It has been clear for some time that the market for software applications has been changing. "Agile" has become a buzz word in the apps world, with everyone talking about it, a few delivering and many more depending on their tried and tested on-premises apps.

There’s no harm in that really. But Forrester in a recent report has taken a deeper look at the issue of packaged apps and how they might just be holding back the development of your business.

Entitled "Stuck In Cement: When Packaged Apps Create Barriers to Innovation
For Business Process Professionals
," it looks at the role of traditional apps in business processes and try to offer companies ways of assessing whether they are getting the best out of their business processes and apps, or not.

Managing Awkward Business Apps

It seems there is also something amiss in the world of apps, and it’s not just the title of this paper. Apps, Forrester says, tend to be industry-specific, on-premises and aligned with organizational silos where volume, scale and straight-through processing dominate system design.

They are unwieldy, difficult to change, and in companies where quick responses to changing business environments are key to that company's success, create barriers to quick innovation.

However, like everything else in the business process space, even this is changing and, according to Forrester, within the next five years a new generation of “tamed” processes will replace these heavily packaged apps.

They will be designed from the outside in, focusing on better customer interaction with the company, as opposed to current apps that are designed from the inside out, where customer reactions are secondary to the systems’ architecture.

Role of Chief Process Officers

One of the results of this is the rise in status of chief process officers in the enterprise. While probably not many companies at the moment will have someone whose sole function is to supervise processes, this is likely to change as processes become key to achieving business goals.

The chief process officer will become responsible for the management of business process transformation and continues improvement in processes across the entire organization.

In this respect, their biggest challenge will be managing the upward and outward reach of processes across the enterprise, with the principal business focus being to meet customer needs in all major decisions.

As such, their focus will be on deciding issues liken build versus buy, cloud or on-premises, and even cloud sourcing as well as decisions around ERP upgrades.

On-Premises Cracks

But why all the need for this? It seems that while the systems we have been using over the year have served their purpose well, business is changing. The result is a greater need for more flexible systems.

Underlying business processes across the enterprise and individual components of them may have become automated but there are still a lot of manual processes making it difficult to link business capabilities across departments.

The result is poor customer experiences, unmet business goals and untamed processes. While many companies got away with that in the past, they won’t get away with it anymore; companies that are making it, are making it on the back of good customer management and if your company doesn’t provide that, then there are many others that will.

The solution and the future, Forrester suggests, is companies that have addressed their process needs and application gaps not by customizing on-premises software, but by linking best-of breed applications on top of Dynamic Case Management and BPM suites.

Out-of-Control Enterprises

We’ve seen before in IT that if you think everything is OK, then you don’t really know what’s going on. In this case, if you think you have everything under control then you probably don’t even see chaos that is probably all around you at this stage.

Enterprises are losing control of their enterprises to customers that are using social media to evaluate and -- more damaging -- criticize in public your products, or even your enterprise.

While enterprises will try to combat this loss of control by accelerating business change and expanding their use of customer technologies, it’s not going to work. And it won’t work because:

1. Antique Infrastructures

Transaction infrastructures that should be extinct are still being used to drive customer interactions. Those infrastructures need to be fed certain diets of content in certain ways that do not fit in well with agile enterprises.

2. SaaS

The emergence of SaaS will have dramatic effects on areas where process flexibility is essential, precipitating change at a rate many enterprises will not be able to keep up with.

3. iPhone

The iPhone and the iPad experience will impact on the use of business applications as it will create a situation where enterprises and enterprise users will expect the ease of use, configurability, and consumption that they have come to expect with the iPad and iPhone.

Untamed Business Processes

While packaged apps are the backbone of most transactional business processes, they are not the only applications in play. Enterprises often need other kinds of apps to meet their business process goals. The approach to these other processes is often unplanned and haphazard.

The result is that they become bloated and laden with activity that does not add value to the processes: they become “untamed.”

Business process pros must now take a fundamentally different approach to address these untamed business processes because:

  • Packaged apps are not really all that packaged, they take too much time and too much work to show value.
  • ERP upgrade decisions are going to be more difficult and more focused on ROI. CIOs are looking for new business benefits and asking business professionals for help. They are not going to invest in upgrades to functionality the use of which they are already questioning.
  • Customer engagement at scale is now one of the ultimate business goals. Enterprises are now distinguishing themselves by they way they handle expectation of special customer needs.
  • ERP systems today cannot provide “engagement at scale.” They excel at managing the system of record but do a poor job connecting to the customer or supporting the employee pursuing a business goal.

Managing Processes

Citing a survey of 428 business process pros conducted with the Process Excellence Network run by the International Quality & Productivity Center (IQPC), Forrester says that about half have deployed or are developing future-state business architecture.

This focuses on services that deliver value to customers and then organizes end-to-end processes that enable this delivery. This is opposed to current approaches that rely on departments or functions and are normally aligned with packaged apps.

However, consumer technology in the hands of newly empowered customers will drive process-first changes that will:

1. Move from control orientated systems to “tamed” processes; over the next three years these “tamed” processes, or those that are designed from the customer viewpoint in, where the architecture is designed to produce maximum customer satisfaction, will start dominating. Many of these cross functionality processes will incorporate big data concepts, use predictive analytics and depend less on processing events triggered from the system of record.

2. Change the role and responsibility of business process professionals that will focus on consultative and human engagement skills. The deployment of dynamic technologies will see enterprises revising their internal organizational models and cultures, as well as their external relationship models and commitments as well as the IT systems needed to connect all parties. These next-generation systems of engagement will require dynamic technologies to complement the current generation of systems of record to create the enabling fabric of future work. Forrester data on IT spending shows that enterprises are adopting Smart Computing technologies.

3. Put the back office into play for customer innovation which will in turn link the back office with the entire customer experience. The customer experience is the collective interaction across all company departments including back-office operations This will require a combinations of packaged solutions and more dynamic technologies like BPM suites, business rules, and predictive analytics.

New Process Approaches

The bottom line here is that Forrester is recommending that business process professionals must now look at their enterprise in an entirely new light. They must:

  • Be certain that architecture and system decisions are guided by a road map that moves gradually toward an outside-in, process-first approach.
  • They must morph from process geeks into business consultants. Customer empowerment thinking will require more consultative approaches and a wider set of knowledge.
  • Delay major ERP purchases or upgrades by targeting specific value points.
  • Tamed processes require deliberate management action. Bringing the outside-in view means purposeful governance and management.

There’s a lot more to this very complicated issue, but as enterprises become more agile, the need for tamed processes is going to grow and those that develop successful business processes will be those that look to start taming untamed processes now. If you're interested in more you can buy the paper here.