Hi, vendor here (cue boos and hisses...).
We made an explicit decision not to make BPMN (or process flows in general) the central metaphor for defining applications precisely because of the points many of you have raised above. Modern "processes" are becoming less "processes" in the traditional, linear sense and more a series of loosely coupled "stages" that link together in an often unpredictable order to deliver an outcome. Some stages may involve structured work that is best represented as a process diagram using BPMN notation. Others may be completely "social" in nature...the work to be done will be discovered by runtime collaboration between users. The order of stages themselves may be decided at design time, or decided at runtime.
Providing a runtime engine to support this mix of structured and ad hoc work is not an unsolvable problem. It is a combination of technologies (process management, case management, event management, predictive rules, etc.) that are well known. (One could make a legitimate technical argument that social networks and "chatter"-style feeds are really just human-centric event systems.
The challenge for vendors like us will be coming up with the visual tools that allow users to mix the pieces of work that should be (or for regulatory reasons must
be) structured processes, with the ad hoc work that will be increasingly developed on the fly by users. And tools to analyze the ad hoc work and capture it into new best practices. Personally, I think we've made some great progress on this, but it involves stepping outside the limitations of process modeling standards like BPEL and BPMN. And we still have work to do.
To repeat a bit of Max's insight, the key to "solving" the social aspect of BPM is to understand that BPM is not just about process
, its about outcomes.
Maybe we should just rebrand the whole thing Business Outcome Management.
Practitioners of BPM (and builders of BPM tools) need to help our clients deliver the outcomes they need: an easier customer experience; happier, more productive employees; compliance with changing regulations; repeatable efficiencies that drive profitability, etc. That will take a world of traditional, structure process merged in real time with social collaboration.