I've written about vendors adding collaborative elements to business process management software several times, as has IT Business Edge's Mike Vizard. As Mike wrote in September, a growing interest in social BPM indicates not only an advance in integrating people into automation-heavy BPM platforms, but also the beginning of a long-overdue convergence of collaboration applications with BPM platforms. The ultimate goal, he wrote, is creating "end-to-end BPM environments that not only make business processes more visible, but also allow business executives to change those processes without requiring the skills of a programmer."
Giving users more do-it-yourself capabilities is a trend cutting a broad swathe across the enterprise software portfolio. It makes particular sense with BPM, of course, since business users are obviously the ones who can provide key insights into the processes that enable them to do their work. There's a lot of talk about making software more user-friendly, which generally means easier-though not necessarily more enjoyable-to use.
Adding collaborative elements to BPM software is one way to make it more appealing to users. But BPM vendors should also consider making their software more fun, suggests Adam Deane on his Business Process and Workflow blog. He cites Microsoft's use of "easter eggs" in some versions of Office and Windows Solitaire, which helped many rookie PC users learn how to maneuver a mouse. There is no equivalent in BPM software, he writes:
We have support sites, knowledge centers, centers of excellence, best practices, documentation and training videos. But we don't anything that's fun.
There are some notable exceptions. IBM has created several "serious games" to help folks grasp technical concepts, including those underlying BPM. I think there are a number of things working in favor of this idea. Games make concepts more accessible just by making them more fun, as Keane points out. There's also the element of competition, obviously recognized by IBM's decision to allow players of its games to compare their online scores with others. And many folks, me included, retain information better when they can jump in and get hands-on experience with it, vs. seeing it in written form or even in a video.
Social networks closely targeted to specific business issues, like one IBM created for data governance professionals, are another interesting way to narrow the divide between business and IT pros and make technical concepts more palatable to business users. Less stuffy than a center of excellence, they should serve much the same purpose.