Business Process Governance

Business Process Governance - bannerIf you still have a rather limited experience with Process Management, you may wonder what Business Process Governance means for God’s sake. It’s no rocket science however ; though very valuable, particularly when you have the ambition to transform your business to an even more process-oriented organisation. Regardless of whether you already started with BPM initiatives.

What is Business Process Governance?

Let’s start with my own, very concise, explanation of  Business what Process Governance is about. It is managing process(es) for your organisation’s BPM-activities – say the meta process(es) of BPM. In still other words, it is the way or approach with which you apply BPM in your entire organisation. Some more definitions…

According to, it is the “use of rules to manage BPM programs and initiatives”. Quite similar with previous one, isn’t it?

For Kathy Long, it is “doing what is required to assure the value is produced by the organisation for the intended stakeholders in the most efficient, effective, and scalable manner possible”.

Palm & Flexa cite many other definitions, though summarize those nicely as follows: Business Process Governance acts to guide Process Management, in which it is aided by an overarching goal and by roles and instruments aligned with that goal

Enough definitions now… let’s look at the why of it.Objectives


Although Kathy Long’s above cited definition may not be the best one as a definition, it essentially describes the objective of Business Process Governance : assuring that value is produced to the stakeholders, the most efficiently, effectively, and scalable as possible.

Mind that this is also the main objective of Business Process Management. Somehow obvious that both – Business Process Governance and Business Process Management – share the same main objective, isn’t it?

Main aspects

Let’s make it more concrete by describing what Business Process Governance can all encompass.

Strategic goals

Like often mentioned in previous blogs already, business processes must be aligned to your organisation’s strategy & strategic goals. So needs Business Process Governance to be as well. Hence, the type of business or industry in which it is active, the DESTEP  or PEST factors, etc. all will – or should – impact your organisation’s Business Process Governance. Let’s use 2 examples to illustrate this:

Very high quality standard industries

Companies within the aviation and pharmaceutical industries are exposed to high risks when it comes to people’s lives. Luckily for the customers, these industries are marked by very high quality standards, where “zero defects” and operational excellence is the norm.

PharmaYou can probably imagine how much efforts and troubles it costs to make any change to a validated business process in this kind of industry.

Very fast evolving industries

Consider now a company whose strategy is based on product or service differentiation. Thus where innovation is the enabler to keep competitive advantage, e.g. a high-tech or a software business, where products and services continuously – and fastly – need to evolve to keep ahead of competitors.

Do you even dare to imagine using the same way of applying Business Process Management – thus the same type of Business Process Governance – in such an innovation business as with the pharmaceutical one? I fear that this company would not have a very long life…  This is most probably one of the reasons why very few software products are bugfree, by the way.

For such companies, Business Process Governance (and management) should rather focus on time to market – and even on speed of strategy implementation (because such businesses often need to reconsider their business model as well) – than on zero defects, indeed.

Business Process Maturity level

Like above examples already illustrated, Business Process Governance needs to correspond to the business process maturity level – which is often, though not only, related to the industry norm. Moreover, Business Process Governance is key for an organisation to increase in business process maturity. And process governance should, on its turn, evolve with the increase of process maturity.

Organisation’s sizeCrowd

On the other hand, you understand that it also should correspond to the organisation’s size. A BPM Center of Excellence that counts 4 people on full-time basis is clearly overkill for a small or medium business ; this would even be against BPM’s philosophy of avoiding and eliminating waste… Contrariwise, this same Center of Excellence of 4 FTEs could mean a serious understaffing for an organisation counting 50.000 heads or even more.

Framework, standards, methodology

These elements are actually the tools to foster uniformity in the entire organisation. These are among others:

  • BPM-tools : e.g. software for process re/design (modeling software), for process implementation & automation (= process engines), applications for process analysis & monitoring, for process simulations, etc.
  • Methods / methodologies like :
    • the types of diagrams and notations to be used. With a same software – e.g. ARIS Architect, Mega,… – you can use many model types and even several notations for a same purpose, indeed. Hence, there must be a standard for each purpose, so that people from different departments or business units have the same comprehension and speak the same language.
    • (continuous) improvement frameworks : I ever worked for a large bank, where there were Lean management teams and BPM-teams working in the same bank, but not knowing each other. Even worse : they ignored their reciprocal existence. Not really a good example of methodology standardisation, is it?
    • the governance processes to be followed. These business process governance processes describe who – i.e. which roles – should act when in which (BPM) processes. Indeed, an important part of business process governance is to define how BPM-activities will be run and how those will be monitored. Say the BPM life cycle of the BPM activities.

Roles and responsibilities

roles_and_responsibilitiesA typical mission of Business Process Governance is to determine which BPM roles & responsibilities must be foreseen to ensure the well-functioning of all BPM activities. Below enumeration of Roles & responsibilities is for most ‘common’ organisations. Mind that one employee might take several of these roles. Particularly when the organisation is rather small, such a combination of roles is recommended.

  • Process Board : it exists of all – executive –  main process (or value stream) owners. This board
    • supervises all processes of the overall organisation
    • is responsible for the Business Process Governance framework
    • gives high-level direction to its ‘members’, i.e. to the main process (or value stream) owners
    • ensures alignment of the main processes with the overall strategy and across all the organisation’s business processes
  • Center of Excellence : a team responsible for ensuring and developing BPM-competences in the overall organisation
  • Main process – or value stream – owners : they are usually executives, who
    • ensure the alignment of
      • all process improvement initiatives within their value stream or main process
      • objectives (and metrics / indicators) of their main process with the organisation’s strategic objectives
      • their main process with the (possible) subprocesses – including objectives of those
    • are responsible for value delivery of their main process
  • (sub)Process owners / managers : these are process owners on a non-executive level, who manage their process, i.e. they
    • ensure alignment across other processes and with the higher main process and with possible sub-processes as well
    • monitor the performance of their process
    • coordinate, align and prioritise process improvement initiatives in their business process
  • Change managers or change agents : responsible for (process) changes and the change management framework ; they
    • ensure that change management is foreseen when any process and/or technology change takes place
    • ensure cultural change when needed
  • Process architects : they are responsible forProcess Architecture
    • the design & implementation of the overall process architecture
    • the alignment of process architecture with the overall business strategy, technologies, information & data architecture
    • coordinating the work of process analysts & modelers
    • the compliance with process-related standards chosen and used
  • Process analysts & modelers : are responsible for
    • process documentation & modeling
    • measuring performance and risks based on data
    • identification of process improvement opportunities
    • defining business & process requirements
  • More technical roles, which are indirectly related to process management, e.g.
    • Application architects : responsible for the design & development of application architecture and for the alignment of it with process & data architecture
    • Solution architects, Functional managers : the ones who are responsible for identifying (functional) needs, design, development, testing, etc. of technology solutions which (will) support business processes.
    • Data architects : responsible for the design & conception of data model(s) and making sure that those adequately support the business processes.
    • System or technical analysts : who take responsibility in
      • making suggestions from a technological perspective
      • implementing, including the development, installation, configuration and integration of systems & applications
      • supervising the correct implementation of technical aspects of business processes

If your organisation is very complex, e.g. a multinational company with plenty of subsidiaries and locations, then you may even add some more specific roles. So you might for instance distinguish Global process owners and Regional process owners. On the other hand, if your organisation is of a rather modest size, these roles could obviously be grouped and assigned to a few – or in extreme cases, maybe even one – person.


EvaluationJust like business processes must be monitored so to be improved even further, BPM-activities must be monitored and regularly evaluated as well. So you best evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the BPM-activities. Obviously, based on their main objectives, and thus aligned with your organisation’s strategic objectives as already explained earlier through the example of the pharmaceutical company versus the innovative business.

The organisational place of Business Process Governance

In too many organisations (still the majority, I’m afraid), Business Process Governance – and its respective roles – is placed in the ICT department. I totally agree with Kathy Long, that this is (one of) the worst place(s).  Even though BPM uses software tools and facilitates the use of ICT to improve business processes, BPM and Business Process Governance should never be the responsibility of an ICT department. Indeed, “Managing business processes are the responsibility of the business, not of ICT” is a quote that I needed to use very (much too) often when I was working for the BPM Center of Excellence of a large organisation, while it was part of the ICT department. It was very frustrating indeed to be considered as an ICT-er, and tiresome as well to convince people each day – if not many times a day – that BPM is not an ICT-responsibility.

Ideally, the BPM – and governance – activities are managed in a Chief Process Office, lead by a CPO (Chief Process Officer) , someone with Executive responsibility. And if for any – e.g. political or poor process maturity – reason, this is not possible in your organisation, the “second best place” is where it reports to the most strategic objectives BPM should contribute to. So for the pharmaceutical company, the Chief Process Office may report to the head of QM (Quality Management) and/or QA (Quality Assurance). While for the software business where innovation is key, it may report to a possible Chief Innovation Officer (CINO).

And if this is not possible either, then the “third best place” might be to report to  the CFO (Chief Financial Officer), as this executive is supposed to care about performance, to which BPM has an important contribution.

A suggested growth path

Process Governance growth pyramidLet’s conclude with a “growth path” recommendation. As already mentioned, Business Process Governance and process maturity are going hand in hand : you can hardly achieve high process maturity levels in your organisation without any form of process governance. And also the size of your organisation matters, as a heavy process governance in a small or medium business would be overkill. That’s why I suggest following growth steps or stages like illustrated in above pyramid, based on my own experience and practical findings.

1. Standards : even if your organisation is still in a preliminary stage with managing business processes, you understand that using the same tools, the same notation, and the same methods is essential to lay the foundations for an overall process maturity increase. Ignoring this, will lead to new silo’s, indeed.

I too often noticed that one manager used a tool and corresponding notation, while another used different ones. How can employees of these 2 teams then effectively and efficiently communicate with each other – and collaborate –  when it comes to process improvement for instance?

And admit, this is not that hard to achieve: choosing a standard and explaining these managers why they should all use it, is not asking too much.

2. Roles : when you want to further grow your organisation in process maturity, then you will definitely need to assign roles. Of course, not every role mentioned in the above paragraph. This also best grows incrementally. Process Owners should be (one of) the first roles to be assigned. Preferably together with (a) “shared” process analyst(s) who support the many process owners in using one and the same standard.

Center-of-Excellence3. Center of Excellence (CoE) : with further growth in BPM activities – certainly for organisations from a given size -, grouping the BPM competencies in a CoE becomes very appropriate. This is like you are installing an engine for continuous improvement through which experiences are shared, and where BPM-employees continuously learn from each other.

4. Process Board / Chief Process Office(r) : You will only achieve the highest level of process maturity when BPM is at the highest (= executive) level of your organization. Whatever the strategic focus of your organization: product differentiation, operational excellence or customer intimacy. BPM will in all cases help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your organization.

Please tell now about your experience with Business Process Governance (or BPM-activities in general). Which are the BPM-related roles in your organisation? Please share it through below Comments box.

P.S.: Please share this information with your Facebook friends and fans, LinkedIn contacts, Twitter followers and Google+ circles, through the share buttons below. Thank you!