Who Shall Champion Process Management?

Scott Francis
Next Post
Previous Post
Ann All poses the question: “Is CIO the Right Person to Champion Process Improvement?” on the ITBusinessEdge Blog:
I’ve written about this idea several times. It’s hard to argue against the need for a chief process officer. Yetmany organizations do not designate a specific function for process improvement. What’s less clear is who is best positioned to fill this role. Vizard writes it “may be the chief operating officer or even the CIO.” I think a good case can be made for the CIO. Because IT touches the entire business, the CIO has a high-level, cross-functional view of the organization shared by few other executives. IT also tends to have more hands-on experience modeling and mapping processes than other areas of the business. CIOs clearly recognize the need for process improvement. They named business process improvement their top priority for 2010 in Gartner’s annual survey.
Honestly, I’ll take anyone at the C-level or just below who is passionate about process improvement and empowered to make a difference.  Having *someone* take the lead is better than no one at all.  And in some organizations, which are heavy on IT to support the business, the CIO may be particularly well positioned (as his or her staff may know many of the business processes as well or better than the business folks who use the software, because the processes are already “encoded” in legacy systems). However, Ann goes further in her post:
Samir Gulati, vice president of marketing for business process management software provider Appian, is another believer that a CIO or other senior IT executive is the right person to champion BPM throughout an organization. Business leaders tend to focus narrowly on the needs of their own divisions and opt for point solutions, he said when I interviewed him recently.
A lot of software companies prefer for BPM to be led by IT.  Why? Because when it is led by IT they can go for the strategic sale:  buy this software and you can apply it to all of your processes that come up!  Many IT organizations look at this a bit like setting up a utility:  we’re providing “electricity” (BPM), so that the business can turn on the lights, computers, etc (improve process). Its a comfortable relationship for software folks to build with IT organizations.  Speeds and Feeds, features, bells and whistles.  Comfortably avoiding too much discussion of business-oriented ROI.  Proving that the current topic is an emerging meme, Mark McDonald of Forrester has written about this subject as well, advocated for an expanded role for the CIO:
Well because no other executive is responsible for the long term operating model and no other executive has the resources that determine company productivity in the long run.  IT is now a significant source of leverage across the enterprise as information spans operational groups and fuels processes, communications connects people and processes and technology offers new service channels and methods. and throng time.
But this doesn’t mean that the CIO is the ideal candidate in most organizations to lead process improvements.  First of all, the most important criteria are not which three letters make up the title.  The most important criteria are specific to the person:  passion, empowerment, and capability.  Put another way, the most important criteria is leadership, and these three elements tie into the ability to lead an organizational change. I believe a broader study of BPM would support the empirical data that we have at BP3 that organizations that lead BPM initiatives from the business generally yield higher ROI, tackle more processes, and roll them out more quickly.  Perhaps the secret sauce is that the projects are initiated out of such a close relationship to a business need, combined with accountability to that same business organization. Having said that, we will take leadership on process over none at all any day.  And if the right person happens to be the CIO, COO, CMO, President, CEO, VP of Sales – it matters not as long as they have the passion, empowerment, and capability. Update: Even before publishing this, Ann has added to her own thoughts on her original piece:
Of course not just any CIO can lead a BPM effort. It would have to be a CIO who is well-versed in the overall business, not one suffering from technology tunnel vision. In addition, he or she will need great communications and change management skills, since introducing BPM requires folks to make fundamental changes to the ways they work. A CIO without those skills shouldn’t be the go-to person on BPM. But guess what? A CFO or COO lacking those skills probably won’t fare any better. Like most questions, I think there might be no one right answer to who should lead a BPM effort. lt will vary from organization to organization, depending on the skill sets of their executives.
This sounds much more in alignment with our own thinking at BP3.