Best Practice Report: Centralized Governance of Process Frameworks Works Better

Contributor:  John G. Tesmer
Posted:  05/18/2012  12:00:00 AM EDT
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Ensure one version of the truth

Many organizations adopt process frameworks and reference models to re-engineer processes or the organization, in hopes that the standard structure will enable better, more consistent, well-documented performance across the enterprise. Determining how to maintain and govern the framework can be a tricky endeavor. APQC has found that centralized governance structures, processes, and toolkits make the long-term benefits of adopting a process framework possible. Decentralized governance is not the norm among best-practice organizations.

APQC’s Best Practices Report Using Process Frameworks and Reference Models to Get Real Work Done examines how leading organizations use process frameworks and reference models to improve their businesses.

Centralized governance of a framework does not imply that the processes defined by the framework, the content managed by the framework, or the benchmarking capabilities enabled by the framework are all centralized. On the contrary; the centralization of the framework’s maintenance and management enables the distribution of the ownership for those adopted pieces.

Managing an adopted framework without centralized oversight can prove costly, as it is difficult to change the framework to reflect changes in the way business is performed. The consistency often sought by the adoption of the framework quickly dissipates when localized groups make changes without consulting or informing the rest of the organization. These and several other considerations lead best-practice organizations to choose centralized governance.

Creating a Central Framework Management System

No matter where the framework is deployed within the organization or how it is used, centralized ownership and management of the adopted framework is essential. Governance structures should coordinate with the culture of the organization to ensure the maximum utility of the framework while maintaining a baseline set of controls to ensure consistency. This baseline set of controls and governance can be combined in a single management system.

“System” is the best way to describe how many of the best-practice organizations in the Process Frameworksstudy manage their adopted frameworks to maximize long-term value. A process framework management system creates explicit links between independent but interrelated functions, revealing a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Not only did the best-practice organizations realize benefits after implementing such systems, but their framework management systems became almost self-perpetuating. One of the outputs from the use of a process framework within an organization is a continual stream of data that can be used to identify even more opportunities for value to be created within the framework.

Two main practices tend to result in successful centralized framework management systems:

  • build a center of excellence; and
  • develop clear standards for process maps, documentation, and implementation guidance.

Build a Center of Excellence

A process frameworks center of excellence (CoE) is a team of individuals focused on maintaining and managing the adopted process framework to maximize its long-term value and utility. The center of excellence should not be responsible for actually managing the content of the framework; that is best left to business owners with relevant subject matter expertise. The center of excellence should support each of the uses for which the framework is adopted. The center of excellence manages the framework and its various applications/uses, and the process/business owners and other employees perform the work within the framework.

All of the center of excellence team activities should be based on adopted industry best practices in managing process frameworks and centers of excellence. In many cases, a center of excellence for managing the process framework may actually just be a portion of a larger BPM center of excellence. The decision to co-locate the framework’s center of excellence within the BPM center of excellence is generally related to how the framework is used within the organization. Organizations using the framework in more than one area should push the overall framework ownership and maintenance to a single group, located in a place that makes sense in the overall organizational governance structure.

The configuration of a center of excellence does not depend on the location of the framework’s adoption (a CoE is needed wherever the framework is adopted) or the depth of the adoption (whether the organization is totally re-engineering its processes or overlaying the framework over an existing structure). When building a center of excellence, a good rule of thumb is to create the center of excellence in the area of the organization driving the adoption of the framework. If multiple frameworks are adopted within an organization (i.e., one in finance and another in supply chain), or if each division of an organization has its own process framework, then there should be a center of excellence for each instance of a framework.

An organization with a number of centers of excellence (corresponding to a number of frameworks) will benefit from coordinating as a federation of centers of excellence to ensure consistent behavior. If multiple areas adopt a single framework, however, one center of excellence will best serve to manage the framework.

A center of excellence should be sized based on its function and location within the organization rather than the scope of the processes under its management.

As an organization becomes more process focused, it must listen to feedback about processes, set priorities, and learn where to make changes or enhance communication and training.

Process Maps, Documentation, and Implementation Guidance

Clear, concise, and consistent documentation of the adopted framework and the tools used to maintain and support it keeps all process framework stakeholders focused on what is important: the actual work defined by the process framework. Beyond the information about the framework, documents and templates about processes defined in the framework must be standardized, clear, and consistent. All best-practice organizations in this APQC study developed clear standards for documenting processes identified in the framework, defined core work product types, and made models and templates.

Creating and managing multiple tools from a central location helped these best-practice organizations minimize the amount of time spent managing the process framework—allowing them to ultimately get more real work done instead of spending needless time ironing out the framework and process definitions.

Centralized Governance/Localized Ownership

When using a framework to define business processes, the framework itself should be centrally managed and maintained, but ownership of the processes defined by the framework should be distributed as widely as possible. Wide distribution of ownership of whatever is managed through the framework facilitates stakeholder buy-in of the adopted framework. Stakeholders are even more agreeable to framework adoption when they learn that they are not required to actively manage and maintain the structure of the framework, but rather contribute their localized expertise to the centralized management body.

A similar situation exists when frameworks are adopted as structures for content management. The centralized group does not own the documents stored under the taxonomy, but rather manages and maintains the framework itself. Similar to business process definition adoption, content managers participate in oversight and management through the centralized governance function.

Conclusion

No matter where a framework or reference model is deployed within an organization, centralized ownership and management of that framework is essential. Organizations should set up governance structures to foster the consistent adoption of the framework within the organization. These structures must be in harmony with the culture of the organization, while maintaining strict control over the implementation and management of the framework. This control as maintained by the centralized governance structure ensures consistency and enables the framework to contribute to the long-term value of the organization.

For more information, read APQC’s best practices report Using Process Frameworks and Reference Models to Get Real Work Done.  

About APQC

APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the leading proponents of benchmarking and best practice business research. Working with more than 500 organizations worldwide in all industries, APQC focuses on providing organizations with the information they need to work smarter, faster, and with confidence. Every day they uncover the processes and practices that push organizations from good to great. Visit them at www.apqc.org and learn how you can make best practices your practices.

John G. Tesmer Contributor:   John G. Tesmer


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