BPM’s Persistent Challenges: Opportunities for Sustainable Impact

domino 300In some ways, 2020 hit the pause button on the goals and aspirations of BPM professionals. Projects and budgets were suspended or reprioritized, and ways of executing work were swiftly derailed. There has been a silver lining for BPM professionals amid these crises. Organizations have a greater understanding of the value of BPM efforts, particularly in their ability to fix broken processes, engage people in change, and quickly adapt priorities and resources to support the organization’s priorities (e.g., digitalization). However, these same organizational opportunities have reinforced the need to address evergreen challenges about the place of BPM in their organization as we rolled into 2021.

Though BPM teams’ role within organizations continue to grow, according to our research on BPM programs, they continue to still struggle with:

  1. Strategic alignment— moving beyond business silos and linking process work to organizational value.
  2. Governance—engaging across the organization for the strategic management of process efforts.

Strategic Alignment

Strategic alignment illuminates how BPM teams provide value to their organizations and refers to how well process management links to organizational objectives. Strategy and process management activities should be integrated and form a symbiotic relationship. This ensures that process objectives support the execution of organizational goals and process management helps support decision making to identify opportunities for strategic changes and track the execution of strategic objectives.

Unfortunately, very few organizations (14%), have a symbiotic relationship between their process and strategy teams. Most process teams’ efforts are guided by business unit or functional goals. Which means process work is stymied by functional silos and it’s difficult to directly show the value or ROI of BPM efforts to the organization as a whole.

What Does Good Look Like?

Best-practice organizations use process performance and strategic plans to inform and guide project and strategic initiative selection.

For example, Park Place Lexus takes an integrated approach by tying operational and process improvements to its strategic planning efforts and developing cross-functional performance improvement teams for execution. Its steering committee helps guide and include process management efforts in the overall portfolio of work. So, in addition to the execution of strategic objectives, the steering committee also guarantees that the organization’s process management does not become siloed.

Effective Governance

Process governance—which boils down to the roles and rules of BPM—is vital to make process actionable and embed it into the business. It also helps create a holistic understanding and support strategic alignment by tying process efforts to the strategic priorities of the organization.

Though an ongoing challenge, organizations have made headway in process governance. According to the research on BPM teams, governance efforts are typically tactical and rely mainly on process owners (77%). Unfortunately, only about a third of organizations incorporate strategic governance in the form of a process steering committee.

What Does Good Look Like?

Best-practice organizations embed process roles at each level of the business to ensure widespread adoption and ownership of process work.

For example, CMI (Corporacion Multi Inversiones) uses a broad range of roles from the executive team to frontline workers to govern, manage, and support its end-to-end processes.

  1. Executive steering committee—comprised of department heads which provide executive sponsorship, focus alignment with strategic objectives, support change management, and give final approval for high-level decisions.
  2. Steering committee—a group of senior level that develops and calibrates an annual end-to-end process roadmap to prioritize new projects and re-evaluate those already underway.
  3. Process owners—are each responsible for a specific end-to-end process and collaborate with stakeholders on process work and provide guidance on processes that span multiple business units.
  4. Superusers—are change agents embedded in the business that provide peer-based training, contribute to the organization’s knowledge base, and support process work within each business unit.

These leadership bodies set the strategic direction for process work, drive engagement, and change management, provide peer-based training, and contribute to sustainable knowledge management.

Conclusion

Strategic alignment and governance are key to embedding BPM in the organization for the long haul. They help ensure BPM is tapped into the priorities of the organization and push a culture of process thinking throughout. However, tackling these two issues is not easy which is evident by their tenacity. But with the careful integration of BPM practices into the planning cycle and clearly defining roles within the business, BPM becomes sustainable and elevates the impact of process efforts.

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Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland is a principal research lead at APQC, with over ten years of business research and consulting experience. Her focus has predominantly been on best practices in business processes, change management, corporate strategy, and R&D. In her role as principal research leas for process and performance management at APQC, she is responsible for conducting and publishing research on process management , continuous improvement, benchmarking, strategic planning, and organizational performance management.

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