Bertrand Duperrin: A process based approach to social means discussing, removing, replacing the organization as we know it!

Bertrand-duperrinWith the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT 2014 the objective is to discuss the further integration of the “social” ideas in the company’s structures and processes. One of these sessions that point in this direction is the discussion about how to align social with the business process organization. One of the two talks that are introducing the topic to this discussion is been held by Bertrand Duperrin, who is Senior Consultant at our conference partner Nextmodernity, a specialized French consulting firm on establishment of social business and social enterprise initiatives. Furthermore Bertrand is more of the leading digital “heads” in France.

We are happy to have him as the first interview partner in our interview series with #e20s2014 speakers asking him about the backgrounds and importance of this topic.

Bertrand – you will be again speaking at the E20S 2014 about the need for aligning social with the process. What are the three tags that we can label your talk with?

Alignment. Execution. Smart processes/activities

Why do we still have to talk about aligning social to the process in 2014? Isn’t the evolution of the social initiatives naturally pushing to process-related activities?

Although some studies show that the business processes/activities orientation of enterprise 2.0 initiatives is different depending on countries and cultures it’s still a matter businesses are uncomfortable with, that is quite new to them. From the very beginning they’ve been told that social/2.0 was all about communities, conversations and that processes, documents and structures activities were going, so businesses embraced these initiatives in two ways. First they favored communication over execution. Second they favored activities that happened over the flow of work (in addition to the job to be done) that in the flow of work (improving or replacing current practices). So we ended with two worlds living together in the same organization : one made of legacy approaches and mandatory, another made of new approaches and voluntary where people were supposed to share and find the knowledge they need to get things done in the first. Actually it’s not a matter of OR but a matter of AND. As more and more businesses acknowledge this, it requires a new mindset and maybe new kind of leaders for these initiatives.

What are the key driver for the alignment of social with the process? Is it the alignment of social with business objectives, an approach of accountability for using the social platform, the integration of business objects into the activity stream, the integration of social into process management systems – or all, none of this or different things?

Before being a matter of technology it’s a matter of how to embed human intelligence and knowledge not only in the way processes are designed (as it used to be) but also in the way they are ran. Whatever the technology, it will be used in the way work activities are designed. As exceptions become the rule, as context matters more and more, as business activities are shifting from push to pull processes may become adaptable, adaptive, smart. It starts with how they are designed, then how they are run and, last, how they improve over time and adapt to unique situations. After, of course, technology can be used to support this.

Let me add that there’s nothing new here. We’re close to things like Lean Management or the Toyota Production System that are designed to leverage the human capital to not only to deliver the process but to design and improve it.

There are also HR and management issues. As alway « tell me how you’re measured, I’ll tell you how you work » applies. If you want people to participate, learn and share it must be a part of their job, they must have time to do so, they must be encouraged and even rewarded by their managers. Not because they do it through social technologies but because they help to improve things, because they deliver better. If not, only the believers will play the game and the lack of critical mass will put the whole initiative at risk over time.

From a technical standpoint it’s of course about integration and, even more, about interoperability. What matter for users is not the ability to perform such and such actions depending in the software they use but do the job to be done regardless to the application they use. Today they have applications for work where there are their problems, applications where they can find solutions (social networks) but where not every employee is present and, in the middle, solutions they’ve been using for ages to reach anyone (email). Guess where they stay ? The problem is not to provide them with such or such functionally, they already benefit from tons of functionalities in tons of applications, it’s to be able the right action over the right « object » in the context they’re in.

Top management is certainly in favour for any better alignment of social with the process. But do they also understand the consequences that result from the key drivers?

For a business perspective they understand the benefits and the consequences. That’s also why the matter is so sensitive that progress is made very slowly. Adding a layer of social activities over existing ones presents some risks but does not harm the organization, processes etc… they’ve built over the last decades and are the organization’s bearing walls. A process based approach to social means discussing, removing, replacing these walls, what is quite a challenge. If you community based approach fails it won’t impact current operations. If you fail at rethinking processes the risk is higher.

Some enthusiasts for the future design of organizations are saying that the problems of social initiatives today are that they try to fit into an old, overcome system of process governance. Therefore to really get the real value out of social the projects should not try to align with the existing system, but change the system to a new way of working. What do you think about this?

I agree. People think and act according to the « system »’ they’re in. The system is a set of rules, implicit or explicit, that tells what matters, how things should be done, what behaviors to adopt. Processes, performance managementl, culture, resource and time allocation etc. are key elements of the system. If you don’t change them don’t expect anything to change at a large scale in your organization. That’s also why some very « social » people become their own exact opposite once they enter the workspace. Rules change and they adapt. In this perspective people are very rational.

I often use this metaphor to describe the situation.

Imagine a country where people used to drive right. One day the government (top managers) and some drivers start advocating for driving left and state that driving left is better and should be the way people drive. But they don’t change traffic regulations. The result is a country where 20% of people drive left, 80% right and where, since laws have not been changed, one can get fined by the police (managers) while they are complying with what the government says. Imagine the mess. And guess what will happen over time.

Thank you, Bertrand, for these great answers

If you want to discuss this topic more in depth, make sure not to miss the session with Bertrand Duperrin and Juan Pinto dos Santos at Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT.