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"Part of governance is to build a best-practices guide," Richardson says. A guide might include selected best practices such as setting standards for new BPM projects and for prioritizing among projects. Its recommendations must both reflect leadership support and address business and IT concerns. Says Richardson: "That's a critical piece that is also missing in a lot of cases."

Setting up and exercising governance properly involves more than simply jotting down modeling frameworks and general advice. It's also a demanding organizational task that requires not only people who have clear responsibility for specific deliverables but who are also empowered to act and enforce, warns Thomas J. Olbrich, co-founder of the Taraneon Consulting Group.

Many companies want to be seen as having process governance, but in too many cases, they don't actually undertake any governance activities, Olbrich says. He cites numerous reasons for that imbalance.

For one thing, starting a BPM initiative completely from scratch is rare. "In most cases, you will already have your processes in place and afterwards you put your governance on top," Olbrich says. "This will either be a lame compromise, so as not to be disruptive, or it will be so abstract that it doesn't serve any real purpose."

Another issue involves determining which processes will be subject to governance. "What we tend to see is that where governance is established, it mostly concerns process operations and does not extend to the early lifecycle phases of design and implementation," Olbrich says.

That fact may reflect the perception that governance generally viewed as a stable, or even rigid, instrument that's difficult to apply to the more volatile and dynamic development phase. In fact, the pre-implementation process that Taraneon does in its Process TestLab is an effort to exercise governance over design, Olbrich says: "It seems to be what a growing number of companies feel is missing."


However, simply having governance without being able to apply it—and, when necessary, enforce it—will ultimately prove futile. "The way to exercise governance is tied to the demands and requirements of the processes," Olbrich says.


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