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Who Should Lead a BPM Project?

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As Tom Allanson says in his blog, In BPM, "B" Stands for "Business," Robert Mitchell of Computerworld asks, "Who should lead a business performance management project, IT, finance or both?" What are your thoughts?

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  • Thanks for the mention, Peter. I look forward to a healthy discussion.

  • Tom

    I'm confused: Robert Mitchell talks about Business *Performance* Management and you arguments are about Business *Process* Management.

    • You are accurate in pointing out that there is a difference between Business Performance Management and Business Process Management. I certainly did not intend to create confusion. The use cases in the referenced article all talk about arguments for process ownership by either IT or business users. My point is that in organizations with large projects (like the one described) that require process reengineering, change and technology, that just because technology is included (and a critical element of the project) does not mean it should be led by IT or jointly led by IT. The project should be led by the business or function with the most at stake with the outcome.

  • Basically I agree with Tom's blog article: B is for business. Many IT people use the term BPM as a glorified name for application development. These same people often view a person as simply another kind of processing unit that transforms inputs into outputs.

    So I figured this must be a slam-dunk: business should be in control. But it is not so easy. I see the relationship more that that exists between a movie director and the photographer. Clearly the movie director say what is supposed to appear on the screen, in what order, etc. But the photographer has to have a role in saying what is or is not possible to actually capture on film. Clearly they need to work closely together, but at the end, it is the director how says "cut" and determines what is in the final product.

  • I think Keith's hit it on the head. IT can't go away - for one thing, many businesses have a lot of business operations captured in IT systems...which makes IT a SME on those areas. But Business needs to be driving (directing is a pretty good analogy to explain this role)


  • To start, I agree with the previous posts but have a follow-on query: Why does this question of ownership vex the BPM community so greatly? And, why is BPM thought to be so different from other types of technology deliverables?

    Excluding technology companies where the CTO often doubles as the chief product manager, shouldn't technology always be lead by the business? Indeed, if your IT department is busy developing applications that don’t serve the business or are not understood by the business, then you are probably wasting your money.

  • The answer depends on what do we mean by BPM.
    There are at least two different views:
    - For some of us BPM is an umbrella concept that covers all methodologies and technologies helpfull in various aspects of process management. From this viewpoint a pure technology project e.g. webservices orchestration within a software application is BPM, too. It's quite natural for a BPM project like this to be led by IT.
    - For others BPM is a consistent set of methodology, technology and implementation principles that has been formed during last decade. Business-IT collaboration is the keystone of this concept. Now how can we reach such collaboration? Obviously IT cannot command business hence a BPM project led by IT is doomed.
    I personally like the latter definition. But facing the fact that respectfull specialists prefer the former one, I decided recently to use two diferent terms: "BPM in the broad sence" and "BPM in the narrow sence".

  • Business should “own? BPM projects but not necessarily lead it. There is no “one size fits all? to managing BPM projects.

    BPM projects differ from other enterprise application projects like ERP or CRM in their scope and objectives. ERP solutions are to a large degree driven by financial objectives and there is generally a well-established set of implementation methodologies that comes with the solution (even through you pay through the nose for the ERP implementation service provider to use these methodologies in your business). These methodologies are based on the experience of “like? or similar projects. It includes everything from the business reviews and JAD sessions to the configuration of the hardware and infrastructure. Roles and responsibilities are generally clearly defined.

    We don’t have the same advantage in BPM. Almost every project is different. It is done for different reasons. These may include compliance, cost saving, customer service improvement, productivity improvement and lately to provide support to knowledge workers that don’t necessarily work in the structured environments such as ERP etc. Managing these projects requires a different approach to that we know in, for example, the ERP domain. Shenhar and Dvir proposes a “diamond framework? in their book "Reinventing Project Management: The Diamond Approach to Successful Growth & Innovation" to project management. It is based on four dimensions : Novelty, Technology, Complexity and Pace (NTCP). Each dimension has 3 or 4 levels along a spectrum. They classify all project based on goal, tasks and environment. It is a really useful approach to assess the project risk and determine the composition of the team that should deliver the project. This approach also provides some guidance on who is better suited to lead a BPM project. BPM project success is multi-dimensional with multiple viewpoints.

    There are scenarios where IT may be best equipped to lead an BPM project (based on the NTCP model) but business should always own the project as they are the real beneficiaries and should be in control of their destiny.

  • Let me describe about BPM (Business Process Management), but I think the all three BPM are related*1). At the end of the day, I highly likely define outcomes of BPM projects in machine readable forms, any combinations of BPML, BPEL, Java, xml, html, ABAP, any ERP setups, any kinds of SQL, or whatever.
    I believe that we do any BPM projects to streamline end-to-end business processes, to achieve better process productivity, visibility and quality. End-to-end means, for example, "lead generation to cash" of goods/stuff, services and/or projects. I have been working in my home country Japan, hence your situation can be much better than me.

    Then who should lead BPM projects? None exist, but a team of people can be developed from kings of LOB (Line of business) islands, including IT. (Those kings may not be LOB top management. With or without authority, there are kings, LOB people respect.)

    Why a team? What I have seen are that LOB people care about their businesses only, cost accounting people care about cost accounting only, finance people, IT people,,,, But to streamline end-to-end processes, we need to discuss and define the all aspects in one basket. Without IT presence, people often forget about how detail and precise they need to define processes, so that those can be converted to machine readable forms.

    Why LOB kings? They are needed to analyze important exceptions and to enforce compromises. There are always a few % or more number of important exceptional process routings, like Ms. A’s magic customer number 99999, Mr. B’s magic product number 11111, etc. LOB kings likely know how they are working around existing systems on daily basis. Without considering those important exceptions, who can streamline day to day business processes? And the team’s most important role is to reach compromises and enforce those compromises in their islands. As far as I have observed, only LOB kings can do this.

    Note *1) Business Performance Management (BPM2) and Business Process Modeling (BPM3): If I spend money on BPM2, I have better business processes through BPM projects, sooner or later. Also BPM includes BPM3, to capitalize investments in BPM.

  • A BPM project, targeted at Workflow-organization (thus, pertaining to the stratum of social automation) is always about Computing-technology transfer, according to my understanding.

    Since the first 'half' of this transfer, from Computing-technology to public collaboration, is fully achieved with the Public Web of today, only the second half, transfer from Web-technology to corporate collaboration , Web-technology transfer (leading to what may be called 'Corporate Web'), is an issue.

    As explained on my Website (www.mastering-it.com), I propose to perceive the process of Web-technology transfer as a five step-procedure, involving

      -  Enterprise Architects (→ respective Biz-model)
      -  Enterprise Leaders (→ approval of Biz-model)
      -  IT-Architects (→ IT-model)
      -  Application Developers (→ enterprise application)
      -  Application Users (→ experience and mode of usage of application).

    Who is the leader in/of his procedure? Leader in what sense? You tell me!

  • Whoever has budget money.

    Seriously, the project should be led by the business. Looking at this from a Lean Six Sigma (LSS) perspective, lots of IT projects should be spin-offs from an existing LSS efforts to tweak some KPI/metric in the business. My COBOL professor from college told me "IT exists to support the business." There is no reason that a BPM effort shouldn't be ran by a member of the business. And whether that is possible or not, there should be balanced participation across IT and the business to ensure success.

    • Eric,

      Reading the project should be led by business reminds me to Oracle's (or any other IT-vendor's) sales events for BPM-Suites, where I am told, I should not start a BPM-project without strong support by someone of the Top Management. Who then, most probably, will be neither willing nor capable of leading the respective project. So what?

      Seriously, should BPM-projects finally be led by that very authority, who can lay down a norm on who should lead BPM-projects? And if that authority does not exist, should BPM-projects, raising the BPM Forum Q, be led by nobody? Should they be abandoned?

  • Hi Peter

    This is a feedback to your question, "Do BPM projects differ from other enterprise application projects like ERP or CRM in their scope and objectives?"

    From my perspectives, Yes those are different. But I see ERP, CRM, SCM, even engines of Workflow, Business rules or Business processes are equally possible components of BPM projects.

  • I see many of the usual suspects have weighed in already - our research certainly backs up the perspective that BPM projects are far more successful when led from the business.

    And indeed, when you ask the question "Who has the chief responsibility to drive process improvement at your firm?" only about 1 in 5 say IT (CIO or BP Improvement Exec reporting to CIO).

    I think putting it more succinctly - when BPM initiatives are led by IT, they are less sustainable. And putting my own perspective on it - "BPM is of the Business, For The Business, and By the Business". I like Keith's analogy above ... of course, IT has a role. But it is an enabling one.

  • IMHO, the answer to this question is 'it depends'. True, business needs to drive BPM, but it is all very contextual. A lot would depend on the nature of the project, the culture in the organization, the role traditionally played by IT in the firm, and so on.

    But let us be cautious while taking these stands - the key thing about BPM is not always about change of guard or who leads, or who becomes redundant, but in the way it can help reassign responsibilities along the project lifecycle - it calls for business participation - sure, but does not purport to diminish IT participation: only lets them focus more on what they do best.

  • Kengaku, I like your LOB kings. I am asking myself, why only in case of emergency (exceptions) they should step in. Why not leave them the whole BP-project, arguing that quite often there are, anyway, more 'exceptional' than 'as-should-be' situations.
    Could be something like: Provide LOB-kings with the minimal framework, they need to bring in their expertise, no more - as little process specification as possible.

  • It would certainly be nice see every organization have the time and resources to put together a "BPM team" that would explore and push process improvements across departments but that simply is not the case. The alternative is to have department level process owners (business) define, manage and improve their own inefficient processes. Of course, there might be a bit of IT involvement depending on the nature of the process (integration) but even with some level of integration and interdepartmental process requirements, 80-90% of process configurations can be achieved by the process owners themselves. IT may need to step to help with the remaining 10-20%. Or maybe not at all. Good BPM can and should be driven up and out from departmental success and by the stakeholders of the processes.

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