I've written recently about the trend of vendors adding collaborative elements to their business process management software. So I guess it's not surprising that we are seeing the introduction of social networks for BPM practitioners, where they can swap tips, ask questions and experiment with process models.
Software AG yesterday rolled out a beta version of a network called ARISalign. Its features include forums where practitioners can discuss their problems and a social network where they can collaborate with folks both inside and outside the enterprise on the discovery of business processes, InfoWorld reports. Such networks were one of the topics touched upon in my recent interview with Sandy Kemsley, an independent analyst and systems architect specializing in BPM, Enterprise 2.0, enterprise architecture and business intelligence. She said:
... People are starting to get used to doing more collaborative activities online. People post photos and join groups on Facebook, participate in things they are interested in and pass them along to their friends. I think as people get more accustomed to this behavior, they are starting to say, "Why can't I do this within my company, because it would help me get my job done?" It's no different than when graphical user interfaces started coming in. We were using all of this nice-looking stuff on our PCs at home. So we started wondering why we were still using green screens at the office. I think companies sense that younger users are starting to say, "I don't know want to work in an environment that's too structured. I want to be able to use the tools I need to get my job done.
IBM has a BPM community called BlueWorks, which Kemsley tested and wrote about on her Column 2 blog. Its three primary features: browser-based modeling capabilities; pre-built content supplied by IBM and other contributors; and an area for more direct collaboration and exchange of ideas.
While Kemsley focuses on the process-modeling capabilities, she also mentions BlueWorks' content and community areas could form the foundation for a BPM center of excellence. Establishing a business process competency center to drive the use of best practices is one of four great tips for reducing risk in BPM projects offered by Bob Graham, VP of the Banking and Financial Services group at IT services company Virtusa, on our CTO Edge site.
No single company has cornered the market on BPM best practices. So using a site like IBM's BlueWorks or Software AG's ARISalign offers the added advantage of incorporating knowledge from folks outside the corporate walls. As Kemsley notes, smaller companies could use such communities as their only center of excellence, whereas larger ones might want to combine content from these networks with their own internal content. The information is public, she cautions, so don't post anything you want to remain proprietary.
At least in Software AG's case, there also seems to be a desire to bring in folks who aren't BPM experts. ARISalign uses an interface based on the idea of whiteboards and sticky notes that seems designed to appeal to "average" users. Anyone can add a new "sticky" to the workspace, each one representing an activity, with activities then organized into columns to represent the stages in a process. A tabbed interface allows users to add comments and other information.
Kemsley mentions she was briefed on ARISalign and plans to post her thoughts on it soon. She says both communities "lack some key functionality" but she gives props to IBM and Software AG for getting their platforms out there, presumably with the intent of gathering feedback and using it to improve them. Writes Kemsley:
The best online community will result not from who has the most advanced starting point, but from who can be most responsive to their community's needs.
Both IBM and Software AG are offering webinars to bring folks up to speed on their communities. IBM's "Getting Started with BPM BlueWorks" aired a few weeks ago and can be viewed via a replay. Earlier this month, Software AG announced a webinar to air today (whoops!) at 11 ET. I assume it will also be available via replay and hope to check out both webinars myself.