Business Process Management needs Business Process Analysts rather than Chief Process Officer

About four years ago when the importance of BPM and process management spread to a wider group companies seeking process excellence, the role of the Chief Process Officer (CPO) emerged as an important senior position in organizations. I was among the many proponents of this new role. The rational was simple. Processes are key to the performance of organizations. BPM enables companies to capture the best practices for processes and use the power of software to execute them consistently while at the same time providing transparency, accountability and visibility. However BPM technology is still relatively complex, there are cultural changes that accompany its adoption which can have a major impact on its success or failure, and this change needs to be marshaled from a high level in the organization. The position of the CPO reporting to the CEO was designed to accomplish this.

At first blush the role of a CPO looks like a good idea. However some further thinking, evaluating my own experiences and recent discussions with BPM customers has made me rethink this approach.  My thinking has evolved because of the following considerations:

i.                     If BPM is as important to an organization the top management of the company including the CEO and functional managers must take the lead and become champions and true believers in a process-focused organization. This important responsibility should be delegated to a new role of a CPO.

 

ii.                   Functional managers must become owners of processes in their departments. Their performance and the performance of their department must be measured by the effectiveness of their processes. Functional managers have the most domain expertise in their area and are in the best position to know the business process requirements that will lead to success.

 

iii.                  If a new role of a CPO is created it will add another department in the organization. This will not only add additional cost, but there is a strong probability that friction will develop between the office of the CPO and other departments in the organization. While the CPO owns processes, or facilitates the development of processes, the BPM system (BPMS) still relies on the IT infrastructure that is owned by IT, and much of the technical expertise to make the BPMS technically successful also most likely resides in IT. Likewise, functional managers have the responsibility for processes in their areas and also the domain expertise to make these processes effective. It does not make sense to make the office of the CPO responsible for processes in different functional areas, and yet have management of the functional areas be measured and rewarded by processes which they do not fully control.

For these reasons I believe that functional managers must own the processes in their departments and must be evaluated and rewarded based on the effectiveness of these processes as measured by KPIs that the organization agrees upon. However, while BPM systems are becoming more powerful, their underlying technology is also becoming more complex.  Functional managers need help from IT to cope with the technical complexity. IT on the other hand does not have the business knowledge necessary to understand the complexities of business. So what the organization needs is a new breed of business analysts who also have sufficient process analysis skills. Let’s call them Business Process Analysts, or BPAs. The BPAs should have the following skills and attributes:

  1.         BPAs should belong to the IT organization and report to the CIO, but they should be    assigned to work with specific functional managers for automating business processes that are vital to the latter’s department.

 

ii.                   BPAs must become the bridge between business (functional mangers) and IT. They should know enough about business that they can understand and empathize with the process requirements of the functional areas they are assigned to. They must also have strong knowledge of IT insofar as their ability to understand the benefits and drawbacks of various technological choices. Empowered with the knowledge of business as well as IT, the BPAs become facilitators of business processes owned by the functional managers. They should be rewarded for the success and effectiveness of the processes they facilitate

 

iii.                  The BPAs serve as the bridge between the functional process owners and IT. As the bridge, they must diplomatically play the role of champions of each side and the developers of compromise in case of conflict between the two.

 

iv.                 BPAs must be trained not only in the modeling of business processes, which is really the activity for documenting business requirements, but also working with the functional managers to optimize resource allocation and the more complex art of process optimization using modern BPM tools.

 

The Business Process Analyst will become a vital role in an organization and in the success of BPM. An educational background that combines business and IT skills will provide an excellent foundation for Business Process Analysts to be successful.

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3 comments so far

  1. David Almeida on

    Rashid,

    Congratulations for the site

    I would like to see comments on ROI on BPM. I have read and researched different websites and came up with a lot of nonsense.

    How can you define ROI on BPM if you don’t know the BEFORE and AFTER BPM results of your process? Do you agree that each different process/industry/functional should have a different way of calculating ROI?

  2. Rashid Khan on

    Thanks David.
    I agree with you that is no one way, or easy way to calculate ROI for BPM. The ROI is very dependent on the industry and more importantly the process being automated (its nature before and after the automation). Furthermore one of the biggest benefit of BPM is faster response. In most cases it is very hard to quantify the value of faster response. This is another reason why I recommend that companies should invest in Business Process Analysts (BPA). A BPA with analyticail skills is in the best position to determine ROI.

  3. Andy Groh on

    Great topic and site. It’s ironic that before I found this post I had just read the interview announcing the initial CPO role at Ultimus a few years ago….

    I’m a career tech-savvy, line of business manager who has been often frustrated by the misalignment and lack of support/adaptability from ‘IT’. With all due respect, my honest experience with business analysts (or BPA as is being advocated) is it is very difficult to find those that really get ‘the business’. Plus by playing a subordinate role within the IT organization they will inherently be measured according to IT metrics. I think the point being made in the post is to strive for the business process/IT skill set residing in a single role….with that I am in agreement.

    My hope, though, is that with the advancements in SaaS and other user-friendly, configurable, subscription-based services – more opportunities will evolve for an individual senior ‘business’ person to FIRST drive the process improvement and THEN appropriate technology services to support that process. Maybe this notion of a CPO is more applicable in an SMB environment….

    Finally, in my experience the ‘functional’ managers are not often measured on, interested in, or have the time to step back and redesign processes in their silo…


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