches to process improvement leverages quality techniques and analytics on activity monitoring data, Social BPM brings a fresh set of capabilities to help the cause . There is an enormous amount of data generated during the user and SME collaboration. Conversation updates, likes, ratings, comments, tags helps aggregate user opinions and can provide value voice of customer feedback on process models and design 4.  This form of crowdsourcing can be used for incrementally evolving the design.  Designers and Analysts can collaborate with end users to simplify the overall process design.

Big Data provides opportunities to aggregate the Social BPM feedback with multiple other structured and unstructured data to build a knowledge base centered around the business process. Patterns extracted from the Big Data can be used to by designers towards process improvement.

What does it take to drive Social BPM?

The success of Social BPM lies in creating the comprehensive organization and technological ecosystem to support it.  Some of key considerations include:

  1. Looking beyond tools: Social BPM is not just about providing collaboration tools and social-type user interface but also integrating them to the processes and systems that drive work. Users should have ability to link a specific process instance context (such as the details of the replacement card request cited earlier) and associated task options in their conversations.  The same holds true for system-generated notifications.
  2. Empowering users: All authorized users should be empowered with the access to the right information and right policies for context. The information and content may be from multiple enterprise sources, such as records, feeds from external sources, document repositories and policies governing work. All the information can be filtered based on the context of the case as well as the user’s authorization rights.
  3. Motivating the community: With increased human touch, processes designed and managed with Social BPM have greater acceptance and impact due to the inherent attributes of participation and transparency. However, the purpose of the collaboration will have to be strong or valuable enough to motivate users, the community and the organization at large. Moreover, organizations need to develop an effective strategy to build and drive purpose and motivation. Gamification has been a widely-used social approach, and can be effective in steering the purpose in Social BPM. Gartner predicts that by 2015, more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will use Gamification 3. Reward points, levels and leaderboards are fun and engaging ways to reward actions, capture feedback and keep the community motivated around a common purpose.

Social adoption is forcing a shift from traditional paradigm of Human BPM and providing opportunities to successfully resolve the increasing issues of unstructured business processes. Ensuring users are empowered with right information and the social community is motivated for the right purpose, are some of key considerations for success with Social BPM.


  1. SearchCio Tech Target: Human Centric BPM
  2. ESJ: Mobile Workforce Growth
  3. Gartner
  4. Gartner

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