By Connie Moore

After talking to you and your Business Process peers this summer, we’re planning to focus our 2010 research in the following 6 areas (each crucial to Business Process success):

  1. Justify and quickly deploy the right solutions for financial, customer-facing, HR, and other business processes.
  2. Tap the power of social media to radically improve customer service, HR, and other business processes.
  3. Optimize the business by bringing insights and predictive analytics to business processes.
  4. Become more Lean by continuously improving business processes
  5. Develop new skills, methodologies, and frameworks for process improvement professionals.
  6. Deliver timely, trusted enterprise data to cross-functional business processes.

Forrester’s Deep Dive Into Business Process

Last summer Forrester embarked on an ambitious project to interview individuals in each of our 20 targeted roles. As you may know, four years ago we shifted strategy to focus on individuals in a specific job function (or role), rather than continuing to write about technology topics irrespective of who does what with them. This most recent project supporting that effort, internally called the Role Deep Dives, was a fascinating look at the people in specific job functions. My part in this effort was to interview individuals in 28 companies who are responsible for business process projects.

The results were fascinating. We talked with individuals in nine countries and on five continents. Each company was greater than $1 billion (US) in annual revenue but most were significantly larger — several of them in the Fortune 100. Yet, the results were largely consistent across industries, company size, and geography. The results? Business process professionals are mandated with a huge responsibility to transform one or more business processes, improve business performance, and/or streamline business operations, yet many of the people I talked to find they lack the requisite business insight, skills, frameworks, experience and peer-to-peer networking insights to get the job done. This skills shortage is what keeps them up at night — it’s not a technology issue — whether they are in India, Brazil, the UK, the US, Australia or elsewhere.

Process Professionals Cut Across Business And IT

Our interviews uncovered specific responsibilities within the business process professional ranks. Altogether, we uncovered six sub-roles for business process professionals and gave them descriptive titles: 1) the business “stakeholder;” 2) the “change agent;” 3) the “guru;” 4) the “prodigy;” 5) the “wannabe;” and 6) the “operator.” More specifically, these individuals were:


  1. CxO or business executive — “Stakeholder”: These individuals often have board-mandated, executive level responsibility to drive business process optimization and transformation projects. Often this is done through large- scale implementations of packaged solutions—like ERP, CRM or PLM—sometimes in combination with BPM deployments and large scale data management initiatives that support cross-functional processes.
  2. VP Of Business Process Improvement – “Change Agent”: The change agent evangelizes continuous improvement and business process thinking throughout the organization, and provides the executive bridge between business and IT. This person is also responsible for process governance, frameworks, and methodologies.
  3. Process Architect – “Guru”: The Guru is highly respected by CXOs, and usually has many years of experience. This person is usually responsible for coaching the process analysts and helping build process skills within the organization. The Guru may also have experience with information management, in addition to BPM.
  4. Process Analyst – “Prodigies”: Prodigies are rare individuals with both experience and training in process frameworks, tools and methodologies. They have a unique and instinctive ability to think in terms of process models and process improvement. One characteristic that makes them rare is their strong business analysis skills coupled with deep technical skills that allow them to design and program process models. As a result, they are responsible for modeling and analyzing business processes, building the run time for business processes and working closely with information architects.
  5. The Evolving Business Analyst – “Wannabe”: Business analysts are peppered throughout many different business groups and the IT organization, no matter what the size of the company.Many organizations are trying to have their traditional business analysts, who focus on a wide array of tasks, shift focus from traditional requirements and become process analysts.
  6. Manager of IT Business Systems— “Operator”: This last process sub-role only exists in companies that still have an immature or under-developed focus on business process improvement. This individual invariably reports into the IT organization and may have management responsibility for a number of areas, including packaged applications, data management, custom apps, Websites, eCommerce, and business process management. This person has an operational focus, and may even refer to his or her job as “keeping the lights on” in IT. The operator tends to have a project focus and wants each individual project to succeed, based on traditional project management metrics, meaning there are generally very limited process skills on staff.

One thing is clear:

Business process professionals’ jobs and responsibilities are in transition — largely moving from IT into the business, with a heavy focus on increasing the overall process skills up and down the organization. In the most mature organizations, the business process improvement group is a well-established group within the business that helps other business units with business process transformation. In most aspiring organizations, the business process sub-roles have solid/dotted line relationships between business and IT, and the reporting relationships are evolving.

The role deep dives gave us awareness and insights into the daily issues, strategic initiatives, and key problems that business process professionals wrestle with. These insights allowed us to develop the success imperatives (outlined at the top of this post), which will guide our research initiatives in 2010.

Taken collectively, we will focus on three broad efforts to help business process professionals:

  • Implement packaged solutions to support cross-functional and departmental business processes. This includes products like: ERP, CRM, Talent Management, Business Performance Solutions, Order Management, B2B Commerce solutions, and PLM. We will also focus on newly emerging processes like sustainability and information-led transformation, and the trend to integrate unstructured content, business intelligence and social media with structured processes. We will also use Lean, Lean Software and IT to BT principles to help companies continuously improve business processes
  • Deploy business process management (BPM) suites to support cross-functional processes. These suites can be deployed successfully in combination with packaged solutions, or separately to support horizontal processes. In many instances, documents and other content are core to the process and may require a dynamic case management solution. In other instances, automating the cross functional process may surface issues with data quality, requiring the process project to be aligned or consumed into data management initiatives.
  • Integrate data — whether it is from a data warehousing solution, a BI product or predictive analytics — into business processes. Many process professionals told us the holy grail for business process would be to align data and process initiatives, such as aligning process and data modeling, process and data governance and process and data quality. That’s a tall order, but we’re going to give it a try.

That will be our focus in 2010: helping the business process professional succeed beyond his or her wildest imagination.