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How important is process governance to BPM?

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Very simply, how important is process governance to BPM?

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  • Governance is important. You wouldn't be happy with ungoverned inventory control data, accounting information, or software code so why would you be happy with the DNA of the business - process documentation - being ungoverned.

    For some industries governance is not important, it is critical. Pharma and the food companies are governed by the FDA. The banking industry is regulated by the FSA. Both the FDA and FSA recognise that processs content in MSOffice or some other ungoverned mapping tool is unacceptable, hence the increase in usage of process repositories. But some estimates suggest 80%+ of companies rely on MS Office (Visio, Powerpoint, Word) for process documentation. Scary.

    So if you have ungovernered process documentation, how can you be confident that you are automating the correct processes. All BPM activities need to start with a solid foundation.

    At Nimbus we have been mirroring the software development approach when looking at governing process documentation. You have different versions of the process model; production, pre-production/test, development. There is a formal sign-off to move between these different states.

    Here the business can learn from IT. Process documentation in MSVisio or Powerpoint and then stored in Sharepoint is not necessarily governance. It is more subtle that that. There is version control, audit, sign-off, review, notifications that all required to make the governance cycle manageable and not a nightmare email or paperchase. The interleationships between the different diagrams and attached files in the model need to be controlled. And what about multiple language variants of each proces diagram. Make it too difficult and it won't be managed.

    Some of you are say that it is unrealistic to control to this level of granuality, but Fortune 1000 companies ARE this complex, and they are driving the requirements.

    So either do governance properly or not at all. You are either in control or not.

  • The governance should be as visible and transparent as the process itself.

    Without a proper governance structure in place you have

    > no ownership,
    > no means of challenging the validity of the process or fit to the organisation and it's goals,
    > regular review cycles,
    > no structure on how to implement a process change against the rest of the business process architecture...

    A BPM strategy without process governance can count as another "costliest BPM mistake" as asked previously here.

  • The governance process should be one of the first processes that are defined in an organization.
    Governance isn't just about coordinating process models and the information associated with them. It's much more than that. It is about ownership, review cycles, etc. In addition, to those things in Theo's list, are all the strategic issues that surround processes.
    An organization can't have Business Process "Management" without managing. Governance and management go hand in hand. The governance process provides all the direction and guidance for everything that is related to process, which means everything in the business.

    Without the governance process, an organization is just doing "projects". The process as a project problem has already been discussed here.

  • Kathy

    Excellent point from Kathy. Sadly most organizations are too keen to "start mapping stuff" and "getting results" that they don't get the structure and governance in place.

    Once governance is in place, then they can go faster.

    But early stage, process-immature organisations do not and cannot see the benefits of governance.

    I wish more clients listened to and thought like Kathy .

  • Governance relates to decisions that define expectations and verify performance. In most organizations governance is part of management or leadership processes. Governance communicates consistent management, cohesive policies, guidance, processes and decision-rights for application across the organization.

    BPM is a strategy for agility, transparency and sustainability. Business Process Management is a management approach focused on aligning IT and business processes with the strategic goals of the enterprise.

    Governance facilitates the needed control of processes to insure effective management of organizational business processes - BPM. Because governance is control, it further facilitates quantity and quantitative measurements.

  • My experience mirrors this, and the resistance of organizations to get a good governance structure in place. Especially in highly regulated organizations, governance often means policy and procedures documentation, and that results in a lot of consulting time spent writing documents that nobody wants to read or review. It can seem like wasted time with an ever lengthening ROI.

    As Ian and Kathy say, governance can make subsequent projects go more smoothly. I'm an advocate of getting a quick win under the belt to prove the value of BPM, so I don't always see a series of 'projects' as an evil thing. Though sometimes you have to accept that there will be some rework afterwards. With an expert process improvement practitioner running the show, his or her experience can guide even standalone projects into a structure that is meaningful and can be governed better in the future.

    A process practitioner, architect or whoever with a guiding hand over projects, in conjunction with at least a minimal project management office (PMO), can help a lot of things move forward sensibly, while an organization grows into a governance framework that suits them. And the ROI doesn't get hit so hard up-front.

    This is just my experience. The same has been true in enterprise content management projects as well, and forming silo'd governance frameworks can be almost as damaging as having nothing at all.

  • By applying BPM (as a discipline for managing an enterprise by processes) the enterprise is actually creating its own BPM system (a portfolio of the business processes of an enterprise, and the practices and tools for governing the design, execution and evolution of this portfolio) maybe even without any BPMS (i.e. BPM technology).

    Any BPM system comprises many (in addition to processes, per se) interdependent artefacts (rules, roles, events, services, KPIs, audit trails, data, etc.). The modification of enterprise to accommodate typical changes in policies, priorities, technology, laws, etc. necessitates the modification of some artefacts, and the relationships between them, simultaneously as a complete system. So, the governance of such a complex system is just mandatory (e.g. see http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.com/2011/01/relationships-between-ea-and-pmo.html ).

    Fortunately, a properly architected BPM system considerably simplifies its governance because of making explicit static and dynamic dependencies between artefacts:
    1) Process is an _explicit_ relationship between different artefacts thus making traceable the potential effect of changing of an artefact.
    2)Processes can be executable (of course with the help of a BPMS) thus enabling to anticipate the effect of changes and to shorten the improvement cycle.


  • Governance is great in many aspects except one: it's not lean. And lean is a good thing, too.

    Which one shall be preferred? I believe there is no one-for-all answer but my gut feeling is that most customers would vote for lean, especially in today's economy.

    Besides governance is more cultural issue than BPM in general. And organization culture is very conservative thing, meaning that in most cases you either take it or leave it - there is very little you can do to change the culture in short or even mid-term.

    The bottomline: try to seed some governance into an organization with lack of governance culture but also be aware of too much governance at too early stage. In any case, one must deliver either with governance or without.

  • Just as important as {Enterprise Architecture, SOA, Cloud, xyz} Governance. Principles, standards, and processes need to be defined and adhered to in order to maximize any benefit from a BPM investment.

    For example, the need to have a rationalized/optimized business architecture model is crucial. Otherwise one is "paving the cowpath". We talk about application portfolio rationalization where we eliminate duplicate applications based on business function.

    This type of approach can be applied to the elements of a business architecture (BPM). And this type of approach, along with other practices, need to emanate from a solid governance framework.

  • I think we are covering two topics here: governance around a BPM Center of Excellence (BPM-COE) and how BPM solutions apply/implement governance in/around/into a

    As I recall, we covered the idea of a BPM COE a few weeks ago on this blog.

    But the approach to using the BPM COE as the framework to drive process governance into a BPM solution is an interesting angle, as governance and a governance framework are key to making BPM solutions pervasive and not one offs.

    Mr. Gotts makes a great point that BPM projects need a solid foundation and that documentation and models captured in a word processor, spreadsheet, or drawing package is not the way to lay this foundation, but I would propose that a BPM modeling or process documentation tools are also not the right place to start. These tools are simply too limiting and narrowly focused to do the job.

    In our experience, a good governance foundation is laid by clearly capturing and communicating the non-process elements/requirements that are critical to governance. These would be the goals, metrics, organization structures, communication channels, and information flows that cut across all processes. Standard modeling tools are just simply not designed to do this. The process flow only captures the ‘how’ without capturing the ‘why’, ‘who’, and ‘what’ of the process.

    Our customers that have bustling, high-value BPM COEs use a Business Architecture tool to capture/model these non-process elements in a way that they serve as a governance framework for process projects. Organizations, roles, and people are mapped as responsible for a give process or activity. Information models show what are acceptable inputs and outputs for activities. And most importantly, goal and metrics models clearly show what types of measurements a process must be instrumented with. This framework can be used across processes on an enterprise scale.

    Someone once said “governance starts with guidance,” which I believe is really true. Process analysts and BPM developers will build processes that can adhere to strong governance models if these models are captured in an easy to use, and more importantly, easy to consume format.

    A customer in a regulated industry might bolster/jump start capturing these non-process elements by starting with an industry framework or reference model.

    So yes, process governance is key to BPM as it aligns results with goals and expectations in a predictable and repeatable fashion…while allowing organizations to achieve nimbleness without a loss of control.

  • The percentage will be in direct proportion to the complexity and maturity of the business. If your business is immature, the implementation will be difficult, but due to the prior lack of process, you'll notice huge gains. If you business is mature, you may find improvements, but not ones that will save your business.

    That said, there are no rule-of-thumb numbers to be used, since all businesses are different. For example, consider a generic process that everyone has: "Process Order". This process is radically different if you are a consumer business which processed credit cards, or an enterprise B2B company that takes purchase orders. Your Mileage will always vary.

  • Kathy points out a very important aspect - "governance process should be one of the first processes that are defined in an organization".

    Typically companies deploy objectives and initiatives across the business units on a functional basis and people have a natural tendency to only worry about what is required from them inside the departments sphere, because their effort, the benefits and the wages are measured regarding this perspective. Also because we humans are too lazy to want to go further when there are objectives that are cross functional. Few have a intra department entrepreneur attitude.

    Is also true that in companies where culture enables decentralized creation of improvement efforts - typically organized using a matrix structure - the governance factor in not so important because these kind of approach by it's nature is an independent governance model (these companies are executing projects all the time), but in companies where these kind of organizational model does not exist process governance is important.


    First, governance should clearly ensure alignment between strategy and the impact that have in business processes that must be adapted over time, again and again. As a result the governance council must define improvement projects to be implemented in business processes. This sense of urgency is key to lead people to what is important to change inside the company.

    Secondly: A governance council should enable creating an organizational model to manage business processes: a Process owner and a process team responsible for process continuous transformation.

    This formal assignment does not create a new bureaucratic org chat. It is give enough rope to accelerate change and make them accountable for results.

    One of the most important roles of a good Process Owner is making people to work for results the process must achieve instead of making peoples believe that every day what is important is show up on time to work.

    The Process Owner plays a very important role in change management in companies where people respond to other functional director blocking improvement effort or process progress, because it does not recognize Process Owner authority to define how work should be done or what are the priorities in everyday tasks.

    Third: Review progress integrated in the strategic reviews. I mean when the board is reviewing figures it must translate into a process perspective and start all over again.

    Companies that implement a governance model disconnected from the strategic cycle are in fact creating another level in the organization chart and induce bureaucracy and this should be avoided.

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