Broken Social Scene – Social BPM and Social CRM

Just like when Homer designed a new car for his brother that included shag carpeting, three horns and bubble domes, BPM and CRM applications are in danger of trying to become all things to all men.

Social is the latest in the long list of capabilities being added to both BPM and CRM applications, on top of features like mobile, content management and analytics.  Where the extension of BPM and CRM tools to embrace mobile and analytics capabilities seem to be a natural extension of the suites capability, social seems like an uneasy fit. This difficulty is partly due to difference between the applications themselves and is in part down to a lack of understanding about what social really is.

At their most basic level BPM and CRM applications are used by businesses to organize, streamline and deliver process efficiency. Social networks however are a bit of a wild west. An unpredictable, fluid, disconnected environment of conversations completely at odds with the structured processes within organisations that are necessary to complete for example purchase orders, carry out invoicing,  manage payroll or handle claims. In this context social has a better fit with the management of unpredictable processes using Case Management rather than BPM or CRM.

Social networks take conversations to a hyper level. Conversations are not about broadcasting marketing messages via social media channels nor are they about scanning or listening to social media networks for your company name.  Conversations involve participants both talking and listening, not broadcasting and monitoring.

Leading CRM vendors have been adding social media monitoring tools, social network analysis and customer communities to their CRM suites. With this addition of social capability to the CRM stack organisations have turned on the social tap but can they manage the increased flow that this brings? In fact there’s an argument that key customer relationships could actually be damaged by the increased noise.

BPM vendors have also been quick to jump on the social bandwagon seeing a social play from the point of view of collaborative process design and the merger of social activity streams with  process events and tasks. The value of both these social use cases remain unproven. Can I not already carry out collaborative process design using a unified communications tool like Microsoft Lync? Do I really need access to Twitter and Facebook to carry out process design?

Instead of Social CRM or Social BPM maybe we should be calling this Multi-Channel CRM or Multi-Channel BPM.

Social is about conversations. To date BPM and CRM applications are listening and broadcasting via social channels but they aren’t engaged in any conversations.


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By Peter Whibley @ Kofax | May 3, 2012

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