What are the key trends that CRM trends that business and IT professionals need to pay attention to in setting their plans during 2012? Here are the top trends that I am tracking. My full report that spotlights our latest research and recommendations for how to compete in The Age of the Customer will be published in late January.

1. Customer experience management will move beyond aspiration to strategy. More organizations will move beyond empty goals like becoming “customer-obsessed” to define clear and actionable customer experience strategies. The strategy must meet three tests: 1) It defines the intended experience; 2) it directs employee activities and decision-making; and 3) it guides funding decisions and project prioritization.

2. Brands will embrace the experience ecosystem. Firms will move to break free from their organizational silos, invest in understanding customer moments of truth through journey-mapping, and embrace the concept of the “customer experience ecosystem” — one that considers the influence of every single employee and external partner on every single customer interaction.

3. Experience management will emerge as a management discipline. There is increasing acceptance of the idea that customer experience management can be thought of as a discipline — a set of sound, repeatable practices such as those are defined in Forrester’s Customer Experience Maturity Framework.

4. Organizations will strive to domesticate untamed processes. More organizations will focus on poorly managed processes which remain, in many ways, the last frontiers of business process automation. Processes that touch customers and suffer from inefficiency and disconnects include customer onboarding, order administration, loan processing, incident management, customer service, and investigations.

5. Target operating models will link customer experience with process. Organizations will adopt the notion of target operating models (TOMs) — a representation of how an organization operates across process, organization, and technology domains to deliver the value. In addition, the concepts of “business capability maps” and “value stream analysis” will be used to delineate the business architecture required to deliver an intended customer experience.

6. Agile implementation approaches will take root. Companies want to become more flexible, and they are increasingly adopting Agile project management and software development methodologies based on the principles of iterative development, where requirements evolve through collaboration between a self-organizing cross-functional team. Pure waterfall and big-bang approaches to CRM technology deployment approaches are declining and being replaced with “Water-Scrum” and “Scrum-Fall.”

7. Social customer engagement tactics will become more widely used. More social CRM use cases spotlighting demonstrable business value will emerge. Forrester’s annual Groundswell Awards showcases hundreds examples of how organizations use Social Computing — for example, in market research, customer self-service, and product development.

8. Mobile applications will empower customer-facing workers and consumers. Interest in mobile CRM solutions is red-hot. But the state of mobile CRM solution support will remain fragmented. To help cut through the complexity, more companies will use Forrester’s Mobile CRM Best Practices Assessment Framework to decide how to best support mobile workers.

9. The move to the cloud will continue, intensifying governance challenges. CRM embraced the cloud five years ago. Software-a-service (SaaS) vendor agreements now matter more than ever because greater quantities of mission-critical data and larger dollar amounts are involved. Leading organizations are recognizing that developing SaaS contracting acumen and governance skills is important.

10. Big data and agile BI will move to center stage. Business intelligence professionals face the challenge that social-sourced Customer Intelligence can become a never-ending data gusher. As a result, there is growing interest in “big data.” This is an emerging paradigm that focuses on architecting analytic and transactional applications so that they can harness petabytes of complex information flowing in from social media and other new and traditional sources.

11. Solutions will converge to support multichannel customer interactions. Forrester anticipates the convergence of technologies from varied sectors to form the core of customer experience management (CXM) solutions. Vendors from a diverse set of solution categories — from eCommerce platforms to content management, site search, personalization, and customer service — are expanding their capabilities to support the management and optimization of cross-touchpoint customer experiences.

12. Business leaders will refresh their change management skills. Business change management — which we have seen defined as “the process, tools, and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve a required business outcome” — is still the single hardest part of customer-centric business transformation. We see a resurgence of interest in understanding the best practices for helping employees adapt to new ways of working and building a company culture that puts customers first.

13. The voice of the customer will become an engine for culture change. Organizations will increasingly try to harness the voice of the customer to prioritize process improvement priorities and help back-office employees better understand customer expectations. Providing more customer feedback to employees across the organization in the form of survey results, customer visits, social sentiment data, and the like help employees better understand the impact their decisions have on the customer.