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Blogs > MWD Advisors

2012 Outlook: Business Process Management
Neil Ward-Dutton By: Neil Ward-Dutton, Research Director, MWD Advisors
Published: 1st December 2011
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
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In last year’s BPM outlook, we predicted that 2011 would be a year when the progress of BPM into mainstream industry adoption would continue apace—and that has certainly come to pass. We also highlighted that we expected a very large proportion of BPM project interest to come from business areas focused on customer relationships and customer experiences—something else that’s happened.

Below are my takes for BPM’s year in 2012. Personally I don’t see any big surprises, rather, a continuation and extension of the things we’ve seen in 2011. It would be great to get your thoughts too—let us know!

Top 5 trends for BPM in 2012

1. Continued focus on customer experience and ‘outside in’ perspectives on work. BPM is all about improving the way that work gets done—and that has clear implications for minimising costs, minimising time to market, increasing agility and maximising competitiveness. As in 2011, we fully expect that BPM will shine its light most strongly in those business areas which impact customer experiences.

2. Goals of flexibility and agility, as well as efficiency. Most BPM adopters will have at least one eye on potential cost savings and efficiency gains, but increasing numbers will pursue process flexibility and agility goals. Business areas which strongly influence customer relationships will continue to be the key focus for improvement across industries.

3. BPM technology as an application development platform. BPM will be taken up enthusiastically as an application development technology approach by IT departments. For more mature BPM adopters, demonstrating the value of Centres of Excellence (COEs) will be high on the agenda.

4. Towards smart, social platforms for managing knowledge work; and integrated infrastructure for dynamic business optimisation. Support for the oversight and management of less structured, more goal-oriented types of work will start to become widespread through BPM tools; social collaboration capabilities will become embedded in most leading BPM offerings. Better support for mobile participation is a part of this. We’ll also see increased aggregation of core BPM capabilities with complementary platform elements (event processing, business rules, and real-time/predictive analytics in particular) to support the most advanced organisations’ requirement to build on the automation they’ve already done, and create dynamic business optimisation platforms.

5. Cloud platforms for project impact. Product suppliers will continue to promote their cloud-based offerings heavily, particularly gaining value (along with customers) through use of these platforms to shorten sales/purchase and initial project design cycles. The largest Systems Integrators (SIs) will all make serious BPM plays.

The outlook for 2012

The state of the nation for BPM

Despite significant economic uncertainty having an impact on organisations across industry and in the public sector, in 2012 we expect activity and investment in BPM to continue to grow at a similar rate to that which we’ve seen in the past couple of years—10% to 15%. BPM is one of those areas of business and technology investment which works “counter-cyclically”: people tend to continue to invest in BPM projects when the overall environment is weak. BPM is all about improving the way that work gets done—and that has clear implications for minimising costs, minimising time to market, increasing agility and maximising competitiveness. As in 2011, BPM practice will shine its light most strongly in those business areas which impact customer experiences.

As BPM practice and technology becomes a more mainstream concern across industry and across sectors, we also expect investment to continue to broaden outside BPM’s heartland of financial services and insurance and into industries like retail, utilities, travel and transport, and of course the public sector.

Key BPM adoption characteristics

Just as in past years, many BPM adopters in 2012 will focus primarily on cutting costs and increasing efficiency. However, more and more organisations will start working with BPM practices—often in conjunction with use of a spread of related technologies and tools—with the ultimate goal of creating a platform for improved business agility. In those areas of the business that touch the customer, improving efficiency for efficiency’s sake is likely to be counter-productive; but rethinking work to make it as easy as possible to respond to changing market environments, customer needs and concerns and also deliver great customer experiences is likely to support growth initiatives as well as improving efficiency along the way. An increasing number of organisations will get started with BPM with the goal of increased business transparency in mind, in support of regulatory compliance demands and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, and also in support of increasing maturity in data-driven strategy initiatives.

Key trends in practice

In 2012, we expect BPM practice to develop in a couple of ways. The first follows a trend we’ve been watching throughout 2011, which is that BPM technologies have been explored and championed increasingly aggressively by IT departments—this is largely as a result of the on-going efforts of large infrastructure software providers with BPM offerings like IBM, Oracle, TIBCO and Software AG. In line with this we expect many more IT departments to look at BPM technologies in 2012, looking at BPM principally as an alternative kind of toolset for agile application development and delivery.

As more and more organisations deliver BPM value past one or two projects, we’ll also see increasing numbers of BPM Centres of Excellence (COEs) developed. We do expect, however, that those companies approaching BPM largely from an application development perspective will struggle to achieve business benefits on the scale of those that take a more holistic approach.

Lastly, the involvement of the large Systems Integration (SI) firms in the BPM market will have a significant effect on BPM practice ‘on the ground’ in 2012. Where SIs take an enlightened approach to BPM projects and tune their delivery models accordingly (using small teams, scoping projects sensibly, delivering iteratively and so on) they’ll be clear contributors to improving the scope and scale of BPM success for their clients; where they attempt to force-fit BPM projects into a standard project delivery model, though, they’ll create more problems than they solve.

Key technology trends

As in other areas of our 2012 expectations, the trends we’ve tracked as emerging through 2011 will continue to grow in importance. The key trends here are support for more dynamic, less structured forms of work and more goal-oriented ways of managing work; integration of process platforms with social collaboration technologies to help individuals collaborate in completing tasks and resolving cases, as well as to broaden the reach of work performance and progress monitoring; delivery of aspects of BPM capabilities through cloud-based platforms; and support for mobile workers through delivery of capabilities to smartphones and tablets.

Key BPM supplier trends

In 2012, as the BPM market continues to mature, we expect to see more specialised packaging and bundling of technology to fit particular vertical industry and horizontal business activity scenarios, and less emphasis on promotion of generic “BPM Suites”. Some of this shift will emphasise more focused use of just some of the spread of capabilities traditionally associated with BPM Suites. However, the more notable shift will be in the other direction—seeing suppliers aggregating core BPM technology elements with complementary capabilities: event processing platforms, business rule management systems (BRMSs), and real-time and predictive analytics tools. These platforms and tools will address the needs of those leading-edge companies looking to build on the foundation of business automation they’ve already created, to build dynamic business optimisation capabilities that can support more specialisation and personalisation in customer-facing activities, more contextual optimisation in core business operations, and more flexibility in response to changes in overall market dynamics.

Some more supplier consolidation (following on the heels of acquisitions like those of Metastorm and Global 360 by Open Text in 2011) within the foundation BPM technology space is of course possible, but I don’t rate it particularly likely. What’s more likely, given the above technology aggregation trend, is consolidation across the technology categories highlighted above.

If we see any new technology entrants, I believe these will most likely focus primarily on offering lightweight workflow technologies and delivering those through cloud computing platforms and software-as-a-service commercial models, addressing the ‘long tail’ opportunity and seeking to sow an “Innovator’s Dilemma” for the more established technology providers. On the IT services side, it’s likely we’ll see some Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) providers experimenting with offering hosted BPM services of some kind, either as a complement to their core business or as a way to increase their ‘stickiness’ with clients.

What do you think?

What are your plans for BPM in 2012? Leave your comments here or drop me a line at—it would be great to get your thoughts. To stay in touch with developments throughout 2012 subscribe to my BPM blog feed and for research report updates.


Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
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