In 2011, IT Will Continue To Deploy Business Process Capabilities

It’s the end of the year — time to look back and reflect on what’s going to happen next in IT.

Since Forrester predicted the death of IT 10 years ago, most IT departments have undergone significant reorganizations, first to consolidate duplicate applications and platforms, then to become more services-focused, and now to increase IT’s business process orientation.

But there’s life in the old dog yet. As our 2010 survey of 141 business process professionals showed, only 21% of the executives driving business process improvements are CIOs or process professionals reporting to IT — meaning that despite good intentions, IT plays a limited role in business process initiatives.

Many experts see the deployment of business process centers of excellence (COEs) as a panacea to IT’s process orientation problem. Set up to provide business technology (BT) services across business units — such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), business process management (BPM), customer relationship management (CRM), and business intelligence (BI) — business process COEs play a crucial role in efficiently developing and broadcasting innovative process-oriented practices across the business units.

But the deployment of business process COEs is not sufficient. IT needs also the business stakeholders’ collaboration to:

  1. Improve the conduit of individual lines of business, which often do not see the immediate benefits of sharing process-related BT services.
  2. Consistently improve the overall performance of the enterprise portfolio of BT services across the most critical business processes.

I believe that IT organizations that want to sustainably contribute to enterprisewide business process optimizations need to implement two formal processes, in addition to deploying COEs:

  1. BT governance, which ensures that business process executives, not IT, ultimately decide how to prioritize the development and use of BT services across lines of business.
  2. BT demand management, which architects and monitors the enterprise portfolio of BT services and provides recommendations on how to optimize its performance.

I expect that IT organizations that have not deployed business process COEs yet will do so soon. For those that already have business process COEs in place, the next logical steps are to formalize BT governance and to deploy BT demand.

IT’s effort to increase its business process orientation will not succeed without the incremental implementation of these three business process support capabilities: COEs, BT demand management, and BT governance — in 2011 and beyond.