It’s not just about software: Who owns the process?

Flournoy Henry
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It’s clear that organizations are recognizing the value of Process Management in their overall strategy. These organizations are researching, investing, and sponsoring projects in growing numbers to understand, model and implement their processes in a BPMS tool. However, I find too often, the momentum stops there. You have analysts and technologists that help install, build and deploy BPM solutions but what then? Who “owns” the process once deployed? I submit that the business unit should own the process in which they operate; but far too often, the line between an IT-implementation and the execution ownership is so blurred that the BPM solution becomes another asset that IT never lets go of. You see, the growing need for a BPM solution is the realization that to innovate, improve, and accelerate my business, I must understand and manage the processes I have. I need to measure my inputs, resources, and performance in order to make decisions on my capability and offerings. At the center of these points of interest lies my process. How can I accurately pivot my data points if my center pivot point (the process) continues to change without my knowledge? By change I mean, unexpected, un-managed change on the business floor. It’s the work-a-rounds, the “shift to old ways”, the manipulation game many workers and managers play to achieve goals that may frankly be out of date and/or no longer valid. As we embark on process improvement (often necessary for growth), we have to measure current performance and understand the impact of changing the inputs, adding more resources or simply improving performance. This computation is has no foundation if the process we think we’re measuring against is not the actual process in action. Our information is flawed and our decisions compromised. A well defined process is a valuable piece of intellectual property for the organization and when the business decision makers lose site of that process artifact and don’t refer to it when making business decisions, its value drops and the process suffers as a result. Changes may be communicated and enforced without understanding the impact to their process and solutions in place. Metrics become skewed and don’t reflect actuals when process steps are ignored, changed without reflection, or utilized incorrectly.
BPM tools help solve this problem by not only providing the means to model a business process and communicate effectively, but by deploying the model in a run-time, executable environment such that the model not only becomes a communicative device but a managing, orchestrator of the process flow keeping the model itself front and center in the business. However, when this software solution is not coupled with an adequate Business Process discipline, the BPM solution begins to look like another commodity software package managed by IT. This is a path that the business strategists must seek to avoid. Process-centric business training such as Lean Six Sigma helps keep business analysts and managers focused on change that positively impacts a business process at the lowest cost. When married with a BPM tool that can visibily reflect those process efforts and implement that solution, the competivie advantage can be down right compelling; but continues only if the process remains the focal point of decision making (one might argue the fulcrum to achieve leverage on your strategic assets). Remeber, it’s not just about the software, it’s also about process responsibility and stewardship, in order to achieve maximum benefit.