The End of Excellence?

Scott Francis
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Theo Priestley once again has me thinking with this post asking “Is This the End of BPM Centre of Excellence?“:
There are two trains of thought at play. In recent interviews on Redux, Vinay Mummigati of Virtusa said “A BPM center of excellence (COE) is an absolute must for organizations planning to adopt BPM across the enterprise. As companies adopt BPM in more than a single department they often start seeing challenges in terms of standardization, scalability, performance and governance.” And yet there was a completely different perspective taken by Max J Pucher of ISIS Papyrus who stated “…if there is one thing that Social BPM could knock down, it is the Process Center of Excellence and the related bureaucracy overhead!
Ever a pragmatist, I would suggest that inside any firm that can adopt “social” media techniques, the Center of Excellence has to adapt its traditional role.  Instead of being primarily a governance and gatekeeping organizations, the mission should be re-defined as:
  • Providing expert resources for BPM initiatives to draw on – no matter how much participation and spread of BPM skills, there will always be process improvement specialists who have more knowledge and context than the average participant.
  • Providing social infrastructure for collaboration – wikis, BPM collaboration platforms, Sharepoint sites, email lists-  whatever is most appropriate for the organization. Lower the barrier to entry for collaboration among your BPM practitioners, users, and participants.
  • Encouraging and Curating the content generated from “Social” BPM and collaborative activities.  Knowledge workers need positive reinforcement for their participation in social BPM, and with the greater volume of content the CoE’s role will shift to be more editorial rather than primary authorship.
  • Breaking down barriers to communication and collaboration, rather than creating new chains of command and approval.
It isn’t that there isn’t a need for experts-  there is!  But the role of those experts changes from manager-governor to coach-collaborator.  Of course, being an outside consultant, this isn’t a stretch for us to see the writing on the wall -because this is the role we already play for our customers.
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  • Scott, I agree with you. I like your specific recommendations on making it work…

    I have posted similar thoughts… http://ashishbhagwat.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/w

  • Thanks for the mention. As always it’s good to stir up a little debate now and then ;-)

    One of the things which struck me in a recent conversation with a new COO was when I tried to explain the concept of creating a ‘centre of excellence’ and implement BPM his immediate response was “oh, you’re one of those people who like to control everything from one place….”
    Now whether that was because I explained it wrong, his misinterpretation or simply the level of maturity in process thinking of the organisation it made me think about centralisation and Social BPM. The very concepts of social is NOT to have typical command and control structures.

    Whilst I doubt the CoE will go away any time soon, I believe that the framework and implementation should and must adapt to these changing times. Knowledge is everywhere in an organisation so shouldn’t really sit in some single governing body anymore. If we examine earlier comments I’ve made on social enterprise structures, (‘You think your organisation looks like a hierarchy when it’s more like a Twitter map” for example) you could argue that Centres should become Communities or Networks (of Excellence) or even just drop the ‘Excellence’ badge (for that’s really what it is, a badge for folks to wear because they’re in the club). Better yet, just don’t have them because eventually the entire organisation will be one huge centre of excellence, where everyone is connected, collaborates and is aware of process, information and they’re importance no matter what their role is in corporate life.

    Now that truly is a CoE…..

  • Theo- I can absolutely see that happening – there are a lot of “loaded” words in our industry jargon. For some, if you utter the words “Six Sigma” they have a load of stereotypes of what that must mean for them that are negative. For some, same reaction to “CoE” etc. To me, if a COE is doing it's job right, it isn't centralizing control, it is facilitating and enabling – the communities and networks and collaborators that help instigate the organizational learning. But, if social technologies make an official CoE kind of entity obsolete. hopefully it will be because this collaboration and community is happening – and not just because people pull the plug on them :)