Last month I received a copy of Dr. Setrag Khoshafian's latest book, "Intelligent BPM: The Next Wave for Customer-centric Business Applications." I had peer-reviewed an early version and offered a jacket quote, but in all sincerity had I come across it any other way I would have bought it immediately. It's quite good.

Dr. Khoshafian is someone I have known for many years, back to the 1990s when he was the head engineer for the company that later became Savvion. He joined Pegasystems in 2003 (from Savvion) where he serves as Chief Evangelist and VP of BPM Technology, but his street cred and contributions to the evolution of BPM transcend any single vendor.

a1sx2_Thumbnail1_Facilitator-2013-09-07-at-12.02.56-PM.pngYes, Business Process Improvement Facilitators need to know group process skills, but that is not all. Four categories of skills are listed below. (Note Part 1 of this blog covered what a BPI Facilitator does, why they are needed in addition to the Project Lead, and what responsibilities they have and don’t have in a BPI Project.)

General Facilitation Skills

  • Guiding group sessions with departmental, cross-functional, or external groups
  • Interactions and presentation to senior management
  • Conducting face to face and virtual meetings
  • Planning, conducting, and following up for meetings
  • Managing group dynamics
  • Managing the process, and staying out of the content
  • Staying neutral, while listening, building trust
  • Moving the group toward the meeting objective

BPM Methodology Skills

  • Building a charter
  • Process Modeling with large groups
  • Building process diagrams with software tools
  • Using techniques for process analysis, and process design
  • Identifying and gathering data
  • IT collaboration and coordination
  • Which BPM tools and techniques to use and when
  • Using a shared repository
  • How data integrity and data management is important in the process
  • Where integration with other applications is needed

Interpersonal Skills

  • How to keep the project on track with the Project Lead
  • How to assist in change management

Political Skills

  • Identifying red flags in the BPI effort and addressing them with the Project Lead and Process Owner
  • How to work with the culture
  • How management is important to the process and how to engage them
  • Where integration with other divisions/functions is needed

Tips for the BPI Team Facilitator

For Building the Charter

  • The Team Facilitator and Project Lead should be talking with the Process Owner, and if possible the Executive Sponsor.
  • Provide a completed template example ahead of time.
  • Plan for 60-90 minutes and get it done in that time.
  • Follow the template sections during the charter.
  • Don’t let the Process Owner talk about challenges for more than 5-10 minutes
  • Don’t let the Project Lead get into the weeds when doing the high level map.

For Doing Current State Process Diagrams

  • Start with a single instance (use case) of the current process and map that. Doing multiple instances at one time creates spaghetti diagrams.
  • Use I-4 Lists as a parking lot to stay on track
  • Keep asking “What happened next?” to help the team stick to the instance.
  • Get everyone engaged- contributing to the swim lane model, or adding to the parking lot I-4 Lists.
  • The purpose is to finish the model (in 2 hours or less) not to get it perfect.

For Selecting Which Analytical Techniques to Use

  • Do the four required techniques (Read my blog for more details, We’re Done Process Modeling. Next is Optimization –WRONG)
  • Then see if other techniques are needed based on the Process Owner’s Improvement targets.
  • Get quantitative data and use it.
  • Build a Visual Analysis Model to bring the analytics to life. Process Owners and Executive Sponsors love them!

For Doing Facilitation in a Virtual Environment

  • You must share documents on screen so everyone can see them.
  • Build documents on screen as well.
  • Allow a bit more time for the work, and keep the total session to 2-3 hours maximum.
  • Do a roll call of participants to start.
  • Use chat to get responses from multiple participants.
  • Participants should tell the group if they are leaving the meeting for a few minutes.
  • Call on people to make sure everyone participates.
  • Have roles for small groups to present work or do work offline.

Want to learn more about the Team Facilitator role and all the roles in a BPI project, as well as what BPM Methodology will make the project successful? Register for my online workshop, Analyzing and Optimizing BPM Processes, Nov. 20 and 21, 2013 or Starting and Organizing a BPM Project, February 2014.

As many of you know from my time at the ebizQ Forum, I have asked this question, What is BPM? before.  But seeing how quickly BPM changes, it seems I could ask this question every six months and get a different assortment of answers.  Not from everyone, of course, as I'm very aware that for many, a process is still a process, something businesses have been doing and refining since the beginning of time.

But seeing how the speed of enterprise IT has been accelerating, I was quite curious how this discussion was going to go.   This was mostly due to my thoughts on an earlier question I had asked the BPM Forum, which was, Is BPM at a Unique Point in its History, or is This Just Another Step in BPM's Long Evolution?  There are many arguments you could make that BPM is just on a continuum of change, and this is just another point in the continuum   

But the one thing I don't think you can argue is the impact today of technology on business, and the fact that the era of the IT illiterate CEO is nearing an end.  That's why I think all enterprise technology is going through a tectonic shift today, and BPM (combined with mobile, social, and big data) will be more valuable to a company than ever.

So the question I asked the Forum was: 

What is BPM?

Right off the bat, Theo Priestley kicked off the discussion with: Might be easier to define what BPM is not. 

I was worried that this was the direction the discussion was going to take.  I had asked for a concise answer, and now I was wondering if a concise answer on BPM was even possible. 

Ashish Bhagwat added to Theo's response: It's almost a way of life for doing business right... combined with functions! 

Emiel Kelly agreed with Theo, saying: Processes are daily business, so everything companies do to execute and manage those processes to make them do what they promise is BPM.

All certainly correct so far.  But still, with all the brainpower we have in the Forum, I thought there must be some kind of actual definition, some kind of consensus we might be able to reach.

Patrick Lujan gave the quick and concise: Automation, integration, continuous process improvement. 

Ashish Bhagwat followed with:

A Management Practice for organizations to align their resources (people, information, systems), internal as well as external, in a systematic and continuous manner, in order to achieve adaptive and responsive business operations to deliver customer value. In essence, BPM is a strategic competency for enterprise performance and agility. 

Then he concluded with: Leave out any part of it and it could mean anything else, not BPM. 

Kevin Parker chimed in with a real-world view: For my customers it starts with Basic Process Management and leads to Big Process Management and ends up being Business Process Management. 

The real world was also echoed by David Chassels with: BPM supporting technology ready to deliver Enterprise Adaptive Applications empowering people reflecting the real world of work  

Dr. Alexander Samarian broke it down for various layers of a company. The one I found of most interest was: project managers: a way to speak the same language within the project.

I think this is an important point, as in our love of the latest gadgets and apps in IT, one thing that is often overlooked with BPM is management, and one of the key parts of management is communication.

Michael Poulin chimed in with: BPM = be purpose minded!

I thought that was good, and catchy, but perhaps a bit difficult to implement.  Keith Swenson wrote the following excellent breakdown: The practice of developing, running, performance measuring, and simulating business processes to effect the continued improvement of those processes.

Scott Francis went right after our insular IT bubble with the thought that too many of these definitions were too IT centric, writing: BPM is about managing business processes, and there are lots of "kinds" of business processes out there.

He followed with: I know it is frustrating to some to have a term not have hard boundaries, but isn't that true everywhere in technology. 

So we're back to BPM being almost too big to define, except with a certainty that it is about managing business processes.  

Sharif Aboulnaga finished the discussion with an excellent additional point, saying that while the definition hasn't changed: one key difference today is the availability of a variety of tools that can be used.

How Would I Define BPM?

In a way, I pretty much agree with all the definitions.  Have just returned from the iBPMS Expo, and seen all the vendor presentations and demos, it really is surprising how vast and varied the BPM market is.  So what is BPM?  It's exactly what the business at that time and process maturity level needs it to be to improve their processes.

Over the last 12 years, I've seen – and helped drive – a lot of change in the BPM market.  First, I watched BPM move from a heavy focus on integration to a greater focus on collaboration and social interaction.  And then, BPM expanded from highly structured and ‘automate-able’ processes to address unstructured, more dynamic business processes.  It is safe to say that over the last decade, demand for BPM was driven by key characteristics of the "Information Age" - a relentless drive towards improving the flow and sharing of information across people and systems.

Now, the most compelling business cases powering fresh demand for BPM focus on characteristics of the new age we are moving into - what Forrester calls the "Age Of The Customer."  If you look closely at most of today’s BPM initiatives, they tend to hide behind an imaginary firewall that separates what external customers experience and what internal business operations feel they need to be efficient. In this new age, business leaders are waking up to the realization that they can no longer divorce process improvement from the people and systems that touch customers, partners, and customer-facing employees. 

BPM FacilitatorFor sure. For without a Facilitator for a business process improvement (BPI) project, the project is likely to

  • Take considerably longer
  • Not stay focused on the goal and instead go off on tangents
  • Be controlled by the project manager
  • Miss input from key stakeholders
  • And more

Yes, a Facilitator is needed for a BPM improvement project. I call it the Team Facilitator. The Team Facilitator is one of the four key leadership roles in a BPI project. Each of these roles is shown below with short descriptions.

BPM Leadership Roles

This blog concentrates on the Team Facilitator role. The other roles are the topics of former blogs, such as Project Managers and Process Managers—Many Similarities But a Different Focus or Getting Started with BPM: Find the Right Process Owner.

What Does the Team Facilitator Do?

The Team Facilitator knows the BPM methodology and runs the meetings using the BPM tools. He has good group process skills and neutrally facilitates sessions and meetings with the team, making sure that agenda objectives are accomplished, time is wisely used, and team members all participate. The Team Facilitator does not need to know anything about the process. Do not choose someone who works in the process; it can be someone in the same department or unit, but not someone who would have any desire to influence the solution in a particular way. Instead choose someone with good facilitation skills and BPM knowledge.

Below is a description of the Team Facilitator role with criteria for selection, and key responsibilities in the different phases of a BPI project.

Team Facilitator

Criteria for the Team Facilitator

  • Experienced in both process improvement methods and group facilitation
  • May or may not be a member of the process being analyzed


Initiation and Ongoing Work during the following phases: Chartering and Resourcing; Process Discovery, Process Analysis; Process Design

Business Process Analysis

  • Assists the team in the development of the project scope and quantifying project objectives
  • Assures the quality of the business process analysis methodology
  • Helps the team select tools for the process improvement modeling, analysis, and redesign
  • Moves the team toward the improvement targets using the BPM methodology.

Group Facilitation

  • Facilitates weekly working team meetings and team sessions in the daylong workshops.
  • Raises issues and concerns with the Project Lead and Process Owner
  • Ensures that all team members’ points of view are heard.
  • Is not responsible for implementation in the organization, nor resolution of interpersonal ‘people’ problems.
  • Assists the team in reviewing “lessons learned”

Implementation and Results Phase

  • No formal responsibilities although the Team Facilitator could choose to stay on to work with the Implementation team in a similar role.

Continuous Improvement, Sustaining Phase

  • No responsibilities

The Team Facilitator is not the same as the Project Lead. The Project Lead is a strong subject matter expert, probably a manager, is accountable for meeting the Process Owner’s goals, and will be the lead for operationalizing the improvements in the workplace. (If you want a list of all four leadership roles and their responsibilities, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

The Team Facilitator can be an internal person or an external consultant. I often come in to be the external Team Facilitator if the organization does not have someone in their organization with both group process skills and BPM methodology skills. I also get asked to do the role if the function does not want to learn BPM skills (e.g., a legal department) or if the organization does not have the bandwidth to provide an internal facilitator. An external Team Facilitator is also helpful if the BPI team is large (more than 12 people).

But my preference is to have an internal Team Facilitator. Who might that be? All of these organizational roles could be a BPI Facilitator: Business Analyst, Lean Six Sigma Practitioner, PMO Project Manager, or a Process Improvement Specialist. Each of these roles might have some skills to learn or unlearn.

Part 2 of this blog provides skills for the Team Facilitator in four areas: General Facilitation, BPM Methodology, Interpersonal, and Political. It suggests what the Business Analyst, Lean Six Sigma Practitioner, PMO Project Manager, and Process Improvement Specialist need to learn and unlearn.

Want to learn more about the Team Facilitator role and all the roles in a BPI project, as well as what BPM Methodology will make the project successful? Register for my online workshop, Analyzing and Optimizing BPM Processes, Nov. 20 and 21, 2013 or Starting and Organizing a BPM Project, February 2014.

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