BPM Center of Excellence

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Business Relationship Manager - Product Lifecycle Management, Chevron Corporation

In my last article, I talked about selecting a BPM tool while keeping in mind both the short and long term needs of an organization’s process needs. But as we are all aware, whether we acknowledge it or not, tactical views and immediate implementation needs take priority over strategic needs. People tend to overlook long term process needs while focusing on only the immediate process automation needs. Moreover, while focusing on tactical needs, organizations tend to overlook areas such as process ownership and governance, roles and responsibilities, Service levels, and standards that should be associated with any process initiatives. More importantly these need to be thought through prior to embarking on the BPM journey. A BPM Center of Excellence (COE) can help with all of these areas.

A BPM Center of Excellence (CoE) allows companies to realize a range of benefits through the establishment of organizational structures and procedures to more efficiently leverage and share knowledge, implement consistent standards, optimize resources, and manage central services. A BPM COE can play a key role in order to establish a long term vision, methodical way for approaching BPM initiatives, and achieving BPM maturity. As the name suggests, it’s a center of excellence that sits in the middle of all the process initiatives and is run by senior management. Given the tasks to be undertaken to run COE, decisions to be made, and for securing buy in from various stakeholders, it is imperative that senior management take on this role on full time basis. Below are some of the key aspects of BPM COE.

Governance – Governance deals with the aspect of owning a process i.e. assigning the ownership to a person or group. It may sound straight forward for a small or single departmental process but it gets tricky when the process spans multiple groups or divisions. In that case, determining the owner of the overall process, assigning responsibility for agreeing over new changes are all facilitated and overseen by the COE governance board. RACI charts can be developed for each process and maintained either by COE or by Business. However, COE based on its neutral and strategic position should play a key role in developing these RACI charts.

Project status – COE can also play a key role in managing the status of various process initiatives underway. Some of them might be going on simultaneously and to ensure that they all meet critical timelines and milestones is important. Making sure that the initiatives are completed on time will help maintain momentum, deliver success on time, and in turn create future projects or opportunities. In this case COE plays the role of a Champion and develops the case and secures the buy in from business partners for future opportunities. In addition, BPM COE plays a critical role in working with development teams and vendors to ensure everyone is meeting their deadlines leading to success.

Track value delivered – A BPM COE should continuously monitor the value delivered through BPM initiatives. Simply automating and implementing processes is good but being able to calculate the ROI is critical for business to understand the benefits. Therefore ROI should be calculated and published for each process implemented. This in turn will show the impact of process initiatives on Business in real tangible manner. Only when the value is demonstrated to business will the business continue to invest into technology and understand the true impact.

Process Portfolio – Now back to the long term picture and vision that I mentioned towards the beginning of this article. A COE can work with all departments and create a process portfolio. This portfolio would provide a good understanding of future demand and help plan address it. Portfolio should be created based on mutually agreed criteria between COE and Business Leads. Based on the criteria, a list of processes can be generated and subsequently implemented in the order determined. This portfolio must constantly be evaluated against business priorities and if required changed to address business needs.

Standards – Standards are critical in ensuring harmony and consistency across organization. This becomes even more critical if a Federated COE model is implemented where individual business units model their processes. In this case COE should establish modeling standards that would be adopted by all business groups. After all, the last thing you would want is one group to use one notation and another group use a different notation

Skills – COE can play a key role in building and maintaining skills related to both process excellence related activities as well as for technology implementation. Identifying and training people in skills such as six sigma and others should be undertaken by COE. In addition, building technical skills related to BPM technology is necessary. Once people are trained, the next important thing is to ensure demand and supply balance. Where as in the beginning consultants can be brought in to meet initial demand or to address demand spikes, COE can help focus on transitioning work to internal groups for building internal application knowledge.

Reusable Services – A key aspect of COE is introducing efficiency through reusability. What I mean is that COE should maintain a list of all services being developed along with common services to be used (audit, error logging, etc). This way when a new process is undertaken, a lot of these services can be reused without needing to redevelop them. COE can provide visibility into the services that exist by maintaining a list of these and publishing them to all stakeholders.

A BPM COE can exist in many shapes. From a Federated model to centrally organized structure where key assets, frameworks, services, and tools are managed centrally, organization can try various models. However in the beginning, when maturity is low, organizations should establish a central model where the development team(s) as well as the assets, services, and tools are all part of the same group and managed centrally. Later on once maturity is gained, the development teams can move along side the business group much as in a federated model.

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