What Skills are Needed for BPM Success?

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Editor & Founder, DBizInstitute.org, BPMInstitute.org & BAInstitute.org
With over 25 years experience building and creating professional communities, Gregg Rock is recognized as an industry leader in professional training and education vital to helping enterprise organizations support their transformation initiatives. His work has been recognized in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, Financial Times, CIO Magazine, and New York Times. Throughout his career Gregg has developed communities, hosted executive networking forums and the formation of advisory boards on topics ranging from IT security and outsourcing to multimedia and Y2K, but is most widely associated with his accomplishments in the areas of Business Process Management (BPM), Digital Business (DBiz), Business Architecture (BA), and Cloud Computing. BPM in particular is a widely accepted approach for designing enterprise organizational and information systems. This focus on process-related skills is creating demand for BPM content, collaboration, and training resources by corporations—a niche Gregg has spent years to fill. In 1997, Gregg founded BrainStorm Group and the network of BrainStorm Communities, consisting of discipline-specific web portals for BPM, BA, and SOA practitioners to network and receive education, professional training online and through live in-person events. This has enabled over 100,000 practitioners from over 125 countries to collaborate and share best practices, online and face-to-face. BrainStorm Communities feature a comprehensive suite of member services including newsletters, discussion groups, blogs, virtual and live events, live and online training, certificate programs, and professional certification. During his tenure, Gregg has produced more than 100 industry events in North America, South America, EMEA, and Australia attended by over 300,000 professionals. He led the development of the Certified Business Process Management Professional program. Harnessing the collective intelligence of leading BPM subject matter experts, this certification establishes an objective evaluation of a BPM professional’s knowledge, skill, and ability. He recently led the launch of BrainStorm's newest Community, focused on Digital Business and Transformation - DBizInstitute.org. Gregg also earned his private pilot license in 1991 and remains an active member of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). When not flying, he’s active in his community and enjoys coaching little league, soccer, and lacrosse for his children.
Faculty Member, DBizInstitute.org and Managing Director, Spanyi International

One of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) on BPM involves the skills needed for BPM success. While most people understand the importance of modeling skills, there’s a lot more involved in succeeding with BPM and it goes beyond skills or aptitude to mental models or attitude.

Earlier this year, Gartner identified 15 skills critical to the success of any BPM project. As depicted in Figure 1, they elected to group these skills into three types of critical competency: transformational, operational and technical.

Image 1

Figure 1. Top 15 Business Process Management Skills[i]

While the list in Figure 1 within the framework of “transformational, operational and technical” competencies is surely a useful one to examine, it may also be worthwhile to consider other perspectives based on factors such as key practice areas and the core activities needed for success with BPM.

As outlined in the BPMInstitute.org article What is BPM Anyway, BPM is a management discipline used to improve and manage business processes, and includes the use of skills such as process discovery, process mapping and modeling, metrics, key performance indicators (KPI), collaboration, decision-making and process monitoring.

Applying the BPM discipline successfully requires becoming adept in the following nine practice areas:

  • Aligning Processes with Business Strategy,
  • Discovering and Modeling Processes,
  • Measuring Processes,
  • Analyzing and Benchmarking Processes,
  • Harvesting Policies and Rules,
  • Improving Processes,
  • Managing the Changing of a Culture,
  • Governance — decision making, and
  • Deploying Technology

The set of skills needed to succeed in these key practice areas include:

  1. Systems thinking
  2. Process discovery
  3. Process modeling
  4. Facilitation skills
  5. Performance measurement
  6. Process analysis
  7. Process design
  8. Rules and decision management
  9. Change management
  10. Governance and establishing centers of excellence
  11. Project management
  12. Technical skills (BPM requirements gathering, designing user experience, optimization and simulation)

The learning path established by BPMInstitute.org and the full list of BPM courses offered reflect the Institute’s experience in building knowledge and skill development in these key areas.

The above practice areas also form the framework for BPMInstitute.org’s certification exam. In order to test that the candidates have the needed BPM skills, the certification exam measures six areas of knowledge that BPMI defines as requisite. Furthermore, some skills have more relevance than others for this level of certification. The examination provides addition emphasis on those areas by assigning more questions on the exam. This is the question coverage map for the exam:

  1. Process Concepts 15%
  2. Process Modeling 20%
  3. Process Improvement (Analysis & Design) 15%
  4. Process Measurement 15%
  5. Process Technologies (BPMN, BPMS) 20%
  6. Process-oriented Enterprise (Roles, Governance & CoE) 15%

Another useful perspective to consider is to examine the skills needed over the life cycle of a BPM project.  Over a decade ago, Dr. Michael Hammer popularized the phrase “think big, start small, work fast” as a prescription for success with business process redesign in his article on The Superefficient Company (HBR, 2001). To put this principle into action, BPM professionals need to select the best candidates for process improvement by conducting an organizational assessment, effectively define BPM projects, measure and analyze current performance, redesign business processes, implement change, and create the environment for process management. When one takes an activity perspective on the skills needed for BPM, the sequence of key skills and the frequency of repetition become clearer. This does not detract from the skills identified by using the competency framework in Figure, it simply represent a different perspective. In this view, as Figure 2 depicts there are 16 critical skills, some of which are mentioned repeatedly (marked with an *).

Activity Critical skills
Organization Assessment
  • Enterprise level process modeling
  • Decision management
  • Organization change management
Project Definition
  • Process modeling*
  • Project management
  • Performance measurement
  • Facilitation
Current state analysis
  • Process modeling*
  • Facilitation*
  • Data gathering and analysis
  • Customer experience modeling and analysis
  • Methodologies and approaches for BPM
  • Process measurement*
Future state design
  • Benchmarking
  • Facilitation*
  • Applying design principles
  • Role/responsibility definition
  • Measures framework design*
  • Implementation plan development
  • Readiness assessment
  • Requirement gathering and other technical skills
  • Project management*
  • Change management*
Process Management
  • Governance (process management)
  • Performance measurement*
  • Decision/policy management*

Figure 2. Critical Business Process Management Skills

While many organizations invest in process modeling training for their people, there is need for more attention to other skill areas such as change management, facilitation, customer experience, benchmarking and governance. BPMInstitute.org offers a broad cross section of <training courses> that address the majority of skills needed for BPM success. In addition, these courses also address many of the pitfalls to avoid as depicted in Figure 3 below.

Assessment Modeling Analysis Design Implementation Management
Assuming that discovery is only about modeling and notation

Starting at the workflow level

Failing to build a process  architecture

Ignoring organizational readiness


Lack of Qualified Modelers

Lack of Qualified Business Representatives

Lack of User Buy-in

Modeling for the sake of modeling[ii]

Failing to focus on a shared understanding

Takes too long – too slow

Issues are not specific – too general

Lack of discipline in prioritization and impact analysis

Premature digression into ‘design’


Lack of vision

Focusing solely technical aspects

Relying on only a few team members

Declaring victory too soon

Lack of attention to implementation

Lack of leadership/guiding coalition


Not establishing a sufficient sense of urgency

Failing to assess organizational readiness for change

Bolting on technology solutions

Not implementing “quick wins”

Not acting promptly to remove obstacles

Relying on the “usual suspects”

Taking a technical and too narrow view of process

Failing to measure what matters to customers

More focus on tools than results

Insufficient communication

Insufficient attention to continuous improvement

Figure 3. Pitfalls to Avoid in Business Process Management

Examining the major pitfalls reveals the importance of attitude as well as aptitude in BPM success. An enduring focus on what matters to customers and ongoing attention to the human side of change are just two of the critical “soft side” factors.

The importance of leading process change also merits attention. Some of the key considerations that BPM professionals may wish to emphasize in this respect are:

  • Looking at the business from the outside-in, from the customer’s perspective, as well as from the inside-out.
  • Linking BPM programs to strategic issues (e.g. market share, growth, customer satisfaction, cost reduction, etc.)
  • Addressing  both facts and feelings
  • Using simple, visually gripping support materials

Success with BPM is a matter of building competence. Moving up the competence curve involves both demonstrating the real value of BPM in financial terms and shifting management attention to a process based view of business. Have you considered the skills needed for BPM competence and how success also demands improved collaboration across departments?

Finally, we encourage readers to access The BPM Skills Self-Assessment Tool. This tool can be useful as an aid in assessing an individual’s current skill level and the current skill level of a Team.


[i]  Gartner, February 2014

[ii] Adapted from 22 Pitfalls of Process Modeling, Dr. Michael Rosemann, 2005

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