As change becomes an increasing constant in the business environment, more enterprises are embracing business process management (BPM) to improve business performance. Increasingly, organizations are pushing BPM efforts beyond their initial focus on structured processes into more challenging, cross-boundary processes that include more unstructured portions. To better manage unstructured processes, which is a more complex style of work, business roles will need to learn how to leverage the interaction of business events, processes and business rules to assist them in responding to changes in their markets.

    A key theme in our BPM predictions for 2010 and beyond is broader, cross-boundary coordination of resources. As companies look to BPM to improve business performance, this quest will thrust BPM beyond its traditional focus on routine, predictable, sequential processes toward broader, cross-boundary processes that include more unstructured work. New BPM technologies will enable the management of more unstructured and dynamic processes to deliver greater business efficiencies and competitive advantage.

    PREDICTION: By 2014, 40% of business managers and knowledge workers in Global 2000 enterprises will use comprehensive business process models to support their daily work, up from six percent in 2009.

    The old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" certainly applies to the need for shared understanding of how a business operates. Comprehensive, graphical (rather than textual) and explicit process models that capture and represent organizational knowledge will create a lingua franca for business and IT roles. Explicit process models enable superior process performance by providing a more complete operational context to better interpret information and apply analytics, and to enable agile execution to adapt to new business patterns.

    Business managers and professionals who leverage explicit process models will have more direct control over their areas of operations and, thus, will outperform their competition. They will use these models daily to understand current operational processes and identify new process improvement strategies, to collaborate with IT roles on process applications and as a user interface for managing their resources to increase business performance.

    To make this work for them, organizations need to establish process modeling as an organizational competency and reflect this skill in job descriptions and hiring practices for business managers and knowledge workers. Start by using modeling selectively to begin with, where performance gains can significantly impact corporate results. Rather than "boiling the ocean," start with small process areas with a lot of impact!

    PREDICTION: By 2013, dynamic BPM will be an imperative for companies seeking process efficiencies in increasingly chaotic environments.

    The amount and pace of change in business markets are increasing. Pressure to reduce the latency of change in business processes is driving a need for more dynamic measures. Dynamic BPM addresses these issues by focusing on enabling process changes to occur when and as needed.

    The rising need for agility has forced traditional "software programs" into a niche in which rapid change - which they cannot offer - is not a dominant factor. Because agility is largely about change, the need for mechanisms to support change is paramount. Agility has become a manageable trait of dynamic environments; by using modern BPM suites (BPMSs), much of this work can be automated or at least made more accessible to the people who have domain expertise related to the system at hand.

    Programmer efforts should be gradually moved away from hard-coded processes and toward the use of dynamic requirements-gathering tools, process engines and rule engines that allow changes to be made by non-technical users, even during system operation.

    PREDICTION: By 2012, 20% of customer-facing processes will be knowledge-adaptable and assembled just-in-time to meet the demands and preferences of each customer, assisted by BPM-enabling technologies.

    Today's capability to proactively change processes is merely an interim step for process improvement; the next evolution will be processes that self-adjust based on the sensing of patterns in user preferences, consumer demand, predictive capabilities, trending, competitive analysis and social connections. The convergence of rule engines, discovery technology, social software, mobile applications and interactive gaming technology will form the basis for just-in-time, knowledge-adaptable processes.

    The dynamic business environment and the move to automate customer-facing processes leave little differentiation for the consumer. The convergence of maturing technologies, such as discovery, social software, interactive gaming, mobile applications and BPMSs, will enable processes to be not only more agile, but also more relevant to the end user. Software vendors are racing to include multiple forms of unstructured, collaborative and social network-enabled functions and features.

    As software vendors become more sophisticated in their offerings, it will become increasingly important for organizations to look to new vendors to augment their enterprise-class BPM technologies or pressure existing vendors to move to this new frontier for BPM.

    Indeed, "new frontier" is an apt description, for these predictions point to some highly significant changes for BPM. As this management discipline transforms and expands beyond its traditional boundaries, there really is no better time to learn how to harness the power of BPM to keep your organization from being buried by the shifting sands of today's business climate.

    PREDICTION: Through 2014, the act of composition will be a stronger opportunity to deliver value from software than the act of development.

    Computing is undergoing a major evolution. Alternative models for acquiring and delivering systems have begun to emerge, forcing organizations to rethink how they build those systems. Processes have become more explicit due to BPM and the changing nature of applications. Open source has highlighted the value of having groups of people solve software problems in a community fashion. Web 2.0 and service-oriented architecture (SOA) have broken systems into autonomous pieces that are stitched together to form a final solution that breaks the constraints of what we formerly thought of as "applications." Virtualization and global delivery models add to these challenges.

    Development activities have been overshadowed for so long by a strong focus on deployment that many organizations have yet to realize what's been lost in the evolution of development approaches. As the movement toward composition, collaborative development and process management continues, organizations will need to rediscover what it means to conduct "development" and fit that into an SOA-centric and process-centric world of complex solutions with many interrelated parts.

    The movement from purpose-built applications to assembled compositions will require a shift in how we think about projects, organizations and collaboration across business and technical roles to achieve business goals. Traditional development approaches don't fit well with new SOA and BPM compositions. Companies need to prepare to manage distributed teams with participants in new roles and relationships that are far more collaborative. Incredibly, fewer than two percent of IT personnel are currently trained in relationship management, and this must change.

    PREDICTION: By 2014, business process networks (BPNs) will underpin 35% of new multi-enterprise integration projects.

    Companies increasingly consume bundled, process-specific solutions rather than technical horizontal-integration solutions to B2B process automation problems. One example of this is found in the traditional approach to implementing e-procurement or e-logistics, whereby a retailer or manufacturer would use B2B/e-commerce providers to exchange electronic documents with suppliers and shippers. Today, such providers increasingly offer more comprehensive, pre-bundled solutions for multi-enterprise process automation across a B2B community called BPNs.

    While traditional horizontal-integration solutions provide all the technology necessary to implement B2B integration projects, historically, they just haven't included the same degree of pre-bundling of all the essential artifacts necessary to fully integrate a multi-enterprise process. On the other hand, B2B/e-commerce service providers increasingly offer BPNs to address the growing demand for more complete solutions to multi-enterprise process integration problems. Gartner believes that while companies will continue to consume horizontal-integration services - particularly for unique or custom processes that are not available in packaged form - they increasingly will desire pre-bundled solutions, such as BPNs, to simplify and accelerate the implementation of complex B2B multi-enterprise integration projects.

    Consequently, we are advising CIOs, architects, e-commerce directors and application managers to look beyond horizontal integration services and seek more comprehensive BPN solutions to more effectively automate and manage multi-enterprise B2B processes.

    Janelle Hill [] is a recognized industry expert on business process management and software infrastructure. She currently is a vice president in Gartner Research, where she focuses on research concerning business process management disciplines.

    Join Gartner at their Business Process Management Summit, March 22-24, in Las Vegas as they examine the future of BPM.

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