Earlier this week, I sat in on a session at Oracle OpenWorld that highlighted the importance of scaling process governance as BPM initiatives expand throughout organizations. The session, titled “Rapid, Successful BPM Adoption,” laid out the key principles of process governance:

  • Establish standards for implementing process improvement projects.
  • Prioritize BPM projects so you work on the most achievable ones first.
  • Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in the BPM project.
  • Put someone in charge with authority to enforce process governance rules.
  •  Establish a BPM center of excellence to ensure steps 1-4 are followed.

At the end of the session, an audience gave voice to a common complaint I’ve always heard from business process professionals: “Putting all this governance in place requires a lot of time and overhead that I can’t get my sponsors and stakeholders to buy into. Is it possible to set up governance incrementally?” In answering the audience member’s query, one of the panelists used a term that caught my attention: “evolutionary governance.” 

Although the panelist did not go into great detail on what this means, it matches up with what we’re seeing for highly successful BPM programs. These programs constantly reassess and evolve their process governance requirements to reflect the maturity of their BPM efforts.

In essence, “evolutionary governance” is an agile and iterative approach to implementing process governance – applying continuous improvement principles to process governance activities. The process governance model you put in place to deliver your first BPM project is often quite different from the governance model you will need when your BPM initiative has matured to focus on larger, more mission-critical processes.

For example, your first BPM project might have governance guidelines that defines the “process owner” role as someone who is responsible for ensuring that a particular process is running smoothly (i.e., more of a process steward or process subject matter expert). But as BPM expands to focus more on cross-functional end-to-end business processes or process transformation, the definition of the “process owner” role might need to evolve to be an executive or vice president that is accountable for all aspects of an end-to-end process.

The key is to first assess your current level of process maturity. Forrester has established three levels of process maturity: Immature, Aspiring, and Mature. The next step is to assess what level of governance is necessary to support your current level of maturity and define a road map of key governance elements you will need to put in place as your program evolves.

For more details on building a road map for evolving process governance, keep an eye out for our upcoming report: “BPM Fast Forward: Forrester’s Best Practice Framework For BPM Implementations”.  In this report, we delve into evolving your methodology, roles, skills, and tools to match where you are in the maturity cycle and developing a game plan for what governance should look like as your program continues to mature.

Sound Off

I want to hear from you. Let me know what you think of evolutionary governance for BPM initiatives. Do you think it’s a good approach for addressing the overhead typically associated with process governance? Or do you think it is a recipe for BPM failure? Post your thoughts in the comment section or feel free to shoot me a quick email at crichardson@forrester.com.