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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert

My 3 favourite features on SCN are these: Like, Comment, and Reputation.   Not because I’m a points monkey, not because of the thrill of gamification (sadly no bells and whistles sound when I reach a new level), not because of my deep seated need for approval (ok well maybe there’s a little bit of that :wink: ), but because these 3 features are all about engagement and encouragement.  


Be brave enough to write a blog or share a document and you are rewarded.  If others like it to they can give you a virtual thumbs-up and a pat on the back.  All very nice... but the kicker is the Comment, which is not only about getting engaged but about networking with people who share your interests.

Lately I’ve been catching up on my reading on Social Media and the Social Enterprise (or Social BPM or Enterprise Social – take your pick), especially as the Gartner BPM Summit has been on in Sydney and I've been conscious that Social BPM has been one of their hot topics this year.  Usually I use the quiet times when travelling to catch up, and this time at the end of the day I came back to my hotel and what should be on the television but the Paralympics. 

The encouragement and engagement needed to get someone with a disability to view themselves as an athlete, let alone compete at world level, I find mind-boggling.  This morning's Sydney Morning Herald headlined Matt Cowdrey - who is the most successful Australian athlete (and paralympian) ever and who yesterday gave his thoughts on how the Paralympics are about "showing what people can do that may be a little bit different" (surely the essence of collaboration and innovation).  Getting a whole team of paralympians working together - as in wheelchair basketball - is even more astounding. 

Compared to those brave people, getting fully-functioning reasonable adults to engage with the processes and tasks that are part of the work they have chosen to do should be a snap, right? Ummmm... not always or even usually the case in my experience so far... and I’ve worked directly with over 70 companies during my SAP career alone.

One of the truisms for those of us who work with Business Processes is that examining the process nearly always changes the process - usually for the better, regardless of the technology used (which has usually SAP Business Workflow or SAP NetWeaver BPM for me).  I've lost count of the number of times I've seen multiple approvals streamlined to 1 or 2 almost as soon as you get people looking at the process together.  Which is why Social BPM and Social Enterprise makes a lot of sense to me.

Something similar happens on a task level - I've just rolled off a BPM project where we had one of those OMG moments when two experts supposedly doing the same task, supposedly doing it in the same way, suddenly realised they were handling the same problem in very different ways.  As soon as that happened the dialogue started on working out a common way forward. We were lucky enough to have both people in the same room at the time, but increasingly with on-shore/near-shore/off-shore teams and the focus on reducing the carbon cost of business travel this kind of collaboration needs to happen virtually.

The "virtually" part is getting easier.  For instance I'm encouraged by the option of SAP StreamWork collaboration in BPM tasks and see it as a positive step forward, although I think there is still a lot of room for growth in this space.  BTW, If you are lucky enough to be looking at SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration 7.3 EHP 1, it's definitely worth a look. For more info on it see Eduardo's blog Uncovering the value of collaborative process modeling with SAP StreamWork.

But I'm also interested in how we motivate people to collaborate on tasks and processes together - the making it "happen" part of the equation - and to me that's not a technology question but a people question.  Sure there are lots of us with email and instant messaging at work, but personally I find those can be very haphazard tools for collaboration: the train of thought can be easily lost if someone isn't there on tap at the other end of the virtual line; the trail can be lost if there is no easy way to connect it to the task or process at hand; and it's hard to make sure you have enough people participating to reach a best or at least better result than just working on your own.


If we really want a Social Enterprise of engaged employees taking part in helping to change and innovate processes, collaborate on tasks, and in general bringing their collaborative best to the workplace, surely it needs to start with motivating and rewarding employees for collaborating – even if it’s only with a “Like” in the first instance (as we do in the SAP Community Network). I suspect this is especially true when teams have different mixes of skill levels and experience.  But of coures it needs to go deeper than that.

What I'm curious to know is how other members of the SAP Community are seeing social media used to encourage real business collaboration, and any practical suggestions for how we motivate people to collaborate virtuallyHow do you set good foundations for the social enterprise? So anyone have thoughts and/or experiences to share? Comments are very welcome.

Image details:

DescriptionWheelchair basketball at the 2008 Summer Paralympics between South Africa and Iran


Since writing this blog, it was fascinating listening to Clay Shirky's keynote for TechEd 2012 on the impact of social media on the enterprise.

While he confirms that the desire to express appreciation is one of the ways that social media brings like-minded people together, he makes some eye-opening points about the need to reach the people who have a cultural commitment to caring - even if they come from outside of the organization.    Never mind fast, easy, intuitive - that's secondary to finding those who care. So that includes the process experts, and one would hope a majority of process participants. But who else and how do we tap into their intrinsic motivations to care for their processes? Something to think on...