It seems that everybody these days is convinced that social networking is going to change the way we work, but it's just that nobody is exactly sure how. Unfortunately, the tendency these days is to deploy social networking software for the enterprise and hope that some sort of structure will emerge.
As hope is usually not the best strategy to rely on, the time may have come to think about social networking as a tool for dynamically extending the workflow of a particular business process. That's the issue that OpenText is trying to get at with a new release of the MetaStorm business process management (BPM) suite that wraps a social networking environment around a structured approach to managing a business process, which in turn should be part of a disciplined approach to managing content across the enterprise.
That may not sound quite as sexy as Facebook or Twitter, but from a business perspective it has the potential to be a whole lot more useful and is one of the primary reasons that OpenText acquired Metastorm earlier this year.
According to Sandra Moran, director of product management for the Metastorm unit of OpenText, too many companies deploy social networking software only to discover they are duplicating business processes that already exist. In some instances, those business processes are better handled within the context of a social networking environment. But more often than not, they just double the amount of work that needs to be processed. By integrating social networking software within the context of a BPM environment, IT organizations give employees the tools they need to extend rather than duplicate certain processes, says Moran.
BPM as a whole is still in its infancy. In fact, it may very well be the rise of social networking that pulls BPM into the mainstream simply because there needs to be structure to the workflow surrounding any social networking environment in the enterprise.
In the meantime, while we wait for the convergence of social networking and BPM in the enterprise, IT organizations would do well to start thinking about the role IT is going to play now in reshaping the way people work in the years ahead.