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 [email protected].)

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.

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.

Here we are, a third of the way through Q4. Seems like only yesterday that the year was shiny and new and I was making predictions about what would happen in the BPM universe in 2013. It's almost time for a new set of predictions, but before I go back out on the ledge, let's see how my prognostications panned out this year:


Expect further integration of BPM into packaged applications.

Hard Truth

Part of my job is helping partners integrate Process Director into their vertical solutions. This year we've seen an acceleration of that trend, and I assume others in the industry have experienced the same. However, recognition of the importance of this integration among ISVs is moving more slowly than I would expect, given the tremendous value that BPM can add in a broad range of software solutions. The trend continues, however, and I anticipate we will at some point reach a critical mass in which integrated packages establish a clear competitive advantage over standalone products, driving increased activity in this space.


Look for a new emphasis on business process as a service.

Hard Truth

The technology stack is being outsourced, layer by layer. In Gartner's model, for example, the layers include BPM platforms, cloud-enabled BPM platforms (CE-BPM), and then BPM Platform-as-a-Service (BPMPaaS). At the next layer, which I would call business process as a service (BPaaS), not only the platform, but the process itself, is outsourced to the vendor.

Today, the process layer is usually outsourced to BPOs (hence the name), who throw inexpensive manpower at the problem. Even the cheapest labor represents a much higher recurring cost than virtually any BPM installation, however.  And so, with their deep expertise in BPM solutions, and the reduction in manpower requirements driven by that technology, BPM vendors (in some cases, in partnership with BPOs) are poised to take over this role.

There are scattered instances of this phenomenon, but change, as always, comes slowly. Again, look for an inflection point, just a bit later than I'd expected.

Bottom Line

All in all, I think I got the trends right, even if things are ambling along at a pokier rate than I'd predicted (or would have preferred). Perhaps in the wake of the continued economic recovery we'll see the pace pick up, but in the meantime, BPM continues to expand in scope and adoption, to the benefit of all.



Compliance and continuous improvement are two different disciplines that are rarely brought into the same conversation -- yet, they can and should sync up in order to hone in on a common audience: the executive level. Solutions are no longer measured by their ability to enable compliance. Having an eye toward continuous improvement and linking your Six Sigma program with quality/compliance systems will ensure visibility of your initiatives.

As a process-improvement methodology, Six Sigma has been employed across a variety of industry verticals. Originally, it was implemented within the engineering and manufacturing sectors, but today, its reach has expanded to include heavily-regulated spheres such as pharmaceuticals, medical device and the food and beverage industry.

Leadership Sessions 

In the graphic below used in Part 2, I have added another element with pink ovals—the Leadership Sessions.  They are half day sessions for the Process Owners, Project Leads and Facilitators for each team all together.  The Executive Sponsors come for one hour of each session. The Leadership Sessions are the ovals at the top of the graphic; one leadership session comes before each workshop.  (Part 1 of this blog covered the advantages and disadvantages of four types of training.  Part 2 covered Getting Started and the Core Workshops.)

Let me show you how Action Learning works with the unique 3-PEAT process from i4Process.  I call this the 3-PEAT process because it has business process improvement learning happening for 3 different teams at once, all in one workshop.  If you don’t have the bandwidth to do 3 teams, do one or two—that’s fine–but there is synergy and efficiency with more than one team.  (For Part 1 of this blog, see the previous blog.  It discusses the advantages and disadvantages of different types of training methods.)