On The Importance of BPM Governance

The day after the election seems like a good time to remind ourselves of the critical importance of governance – even in business process management. We must remember that the issue and practice of governance is inextricably linked to leadership and the execution of strategic plans. If we are going to be successful in BPM, we must practice good governance. (Frankly, one of my government clients is experiencing hiccups (to say the least) associated with a total lack of governance so that’s really what compelled me to cover the topic. Still, congratulations to President-elect Obama. May he govern well.)

Good Governance in Business Process Management

What does it mean to govern in BPM? Notwithstanding the management in BPM, governance encompasses several high-level areas of responsibility, any and all of which can make or break your BPM initiative. Phil Gilbert, CTO at Lombardi provides a decent sketch of governance in BPM. I’ll add a few dimensions as well so you have a list you can take with you to your next executive team meeting.

Governance is an institutional framework and formalized approach that defines:

  • what BPM projects belong in an initiative
  • who the executive sponsors can be as well as who the process owners will be
  • how projects become approved
  • the division and allocation of labor (human resources)
  • what the most appropriate measures of performance will be
  • the degree to which projects “fit” the organization’s strategy
  • the manner in which the organization will achieve competency and maturity in its BPM orientation

I would add that governance establishes the rules and conditions around communication and it establishes accountability by addressing the issue of consequences in a way few other bodies can.

Governance can tie BPM to other organizational initiatives in a way that maintains their integrity so BPM is not supplanted by other needs. This is important and speaks to what needs to happen beyond the scope of an executive sponsor in some organizations. I think – especially in very large organizations – an executive sponsor can become overwhelmed and lose control of his/her own initiative (even with the best of project managers). Governance allows executives to elevate their initiatives and put them on the table alongside all of the other executive matters. It empowers BPM in terms of stature and importance. That’s quite positive in terms of the attention BPM will recieve and it can prove frightening for the same reason. The choice to progress without good governance is yours.

Good governance also enables the following:

  • establishing a budget within the organization’s broader budget
  • resolving conflicts
  • assigning technology resources
  • determining future levels of investment according to strategy
  • establishing goals consistent with the strategic plan
  • defining the terms and conditions for democracy within the organization

It’s a simple matter of studying your organizational structure and learning how you can create a Governing Body or Committee. You will also need to study your by-laws and be sure you know who your committee chairperson reports to. That reporting is crucial and is best – in my opinion – if it reports to the CEO. Lastly, bear in mind that there exists a relationship between your Governing Committee and other committees in the organization. Draw straight, solid lines between governance and compliance, finance and others.

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2 responses to “On The Importance of BPM Governance

  1. You make good points. I would add that good BPM governance includes a framework for fully understanding the ultimate goals of the process, and the degree to which the current process is fulfilling them, from the point of view of the ultimate stakeholder (e.g. customer, shareholder).

    I attempt a framework for this in my next book, “Leading Scientifically”, where I introduce a four-category framework to help BPM governance, called the “Cue-See Model”. It tries to provide a holistic, strategy-execution view to finding and resolving process bottlenecks, especially in digitized business processes.

  2. My company recently took on a major effort to further understand and adopt proper GRC initiatives in our business processes. In today’s business world of SOX, BASEL II, and countless other compliance initiatives, GRC is playing an expanding role.

    In the end we adopted a BPM suite that concentrates on GRC through the use of industry specific best practice frameworks. The product is easy to use, and had a number of modules beyond GRC – including simulation and business intelligence supported by IBM Cognos. For all of those interested readers in BPM technology I suggest taking a look.

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