Social and process integration is key. But for whom ?

In short : being’s both a matter of survival and credibility it’s more important for enterprise social software process to structure around processes than for business process players to socialize. But this bipolar approach in terms of venders should not make businesses forget they need both of them.

It’s obvious that one of the biggest coming challenges is social/process integration. That’s exactly what an AIIM said study this autumn.

On the business side, the benefits are clear and undisputable. After having multiplied virtual water coolers for the last years and tried to sustain communities that, despite of their real long term business impact, brought too little value to day-to-day operations, businesses bowed to the evidence. The matter is not manage and improve business practices on the one side and the social of the other but to find a way to do both at the same time, jointly. As a matter of fact the second is a factor of agility and efficiency while the first brings sense and structure.

That’s also obvious for vendors. I’ve already mentioned this point in september but it’s clear that the social operations battle will be about a simple alternative. Who’s going to win between traditional ERP vendors bringing social back into their core business applications and collaboration and content solutions vendors trying to suck up processes in their platforms ? The battlefield will be the portal (or whatever you call it if this name reminds you of bad experiences).

That said I read this article on ERP trends for 2013 with attention. And guess what’s said on “Social ERP” ?

Going Slow on Social ERP

Lots of software is going social right now – but not ERP applications. As the world goes mad for social channels like Facebook and Twitter, Singleton said ERP vendors have been reluctant and/or slow to attend the party.[...]Despite these offerings, “It’s difficult to tell whether social functionality is something that will make a discernible difference in ERP,” Singleton said.

Of course we can say that it’s only predictions and that only those who don’t try to guess what the future will be are never wrong. But I find it very interesting, not on the challenge itself but on the the urgency feeling depending in which world one is. The world of social collaboration or the world of social processes.

McKinsey said that social technologies could increase productivity by 25%. But behind a touting title the message was much more moderate : 25% is a potential that can only be unlocked by changing the way people work and reinventing processes. Those who’ll content themselves with adding a social and conversational bubble on the existing organization will get very few from it. What is very significant for industry players.

ERP, CRM and BPMs vendors and practitioners are in the place. Some may discuss their impact regarding to the needed investments, consider that their rigidity on both approaches and tools is a threat to the agility businesses need to thrive in today’s world but they’re here. What means that even if their evolution is an actual concern, their presence is not and will never be discussed. Yes, this world will change and adapt but at his own pace because he’s not at risk. Even if it experiences as many discussions and petty squabbling as the social world does and still has to find his new vision and roadmap.

For social vendors and practitioners, the situation is quite different, whatever some say. Even if it’s a major topic today, even if businesses plan massive investments in the upcoming years, most of business leaders are still looking for something more than the nice success stories being repeated on industry conferences stages. Something industrial, replicable, structural that proves that besides unpredictable benefits (that are real and are one the key benefits of such approaches) there are more probable ones. This implies to bring social as close as possible to processes. Let’s not fool ourselves : we’re talking about an industry that’s already 8 years old and, without tangible and concrete results in the next 5 years, it’s credibility will be at stake. With a real risk of roll-back.

Let’s also add that, if social has been hard to implement for cultural and managerial reasons while core operations were not impacted because most of social approaches implied voluntary adoption from users, this new approach will impact what’s vital. What makes that a business executes is mission or derails in terms of production and execution. Expect to see the process world having the same discussions that happened on the social side on the nature of things, of management, loosing control… And the consensus is not for tomorrow.

So it’s obvious that the socialization of business is much more important and vital for the social sphere than for the process one. But does it really matter ?

Thinking in terms of industry player (what is often the siloed approach to IT buying) often leads to overlook what matters : the enterprise as a whole. The enterprise that needs to gather both worlds and even fusion them because because it does not need to be either innovative and agile or have efficienc processes but needs both at the same time. And the worse thing that can happen would be to have to chose a party and its policies because whatever the choice will be operations will still be limping.

In fact knowing whether social or process leads does not matter. Businesses need do think both sides jointly and keep this in mind when selecting vendors.

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