Saturday, April 28, 2007

What’s BPM? And what is new about it?

These two questions are often raised at our clients, even sometimes my own colleagues wonder about this. (imagine how this is on the board level of companies). I will this by using the explanation (and model) of Johan Nelis, one of the two authors of the highly valued book ‘Business Process Management: Practical Guidelines to Successful Implementations’ , who visited our company and shared his insights last month. (see also for a good summary BPtrends)

BPM combines two different expertise field, namely Business Process Improvement (BPI) and management of business processes. In short BPI focuses on designing and implementing new business processes. This field has been around for many years and has increased highly in professionalism. Unfortunately the effect of a great process design has it’s limits. For example we all know many examples where new processes were designed, but even if these were implemented (which is often not the case), were not improved during the years to come.

This is where the management of business processes fits in. One of the aspects is of this is creating an organization which continuously improves it’s processes. This is where the term governance is an essential (with roles such as process owners/stewards and process administrators), but also changing the attitudes of people towards process thinking. And of course the management of business processes also focus on measuring and acting on process information.
So BPM combines management of business processes and BPI to increase and embed the impact of the process on the performance of the organisation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Presentation at Gamers in Society

Here is the presentation I gave today at the Gamers in Society seminar in Tampere, Finland. To summarize it briefly: I state that the intrinsic motivation that virtual worlds supply leads to more room for social aspects (as opposed to the task-oriented nature of "traditional" ICT), which in turn leads to more knowledge transfer. Let me talk a little bit here about the feedback I got.

First of all, my presentation apparently struck a cord with many of the people present because it sparked quite a bit of debate. Many different aspects entered the discussion, all very useful to further my thinking. And even though a lot of elements of my presentation were challenged, it was done in a very positive and constructive way.

One of the biggest problems that the audience had with my perspective was this: while you could argue that intrinsic motivation is an important aspect of virtual worlds (which makes them an enjoyable experience), wouldn't the fun stop as soon as you use virtual worlds in a work context? One commentator stated that "you cannot force people to have fun", which is true of course. In this round of discussion, the divide between the world of managers and the world of gamers came somewhat to the forefront. I was in the latter arena here, which meant some skepticism here and there about things having to do with the corporate world.

There was also some criticism about my (admittedly fairly blunt) statement that the use of "traditional ICT" (embodied in my perspective by the field of Computer Supported Cooperative Work) is always extrinsically motivated whereas virtual worlds are always intrinsically motivated. It is of course not that black and white. Examples were given of extrinsically motivated activities in games. Also, the possible difference in motivation was pointed out between what draws you into a virtual world initially and what keeps you there. In the discussion about this point, the exclusivity of virtual worlds as supplying the five elements of intrinsic motivation that I mention was challenged. Examples were given of social networking sites like LinkedIn or MySpace that also can be said to show most of these elements.

So where do I go from here with this project? One adjustment that I think I'll make to my approach of the subject is this: I will not focus so much on virtual worlds as a tool for knowledge transfer, but rather on virtual worlds as a way to create the preconditions for knowledge transfer. And one of the most important preconditions is trust, which (as one commentator pointed out) I have to decompose a bit further. Another aspect I want to consider incorporating is the development of managerial skills inside a virtual world (for example, by leading a raiding guild in World of Warcraft).

The most valuable comments were made by the two invited commentators (T.L. Taylor and Daniel Pargman). They focused on the next steps in my project and on how to go about actually investigating the managerial relevance of virtual worlds. Their contributions supplied me with some solid ideas that will be very useful in the coming weeks and months when I go about designing my research methodology.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Off to Finland

I am off to Finland next week to present a paper at the Gamers in Society seminar, organized by the University of Tampere Hypermedia Laboratory's Game Research Lab. I submitted a paper about the possibilities I see for virtual worlds as a tool for knowledge transfer (more or less along the lines of an earlier post here, but a bit more refined). It will be interesting to get feedback on my ideas from some of the bright minds in the digital games research community, such as T.L. Taylor, Daniel Pargman and Frans Mäyrä. A bit intimidating as well, I must admit.

I will post my presentation and some impressions of the seminar in the course of next week.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Promising developments

I came across another company this weekend that offers virtual world solutions for corporate use: ProtonMedia. And unlike Qwaq (see earlier post), this one seems to have the right approach. They approach the use of virtual worlds from a learning perspective: using virtual worlds to foster networks and communities of practice in organizations. One of their advisors is Jay Cross, who has written a book about what he calls Informal Learning. This concept is related to the approach to knowledge management of people like Larry Prusak and Rob Cross. Our research on virtual worlds is very much inspired by those people and is also trying to uncover the value of this technology in the area of knowledge transfer. It is encouraging to see some products already being positioned in that field.