Commentary on “Why Process barfs on Social”

Bob Warfield of HelpStream is really up to something. There is a lot of talk about ROI on Social Media efforts, but very little to show that makes any sense.

Process barfs on Social because most Business Process isn’t integrated with Social.  E2.0’s biggest problem is it lacks Business Process for the most part.  Too often it does get thrown out as the silver bullet.  Process insists on considering all aspects.  If you’ve left something out (like your E2.0 software), the Process is not well formed.  If there are ways of doing things outside the Process, that’s a bad thing, at least from the Process viewpoint.

What we’re lacking is simply a harmonious marriage of these two.  Social should be integrated into specific business processes, perhaps many if not most specific business processes.
When it isn’t, what we have is ad hoc.  We lose the advantages of process in terms of measurability, repeatability, and consistency.  We lose the support of those who cannot see value in anything but process.  In the worst case, it sounds to them like we’re just arguing to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya”.

This is a matter of where we are in the evolution of Social Business Software.  The 1.0 E2.0 products are tools, in some cases they want to be dignified as platforms, but they lack that process component, so they really shouldn’t  be dignified as platforms because they are too incomplete.

We see this evolution over and over in Enterprise Software.  First we get the tools.  This is the Silver Bullet stage.  Everyone expects magic.  But the tools lack specific process.  They do not solve specific problems.  They are not solutions, in short.  As such, the results one sees from them vary wildly.  Nobody seems to be able to put their finger on why things work sometimes and not others.  The answer is that without Process, they haven’t factored people properly into the equation.  Ironic when this happens to software whose whole purpose is to be Social!

The formalization of “process” implies that there is a beginning, an end and most importantly – a purpose of repetitively doing something to achieve a specific result. The language of Social is extremely ambiguous, the current practitioners are still trying to figure out what exactly to expect, how realistic the expectations are and whether or not a  good experience can be consistently replicated.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

Just because some people are innately more social and enjoy “socializing” on-line, doesn’t mean that there is an ROI in it by default. Therefore it is critically important to ask and answer some of these simple questions:

  1. What areas of my business could possibly benefit from a Social Media investment in time and/or money? Do you want to use SM for Marketing? To supplement Advertising campaigns? Do you expect to reduce your overall advertising budget as a result of these efforts? To learn about Customer Experiences with your product or service? Do you expect to decrease customer churning?
  2. What existing processes and/or practices would be affected? Improved? Broken? Improved?
  3. Would my Customers/Employees/Suppliers be affected by this investment?

I would suggest to drill into each one of them to evaluate any potential opportunities, size up potential investment and set very specific, and realistic expectations. The search for ROI too often starts well after the proverbial “horse is out of the barn”.

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4 Responses to Commentary on “Why Process barfs on Social”

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  2. Rotkapchen says:

    “Drill into each one of them”…that’s anti 2.0 thinking.

    The problem with this conversation starts with the word “process”. The first thing that 2.0 requires is to separate a focus on “work” from “process”. This frees us up to see work differently.

    2.0 is an approach of simplification…with tools to support it. 2.0 abhors process as algorithm (save for where machine-like efficiency makes sense for thruput — where REAL process is meaningful). EVERY process needs to be assessed for the opportunity to redefine it as process as heuristic (see concepts http://www.fastforwardblog.com/2009/09/16/e2-0-unleashing-the-potential/)

    Trying to align ROI to social tools is like attempting to justify providing phones or internet connections. It’s an infrastructure. If you want work done, you need the means for it to flow on some infrastructure. 2.0 is about eliminating workflow and providing infrastructural mechanisms for flowing work.

  3. Gregory says:

    That is an excellent argument for consultants and tool developers, but not very convincing one for people with fiduciary responsibilities to generate economic values.

    Social tools, just like any other tools, are means to the ends. All I am suggesting is to define the ends prior to engaging tools.

    I agree that process designed for efficiency should be re-assessed, but without a process one cannot offer consistent customer experience with any product or service.

    2.0 or any next number will not remove the reliance on a process or removes necessity for profitability, i.e. investment/cost management.

  4. Rotkapchen says:

    You may have missed the caveat about process. Transactions, yes, require processes. But do we attempt to turn everything into transactions and do we attempt to transactionalize things WAY before the straight-jacket of process is relevant?

    Indeed, my premise is that it is process both creating it and relying on it that is the major cause of barriers for people who WANT to do business with us.

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