Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BPM and the Employee Code Halo

This article first appeared on June 25th, 2014 on Social Media Today -- BPM and the Employee Code Halo

Every employee in your company has a Code Halo - a set of information and activities that can be managed through your company's information systems. Building a set of social collaboration systems for your employees to work with one another establishes a system where this Code Halo is stored, how it is exposed to other employees, and how it can be used to improve coordination between employees. This information is used in the workflows and business processes that employees engage in every day to get their jobs done. And in the digitally transformed company, the tools used to manage those workflows are a primary source for improved business performance.

In my last post I emphasized the importance of what I called the "engaged employee" and the need for culture change in companies engaged in digital transformation (Culture Change and Engaged Employees). This post was part of a series that have been appearing here in Social Media Today on the broader topic of how social technologies play a crucial role in how companies will need to reinvent themselves to address the challenges of shifting customer expectations (Enterprise Transformation and the Role of Social).

Having outlined how social is impacting the way employees work, the way companies interact with partners, and new models for customer engagement, I had started to outline the people, processes, and technologies needed in the transformation process. And in doing so, I utilized Cognizant's concept of Code Halos which I had written about at the beginning of this year (2014: Year of the Code Halo).

The first article in this section addressed how companies should be using technology to improve customer interactions and the overall customer experience. Customer Relationship Management (or CRM) software provides the core "system of engagement" for companies to manage across the customer lifecycle -- marketing, sales, and customer service should all share one unified view of the customer, a view that includes social profiles and activity (CRM and the Customer Code Halo). In this article I will explore a second key technology -- business process management (BPM).

I suppose many reading this article are asking, why is it that I should care about BPM? Sure I've heard of the concept, you might be thinking, but then you think, "it doesn't apply to me or to my company." To address this thought and hopefully increase your interest in BPM, instead of using the technical name, I'll begin by breaking this down to the building blocks in order to explain why BPM does apply to you and to your company and is crucial to the use of social and the transformation of your business.

Everything we do in business has a set of written or unwritten rules about how and when it should be done. And rules about who should be doing the work and with whom they should collaborate. Workflow, approval processes, standard operating procedures, protocols... these are all words we use to describe these rules. As social systems for coordinating our activities become more sophisticated, the expression of these rules will become more explicit.

Consider an HR process that would benefit from social interaction -- for example hiring a new employee. In a typical company recruiting process, at least 4 people will likely need to interact with a candidate and will need to talk with one another as well. Each will express their opinions and perhaps yet another person will actually make the hiring decision. This is the kind of complex coordination problem that social tools can improve.

Whether the company has explicitly written down the process or not, there is a workflow and a series of approvals that have to happen during a hiring process. When these rules are expressed in social systems, they improve and streamline the way work with one another and companies realize the greatest benefit from those collaboration investments.

A simple process outline might include

  • routing the candidate to interviewers in a particular order,
  • providing a copy of the interview notes and tracking whether they have been reviewed,
  • recording the rating given by each interviewer,
  • notifying approvers of the need to review the candidate,
  • flagging interviewers to answer questions raised by approvers, and
  • recording the hiring decision and generating an offer letter.

Business Process Management (BPM) can streamline this process, reducing the need for a person to manage each step, track progress, and make sure that participants are engaged. The goal of BPM should be to fully automate as many processes and process management activities as possible and to facilitate those that cannot be fully automated, reducing the rote work of coordination to a minimum.

Two primary models are emerging for the use of BPM in social collaboration activities between employees.

In some complex business processes where dedicated BPM solutions have been implemented, there can be specific stages of a process where social collaboration is needed. In these cases, the BPM system should trigger an event within the social system and track engagement or resolution so that the next stage in a process can begin.

An emerging alternative is to define workflows and approval processes directly in the collaboration platform without the use of an external BPM product. At the present the sophistication of such systems is relatively low by comparison to dedicated BPM products and so the workflows that can be implemented are simple. But this will be one of the areas of significant growth in coming years, as social collaboration software is increasingly used to facilitate employee collaboration.

Just as mastering CRM technology will be essential to your company's use of social in managing customer interactions, mastery of BPM will be essential to the use of social in managing employee interactions. These are just two of the core building block competencies needed on the journey to digital transformation. In the next article I will address how the organizational model will change to allow companies to effectively embrace these competencies and change from functionally independent activities to integrated and coordinated activities.

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