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What is the best way to create a BPM center of excellence?

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Several weeks ago I asked How important is process governance is to BPM? and the general consensus was, Very important, with Kathy Long stating, "Governance process should be one of the first processes that are defined in an organization." What also came up was the BPM center of excellence, so what is the best way for creating a BPM COE?

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  • Let's start with what you shouldn't do and that's creating another layer of process administration far removed from the day-to-day issues.

    What you should do is try to identify one or two core issues to which a center of excellence could provide some support. This could be anything from providing advice on tooling and modeling issues to providing help for management on setting up or deploying process governance rules ... and then extend later on.

    Personally I'm all in favour of having centers of excellence, but I've also seen enough examples where it went horribly wrong. The thing to keep in mind is that a CoE depends not only on the available level of expertise but also on the acceptance by its customers.

  • To establish a BPM CoE, it is important have a mix of skills. You need to make sure you have people who can do systems analysis and process analysis. You also need BPM implementation skills as well. This way you can move from theory to reality.

  • It seems 2011 is the year of the Mobius Loop and I'm finding myself posting on subjects that I spoke about last year, so here's a Monday thought: with Social (BPM) creating a wave through the process space, removing silos and increasing collaboration in the enterprise does this mean that specialised and centralised functions like a CoE should no longer exist ?

    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!“

    As a supporter of what the social concepts can achieve from an internal organisational structure perspective I have to side with Max’s view. There are increasing levels of collaboration and communication at stake that involve a lot more people than previously would have been invited to participate, so therefore why create a centralised function full of specific roles and ‘experts’ when what we’re trying to prove with Social BPM is the exact opposite ?

    The two ideals are actually opposed to each other when you think on it this way. So what do we do about this ? There is an argument that depending on the BPM maturity level of an organisation that creating a CoE would still be valid but then it’s lifespan would still be finite once the social paradigm has been embraced and creating another silo shouldn’t really be a goal. What perhaps we need to think on is how Social BPM can create a more fluid entity consisting of many participants rather than purely those with a process background. Innovation and creativity involves more than just singular skills.

    So is the notion of a BPM CoE short lived as we move towards breaking down the internal enterprise barriers with communication and collaboration?

    I’ll stick my neck out and say, Yes…..

  • First let's start with definition and here is mine "A COE is standards and best practices standardized and codified into a framework and repeatable process." That being said, having been an application architect from an LOB contributing to the COE, being the lead architect on a large, centralized COE and, finally, spinning one up from scratch, let me tell you all the ways it can go wrong and, in simplest terms, it boils down (as with most everything else) to execution.

    I advocate a centralized COE where the expertise is radiated out to the lines of business and the clients because good, solid, in-depth knowledge and experience on a given BPM platform is hard to come by. The centralized model consolidates that experience and provides the most bang for the buck in large environments. In fact, I advocate all application development come from that COE and I can think of a couple of models that empirically show it's the better path, but I'll leave those clients' names out of it for the moment.

    What does the operational model look like? Applications/solutions architects heavily versed in the BPM platform allocated 50% to a project at inception, scaling back to 25% as the project proceeds. 3-4 projects per architect, dependent upon the scope of the applications. Systems architects on the infrastructure side allocated to 3-4 projects as well. Lastly, some kind of architecture review board or gating process. If you can't provide me a process model and security model walking into the development environment, the architects will help you before your developers are released into that environment. Coming out of the development environment and moving on to a test or SIT environment, a design walkthrough with everybody - BPM COE, database, middleware, security, server systems - invited to the review. If your app can't withstand that scrutiny, you're in trouble. Finally, before moving on to performance/load/stress testing, a full-blown code walkthrough. Nine times out of ten, on any given BPM platform, a bad app boils down to the design and the code. Hopefully the first two gates largely, if not entirely, mitigate that possibility, but one last final pass with individuals looking at the design and the code and KNOWING what they're looking at is your best bet.

    Sorry for the length and I shot this straight from the hip, but I've BTDT on this issue so many times I have high confidence in the practical veracity of my statements.

    Cheers, Pat

  • Personalities are more important than process in the end. Centers of Excellence that work best are invariably staffed with passionate, energetic problem solvers.

    I just got back from a trip to a large government client with over 60,000 employees. The CoE there is staffed with two of the nicest people you'll ever meet. They love what they do, they have great pride in being able to simplify and automate the processes of their customers. They see the clear linkage between what they do and the quality of the service this critical government agency does.

    Despite the huge burden of bureaucracy and the constantly changing mission priorities they deliver consistently and have turned business process automation into a core competency for the agency.

    CoE's are an organic process and they need to change with the maturity of the organization. At the outset a CoE's problem solving and positivity count the most. When BPM is part of the organization's DNA the CoE needs to be about standards and optimization. But throughout the evolution of the CoE make sure you have passionate people with indefatigable energy for the journey ahead.

  • The best way to create a BPM center of excellence, is to start at the beginning.
    There must be a definition of stakeholders and strategy, including vision, goals, objectives, critical success factors and key performance indicators for the CoE. That strategy must be aligned with all the other aspects of the organization. Based on that information, roles and responsibilities must be defined. Then, there must be an internal skills and capabilities assessment to determine whether there are individuals who meet the criteria set out and how many will need to be acquired or trained.
    Then, it's common sense.
    Most of the time the beginning never happens or occurs as an afterthought. It seems like everyone always wants to jump into the middle, no matter what it is that's being done with process. Patience and planning are the key success factors. Of course, part of the strategy is to make sure that whatever is done fits into the culture of the organization.

  • I agree on the organizational culture part, but not necessarily on the "jumping into the middle part." Why? Because usually the stakeholders, strategy, vision, goals, objectives, success factors, KPI stuff is in the hands of some executive steering committee and practically speaking those guys take FOREVER to get off their duff. In the meantime, there are problems and solutions the LOBs are clamoring for. In this instance I'd rather go Nike and "Just do it," and have a feedback loop from the execution to the governance adjust to the situation on the ground as effort proceeds apace.

    Cheers, Pat

  • If Personalities are more important than process in the end, why bother with process at the beginning - start and continue with Social BPM, which is an oxymoron because a) management is social anyway, b) process cannot be social because it disallows uncertainties and deviations typical to human behavior.

    As Theo said, "Social (BPM) creating a wave through the process space, removing silos and increasing collaboration in the enterprise", Social (BPM) is the waive, it comes and goes away. No social activities can remove silos created by the discipline and regime of isolated process mentality. Want get out of silos, stop thinking in processes (and start thinking in services serving your clients and each other). We are talking about increasing collaboration for years; is it increased? Maybe but as a contra-activity to processes. By the way, having an immutable process (sorry, all processes if designed properly are immutable) is not a bad thing in all cases - there are come businesses where people must be for the process to save other people and allow them to talk about "social BPM"

  • OK, I am going to come right out and say it. "This question is frustrating!"

    I see the establishment of a BPM CoE no differently than any other CoE effort. As Bill Roth said you need a mix of skills - business, analytical, and technical. Kevin Parker mentioned that a BPM CoE should be staffed by people who are passionate about BPM and what it can accomplish. Pat raised the raised the issue that a BPM CoE should not be used to create yet another layer of process and/or bureaucracy.

    These are all excellent points and the same could be said of an ERP CoE, BI/DW CoE, or any other CoE you want to name. Think about any enterprise effort that was successful. It started small and addressed the organization's most significant pain points. It had an executive sponsor who was passionate about the proposed change and who had a vision of the benefits and where the organization was headed. The team had a mixture of skills and was committed to execution. The effort had definable critical success factors and metrics for guidance. Finally there was a transition plan for moving the project to a program (CoE).

    In the overall landscape of enterprise change efforts, I don't think BPM is different.

  • Whoa, lot of "long" comments out here already :)

    All the comments posted here provide a perspective or the other, theoretical to practical to contemporary context. I had written about the CoEs some time back, and my take is that there's no one single best way to create a BPM CoE or any CoE for that matter. It's a function of multiple factors, such as Org size, org structure, culture of the org, Business objectives, IT-Business relationship, positions of power poles, the traditional role of IT in the org, and so on.

    I can't "paste" the picture here that conveys the various flavors and the factors, but here's the link;
    http://ashishbhagwat.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/which-flavor-of-coe-is-right-for-your-enterprise-bpm-strategy/

    There are also thoughts that the importance of CoE has to change with the new ways in which technologies are being used for collaboration, however, there's also a post on the key drivers of a CoE and the fact that in most enterprises those drivers still remain and we need to only tune the interpretation of certain areas differently: http://ashishbhagwat.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/will-social-networking-wave-wash-away-centers-of-excellence/

    CoE as a term has been thrown around so much and beaten to death so many times, some times I wonder if as a community, we should now go beyond the basic questions and address the more advanced and more intricate questions around BPM successes. An interesting question in this series would be as to what role should product vendors play in the success of a BPM CoE (not the project, mind you), or do they have any responsibility at all in the area.

  • I would emphasize on 4 aspects, process portfolio, governance, building standards and user training.

    Please read more, from the below article

    http://bpmstech.blogspot.com/2011/05/bpm-initiative.html

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