Careful change management can help ensure BPM success

If there’s one thing that’s constant in business today, it’s the need for change. But as any business or IT executive knows all too well, a badly managed change can have devastating consequences.

That’s why effective governance is so critical to change management, especially where BPM is concerned. Among the biggest issues that BPM specialists must consider in process-improvement initiatives is simply deciding who’s in charge of what—and who’s really driving each project.

Every change initiative should involve at least three key groups, says Andrea Evans, a manager with MorganFranklin, a business consulting and technology solutions company. They are:

• Executives and senior managers. This group leads the effort, serving as the leaders for change and the “voice of change.” Others will model their attitudes and behaviors based on this group’s activities.

• The project team. This group manages technical activities related to the implementation of whichever technology or process is changing.

• The change team. This group formulates the change management strategy and supports the other parties throughout the process.

Every process, data element and artifact should have an owner who is a subject-matter expert, says Robby Slaughter, principal at Slaughter Development, a consultancy that focuses on organizational change.

“The responsibility of the [subject-matter] owner is to be the champion for their domain throughout the change management process. That way, every part of the organization, no matter how small, has a voice,” says Slaughter. But don’t fret about exactly who owns what--at least not initially, he adds. “When two people realize that they own overlapping areas, it's easy to have a conversation to decide who lets go. It's much easier to claim too much and then back away than to realize that you've left crucial areas uncovered.”

The more contentious question, he says, may be the toughest issue for BPM: Who actually drives the change effort? Every group—management, IT, sales, customer support and others—will probably want to have final authority. But in Slaughter’s view, the best solutions are those in which everyone reaches consensus. “If anything, groups need to establish a voting process so that representatives can report back that they made an effort,” he says.

However, putting one individual in charge, or at least in a chairperson role, is a vital component, says Elise Olding, a research director at Gartner Inc. “I think you need somebody, perhaps a business process director, who would be quite adept at organizational change techniques,” she says.

That person should be able to ascertain what kind of changes are happening, what mechanism those changes are using, how to measure their progress and how to determine when it’s time to move on to the next process step. If everything seems to be in alignment, the director can also determine whether process participants are ready to move, too.

When you implement a BPM solution that cuts across functional silos, that can stir conflict, says Stuart Chandler, director at Virtusa, an IT consulting and services company. “The back office might feel you are taking control away from them,” he says. “And if there is any shift in control or functions, you need to make sure it will be handled as well, or better than, it is now.”

Bottom line: Someone needs to view the process from end to end, then work closely with the various departments or groups to ensure make sure that the solution is correctly aligned with policies throughout the enterprise. “The turf-war issue is more of an organizational question,” Chandler says. “The BPM implementation raises your visibility into what is being done and the effectiveness of what is being done.”

Another reason for having a solution owner—that person who understands the solution from end to end—is that BPM institutionalizes your processes, making them part of the fabric of your organization. Chandler takes pains to emphasize that while a “bits and bytes” employee can be helpful in this role, it’s typically more important to have a solution owner who understands and can help set the boundaries and who can quickly pinpoint problem areas in organizational processes. That point person can—but doesn’t have to—hail from the operations side, he adds.

Enterprise-scale projects require a top-level solution owner—someone at the C-level, he says. But for a divisional project, or in a mid-size or small organization, the point person can easily come from lower in the ranks.

Meanwhile, you may need to resolve other ownership issues, such as who owns the front office, who owns clients and even who owns the books, Chandler says.

Not surprisingly, there’s plenty of overlap in change-management roles, says Chris Sanchez, vice president for business solutions and CTO with PointSource LLC, a technology consulting firm that specializes in business process optimization.

“You have change agents who can come from many parts of the organization, [but they are] most effective in terms of impact and responsibility when they come from among senior line-of-business executives or others in executive leadership roles,” he says.

Change agents must be committed to making the transformation—and they must be able to handle some pushback: “Because of changing economic and business environments, there is a lot of pressure,” he says. At the same time, he adds, change agents must be firmly rooted in reality: “They need realistic expectations of what they can do and the value of those goals.”

READER FEEDBACK: How do you handle change management in your BPM initiatives? We’d love to hear about your best practices and your lessons learned. Please e-mail Site Editor Anne Stuart at

About the Author

Alan Earls, a journalist who specializes in writing about technology and business, is based in the Boston area.

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