Earlier this year, I was invited to participate in an internal debate across the Forrester team serving the business process professional role on “The Future of Business Process: Packaged Apps vs BPM.” Our key takeaway: Organizations need to move away from siloed views of the business process domain and develop a more holistic view of business processes across both packaged applications and BPM disciplines. In short, we agreed that business process pros should embrace “big process thinking,” as we’re beginning to call it, to deal with increasingly splintered and fragmented processes that span across packaged applications, BPM suites, on-premises solutions, cloud-based solutions, mobile platforms, and social environments.

Following this debate, key Forrester business process analysts embarked on new research to flesh out exactly how business processes — and the business process discipline — will need to evolve in the face of continuous disruption and competitive threats.  Over the past three months, we interviewed firms with leading business transformation programs, industry thought leaders, and technology vendors to paint a picture of what business processes will look like in 2020. Based on these interviews, business process will evolve over the next decade to become:

  • Customer-controlled and customer-centered. Today, empowered consumers tap social networks and channels to research products, find the best deals, and demand better customer service. This trend is forcing leading companies to adopt outside-in approaches that connect customer experience to process improvement. Our research found that this trend will continue to the point of giving complete control to the customer to design and manage their own experiences and interactions.
  • Completely driven by business stakeholders.  This is the Holy Grail of BPM: empowering the business to drive process transformation. So what’s coming into the picture to make this a reality? The simple fact is that IT will vanish into the business over the next decade. And process improvement is serving as a catalyst driving this shift to what Forrester calls “Empowered BT.” Increasingly, business executives demand greater control over business processes and don’t understand why they should rely on IT to improve core business processes.
  • Initiated more frequently via mobile and app Internet channels. Today, most business processes are initiated from personal computers connected to your internal corporate internet or via customers connecting to your corporate website. With the proliferation of mobile applications and devices, in the future empowered workers and customers will engage and initiate processes in context to real-time problems, challenges, or opportunities they face.
  • Deployed to a mishmash of internal and process-as-a-service solutions. Many of the people we interviewed who lead BP programs highlighted the need to disaggregate business processes and move nondifferentiating processes into lower -cost — cloud or outsourced — environments, while continuously innovating competitive and differentiating processes. Although this fabric of internal and external processes will deliver value and eliminate waste, many firms expressed concern about connecting all of the different pieces to maintain a consistent real-time view of operational performance.

We will explore these key drivers and themes at Forrester’s Business Process Forum 2011, September 22-23 in Boston. I am leading a series of analyst presentations organized around “Transforming Customer Experience Using Outside-In Thinking!”, where I will be exploring the challenges and emerging best practices for embracing “big process thinking,” including several sessions on extending business processes to the app Internet and mobile channels to deliver integrated customer experiences. I hope to see you there!