Critical steps to successfully launching a BPM Center of Excellence (Part 7)

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Dan Morris

Building the Foundations for a BPM CoE – Part 7

This column concludes my series on creating a Business Process Management (BPM) Center of Excellence (CoE) in your company. In the series we have looked at determining if a BPM CoE is right for your company, what it could do, some of the things that can help make it succeed, staffing suggestions, and more. We have also looked at the way a BPM CoE can support the use of a Business Process Management Suite of tools (BPMS) and some ways this can drive a change in how a company can operate. In this column we look at launching the group and beginning to help the company optimize its use of BPMS supported BPM.

Planning and Launching your BPM CoE

Finding your way through the maze is never easy

Launching an organizational unit is different than implementing a project or redeploying an improved business organization or process.

It is, frankly, much more complex. The launch will need to have all the components of a separate business IT operating unit. Some of the more critical activities that must be completed prior to launch include:

1.Secure funding from the project sponsor – not just a commitment but the appropriate account codes to support the organization’s activity in your company

2. Build the start up / launch plan – this will be a first complete draft and it will evolve

3. Identify the key impediments to the BPM CoE’s success and mitigate each – add to the plan – do the same for the launch impediments

4.Contact all the groups the BPM CoE will interact with and formalize the steps needed to open a collaborative relationship – begin to set expectations (realistically)

5. Work with HR to create Position Descriptions and role definitions

6.Hire staff – I recommend that you hire the senior BPM CoE team members with the right skills (training staff should wait until it is time to take on an increasing workload)

7. Contract for any skills that you cannot find in time to launch the CoE

8. Create the foundation standards that define approaches, services, and how the BPM CoE staff will work with business and IT managers

9. Contact possible business area clients (may need to work with IT initially if a new BPMS will be part of the BPM CoE launch – see note)

10.Select a good pilot to start building the BPM CoE’s credibility – presupposes the work needed to select, license, and deploy a BPMS will be performed separately, but will have been performed

The first BPM CoE project will be a group pilot. It should be simple, but it should also deliver real benefit. This will be a training project and it’s the time when the BPM CoE will learn to work with its collaborative partners. Expectations should be set accordingly.

Then, once you have laid this initial groundwork, it’s time to put the finishing touches on your pre-launch planning:

1. Obtain any BPMS training needed for internal BPM CoE staff

2. Create an announcement and send it out to all business managers who will be clients of the BPM CoE

3. Select the first project that the BPM CoE will help with

4. Start to plan the delivery of training to the business managers and staff

5. Finalize the launch plan – showcase services, set expectations, open collaboration

Note: If it is necessary to bring a BPMS in-house as part of establishing the BPM CoE, the head of the CoE will need to work with IT to define the use and technical environmental requirements that will box the selection. These activities are very specialized and are not addressed in this column.

In some cases it may also be worthwhile to consider delaying a formal launch until the first pilot project is completed. This will provide an example of success and a reference in the company. If this approach is followed, steps 1, 2, 3 in the Launch activities list below will be moved to pre-launch.

Launch of the BPM CoE

Launch activities include:

1. Publish service request process and forms

2. Plan and start the BPM CoE pilot project

3. Set expectations for the pilot project – it is being performed to find and correct the issues with the BPMS set up and the BPM CoE set up, so there will be bumps

4. Meet with prospective clients in the company and find out what they are doing, their problems, and what support will give them the biggest benefit

5. Establish frequent formal status meeting with collaborative partners – you must stay in constant contact with partners and potential internal clients

6. Begin formal pilot project status tracking – if the project is going well, publish progress to all parties in the project and to possible partners

7. Track the pilot closely making certain that the approach is working well and that the BPMS is being used the right way – insist on constant collaboration

8. Consider a brief BPM CoE newsletter that will come out monthly talking about the BPM CoE successes

Note: It is critical that the initial BPM CoE projects are as smooth as possible and deliver successes – in the opinion of the internal customer. No other opinion counts.

Establish relationships and keep selling to your business units

The business and IT managers involved in the BPM CoE pilot will need to be references. A willingness to help promote the BPM CoE should be a requirement in the pilot project selection. In the past columns it was suggested that you establish relationships with the business managers you will support and the IT managers and specialists you will need to participate in the projects. Now as you prepare to launch the BPM CoE, it would be helpful if you created a formal slide presentation on the CoE and what it will do. A timeline for its roll out and a presentation on the BPM CoE’s goals for the coming year will also be helpful.

If company culture permits, a type of launch luncheon where you will show your slides and talk about the CoE will be helpful. I have found in many rollouts that a formal event that sets expectations and states goals to those who will use the service is well worth the effort.

Interface between business and IT for operational improvement

There is a need for people who speak can speak multiple "languages" - that of the CIO, Business and IT. To people in these groups the concepts, terms, acronyms and concerns of the other groups is similar to a foreign language. People have come to understand a few words and to relate to the more important concepts, but that is about it. That is one of the main reasons why there is so much misunderstanding.

In addition, today there is a whole new generation of consumers who are creating their own social media terminology and concepts on how to use mobility technology and apps. An ability to bridge the communications gaps between technical and business groups is a valuable service. Add in bridging the communications gap between the social media (apps) people in sales and marketing and everyone dealing with BPMS and the ability to tie this all together is critical.

The fact is that it is important that any message be tailored to the target group and language that they understand and that concepts they relate to are used in the messages and in any discussions. This may sound like no big deal, but it is. This alone will separate the BPM CoE managers and staff from everyone and help build the close relationships needed to become a respected internal consulting group.

Setting the stage for the future

Coordinating Evolution

Companies evolve at a pace that IT has never been able to keep up with. That is not an indictment of IT. It takes a lot of time and skill to build complex business applications and to link those applications in series or in complex groups to deliver support to the business. It is simply not easy to do.

However, this evolution gap is closing with BPMS supported BPM as change can now be made much faster and with greater control. The BPM CoE is the only group that has a direct relationship with business operations (process and workflow, quality and performance) and IT (generating applications, linking to legacy applications, and designing mobility computing use). As such the BPM CoE has the potential to provide a service that many don’t recognize but most companies desperately need – coordinating the way the business operation and its IT support evolves as it responds to legislation, market opportunities, financial risk and more.

Opportunity to make a difference

As my readers know, I believe that the business and IT worlds are on the verge of a revolution that will be driven by what may be considered to be emerging technology. Some of it is available now in the form of BPMS and mobility technology and some of it, such as advanced robotics and 3 D gaming, is on the horizon. But, there is generally no group that is looking to this emerging and coming technology and how it can be applied.

This is a research function that should the melded with product and service evolution and market analysis. Feeding this information to executive management can be invaluable in helping them to understand what is possible, what will be possible and what the product and service demand within in your industry will likely become.

Innovation Center

Many companies talk about innovation and then do little to drive innovation in the company. This is a tremendous opportunity for the BPM CoE. The use of BPMS technology itself is a driver of serious innovation and a real game changer – if used to its full potential. However, obtaining and properly using a BPMS is only a start.

Innovation is about the ability to analyze what is and look at emerging technology and concepts and maybe even older technologies and approaches and then apply creativity. Innovation looks at how some part of the business or IT can be made fundamentally better. These changes improve and, as a byproduct, save time and money, while improving quality.

The BPM CoE should work with IT and business to look at emerging technology, emerging business opportunities, problems on the horizon and pending legislation. Then, assuming that the BPM CoE considered creativity and not simply technical skills when it staffed, the CoE staff can now guide brainstorming workshops that ask "what if". It can also simulate the ideas and see the impact in simulation modeling (most of the better BPMS tools support simulation modeling) and predict results. This puts the BPM CoE in a unique position to become the innovation center for the parts of the company it supports.

It also has the potential to limit the cost of innovation and thus make it more attractive. Today, many companies simply do not have funds to spend on trial and error – a key component of innovation. The ability to simulate reduces risk and cost and is thus itself an innovation game changer.

Quality Assurance

IT tests applications before they go into production and are used by the business. Business operations use Key Performance Indicators and maybe Performance Score Cards to test the operation. But no one usually tests the whole change – for effectiveness and efficiency, staff training for the change, impact on collaboration, and impact on customers. This represents an opportunity for the BPM CoE. Business change should be coordinated by the BPM CoE who will orchestrate the change and its implementation. This allows the BPM CoE to act as a Quality Assurance group for the broad picture – when all the parts of the change are deployed.

Stay useful – stay relevant

BPM is changing rapidly as new techniques are pioneered and new technology allows BPM practitioners to use ever more options in bringing about transformation and improvement. The technology is changing the questions from "can we" to "should we". As with the internet and the way it has changed both the world of business and our civilization, there will be those who learn the cutting edge technology to use it against us. And the technology arms race will continue its leap frog of capability, abuse, mitigating new technology.

Clearly many companies will lag behind – yes, history will repeat itself - and some companies that refuse to stay current will find themselves in real trouble.

As this technology evolution takes place, groups like BPM Centers of Excellence will keep track of technology advances and look at how they can apply them in the business. This today is a nascent role that some CoEs are beginning to play. But, it is a role that will take on ever greater importance as companies evolve the way they compete and the way the offer service.

Thank you for reading this series of columns on creating a BPM CoE. I hope that you found them helpful.

Now it is once again time for my disclaimer – the lists in this column are meant to start your thought process on the topic areas. They are not meant to be all inclusive.

Although I have mentioned a many of the most important topics that should be considered in starting your BPM CoE, there are always additional topics that could be discussed. With that in mind, if you would like to suggest topics for further columns please send me a note.


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