Ric Hayman has posted a piece on his blog: No – it’s “people AND process” which I strongly agree with. The more extreme end of the Enterprise 2.0 spectrum have placed a huge emphasis on the “people” side of the equation in business. I think that’s a good thing, and it’s part of the reason we chose to have the ‘social’ in ‘SocialOptic’. Businesses have become overly obsessed with processes and process optimisation in recent years. The pendulum does need swinging back.

However, as Dennis Howlett has been saying for a while, that doesn’t remove the need for process. As Ric puts it:

I subscribe to Alistair Cockburn’s thought that people are key variables in any project, problem or process (Cockburn’s article is directed at software development, but I believe it is generalizable to most if not all “knowledge work”), so I tend to think “people over process” anyway, but my response to Dennis’ post was via Twitter, where I said that I was tiring of the binary “people or process” argument – notably I was tiring of BOTH sides; I think the framing is wrong, it should be “people AND process”.

A productive business has to tackle both the process and the people issues. What seems to be taken as a given, or at least I rarely see mentioned, is the key glue: Systems. Systems glue together the people and process. The right systems bring a balance between the two and tightly interface them. Introducing process, while keeping things people-centric is always a hot topic of discussion amongst the team here – with the different backgrounds and personalities there is a shared view, but from many different perspectives.

The systems relationship works the other way as well, good systems help people see what is happening, and stop process turning bad. That was a common background thread at the Dell Huddle event. Social media helps businesses listen, see when things have fallen outside of working process, and get them fixed. From our own business perspective we are convinced that taking a visual approach (hence the ‘optic’ in SocialOptic) is the best way to tackle things.

In the last few weeks it has been cheering to hear Milestone Planner referred to both as a “social gantt chart” and a ‘visual wiki’ – while we wouldn’t choose those descriptions ourselves, it gives us confidence that we are building in the right direction.

By way of an illustration of where we are heading, here’s a visualisation from one of the tools we have in development. It takes the Twitter stream during the Dell Huddle B2B Social Media event (nice series of posts on Joining Dots blog). Can you tell who the speakers were and the topics of conversation?