What Will Business Processes Look Like In 2020?

Have you ever thought seriously about the future of business processes? If not, it’s time to. With trends coming at us fast and furious — business transformation, the age of the customer, mobility, cloud, social, process outsourcing — processes of the future will look very different from how we work today.

Forrester is in the process (pardon the pun) of looking at business processes in 2020. We’ve interviewed 10 major thought leaders at large global organizations and a number of systems integrators and vendors in the BPM space. Wow, have we learned a lot from these deep thinkers! Many of the trends they identified are already being actively worked on in their companies — so these are not just pipe dreams — and include:

  • A major strategic alignment between business process transformation and customer experience
  • Very little concern about technology issues — because they believe the technology will work well (and this is not what keeps them up at night even now)
  • A major focus on standardizing processes across the globe so that work can easily flow to the lowest-cost labor at any given moment
  • The belief that processes will run in the cloud (private or public) and that businesses will consume processes-as-a-platform
  • A strong conviction that IT will largely vanish into the business
  • The need for access to global talent pools driving some of the need for business process transformation
  • The expectation that being dynamic and turning on a dime will be critically important

These are only highlights — the report will be out soon.

With that in mind, Forrester’s research team serving business process professionals has not one but two upcoming Tweet Jams. On September 7 from 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm ET, we will hold a session on the future of business process and shine a light on what thebusiness process professional’s job will look like in 2020. Participating in that session will be Craig Le Clair (@csleclair), Connie Moore (@cmooreforrester), Paul Hamerman (@paulhamerman), and Clay Richardson (@passion4process).

We will discuss the following topics(and probably more, since the discussion also goes where you lead us):

  • Game-changers: social, mobile, cloud
  • The role of customer experience in BPM
  • Obstacles and barriers on the journey to this vision of business processes in 2020
  • Big process thinking — what is it?
  • The five tenets of big process thinking
  • The role of enterprise suites in a dynamic world
  • The long-term outlook for SAP, Oracle, and other enterprise app companies
  • BPM suites versus enterprise suites
  • Untamed processes—is there any hope?

On September 8 from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm ET, we will tackle customer empowerment, which will play a pivotal role in the evolution of the business process role. Participating in that session will be Bill Band (@waband), Craig Le Clair (@csleclair), Derek Miers (@bpmfocus), and Connie Moore (@cmooreforrester).

We will address the following topics:

  • How can business process professionals contribute to customer empowerment?
  • What approaches can be used to get the business to invest in customer experience?
  • What role does social media play in customer engagement platforms?
  • What is the role of BPM suites in the age of the customer?

So please follow us and join in on the discussion. We’ll be using the hashtag #BPF11. And, if you haven’t done so already, check out our upcoming Business Process Forum, at which we’ll dig deeper into these subjects.


Technology Influences on BPM

I found your article to let me use my imagination for a moment and think about what technology and business processes will evolve to in the near future. There are several areas that are reshaping business, similar to what we saw in the beginning days of the internet. Today we see mobile as a driving force on the edge of technology and in strong demand by the consumer. A shift to an empowered consumer has also caused a change in purchasing behavior. More and more purchases are made online and more of those decisions are made via customer reviews while transacted from the palm of the hand instead of at a register.

This comment was provided by SEO Specialist Dean Vella and submitted on behalf of University of San Francisco. USF offers online business process courses including Applied Business Process Management, Advanced Business Process Management Methodology, and Business Process Management Design & Implementation. To learn more about USF’s certificate programs visit http://www.usanfranonline.com

The death of BPM

By 2020, BPM will be dead, for a simple reason. It will be replaced by BIaM or Business Informational Re-engineering because all processes are dependent on the information that created them and not vice-versa. And because those new kinds of tools are becoming available right now for the first time.

The only reason people do BPM or BPR at present is because they don't know how to do BIaM or BIaR. They study the secondary and hope it will show them the primary. It won't. That's like deconstructing a motor car to see why we drive on the right hand side of the road.

Watch this space...

Will it be BPM or something else

Perhaps a new category/term will emerge, but in the end, managing processes and using processes to manage will continue to grow. Of course the data and the semantics of that data is important. But so is thinking of processes as sets of responsibilities rather than merely activity sequences. Moreover, if you don't put process in the context of customer, then you are in danger of doing the wrong things well.


I see processes as mostly SSS and information as AAA. I'll expand.

Processes usually map activities that are sequential, symmetrical and synchronous, in other words work generally 'flows', is rarely hugely different while it flows and has predictable or scheduled timing for each flow.

By contrast, information is usually asynchronous - you don't know when it will arrive or when you will need it -, asymmetrical - you don't know whether it will be good or bad, major or minor -, and asequential - you don't know what order it will arrive in - lots of bad, some good, some bad, lots of good, etc. This is especially true in service organisations which are the majority of organisations today.

The net result is that it is practically impossible to reduce all informationals to processes. Rather keep them as informationals and adapt activity ad-hoc or real-time to suit the situation. Much more effective.

Information first, process second.

(This is a partial repeat of LinkedIN post about BPM)

Chicken Or Egg Discussion

Actuallly, we could have this sort of conversation at many levels - I prefer to put purpose first.

Derek, purpose IS

Derek, purpose IS information.

In other words, 'Management Information' from managers establishes purpose and defines process. 'Information for managers' from process shows adherence to purpose.

Information first, process second. No chicken or egg about it.

Information = Mechanisms For Coordination, Not Purpose

Well I guess we will have to disagree.

If you focus first on the information, you have no sense of what the information is used for (Purpose), then you are destined to reinvent the wheel you already have. Here's a story to back up the perspective.

In the frothy days of Business Process Reengineering, we heard all about Ford and its $100m invoicing system. It was planned to support the reduction in staff of the Accounts office from 500 to 400 people. Then some bright MBA noticed that Mazda had only five people in their Accounts function (Ford had just invested in Mazda). Taking into account the economies of scale and relative size of Mazda, they should have had around 75 people. The difference was that instead of paying on invoice, the Receiving Department at Mazda checked the delivery against the original purchase order—if all was well, then the payment was processed without an invoice. Ford applied the same process to their situation, refined their purchasing processes and by the early 1990s had reduced its Accounts staff to just 125. And while Ford was at it, the company saved the $100m earmarked for the new Invoicing System.

But the story goes on. Egged on by an army of consultants and numerous HBR/Sloan articles, the rest of the U.S. auto industry followed suit. They realized they could largely do without invoices. So, when one of the major U.S. auto manufacturers went to visit Toyota, the benchmarking team was amazed to find that they only had six people in their accounts department. Somewhat befuddled, they asked how it was possible that such a major business could have so few people in their accounts function. The answer was simple. Instead of getting very good at purchasing (i.e. having to create more effective purchase orders that were matched with goods received), they paid their suppliers when they made cars. Every car had one steering wheel, a given number of doors, a sunroof, and so on. It was up to the supplier to ensure that suitable supplies of quality goods were present at the plant. Sure, Toyota now had to manage its suppliers more effectively and provide them with information access (stocks available, forward orders, and so on), but Toyota had found that it did not need to manage specific orders or invoices.

The moral of this story is that to achieve quantum leaps in business performance, an organization should concentrate on finding ways of doing what is needed, and where possible eliminate the traditional mechanisms of coordination. In short, a company shouldn’t simply follow the paper trail and then automate it. Instead, a company should think carefully about why those coordination mechanisms are needed in the first place and what would happen if they were removed.

What are you definitions of

What are you definitions of :

Purpose: and
Mechanisms for Coordination.


Neels - I am not sure how far this needs to go - in the end, all language can be teased apart. What do we mean by "service"? What does "mean" imply?

When I am describing process as a purpose - I mean the reason it exists. For example, we have a Finance process because we need to make sure that the firm does not go bust, that we dont run out of cash, that we get paid for the things we should get paid for, and only pay for those things that we should pay for. So in a sense it represents a capability, without which your firm would find it difficult if not impossible to operate.

Mechanisms for Coordination: Typically the information and documents that allow participants to operate effectively. They are the artefacts of the process.

Information: Wikipedia says "Information in its most restricted technical sense is a message (utterance or expression) or collection of messages that consists of an ordered sequence of symbols, or it is the meaning that can be interpreted from such a message or collection of messages. Information can be recorded or transmitted. It can be recorded as signs, or conveyed as signals by waves. Information is any kind of event that affects the state of a dynamic system. The concept has numerous other meanings in different contexts. [1] Moreover, the concept of information is closely related to notions of constraint, communication, control, data, form, instruction, knowledge, meaning, mental stimulus, pattern, perception, representation, and especially entropy." I don't think I could improve on that.

Nothing will be the same

The major change will be driven by cloud infrastructure an ubiquity computing and system integration. Execution will be result oriented and data driven. Automation will be supported on apps that allows to execute the task on a self service mode. The user does not need to know how it works. He is sure that will work because cause effect linkage in systems is build in.
Ontologies providing meaning to the data manipulated thus no one needs anymore to learn the company domain and environment meaning and from it's connected stakeholders because is automatically translated into other business environment.
People will be over connected naturally without the need to request for connection.
There will not be anymore information and intelligence. There will be knowledge.