Key players in process governance drive better BPM

Editor's Note: In this Q & A, ebizQ's Peter Schooff speaks with consultant Kathy A. Long about roles and structure for effective process governance. Long is president and founder of Innovative Process Consulting and a frequent speaker at industry events worldwide, including ebizQ's most recent BPM in Action virtual conference.

P.S. How important is process governance to BPM?

K.L: First, we need to define process governance because there's some confusion around that. I'd say that governance is doing what's required to assure that the value produced by the organization for the intended stakeholder is the most efficient, effective and flexible that it can be.

When we think about governance, we usually think about compliance, auditing and things like that. So what we need to talk about first is what an organization needs to put process governance in place and then talk about its relationship to BPM.

The first thing an organization needs is what I call a "definition of empowerment." By that, I mean [defining] who can make what decision in an organization with regard to process. Next would be defining the roles and responsibilities necessary to assure compliance with the governance process. Third would be a framework or methodology that people need to follow in monitoring and governing a process. Last would be the creation of a BPM center of excellence to ensure continuity and capabilities that are necessary.

Having said all that, you can probably see that BPM without process governance is almost impossible. [Consider] what BPM is: business process management. I'm not sure how an organization could manage without some sort of oversight or governance in place.

P.S.: What type of organizational chart should a governance program use?

K.L: It will be an org chart that's somewhat similar to what we're used to seeing, with someone in charge. The question most people will ask first is: Where should that [leadership] be placed?

Unfortunately, a lot of organizations put it in the IT department because that's where a lot of the process work is happening. But that's not a very good place for it because technology's agenda is technology, not necessarily the process. The second place people will put it is in the finance organization, reporting to the CFO. That's better, because at least you have business goals and objectives that people are trying to achieve. But it's not the best.

The best place to put process governance, from an org chart perspective, is on the same line with all the other "C's"["C"-level executives]. The org chart would start at the top with this chief person. [Other roles include process stewards, process managers, process architects, process analysts and possibly a business analyst.]

P.S.: Let's talk more about some of those key roles.

K.L.: The most important role is this person at the top because, as with anything, they're going to set the direction. So whatever you want to call that role--I refer to it as the chief process officer--would have the overall responsibility for establishing the framework for process governance, the approval of the standards, policies, guidelines and metrics. [That person] would be responsible for coordinating the resources, setting the priorities for process improvement projects. [Other responsibilities include] working in all the areas of business to ensure the best coordination, then coordinating process management with performance management and change management.

This should be someone who is an executive type, who's used to being at the top of an organization and running a large piece of a business. It really needs to be someone who has a big-picture perspective.

The process owners are going to be people responsible for making sure that processes get improved--either designed or redesigned--and that process performance is being measured. They oversee the overall execution of the process. These are the people whose jobs are on the line if the process doesn't work. They also make sure that change management is in place.

In a lot of circumstances, organizations will have processes that occur in multiple locations, but that are all essentially the same process. So the question becomes: How do we govern that? How do we ensure that it complies with whatever policies or procedures we put in place? The process manager's role helps us with that. The process manager needs to make sure that we have consistency at each of the locations.

Of course, the process owner would oversee the process managers. Then, under that, we've got the other roles I mentioned: the architects, the analysts and so forth.

P.S: What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see companies make with process governance programs?

K.L.: As with anything, governance is not something that organizations naturally move toward unless there's some impetus. [The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, enacted in response to several massive corporate finance scandals] is a good example of that. We shouldn't even need Sarbanes-Oxley, but we have it because people weren't governing themselves. So the biggest mistake that organizations make is not recognizing the value of actually having process governanceó so they just donít do it at all.

The second-biggest mistake is that they consider governance part of their technology group and they put in the IT organization.

Another problem we've seen is not putting into place a really good solid framework for governance. Then there's this lack of alignment [between governance, organizational strategy, process performance and change management].

The last thing that people often donít do as part of process governance is build those centers of excellence to support it.

P.S. What should companies be thinking about to move ahead with process governance?

K.L: If we look at levels of process maturity, [many organizations] are never going to go beyond a Level One or Two on a scale of five, with five being the best, because they're just doing [individual BPM initiatives] and that's it. They're just doing projects and they only have governance at the project level.

The benefit of having maturity in their processes is that it gives them consistency and predictability. It allows them to truly manage their processes. The only way to gain that is by putting process governance in place.

Many organizations will have to go beyond just managing business process as processes, but managing the process of business process management itself. That's really what governance is about. It's making sure that BPM works.

This Q & A was excerpted from a more in-depth ebizQ podcast on roles in process governance. It has been edited for length, clarity and editorial style.

About the Author

Peter Schooff is a former contributing editor for ebizQ, where he also managed the ebizQ Forum for several years. Previously, Peter managed the database operations for a major cigar company, served as writer/editor of an early Internet entertainment site and developed a computer accounting system for several retail stores. Peter can be reached at

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