How do you know if you need a BPM Center of Excellence? (Part 1)



Dan Morris
07/08/2013

Building the Foundations for a BPM CoE - Part 1

A BPM Center of Excellence (CoE) helps to govern process change projects in the business. But how do you know if you need one? Columnist Dan Morris looks at the options in the first of a series of columns about BPM governance.

I’ve recently been asked about setting up BPM CoEs in many forums and by more than a few clients. In this series of columns I’d like to start at the beginning and address the fundamental question: why would you even need a BPM Center of Excellence?

Reasons often cited for setting up a BPM CoE include the need for outcome consistency, project effectiveness, and expectation management.

What's the benefit of centralizing your BPM function by setting up a CoE?

So why is this particularly relevant now? Many managers are now reaching the point where they have completed pilots and proof of concept projects, and the use of BPM and BPMS tools is proliferating in their business area and in their companies.

Of course, with the proliferation of a new and powerful approach - coupled with tools that do what we could only dream of as recently as 10 years ago - comes a type of chaos. As that chaos begins to set in, people notice and react.

One reaction is to consider what benefit a BPM CoE and increased control can provide.

So, to start, what is a CoE? As with most things "BPM", CoE has a few meanings. To some it is a Center of Excellence. To others it is a Center of Expertise. To still others is brings to mind a competency center. While the titles vary, these are all fundamentally the same operation - an organization where the company can concentrate knowledge, training, skills, and capability.

In most cases, regardless of what it is called, the group is a type of internal consulting operation that is responsible for selling BPM and Business Architecture concepts and benefits to the business, building and enforcing standards and common approaches/technique use and a common approach to rules definition and cross group collaboration.

The BPM CoE staff is responsible for acting as a coordinator between the business, manufacturing/production and IT to help ensure a holistic view of change. The goal of the BPM practitioner and, thus, the CoE is to deliver actionable change recommendations and to manage and/or govern change projects in the company.

These people are not necessarily experts in your business operation. They should not impose their points of view and dictate solutions. They are experts in change at all levels and in everything that change entails. But, they are not HR experts, or IT SMEs or financial experts etc. They do however, understand all these areas and when and how to get the right SMEs involved.

In this way the CoE consultants act as the orchestrator to insure that the right skills in each group are applied when needed to create the best solution and solution roadmap possible.

Do you need a BPM CoE?

In looking at your need for a BPM CoE consider the following:

  1. Do you anticipate a fairly wide spread use of BPM and BPMS in your business operation?
  2. Do separate business managers have full responsibility for change in their business area?
  3. Does anyone consider process outside their business unit (upstream and downstream) in defining change and implementing it?
  4. Have you invested, or are you about to invest, in a BPMS tool?
  5. Is it important to have a common approach to BPM and BPMS projects among the different teams/people who will work with your improvement or transformation?
  6. Is it important for people to use the same techniques to set up the project, define models, and find business rules?
  7. Is it important for people to obtain the same type of information in each project – build a consistent set of data describing the business operation and its KPIs?
  8. Have you experienced mixed success in your improvement projects?
  9. Are you at the point where defining a common approach/method is needed to help improve improvement project outcome consistency?
  10. Is it time to consider formalizing how the project teams interact with the customer, the business user and others?
  11. If you have a BPMS, you will be governed by the use of a standard called BPMN. Does everyone have the same understanding of what this is and how to use it?
  12. Do you have some project managers who are delivering more consistent results than others?
  13. Do you have project surprises?
  14. Can you formally track all BPM or BPMS projects according to a similar set of tasks, techniques, and deliverables?
  15. Do you need to have an internal group with experts on managing improvement to help others determine how to go about initial change and then continuous improvement?
  16. Is BPMS use driven by IT? Is there a gulf between the business managers and the IT group?
  17. Is it time for everyone involved in midsized or large change to the company’s business operation to perform projects in a similar manner?

While this list of questions is clearly not fully comprehensive, it is a good starting point in analyzing your situation and determining if it is time to start a BPM CoE.

Is a BPM CoE right for you?

The answers to the questions above should be based on fact – they should not be guesses. Find out the answers. Then, to build on this foundation you need to consider:

  • What is it worth to have consistent BPM and BPMS project success?
  • What is the value of being able to change your business operation and your supporting applications fast, with low risk?
  • How much would it help to control the BPM project life cycle and have improved assurance that the right techniques were being used, the right data collected, the models were built right?
  • What is it worth to make certain that the business staff was not just involved, but leading the design and creation of the new business operation – and application generation?
  • What is it worth to move IT and the business together as a single collaborative and cooperative unit?

If based on these and similar questions, a governance function would be of value, you should consider the next step of actually planning and building a BPM CoE.

In my next column I’ll be looking at how you can plan and build your BPM CoE and some common errors to avoid. But in the meantime, what do you think? Have you set up a BPM CoE? Did you find it beneficial?

Read the full series: