Scaling and sustaining BPM success with a Centre of Excellence

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As the use of BPM technology has spread beyond the early adopter ‘process scientist’ community to a more general population of organisations, we find that most new adopters focus on BPM as an enabling technology for specific projects, rather than as a strategic enabler for organisational flexibility and improvement. With large numbers of individual projects across industry benefiting significantly from the application of BPM technologies and techniques, though, it’s not surprising that once organisations see the outcomes of initial project investments bearing fruit they look for ways to broaden the application of BPM. As anyone who’s implemented BPM in a project knows, however, achieving success is not trivial. Establishing a BPM Centre of Excellence (COE) is a crucial step.

Top takeaways

There are two main reasons to create and maintain a BPM Centre of Excellence (COE)

Although only a small minority of BPM adopters (we estimate around 5-10%) are actively operating a BPM Centre of Excellence (COE) today, there are two main reasons why any organisation serious about turning isolated project successes with BPM into a sustainable and strategic organisational competency should consider having one. First, it can help the organisation link projects together to start sharing practices and assets, improving the quality of projects and educating the wider organisation about the benefits of BPM. Second, it can underpin the development of a more strategic role for BPM, and help maintain that role for the long term.

In line with this, a BPM COE has two roles to play

We define a BPM COE as an organisational capability responsible for managing skills, knowledge and technology resources for the benefit of multiple BPM projects. Furthermore, it promotes the use of BPM to link organisational strategy to day-to-day business execution.

A BPM COE can bring tangible, measurable benefits

Knowledge management, infrastructure management and execution management capabilities provided by a BPM COE can each deliver benefits to projects by three routes: reducing project costs, reducing project time-to-benefit, and reducing project risk. The benefits of a BPM COE are really about turbo-charging the process of making your organisation more agile and able to continuously improve. For some the main focus of this improved agility will be about customer service/experience improvement; for others, about HR/talent management; for others, about supply chain improvement; and so on.

These benefits can be measured, but your BPM COE should be responsible for measuring benefits itself rather than delegating measurement to individual projects. A key part of planning a BPM COE involves setting out value measurement approaches and goals.

A BPM COE is like a mini-business, and needs to be supported like one

In line with the three ‘front line’ capabilities of a BPM COE, there are three high-level, value-adding capabilities your BPM COE will need over time: BPM knowledge management, infrastructure management and project execution management.

However that’s not the end of things. To make your BPM COE a sustainable concern, these capabilities need to be supported by three other important areas of activity: marketing, value measurement and resource and demand management.

Breaking BPM out of the background

As the use of BPM technology has become more of a mainstream activity in industry, and its use has spread beyond the early adopter ‘process scientist’ community to a more general population of organisations, we find that most new adopters focus on BPM as an enabling technology for specific projects, rather than as a strategic enabler for organisational flexibility and improvement.

This is hardly surprising: BPM has proven itself capable of delivering significant business returns in a variety of business improvement project scenarios, from customer service improvement to streamlining partner onboarding and improving HR processes. At the same time, making an upfront case for “strategic investment” in technology to be deployed across an organisation has always been difficult, and due to the common economic environment and industry’s negative experience with large-scale technology investment it’s got a lot more so in recent years.

With large numbers of individual projects across industry (see MWD’s BPM case studies of BNP Paribas, Pinnacle People, and a Competency Centre in a large Swiss bank) benefiting significantly from the application of BPM technologies and techniques, though, it’s not surprising that once organisations see the outcomes of initial project investments bearing fruit they look for ways to broaden the application of BPM.

As anyone who’s implemented BPM in a project knows, however, achieving success is not trivial – the right blend of tools, people, sponsorship and skills is incredibly important. With this in mind, replicating and building on initial project success is rarely something that is automatic; it demands a very deliberate set of decisions and changes to be undertaken.

From project to competency

The challenge of building on initial BPM project successes to develop a more strategic BPM competency inside an organisation is one of the two primary reasons to work to develop a BPM Centre of Excellence (COE). This is something that our research suggests only around 5-10% of BPM adopters have done thus far, but we expect this to rise as more organisations look to scale and sustain individual project successes.

Quite apart from the challenges associated with creating the right mix of resources for individual projects, there are other issues which make the transition from a project-oriented BPM approach to a more strategic BPM competency difficult:

  • BPM is often hidden within individual projects. In the early days of BPM, most projects were initiated by groups of people with established backgrounds in process improvement technique. In these projects, the capabilities of BPM technology and technique were explicitly understood by all involved. However, now BPM is becoming more of a mainstream industry concern, a great many projects employing BPM are explicitly set up as BPM projects per se – those people setting up projects and who ultimately employ BPM tools and techniques see them as customer service improvement projects, talent management projects, order management projects, partner on boarding projects and so on. In the majority of today’s BPM projects, in other words, the involvement of BPM as a core element of implementation can easily end up hidden.
  • Important sponsorship from senior figures is difficult to develop. In line with the above point, when senior figures whose sponsorship is so crucial to success don’t have visibility of BPM as the driving force behind the project, they may find it difficult to understand how the same technology and techniques can be applied elsewhere. Moreover, as individual projects start to deliver benefits, it can be easy for senior sponsors’ attention to move to other fires that need fighting, goals that need meeting, and so on. Furthermore, when projects aren’t so obviously successful, it’s because demonstrating clear value from investment isn’t always easy – despite the fact that BPM, done right, should make return on investment quite transparent.
  • Demonstrating clear value from investment is not always easy. When BPM is hidden as an implementation detail within individual projects, the value of BPM as an implementation approach can be difficult to demonstrate. This is partly because the proportion of return on investment which can be attributed to BPM’s involvement is likely to be very difficult to estimate, but it’s also because when BPM is hidden as an implementation detail, the value measurement aspects of a BPM-based method are likely to be given little consideration in project development.
  • Introducing continuous process improvement to projects is a challenge. When projects are scoped as one-off system implementation efforts, sustaining and developing sponsorship over time can be very difficult in the face of large numbers of competing priorities and upcoming projects.

Looking at all these challenges together, it’s easy to see why making the transition from a project oriented view of BPM to a more strategic view of BPM as an organisational competency can be very challenging to do. A BPM Centre of Excellence can be a great organisational tool to foster the transition to a more strategic view of BPM.

Sustaining success for the long term

Once you put a capability in place to help you go beyond fostering a transition to a more strategic view of BPM, the next challenge is how to underpin and maintain a more strategic role for BPM for the long-term.

The four reasons cited above that make a transition to a strategic BPM competency difficult also make it difficult to sustain an environment in which a BPM competency can flourish for the long-term. In most organisations short-term, urgent requirements tend to gain more attention and resources than long-term investments; without a counterbalancing force, organisations find that such requirements tend to nibble away at any commitments, sponsorship and political weight that their BPM competency might initially benefit from. A key part of the opportunity – and challenge – associated with a BPM COE should therefore be to provide that counterbalancing force that helps maintain long-term investment for BPM within the host organisation in line with business value received from BPM projects.

Challenges in moving from BPM project by project to a sustainable BPM competency

Challenges in moving from BPM project by project to a sustainable BPM competency: As an organisation moves from an initial view of BPM as a technology to be used within individual projects towards a view of BPM as a strategic tool, the challenges change.

Let’s now look in detail at what a BPM COE should look like.

Scaling and sustaining succeess with a BPM CoE

What is a BPM CoE?

A BPM centre of excellence (COE) is an organisational capability responsible for managing skills, knowledge and technology resources for the benefit of multiple BPM projects; and for helping organisations use BPM to link strategy to day-to-day business execution.

Let’s unpack this definition a little, to shed more light:

  • A BPM COE is an organisational capability. Our definition doesn’t say anything about the size, composition or location of a BPM COE; value can be delivered in a variety of ways using a variety of resource commitments.
  • A BPM COE is responsible for managing knowledge, execution and technology resources. Your own organisation’s shape, structure, and culture will dictate the balance that you set between the management of knowledge, execution (project delivery) and technology resources – but you should consider all of these things as being logically in scope for a BPM COE.
  • A BPM COE works for the benefit of multiple BPM projects. A core part of the value of a BPM COE comes from its ability to share resources across multiple projects with the aim of improving outcomes and reducing project risk.
  • A BPM COE helps link strategy to execution. At the same time as improving outcomes for individual projects, a BPM COE can play an important role in placing the practice of BPM in a key position as a bridge between the definition of high-level organisational strategy and day-to-day business execution. When BPM is pursued project by project, its ability to provide this bridge, principally through smart process measurement, is rarely considered – BPM technology is largely seen as an agile way to deliver a software system. By fostering BPM as a strategic organisational capability, a COE helps to create a platform for continuous and measured execution improvement that is aligned from top to bottom throughout an organisation.

Balancing management of knowledge, infrastructure and execution

As we introduced above, a BPM COE is responsible for managing knowledge, method and technology resources across projects. As the figure below shows, the kinds of knowledge that a COE might manage include: good process architecture and design practices and conventions; patterns for designing particular kinds of integration functionality, user interface functionality and so on; effective ways of scoping projects and making cases for investment; documentation from particularly successful projects and engagements; testing strategies; and more.

 

Knowledge, infrastructure and execution management

Knowledge, infrastructure and execution management: Every BPM COE initiative should at least consider developing capabilities across three domains: knowledge management, infrastructure management and execution management.

The kinds of infrastructure that a COE might manage include: development servers; testing and staging servers; production servers; centralised instances of design and development tools; and so on.

A COE might also take responsibility for human resources that can assist with the execution of individual BPM projects. Expert staff might be focused primarily on project management of delivery, or they might play other roles – advising on the application of a particular process improvement method, process architecture or solution design, for example.

Linking strategy to execution

As we highlight in our report Process Intelligence: Linking Strategy and Execution, developing intelligence about and applying intelligence to business processes is a crucial tool in linking organisational strategy to day-to-day business execution. As the report examines, Process Intelligence needs to be applied at three levels – strategic, management and execution – in a consistent and integrated fashion.

At the strategic activity level, Process Intelligence work takes strategic objectives that are created to provide goals for the organisation and links them to a clear understanding of how key business processes and their performance contributes to these strategic objectives.

At the management activity level, Process Intelligence work aims to apply relevant knowledge to processes with the aim of understanding how process performance can be optimised. Understanding of process performance over time provides the ability to track progress against strategic objectives.

At the execution activity level, Process Intelligence work is focused on applying knowledge within business processes where analytics are applied at the point of need. This involves assessing contextual information within a business process which in turn can be used to guide or automate parts of the decision making process – helping to make processes more effective and contributing towards process management objectives.

A BPM COE has important roles to play in the development of process intelligence at all three levels, as we highlight below.

Helping to prioritise projects and guiding project strategies

At the strategic activity level, a BPM COE has a role to play in helping to ensure that the projects that are prioritised highest are those which have the best fit with the organisation’s goals and strategy. This is achieved by taking advantage of experience from other projects and from working with a range of senior executives.

Once projects are given the go-ahead, a BPM COE can help project teams approach their work from a perspective that makes sense given the organisation’s overall capabilities and strategies, by taking advantage of links with other important competencies and capabilities such as enterprise architecture (EA).

Build-first vs. measure-first; shallow vs. deep

Broadly speaking, projects can use BPM technology in a variety of ways. They can pursue a ‘build first’ approach, which places relatively little emphasis on up-front analysis and measurement and concentrates on delivering some kind of working system quickly. Or, they can pursue a ‘measure first’ approach, which places more emphasis on up-front analysis and measurement and concentrates on establishing a solid baseline from which to explore improvement.

Regardless of whether a build-first or measure-first approach is taken for a project, when it comes to implementing process through automation or via some kind of process knowledge system, projects can take a shallow or deep implementation approach.

  • A shallow implementation approach looks at process design at a high level, and defines process tasks in a coarse-grained and lightweight way. This can leave significant room for interpretation to individual process participants working on tasks. This kind of approach works well in situations where some level of auditing or measurement is needed quickly, and in situations where highly experienced staff have valuable skills that it’s not suitable to ‘automate away’ for one reason or another.
  • The deep implementation approach involves fine-grained process design that leaves as little as possible to chance in process execution – minimising opportunities for variability. This kind of approach works well in situations where execution of tasks needs to be carried out to precise specifications in high throughput situations, and in situations where personnel need a lot of support to carry out tasks.

Ensuring that measurement is part of projects from the start

At the management activity level, if the use of BPM is going to contribute to improved links between strategy and execution, then the establishment of KPIs for business processes and the encoding of those KPIs into process applications is vitally important – regardless of whether a project takes a ‘build-first’ or ‘measure-first’ approach. A BPM COE has an important role to play in ensuring that BPM projects prioritise process measurement considerations as part of the design of all projects, sharing experiences, data and tools from other projects to make it as easy as possible to configure KPIs and collect appropriate data.

Creating shared practice and assets for modelling

At the day-to-day execution activity level, if the use of BPM is going to contribute to improved links between strategy and execution, then suitable design elements and patterns that form the structure of process applications need to be applied consistently. In particular, model elements that determine the ways that policies and rules are applied within processes, and model elements that determine how information is managed within processes, and how that information is exchanged with external systems, need to be used in consistent ways that are in line with broader considerations regarding enterprise systems of record and master data, governance policies, and so on.

The COE as a catalyst for organisational clarity

A focus for collaboration

It should be apparent from the above discussion that BPM COE can’t deliver any meaningful value without interacting with groups and individuals and resources that exist outside the COE. For BPM COEs to function effectively they need to have collaboration as part of their DNA – both internal collaboration within the wider organisation, and external collaboration – as shown in the figure below.

 

The focus areas for BPM COE collaboration

The focus areas for BPM COE collaboration: BPM COEs need to collaborate with a wide range of internal and external stakeholders.

The most important resources and groups with which a BPM COE should seek to collaborate are:

  • Individual project teams. It should go without saying that a BPM COE has to seek to work openly and collaboratively with every project team pursuing work that involves BPM technology or approach. As with all points of collaboration, a BPM COE should look not only for opportunities to influence projects, but also for opportunities to learn new techniques and practices from projects that can then be shared with others.
  • Enterprise and/or business architecture groups. For a BPM COE to play an effective role as an agent in linking strategy to execution, it has to be able to draw on a big picture of how the organisation as a whole is structured and driven, and how IT capabilities and resources support the various aspects of this big picture. Collaboration with architecture groups can help ensure that when influencing individual BPM projects, the BPM COE is always advising within the most current and accurate enterprise context.
  • Project sponsors and process owners. Beyond working with the members of project teams, a BPM COE needs to find ways to engage project sponsors and process owners. This is partly in order to educate them about the value of BPM and how it can contribute to projects, and partly to ensure that they are networking directly with other process owners and project sponsors where relevant to share BPM-related discoveries, project ideas and practical experiences.
  • The IT governance board and/or project portfolio managers. Collaboration with these groups is essential if a BPM COE is going to play a role as an enabler for linking strategy to execution. If BPM is going to play a strategic role within your organisation then it can’t be driven as an isolated initiative; it has to be pursued in an integrated way with other initiatives that seek to improve the way that technology adds business value and drives business change.
  • IT operations teams. If you’re to consider BPM’s value as going beyond its ability to deliver applications more quickly and flexibly, then you have to consider BPM’s impact not only within the scope of the design and development phases of a project but also over the long-term as built systems are re-evaluated, upgraded, and changed in line with changing process needs. The involvement and support of IT operations teams is important here: in many organisations IT operations and support personnel don’t have detailed knowledge of how BPM platforms or applications work – they’re ‘black boxes’ – and don’t necessarily have good links back into project teams. A BPM COE can provide a vital link back from IT operations to business, analyst and development staff who might need to be involved to fix problems, triage change requests and so on.

Last but not least, it’s crucially important to consider ways to collaborate with technology suppliers by establishing lines of regular communication with presales, sales and support personnel. Two of our case study reports, looking at experiences from BNP Paribas and a large Swiss Bank both highlight the importance of doing so.

This point isn’t often discussed but it can deliver a significant contribution to success of your BPM COE. If you work for a public sector organisation you may be limited in the extent to which you can build a relationship with technology supplier outside the scope of an individual project; but if you work in the private sector, the points below are worth serious consideration.

Building deep relationships with key supplier representatives may not be a natural fit culturally speaking, but where BPM COEs can strike up such relationships they can improve COE performance dramatically. The privileged position of a successful BPM COE – as at coordinating point for BPM related activity across an organisation – means that there’s potentially a lot of benefit for technology suppliers in this kind of relationship too, because smart vendor salespeople know that a client successfully using their technology strategically across many projects is going to have a greater long-term value than a client occasionally using the technology for one or two isolated projects. The value of such a relationship to your chosen supplier(s) means that if you get things right, this relationship can deliver value in three important ways:

  • Improved project intelligence. Particularly in large multinational organisations, even an established and respected BPM COE may struggle to remain aware of all potential BPM projects in play and find ways to connect to project teams in a timely fashion so they can help shape project delivery. Relationships with vendor(s) can provide more widespread intelligence about any projects being considered. This intelligence sharing of course works to the benefit of both your organisation and the vendor: if your BPM COE can positively influence more projects, those projects are more likely to be successful – making the vendor ultimately more successful.
  • Improved skills. The vendor(s) you choose to collaborate with may be able to help you improve skills both within your BPM COE and also within distributed project teams by providing complimentary materials and access to domain experts.
  • Improved access to technology. As you develop a relationship with a BPM technology vendor, you are likely to be able to make a case for registration into the vendor’s programme for valued customers. Almost every vendor runs such a programme, which gives clients early access to new releases, additional access to support staff and regular opportunities to provide feedback and suggestions regarding future development direction.

A focus for ownership and accountability

BPM-related projects are business change projects – and as business projects, they need to be clearly associated with senior people in your organisation who can act as sponsors. They also need to set out clearly and from the outset: who’s responsible for delivering which aspects of the project; who’s responsible for measuring project progress and value; and who can be held accountable for project success or failure.

A BPM COE has an important role to play in helping project teams establish these things early on in the lifecycle of projects, by drawing on experiences learned from other projects and from external sources (including, perhaps, experiences gained by vendors).

Establishing a business case for your BPM COE

Now that we’ve explored the elements of a BPM COE and highlighted some of the ways it needs to function in order to deliver value, in this section we take a look at how you can build up the elements of a business case for a BPM COE.

The figure below provides a set of example ways in which a BPM COE can reduce project costs, decrease the time-to-benefit of projects, and decrease project risks across its key ‘front line’ functions of knowledge management, infrastructure management and execution management. It may not be possible or appropriate for your own BPM COE to realise all of the benefits highlighted in figure 4: a lot will depend on the way you choose to set up your BPM COE, and will also depend on the way your BPM COE changes and grows over time as it works with projects throughout your organisation. But in seeking to justify initial and on-going investment in a BPM COE, the highlighted items should provide a good starting point for measurement and justification.

BPM COE benefit examples

BPM COE benefit examples: Knowledge management, infrastructure management and execution management capabilities within your BPM COE can each deliver benefits to projects associated with cost reduction, time-to-benefit reduction and risk reduction.

These benefits should guide you as you start to think about how you can ‘package up’ the knowledge management, infrastructure management and execution management capabilities within your BPM COE for projects to take advantage of. For example:

  • Through your BPM COE, can you take one or two experts, train them on your preferred BPM technology tools, and then have them give tailored training courses to individual projects – rather than sending all project teams on expensive vendor-led courses?
  • Can you work with preferred vendors to negotiate reduced pricing if licenses are purchased and coordinated centrally – meaning you can offer projects access to BPM technology at reduced prices if they work with your preferred suppliers?
  • Based on experiences from current and recent BPM projects in your organisation, can you look at ways to minimise potential support issues by promoting certain patterns of process application design and technology use?

What should your CoE look like?

It should be apparent by now that there is no one right way to implement a BPM COE. But there is a right way for your organisation: this will depend on the level of BPM maturity that already exists in your organisation; the operating model of your organisation; the ways in which budgets are assigned and projects are delivered; and so on.

However, there are some things that should hold true whatever your particular circumstances. We explore them below.

Getting started and developing your BPM COE

As we said at the start of this report, securing large scale investment for projects without immediate opportunity for payback is incredibly tough for most organisations. This is true for BPM projects, and it’s also true for a BPM COE. A heavyweight BPM COE is likely to be very difficult to justify. You need to find a way to start small and grow your organisation’s investment in line with the perceived value received.

For most organisations looking at developing a BPM COE, the main implication of this is that it makes sense to first concentrate on knowledge management aspects of what the COE provides – and to only expand into offering infrastructure management and execution management services once some benefit from knowledge management has been measured and appreciated. This is because providing knowledge management services to BPM projects can be done for very little cost indeed: a wiki or other open content authoring and management system can be provided very cheaply; if representatives from individual BPM projects are encouraged to contribute their own material, rather than having insights centrally gathered and analysed, the overhead required to manage the contributed knowledge may be very small indeed.

From there, the path you take should be determined by the prevailing technology and business strategies in your organisation. If your organisation is looking to streamline procurement and focus on developing relationships with fewer suppliers, then focusing on infrastructure management services – which will support a move to centralised buying and provision of technology – is likely to fit well with high-level strategy concerns. If your organisation thrives with a highly decentralised operating model where individual groups enjoy significant buying autonomy, then focusing on execution management services – which focus on helping project teams with practical aspects of delivery without decreasing autonomy – is likely to fit better.

Consider the full range of delivery models you can use

As you’re designing the things your BPM COE will offer projects, it’s important to bear in mind that there are multiple ways that capabilities can be delivered. Depending on the operating model and size of your organisation, particular approaches will make more sense than others.

The figure below illustrates how BPM COE capabilities can be delivered either as ‘products’ (tightly specified, configured and packaged offerings) or as services (potentially open-ended offerings that are tailored for each individual case). Additionally this can be done in either a centralised fashion (where individual projects access a shared resource of some kind from a central location) or in a dispersed fashion (where products or services are delivered by the BPM COE in situ within individual projects). It might make sense for some of what your BPM COE does to be delivered as centralised products; but in other areas it might make more sense for capabilities to be delivered as services within individual projects.

A variety of delivery models for BPM COE capabilities

A variety of delivery models for BPM COE capabilities: BPM COE capabilities can be delivered as products or as services, and as centralised offerings or dispersed within individual projects.

Of course, providing all capabilities you offer from a BPM COE as centralised products is likely to be the lowest cost option to your organisation as a whole over the long term. That doesn’t mean it’s the best option, however. You should be guided by existing organisational structures and culture when designing the products and services and delivery models that you will use within your BPM COE, rather than viewing everything from the perspective of how to deliver in the cheapest possible fashion. After all, it’s very difficult to change an organisation’s culture. Furthermore, in an environment where decentralisation means that you need to consider delivering capabilities as in-project services, it’s important to remember that overall cost to the organisation is unlikely to be something that anyone will be measuring – it’s the cost to individual projects that will be of greatest concern. As long as you can demonstrate the value of individual capabilities that you are delivering to individual projects, you have a good foundation for continued support for your BPM COE.

Rounding out a BPM COE plan: support activities and resources you’ll need

In line with the three types of capabilities of a BPM COE we’ve explored already, there are three high-level value-adding capabilities your BPM COE will need over time: those associated with BPM knowledge management, infrastructure management and project execution management.

However, that’s not the end of things: to make your BPM COE a sustainable concern, its main ‘front line’ capabilities need to be supported by three other important areas of activity, as shown in the figure below: marketing, value measurement and resource and demand management.

Support activities required for a sustainable BPM COE

Support activities required for a sustainable BPM COE: Your BPM COE frontline activities need to be supported by marketing, value measurement and resource and demand management activities if it’s to be a sustainable concern in your organisation.

Marketing

In large organisations particularly, a BPM COE cannot grow its influence – and therefore its ability to assist BPM projects spread far and wide – without consistently engaging with other groups in the organisation. Of course very few organisations, no matter how large, can truly be considered as ‘marketplaces’: however in one important way the dynamics of the market do hold true. That is: in large organisations particularly, individual BPM projects are free to choose whether to use the services of a central BPM COE or not. Your competition isn’t another BPM COE; it’s ‘do nothing’. A form of marketing – where your BPM COE promotes itself to the wider organisation and also elicits feedback and ideas from the organisation to help it improve its offerings – is therefore absolutely vital if your BPM COE is going to thrive over time and deliver on its mission.

To start with, marketing your BPM COE might be as simple as producing an informational web page on your organisation’s intranet with the details of your mission, the capabilities you have and provide contact details and an opportunity to provide feedback online. Over time though, you should consider formalising a handful of repeatable marketing activities – a project closure feedback activity, for example, where you invite BPM project managers to provide information about the service they feel they’ve received from the BPM COE and the benefits they’ve received as well as inviting free-form feedback, or a regular progress report posted in relevant newsletters that highlights the contribution that the BPM COE is making to individual projects.

Value measurement

Highlighting the benefits that projects have received from your BPM COE is of course only possible if you’re taking steps to measure those benefits. Not all the benefits that projects receive will be quantifiable in hard financial terms, though some will. In reality, you will need to be prepared to blend a number of approaches to measure and track the benefits you deliver – from calculations of hard project cost savings (which might come from reduced licence fees, reduced training costs and so on) to regular ‘customer satisfaction surveys’.

One thing you can be sure of, however, is that it’s going to be difficult to force individual BPM projects to measure the benefits they receive from using the capabilities of your BPM COE. Even if some project teams attempt to do so, then it might be unwise to rely on them to do so in a consistent manner. Value measurement needs to be an activity that the BPM COE itself takes responsibility for.

Resource and demand management

Last but not least, your BPM COE should explicitly address resource and demand management as an on-going activity. You may be able to start up a BPM COE with a small amount of resource, as our case study of BNP Paribas’ efforts shows (perhaps with a fraction of a FTE) – but if your effort is successful and BPM use starts to grow across your organisation, you’re going to need to re-evaluate the resources you need and you may have to manage demand carefully to avoid being swamped. All successful BPM COE initiatives struggle with demand at one point or another: it’s important to think about how you will manage increasing demand for your BPM COE’s capabilities before it happens.

For example: will you triage requests from projects based on their strategic fit? Or based on their size, or on the part of the organisation in which they are operating? Will you be happy for some BPM projects to proceed without input from the BPM COE if you can’t fulfil demand? How will you scale up if you can get access to resources that allow you to do so?

What should you do?

If you’re serious about turning isolated project successes with BPM into a sustainable and strategic organisational competency then a BPM COE is going to be a vital part of your journey.

The creation of a BPM COE represents a change to your organisation’s structural status quo – and this means that success, in terms of benefits delivered to projects and also in terms of alignment of strategy and execution, is far from guaranteed. To give your BPM COE the best possible chance of success, you need the same things that successful BPM projects need: senior level sponsorship, clear allocation of resources, and clear ownership and accountability.

To get started with planning and designing a BPM COE for your organisation, take time to gather responses from around your organisation to the following 10 questions:

  1. What tasks or outcomes are BPM-enabled projects struggling to deal with today?
  2. Are there ways that sharing experiences or assets could reduce BPM-enabled project costs, time-to-benefit and/or risks? What would have the biggest impact?
  3. How widespread is adoption of BPM in your organisation today – in terms of organisational structure and geography?
  4. How widespread is understanding of BPM today – in the same terms? How does this compare to adoption?
  5. Where in the organisation does sponsorship for BPM-enabled projects come from today? Do project sponsors know that BPM technology and/or method is ‘part of the mix’?
  6. Are there existing examples of projects contributing knowledge to a shared resource to benefit the wider organisation? What can you learn from them, if so? If not, why not?
  7. Is there a strategy in place to rationalise supply of technology or consulting services that could enable a BPM COE to develop a collaborative relationship with one or more vendors?
  8. How does your organisation’s operating model (centralised, coordinated, federated, etc.) need to shape the way that BPM COE capabilities are delivered?
  9. Are external consultants typically used to assist with BPM-enabled projects? If so, how can you work in a way that encourages them to assist your effort and avoids them feeling threatened?
  10. What are the first steps you’re going to take in marketing your BPM COE, and in measuring the value that it delivers?

 

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