MicroPact Blog

Bradley Keynotes Gartner BPM Summit with a Social Provocation

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By: Steve Gaitten

April 25, 2012 | EventsAnalystsSocial BPM

The 2012 Gartner BPM Summit opened this morning with a provocative keynote address from Gartner GVP Anthony Bradley.  As he has in a recent blog post entitled, Social Collaboration and Business Process; An Oxymoron Made in Heaven, Bradley made the case that emerging business process technologies must leverage social technologies and social practices to deliver maximum business impact.

Bradley was introduced by Summit chair Elise Olding.  The Grand Ballroom at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront was filled with approximately 500 of the most influential technology decision makers in the world.  Olding warmed up the crowd with a mildly personal account of experimenting with the high-tech commode in her hotel room.  The story ended with “Push button for Posterior Wash”, which somehow worked as an effective segue to the theme of the Summit, “People, Process and Politics – breaking down barriers to organizational success.”

Olding made an appeal to conference attendees to “Get outside your comfort zone.”  She strongly encouraged conference attendees to get social, make introductions and engage in meaningful conversation. 

The request to get social was backed up with a lot of emphasis on using Twitter during the event.  Organizers are running a number of contests and activities leveraging Twitter.  Good citizenship will be awarded with extra badges and other goodies.   If you wanted to be at Gartner BPM 2012 but couldn’t attend, you should be able to follow a lot of the action by tracking hash tag #gartnerbpm.

All of the Twitter talk was a good set up for Bradley’s keynote address, entitled Driving Organizational Success by Combining Social Media and Business Process Transformation.  Emphasizing the immediate utility of one of the most popular consumer social networks provided a credible foundation for making strong claims about the continuing importance of social technologies.

If you don’t know me, I should disclose the fact that I am a rabid social media evangelist.  I served as Director of Product Management at AOL in the Messaging & Social Media division just as My Space was reaching it’s zenith and Facebook was just starting to break away from services like Friendster and Bebo.  I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time.  My focus of late has been leveraging social media as a key marketing channel.  I’m a believer.  I understand the power of social, and I know full well that we’ve only just begun to really adopt social and collaborative technologies in the enterprise.

But I admit to being a little surprised that social was the pillar theme for the Gartner BPM Summit keynote address.  “Web 2.0” is passé.  It feels like our enthusiasm for consumer social networks is waning, and it is rarer and rarer that new social applications surprise the market with truly innovative functionality. 

Now I’ve also recently lived in the SharePoint community, which served as a constant reminder that consumer adoption of social media is years ahead of enterprise adoption.  I know that large organizations especially seem to have difficulty adopting social practices.  I think Bradley acknowledged this, built on it and gave enough real world examples that he genuinely surprised the room.  We have a long, long way to go to fully leverage social in the enterprise.  And the intersection between social and process automation is still directly ahead. 

I think one of the most insightful and useful things that Bradley said in his keynote address was that leveraging social was not about Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or any other existing service.  “It’s not about the channels” he said emphatically.

Likewise, he advised that it isn’t about the technology or the platform.  “It’s not about giving them SharePoint, Jive or IBM Connections.  That’s provide and pray, and 90% of the time provide an pray fails.”

So what is it all about?  Bradley asked the crowd if anyone knew the three foundational pillars of real-estate.  “Location, location, location” the audience murmured reflexively.  He affirmed their answer and raised his voice to it’s highest point of the address.  He told us that with social technologies, “I CANNOT OVEREMPHASIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF PURPOSE”.   “PURPOSE, PURPOSE, PURPOSE

Bradley went on to give a dizzying list of examples where purpose was the underlying success factor behind a wide variety of socially-enabled initiatives across large organizations.  He cited Starbucks and their Idea Engine, Netflix and their crowd-sourcing of a recommendation engine, the Red Cross and their Social Media Response System.  He gave examples in manufacturing, government, retail etc.  Behind each successful program was an organization with a clearly defined purpose, that had aligned purpose with the will of the community.

I was delighted to hear him talk about aligned purpose.  MicroPact launched a major new initiative today called the Innovation Challenge Program.  This is a crowd-sourcing approach to generating new process management applications built on the entellitrak platformWhen I interviewed our CEO, Kris Collo, he cited alignment of purpose as a key objective of the program.   

The most impactful story that Bradley told was about a young girl going into a store, trying on a new shirt, taking a picture of herself and posting it on Facebook.  When asked if she was going to buy the shirt, she responded that she would decide once her friends told her if they liked it.  I think everyone in the audience could relate and understand our deeply our behaviors (and buying decisions) are increasingly influenced by social media.  Bradley said, “People are more likely to adopt things their peers tell them are worthwhile.”  That’s as true of process automation as it is of new clothes.

Bradley closed his address with the statement, “Success with social collaboration is fundamentally a business leadership and management challenge, not a technology deployment.”  In my experience, the statement is spot on.  I think it was a great thing to say to a room full of people who have come looking for guidance on technology investments.  It’s a great thing to keep in mind for the rest of the week.

The summit is off to a great start.  Thanks to Olding and Bradley for an informative and inspiring keynote.

About the Author

Steve Gaitten was MicroPact's Director of Digital Initiatives from April 2012 to January of 2013.