Thursday, December 10, 2009

Supporting Process through Social Capital

A business process is an intangible asset which bind man, machine and money together to ensure achievement of business goals. They can be very complicated - as this picture shows after the process data have been put through a mining algorithm.

Analysis, design and optimisation of the business processes is important – but do your analysis look at the social network that ensures effective execution of the business process? Lejano and Ingram defined a social network as a system of sustained, patterned relationships among actors. These relationships typically cross organisational boundaries as defined in organisational charts.

Dimensions of a social network can cover formal institution driven structures, pure informal interactions, or purely social interactions. However, important to note is that they allow the ability to pool competency into formations which can either solve organisational issues, or ensure that organisational policies, procedures and processes fail.

In a number of cases I have seen that the social network (as a social capital element of the organisation), rather prohibits the working of process, than to ensure the optimal binding of man, machine and money.

Case 1 – Mandated Process Communication lines
In this case, the roles and responsibilities were not defined adequately, resulting in people moving tasks between them with no clear responsibility. Delivery times become so long that customers were leaving the company.

Case 2 – Social Gossip structure around a problem process
Projects were not being delivered on time with the current mix of people. In this case, mining the social gossip relationships around a process showed who talked to whom, cluster according to different departments.

Case 3 – Mandated Process Communication Lines
Mining the process showed a good, well-defined product development process. Upon focusing on the mandated social network for this process, it become clear that the process is failing due to no communication between the different role players.

So – to be intelligent about your processes means that you have discover what the processes does; but not in isolation of the social capital that ensures its success or failure.
I want to thank Sakhu ( for providing me with denormalised data from their projects to create these cases.

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