The Implementation Approach of Social Business Design

The Methodology of implementing Social Business Design concept is a complex task that goes beyond the software artifacts; it might analyze the actors and the life cycle of the social intervention within the business design.

It should answer a fundamental question: how the enormous energy spent by people for participating at the game proposed by the Social Networking Platforms can be used for economic development?

The implementation is becoming a methodology of transforming the useless SN energy into an useful energy for business or society; the captured energy should be useful for the community’s members as well.

The Social Business Design Approaches

1. Capturing approach (Business Driven Line)
The capturing approach is according to the “classical” concept initially defined by Gartner, that is focused on identifying the significant communities, asking it, aggregating the answers and including the community’s contribution within the business design. It respects from many perspectives the Social BPM concepts. The capturing approach contributes to optimization framework. The only additional elements are:
• The community identification and activation;
• Monitoring the effects produced by the changes on the elements of business design;
• Monitoring the communities contribution and accelerating the SNP functionalities;

2. Orchestration approach (Social Driven Line)
Orchestration approach is a more complex understanding of Social BPM. It uses the internal energy of the Social Networking Platforms in order to be deployed within the business. Social BPM plays the role of business accelerator for the social network. Basically it is an orchestration bridge between 2 or more identified communities that have a real and defined interest to collaborate together having also their internal dynamics. The orchestration approach can contribute to the development.

The orchestration approach keeps the concepts developed classically through capturing Model; however it emphasizes the following processes.

• Capturing (& Analysis) Process: are the processes of asking the communities about some critical and complex processes or (sequence) related to the business design. The community might be professional (experts) or diverse.
• Aggregating Processes: are the internal processes of validating the opinions delivered by the SN;
• Activating Processes: are the processes (some very complex) related to identifying the communities, setting some rules, accelerating (through selected inputs) the functions of the Social Network Platform and monitoring the level of activity.
• Monitoring & Improving Processes: are the processes responsible to BAM, reporting, metrics and identifying the bottlenecks or optimization requirements.

Both approaches have their own implementation methodologies as long as they are appropriate for different business models: labor or technology intensive business lines. Also, the approaches have an important technical influence in the field of SNP connectors design. For the first approach Capturing approach the connectors should follow the business needs related to a low level of integration; on the other hand the orchestration approach needs more complex integration tool as long as the Orchestrator uses the entire spectrum of Social Network Platform functionalities.

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Social Business Design: An Argument

When I started to study about ways to include the Social Networking features into Business Development processes, I acted contradictory. As a matter of fact the subject was Social BPM but I tried to extend somehow the concept to a more general framework. Obviously, Social BPM is the specific practice of the concept. First of all, there was a feeling that told me that the approach is in accordance with the new developmental requirements of the business organizations; even more, it is about a dramatic change that will re-shape the management theory during the next years. Based on the feeling, I started exploring the literature related to the subject and I understood that it is basically inconsistent. Therefore, I had to go back and explore the theories about companies and this time, I found strong statements related to the subject back in1937. My approach is partially about technology and more about the management theory and business practice. I want to mention here my project colleagues who are outstanding engineers able to explore with their brilliant minds new frontiers of knowledge. Understanding much better the topic than me, they made it possible for this paper and my point of view to be made clear.

The management guru, Tom Peters in his book about innovation has a very interesting remark. He points out the fact that in every process of change the influence of technology is only 5%. The rest of 95% is related to psychology, anthropology, philosophy, physics and even biology. The observation easily connects to Douglass North (Nobel Prize winner in 1993) who stated that the access to technology is not necessarily a passport to success. Analyzing development in different countries, North observed that even if the access to technology was slightly equal amongst them, the discrepancies in the levels of development increased; the benefits of technology do not emerge as a consequence of accessibility. North as a historian of economics studied the phenomenon over time. In his view there are other things that count more than technology. He named them institutions; in his vision institutions are human mind products such as norms, rules, policies and culture. North studied the macroeconomics phenomenon; another economist (also a Nobel Prize winner) Oliver Williamson applied the role of the institutions to microeconomics level.

Institutional correctness is important.

Starting from a personal feeling I got to a belief; now, I know that the implications of the Social framework on the chemistry of any company brings about a serious and profound management change that can generate significant benefits. There is a certainty in my belief, the fact that the conceptualization process of the new approach from the management point of view will last for years. New definitions will be announced.

In his bestseller The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Taleb 2007) makes a strange observation referring to human minds. In his vision human mind is not focused on learning rules; it can learn only the facts. According to Taleb, we can learn what is exact and not what is general. As a matter of fact it is a barrier that stops our efficient access way to the corrective actions; we intensely detest abstract things or concepts and we are not able to learn meta-rules related to them. In the context, trying to approach the theoretical framework of a new management practice (such as Social BPM or Social Business Design) might be a detestable approach because we aim to write about some meta-rules related to the concept. However, I believe that the concept should be theoretically approached because it is the only way to add sustainable value and to create an abstract framework to design the facts.

Our journey, which is (in early steps) an intellectual one may start with a question: how can the social design approach add a real and touchable value to the performance of the companies? At the beginning we aim at describing some meta-rules able to govern the facts related to the implementation methodologies. However, the question might be addressed in the more general and pragmatic context of the immediate necessity for increasing the economic efficiency and competitiveness of the firms; that might be an immediate request in the context of visible limitations of existing management tools. Therefore, the research is not only about a punctual business concept; it is also about the strategic action related to, because it will define the sub-concepts considered by the author being important in creating the “mathematics” of the business practice described.

About 10 years ago, the political scientist Robert Putnam (Putnam 2000) was concerned about the efficiency of democracy in the United States. The disappearance the choir societies as well as other forms of similar human interaction like bowling leagues was the subject of the concern; the social entities that have contributed to the creation of the efficient democracy in America were dissolving. As a matter of fact, Putnam observed the process of social change and the development of new preferences for social interaction. Putnam included in his outstanding research a very interesting quote attributed to the Center of the Study of Leisure at the University of Chicago in 1958: “the most dangerous threat hanging over the American society is the threat of leisure.” (Putnam 2000, pg. 16) It is true: social change has been rooted in leisure. As we have observed as long as the leisure facilities become more sophisticated the process of social change speeds up and new forms of human interaction take place.

Putnam suggests that in order to be politically, socially and economically significant and workable, the human interaction should be capitalized; the capital created is named social capital. The social capital is a sociological concept, which refers to connections within and between social networks. The concept of social capital highlights the value of the social relations and the role of cooperation and confidence to get collective or economic results. The term social capital is frequently used by different social sciences. It is a wide term, and that is why it can be defined underlying different aspects depending on the perspective. In general terms, we could say that social capital is the fruit of social relations, and consists of the expectative benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups.

Social capital is like any other form of capital; it may have good or bad consequences depending on the scope in which it is invested. Putnam does not necessarily refer to the to the strong ties in communities; in many situations described, Putnam emphasizes the important role of weak ties in the process of human interaction capitalization; people do not necessarily know each other.

During the last years, social capital has almost disappeared from the social and political scientists focus; its existence was proven, but the ways in which it might be created is unknown. It seems that it appears whenever there is a sense of emergency or a clear scope but the process of capitalization of the human interaction is still a mystery.

The social business design is a practice (or a case study) of the capitalization of human interaction. Nevertheless, the subject is fascinating; however I am not going to explore the capital behind social business design; it is difficult and it is not the scope of the research; but I believe that at the end of the methodology research, when we will have the case studies done, we will be able to contribute to the understanding of the social capital from a new perspective.

Today we are witnessing a very interesting movement in the software industry: based on the success of social networking platforms, the large companies are focused on including social contribution into their approach. The first comers were the BPM software companies (encouraged by some studies in Gartner) but some other software vendors add some contribution to that spectrum. In the context new concepts appeared such as Social SOA (mashup approaches), Social BI (promoted aggressively by Microstrategy), Social CRM, etc. This is in the context in which in many companies, the Internet or Social Networking web platforms are banned for the employees and the transparency to the suppliers and customers is almost absent (even in the fields where is a sine qua non condition for the business success). The operational management considers that the free access to Internet facilities is expensive and affects negatively the individual and group performances.

I have no doubt that again the development of the software approaches is behind the business development and management needs or the perception of needs. Einstein observed that trend more than 50 years ago when he stated: Perfection of means and confusion of ends seem to characterize our age. The case is about Social BPM but also with BPM itself where the technology advances the management cognition and practice in the context when very few Business Universities have in their academic program Management by Processes topic.

Reviewing the implementation problems happened during the last years we can say that software technology has been developed faster than the business practice; that has created real problems in terms of understanding and utility. The business needs have had false roots and the business political implications play an important role. That leads to costly change management processes and as a consequence many projects’ failures.

Any business design projection is an innovation act. More and more innovation is becoming a social process.

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Social BPM: How to Design an Implementation Methodology?

Social BPM might be a great improvement of the classical BPM approach. From theoretical point of view a possible Social BPM solution can approach complex processes by including many people in design it. Here there are problems that can make Social BPM  an unrealistic approach; this social participation of the communities in order to design the business by processes for the organization is the barrier. Looking to the business articles related to the topic we can find the following statements:

1. In a business organization social networking for the employees is still considered being an evil framework by the management;

2. Participation: many business analysts (among them Ian J. Seath) consider that in such social actions the user participation (often more or less) follows a 90-9-1 Rule:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e. read, but don’t contribute)
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t “have a life” because they devote so much time to posting content, however relevant it may or may not.

The barriers against Social BPM implementation are false. As a matter of fact all of them refers to the employees community. Paradoxically, it is right: the employees community has the highest resistance at change among the entire spectrum of the communities that influences the organization’s performance. Therefore, a good implementation process should consider the entire organization’s ecosystem as being valuable. In the context, the implementation principles and hypothesis may be explored into different scientific fields than into the rational framework of the conventional management science.

The process of including social into the organization framework and management is a complex approach; it can be done only understanding the techniques of deliberative practices, collaboration, cooperation, transaction cost theory (Coase Theorem), social capital, social decision making process, behavioral economics (rationality vs irrationality). It is a puzzle; as long as, the pieces can be organize together, a new efficiency approach related to the organization can be defined and executed.

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Understanding Social BPM: Organizations and Communities

In the post I want to move on the logics of Social BPM as it is defined by Gartner or by some software vendors to a different perspective. According to my view the success of Social BPM which is an (at least) interesting improvement is understanding the natures of organization and community.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, pointed out the the communities cannot be created; they exist. The only thing that can be done is to organize them in an elegant manner.

I would say it is right; in the context, the main difference between organizations and communities is the creation aspect: organization is subject of the human being creation and community is a natural phenomenon; it cannot be created, it simply happens. Organizations are governed by institutions (rules, procedures, processes, etc.) and communities are governed by interests. Jean Jacques Rousseau said: Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains. My note related to the difference between organization and community is to observe the two perspectives of the chain: one created by man and the other created by human nature.

Around an organization there are a some communities such as: employees, customers, partners, suppliers, management teams, etc. I dare to say the the efficiency of the organization is not exclusively related to the quality of the institutions designed by the creators (management, boards, practice, etc) but more by the ability to organize the communities (that belong to the ecosystem and beyond) in an elegant manner.

The question is how to do it and what exactly “elegant manner” is. Social BPM might be the heuristics for finding the answer.

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BPM: a Controversial Concept

According to Gartner, since 2006, the CIOs , has been declared BPM as being the “hottest” business and technical issue of the year; for almost 6 years BPM technologies have been waiting for a real business “explosion.” As a matter of fact nothing happened. The concept is still unknown and unsustainable defined (as matter of fact there are a lot of definitions, many of them extremely controversial).

From theoretical point of view, the first important paper on Management by Processes studied in the context of Strategy and Management by Project, appeared in 2008; it was the outstanding HBR article High Performance Organization of Norton and Kaplan. The development of BPM as a business concept and technology has been situated in the largest software vendors yards; they have dictated the rules of the game and, therefore, the technology and business practice have been only partially adopted. Moreover, even in the cases of large initiative the management politics played the main role and not the efficiency requirements (some management analysts name those initiatives Business Politics Management; it is also a BPM thing; isn’t it?).

Despite being involved in BPM practice for more than 10 years, I am still asking myself if BPMS is not a technology incompatible with human factor as Dan Ariely suggests. Mike Gammage, VP and Consultant for Nimbus, notes in one of LinkedIn comment: Most CIOs have invested heavily for several years in BPM – most controversially, in teams of enterprise architects and process analysts who have engaged in building elaborate enterprise process models. But CIOs also know how little value this investment has created.

It seems that is a problem as long as the touchable and logical benefits, the evolution of the technologies and the messages developed over time by the sales departments related to BPM have not really count in the process of adoption of BPM by the companies. The subject should be further explored. However, I tried to understand the roots of that problem and will try to synthesize them as following:

1. The lack of real research related to the implementation methodologies;

2. The gap between the technological features and behavioral science and research;

3. The high costs of implementation (in terms of time and resources from the company side) and change management related to a non-methodological implementation as it is done today;

4. The lack of Process Architects and Enterprise Architects as expertise in the market;

5. Management by Processes is missing from the curricula of the MBAs programs and Schools of Management;

5. The lack of valuable theoretical research effort related to the topic that allows a deep understanding of the benefits and adoption processes.

Overall the main issue is not in the technology yard; it is about the Methodology. The Adoption Methodology research will transform the concept from a controversial one to a practical and efficient one. From my point of view, in order to find a solution for the identified problem is to explore and connect the concepts  in a trans-disciplinary manner such as: deliberation, social capital, organization vs communities, transaction cost theory, etc.

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Hello world!

Welcome George Cretu’s Blog.

I am the founder of Enterprise Concept and I have the educational background in engineering, international relations and management at New York University.

The main scope of this Blog is to share ideas related to new management trends rooted in my extensive experience both theoretical and practical. I intend also to create an interactive space for discussions and contributions to knowledge of some intrigue approaches related to Enterprise 2.0 (or 3.0-why not)

I want to explore the following topics: Management by Processes, Social BPM, Social Networking, behavioral economics, psychology and management methodology, etc. A quite large framework. The idea is that all the approaches a interrelated.

Let’s go!

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