As 2010 winds down, many business process professionals are finalizing plans to take their BPM initiatives to the next level in 2011. With so many different BPM trends and predictions floating around out there, I’m sure you’re scratching your head wondering which trends to adopt in 2011 and which trends to push off for another year. 

My colleague Gene Leganza recently published an excellent report titled "The Top 15 Technology Trends EAs Should Watch". I was pleased to see several BPM-specific trends show up in the report’s “Top 15” list. For the second year in a row, the report highlighted social BPM as one of the top trends to watch. In addition, process data management — the combination of MDM and BPM — was highlighted as another top BPM-related trend.

I recommend reading the entire report, since Gene does an excellent job slicing the survey data to show how we selected and ranked the top 15 trends.
So, as you're finalizing your 2011 BPM plans, here are the hottest trends and capabilities I recommend adding to your road map:

  • Connect BA to BPM to create a realistic road map for process transformation. Anytime I'm in a room filled with enterprise architects and business process professionals, there's often a healthy debate back and forth about who drives transformation across the enterprise. The truth of the matter is that business architects are usually the ones tasked with designing and delivering business transformation. And business architects are often found in both EA and BPM teams. If your BP initiative doesn't have a business architect, make it a top priority to bone up on business architecture in 2011 and look to add business architecture skills to your process transformation activities. For a crash course on business architecture, check out "Enterprise Business Architecture: The Formal Link between Strategy and Results" by Ralph Whittle.
  • Grant master data "equal rights" on BPM initiatives. In 2009, my colleague Rob Karel and I sounded the alarm highlighting the serious risks posed by keeping BPM and MDM initiatives in disconnected silos. Why? Because the success of these two major enterprise initiatives are intertwined with one another. If you’re leading large-scale process improvement, your initiative is doomed to failure from the beginning if the BPM team does not accept responsibility for maintaining data. And likewise, data quality professionals running large-scale MDM initiatives, face possible rejection by business stakeholders if there is not a connection back to process improvement. In 2011, resolve to synchronize BPM and MDM efforts to improve process data management. Take a look at the second report in our “process data management” series to build a plan for connecting MDM and BPM.
  • Move the needle on BPM skills for key process roles. Over the past six months, I have been researching the market for BPM certification programs in order to help our clients build road maps for improving process skills across key competencies. In some ways, I guess I started this research back in 2005 when I matriculated through Boston University's BPM Certification program. But the BPM certification program landscape has changed significantly since then — now there are over a dozen different BPM certification programs available, not even counting the various programs that offer Six Sigma and Lean certification. Earlier this month, I completed the Association of BPM Professionals (ABPMP) certification program to get a sense of how it stacks up against Boston University and other certification programs. I was impressed with the depth and organization of the topics presented in the exam: 140 exam questions presented over nine different skill areas. My quick take is that ABPMP has created an effective exam for validating for real-world BPM experience. In 2011, challenge your team to complete the ABPMP certification and use the results to create a game plan to shore up critical skills gaps.
  • Make your process value chains more sociable. Building a successful BPM initiative requires teams to develop effective and efficient ways to engage everyone across the entire process value chain: business stakeholders, partners, employees, and customers. Unfortunately, BPM has traditionally only focused on engaging narrow silos within the internal value streams — often leaving customers, partners, and the bulk of frontline workers out of the communication loop. Over the past few years, I have highlighted the growing trend of BPM initiatives leveraging social networking techniques and tools to accelerate adoption and buy-in — Forrester refers to this as "social BPM". Although the “social BPM” trend has gained the most traction within the context of process discovery and analysis, in 2011, BPM teams should look to connect social to the entire process value chain — leveraging social networking approaches to deliver a better process experience for customers, partners, suppliers, and frontline workers.
  • Embrace leaner BPM governance models that balance control and flexibility. As part of our upcoming "Fast Forward BPM" report, we interviewed over 45 process professionals running enterprisewide BPM programs to identify best practices for successful BPM programs. We ended up identifying over 85 best practice capabilities across seven best practice categories. One of the categories focused on process governance, where we identified critical “next practices” — emerging practices being adopted by the most successful BPM programs. These next practices focused on streamlining process governance to support varying levels of process improvement across the enterprise. In short, we found that highly successful BPM initiatives segmented governance across centralized BPM centers of excellence and distributed BPM communities of practice. This model allows the centralized organization to focus on process transformation projects, while leaving lower-hanging fruit and quick-win opportunities to empowered process teams (i.e., communities of practice). In 2011, evaluate your existing BPM governance model to identify opportunities for improving flexibility and line-of-business empowerment.

In addition to these trends, I recommend reading our “Forrester Tech Radar™ For BP&A Pros: Business Process Management Suites, Q3 2009” report to assess other trends taking shape in the BPM suite space. This report maps out the evolution of the BPM suite space over the next five to 10 years and provides insight as to which components in the BPM ecosystem represent the greatest business value. 

I’m wrapping up this blog post, as I’m headed off to Disney for Christmas vacation. Looking back over 2010, it was a very good year for BPM — continued growth in demand and adoption, several high-profile acquisitions, and continued shift toward driving better business outcomes. Regardless of which trends you decide to add to your road map, here’s wishing you the best with all of your endeavors in 2011!

Sound Off

I want to hear from you. Let me know which BPM trends you plan to embrace in 2011. Do you have plans to add business architecture skills to your BPM competency mix? Are you planning adopt social BPM to help improve business processes? Or are you looking at adopting another trend that’s not on our radar? Post your thoughts in the comment section, or feel free to shoot me a quick email at