Since the emergence of the internet and enterprise resource planning (ERP) in the mid-1990s business executives across all industries have invested heavily in business process management (BPM) initiatives to drive performance improvements.
But today many companies find themselves struggling with the consolidation and synchronisation of piecemeal enterprise applications and legacies.
In a Forrester Research survey of over 100 business process and application professionals, 86% of participants said that poor support for cross-functional processes is a significant or very significant problem. In addition, almost 70% reported that the lack of insight into process results is a significant or very significant problem for enterprise applications.
While this data points to the need for new investments in BPM, it also illustrates why understanding the roles and responsibilities for business process professionals to drive BPM initiatives is so important.
Through research designed to understand how firms need to change their current BPM practices, Forrester has found that there is a broad gap in the role description and capabilities required to carry BPM initiatives.
Taken collectively, business process professionals' jobs and responsibilities are in transition because of the shift from information technology to business technology - largely moving from a traditional IT supplier role into BPM practices fully integrated into the business, and with a heavy focus on increasing the overall process skills up and down the organisation.
In order to improve BPM practices, CIOs must watch for the development of some new role profiles and organise these roles around BPM initiatives running largely outside of the traditional IT domain. These are:
CxO or business executive: "Stakeholder"
Whether the business or IT has primary day-to-day responsibility for continuous improvement and BPM initiatives, the ultimate responsibility for business process improvements invariably lies with a senior business executive. These CxOs are responsible for one or more different business areas, and they may own responsibility for customer-facing processes or cross-functional processes. The "stakeholder" often has board-mandated, executive-level responsibility to drive business process optimisation and transformation projects.
VP of business process improvement: "Change Agent"
The change agent may report to the CIO or a business executive, although increasingly that role has a solid- or dotted-line relationship to both. They evangelise continuous improvement and provide the executive bridge between several business silos and IT. This person is responsible for process governance, and actively manages the firm's BPM initiative from a transformation program. The "change agent" is invariably quite senior, and many are former IT executives who have become much more business focused over time.
Process architect: "Guru"
This is usually a very senior person who reports into the change agent, and is not likely to have direct reports. They may have a strong and lengthy background in a business domain (i.e. supply chain, business operations, or finance), and often has a strong background in Lean, TQM, or Six Sigma. The architect is responsible for coaching process analysts and helping build process skills within the organisation along with applying information management to boost business results.
Process analysts: "Prodigy"
These are individuals possessing both experience and training in process frameworks, tools, and methodologies. The "prodigy" has a unique and instinctive ability to think in terms of process models and process improvement. As a result, they are responsible for modeling and analysing business processes, building the runtime environment for business processes and working closely with information architects.
The evolving business analyst: "Wannabe"
Typically business analysts gather functional requirements by interviewing stakeholders and subject matter experts. They may sit in the business units or reside in IT, and often do the same job no matter where they report. That's where business process improvement comes in: Many organisations are now trying to have their traditional business analysts shift focus from traditional requirements gathering to process modeling and implementation.
Manager of IT business systems: "Operator"
This individual invariably reports into the IT organisation and may have management responsibility for a number of areas, including packaged applications, data management, custom apps, Web sites, eCommerce, and ERP. They have an operational focus, and may even refer to "keeping the lights on" in IT. Although this person may be responsible for one or more BPM projects, there's no overarching strategy of business process improvement.
After identifying your key individuals, make sure these roles are positioned on BPM initiatives running outside the traditional IT domain. Forrester's research suggests that successful BPM initiatives take the following organizational forms:
Corporate business transformation programmes
In many organisations that need to change fast, the implementation and extension of overriding processes and collaboration models is achieved through transformation programmes - many within IT, but with a dotted line to business functions. Organised as clusters of transversal projects and managed by change agents, these programmes focus on the implementation of overriding processes, such as order-to-cash or forecast-to-stock, from feasibility study; to design, technology selection, and implementation; to training and rollout of the support organisation.
Business process centres of expertise
An increasing number of firms establish centres of expertise (CoEs) that help several business units with the deployment of business processes. These act as shared services units, sometimes reaching into 200 to 300 practitioners, usually providing expertise in process methodologies, change management, business process operations and governance. Most of these CoEs emerge as projects during business transformation programs and develop into stable line organisations reporting either to business or IT and aiming to lower the risks and increase the success rates of BPM initiatives. There are a few constants across the different flavors of CoEs, like very knowledgeable process architects and analysts. Beyond that, there are many more competencies that range from managing requirements and technical operations.
Connie Moore is a vice-president and research director, and Alexander Peters is a principal analyst at Forrester Research, where they serve business process professionals. They blog at: http://blogs.forrester.com/business_process.