Business process management (BPM) delivers enormous financial and competitive returns by transforming rigid, inefficient and costly processes to create fluid, nimble and adaptive organizations. The creation of BPM centers of excellence (CoE) directly impacts the level of success attained through BPM initiatives. A recent report from research firm Forrester noted that "almost half (49 percent) of the enterprises that reported clear and measurable benefits from their BPM efforts had a BPM COE in place; only 10 percent of the group reporting mixed results had a BPM COE in place.1
BPM is more than just a collection of technologies; it is a business management methodology that covers how people work with people, how systems work with systems and how the two camps work together. Reinventing business processes is not a single point of destination; it is a journey of continuous process improvement. A BPM CoE is the guiding entity that keeps all required components of the organization in line with the BPM journey vision. An effective CoE includes a process visionary who understands how the processes of the firm currently drive bottom-line profitability and performance as well as how they can be improved. An effective CoE also includes a BPM project manager, a BPM tool expert, an enterprise architect and several domain project experts, who are businesspeople called in to provide expertise on projects in their respective areas.
What is a BPM CoE?
A BPM CoE is a collection of methodologies, tools and techniques used by an organizations experienced BPM staff to improve BPM projects by achieving higher ROI and minimizing the cost of reengineered solutions. The idea is to provide a layer of process maturity over and above traditional technological process maturity. This layer insures that process rigor is introduced into BPM project initiatives, just as it is in other areas of business. For example, process quality assurance in manufacturing orchestrates all the resources organized around production to minimize defects, enhance production schedules and minimize costs. Typically, a BPM CoE will orchestrate people and processes across two departments within an organization: business and IT. While IT departments are usually involved in any technological aspects of the organization, their traditional relationship with business departments has been cyclical, on a project by project basis, with defined start/end cycles. This is the very nature of projects and sponsorship - there is heavy engagement at the start of the project but less during construction and after completion. During that time, requirements always change (because the business units have constantly changing needs), and IT usually views this in the context of projects, budgets, schedules and resources constraints. It is not hard to see why conflicts arise. Usually, business units have to accept continuous enhancement cycles (or enhancement packs) where a bundle of business enhancements are translated into mini projects after the original project team disbanded, the business analysts left the project, or the technology resources or partners are no longer available. This greatly increases the risk and cost associated with process innovation and improvement. Figure 1 below provides an example of a typical technological project (BPM or otherwise).
In contrast, a BPM CoE is continuous in nature. It helps avoid the crests and troughs of regular projects (regardless of methodology used) by ensuring that a governance group exists from all touchpoints of a business process. The constituents are from business units and IT departments with a focus on business process construction and improvement through a thorough change management plan that follows best practices in using BPM systems, BPM design and construction, and BPM transition and deployment among environments ( such as development, staging, production, BPM training and a BPM business support plan). Figure 2 below provides an example of a BPM initiative from a BPM CoE lens.
Why Companies Need a BPM CoE
Business Process Management Systems (BPMS) are now considered mainstream technology for enterprises seeking additional business benefits through technological advantage. These advantages vary from cost cutting, efficiency gains and even system replacement to replenish outdated and out powered technological infrastructures. The process involves commitment from several departments and a dynamic that is ever changing between business and IT. Thus, companies rely on process consultants to take on BPM initiatives of high importance to the enterprise. The project cycle is typically heavy on the professional services component, where responsibilities include analysis, design, implementation, control and execution of the project. The heavy lifting to bring the BPM initiative to fruition is left to experienced and expert process consultants. While this can work, it leaves several components of successful implementations to the process consultants, without much involvement from the enterprise. This can leave a big gap once the BPM implementation is successful and the system is operational and in maintenance mode, jeopardizing the ability to leverage that initial BPM success to other areas and systems in the business.
In many cases, enterprises take on the effort of change management and/or bring additional business processes online without the experience of the process consultants (perhaps relying on the typical product training their team members go through). This usually leads to disappointment, depending, on the maturity of the internal processes, the skills of the available staff, the sophistication of existing business systems and project management practices and maturity. Most organizations end up relying on some external process consultants in order to achieve higher rates of success.
A BPM CoE addresses the need for a unified approach to BPM. Defining the complex relationships between various constituents of the system on an ongoing basis helps govern the process and people competing for resources and time, while ensuring quality in bringing more BPM initiatives online. The BPM CoE is not one-size-fits-all; instead, it is an evolution of best practices and processes as they relate to what already exists in an enterprise. For example, architectural review of the infrastructure - a scheduled meeting where business gets a chance to pitch capacity increases or request impact assessment on systems is typically conducted periodically across every major technology initiative in an enterprise. This works, but it slows down or halts (until architectural group meets again) the speed and nature of change typically available with BPM systems. In a typical BPM CoE process, a representative of the architectural group may be present to play a buffer/filter role regarding differently sized BPM initiatives. This significantly reduces bureaucracy and accelerates business/IT cycles.
BPM CoE Framework
A BPM CoE framework borrows from Six Sigma continuous process improvement and adapts it to the changing needs of business stakeholders from one business process to another. This is important because the process champions might be different during BPM initiative cycles, in that new buy in needs to be secured and objectives clearly defined. A brief framework is outlined below:
- Assess, adapt and promote success. In this phase, business needs are aligned with BPM capabilities, and success metrics are defined.
- Form a process improvement group. A BPM group is defined to own business processes from inception to deployment and to continue through with regular improvement cycles measured against the success metrics. This group will include process visionaries as representations of various process constituents.
- Identify BPM projects and improvement opportunities. In this phase, non-BPM processes are identified and selected based on business needs or candidacy of the overall success plan, and improvements to the non-BPM processes as well as BPM processes are discovered and analyzed.
- Agree on business objectives. The objectives of the business process and the particular initiative must be clearly defined by process owner groups and agreement of all participants must be secured prior to commencing change.
- Secure executive sponsorship. Sponsors and champions play a crucial role after identification of a process selected for BPM initiatives or improvement. Securing buy in and funding as well as providing necessary support to push for success and meet measurable business metrics is essential.
- Rapidly model and deploy. Using a flexible and powerful BPM system, these changes can be modeled and simulated and initial metrics collected for in cycle improvements. The business changes materialize during this phase, with the ability of stakeholders and users to touch the system and conduct dry runs.
- Deploy and measure results. The completion of BPM deployment of a business process and actual usage of the system in complete production mode. Monitoring of the metrics and systems, business activity monitoring, measurement of results against objectives and success criteria, and identification of potential improvement based on actual data enters into a new BPM improvement cycle.
A BPM CoE is essential for enterprises seeking to tap the powerful benefits of process innovation for streamlining operations and improving margins. A BPM CoE brings the advantages of tried and true methodology and adapts them to BPM systems, while also ensuring a pan-organizational focus on the crucial elements of process change and executive sponsorship to get a project off the ground and drive it to completion. BPM success can be achieved without a CoE, but the CoE enables faster BPM deployment cycles and minimizes costly mistakes and overhead associated with typical enterprise development efforts. The CoE framework is flexible and dynamic depending on the business needs and the type of organization implementing BPM. A BPM CoE lends itself to best practices and continuous self-improvement through lessons learned during multiple phases of BPM project cycles over time.
- Ken Vollmer, Gene Leganza, Mary Pilecki and Katie Smillie. The EA View: BPM Has Become Mainstream. 2007 BPM Survey Results: Forrester Research, February 19, 2008.
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