Road to a mature business-driven BPM COE

As more and more organizations travel the BPM road, the journey leads to questions about achieving a greater rate of success leveraging BPM in business transformations.  BPM is no longer a workflow automation approach but a strategic discipline that is both powerful and transformative.  In that light, organizations are seeking ways to drive faster up the maturity curve to realize the power of BPM sooner.

road-to-a-mature-business-driven-bpm-coeLooking at today’s BPM landscape, there is an increasing focus and emphasis on establishing knowledge and assets that can be reused and enable organizations to accelerate BPM execution.  How many times have you found yourself repeating operations done umpteen times before and you could save mountains of time if you could avoid reinventing the wheel?  How do you enable new teams to leverage previous team’s work?  How do you enable new teams to ramp up faster on applications driving the BPM journey?

Large complex programs are creating capabilities that are ideal for business foundations and really provide the power of build-once-use-many-times.  However, in large complex programs, there are risks of silos of asset-building, pressures to deliver on a deadline, no time to build for the bigger strategic picture, just get it done.  What organizations fail to realize is that workflows can be captured and managed for reuse.   Teams and development processes can be organized to create leverage.  This about faster time-to-market, reduction in costs and of delivery risks and ultimately, business platforms that achieve business outcomes faster.

Organizations really need to think about and implement core capabilities that deliver excellence and drive re-use.  On one hand, it is believed that this is driven in a project team but the challenge is a project team forms-storms-norms then dissolves.  The hope is that institutional knowledge never disappears and team members of the original project will be still around and available for the next project, which is not always the case.   On the other hand, there is belief that today’s technology is sufficient to encapsulate architectural design, business functional design and operational procedures. However, there are challenges with that as well.  Not all technology is coded or configured the same way; there are multiple standards and there is certainly artistic liberties out there that challenge the best of the best.  Today is certainly better than yesterday when it comes to that; however, there is still a need to think through and implement organizational structure to enable delivery acceleration and build once- reuse many times.

This is where a Center of Excellence model fits really well, as it answers the questions above with a well-defined structure and a set of models across all teams and projects – team structure, COE proposition and governance, etc. There are two basic parts to the structure. First, encapsulating knowledge in a form that is not only manageable but usable.  This knowledge is gauged and distilled from the existing projects, identified as reusable components to potentially benefit all future projects, hence the best practices and design patterns. The second is the focus on enterprise architecture, to ensure that the foundation tier supports all applications layered on top at the enterprise level, with business-unit layers that support BU-specific business logic.

Interactive platforms like Jive-based user communities can be leveraged to maintain not only the knowledge pool but to provide context-based self-service tools for competency building purposes.  Asset reuse on the other hand, has extended its meaning from conventional system-level code to the business-level processes and practice.  Even leading BPMS platforms have incorporated the ability to extrapolate and manage configured business functions thus avoiding islands of creation that counter a well-designed enterprise business platform.

There are also questions about processes and tools essential to manage the journey and reduce risks further accelerating outcomes.

And finally, more and more questions arise on the topic of business stakeholders involvement, the right involvement or more important the right BPM methodology to use.  The closest business involvement in project staffing is a secret sauce of pairing up System Architect (SA) roles with Business Architects (BA), for ensuring a smooth execution of a BPM methodology at the project level.

COEs are usually initiated from the technical discipline to address technical assets, competency, and risks, and overtime get evolved into a more mature business-driven COE practice.  Staying at the technical sphere without seeking a leap out into business makes it a technology-driven COE. What is fundamentally missing in a technology-driven COE is the alignment set of strategies at the corporate level – Business with IT among a few others – to ensure an optimized return of investments (ROI) in an IT product.  Without such an alignment, regardless of delivery quality, achievement of business goals would lead to compromised outcomes.

Among the entire BPM ecosystem, very few vendors, such as Virtusa offer a business-driven BPM COE encompassing two categories of solutions: COE Infrastructure and COE Services.  In addition to the whole horde of the technical offerings, they provide business-level best practices, funding model, and business engagement model all of which fall in the COE Infrastructure category.  COE Services category covers business and IT alignment strategies, pooled resources, and business consultative aspect of the BPM discipline.

Business and IT alignment is critical for delivery success, which is pitifully overlooked in most COE packages currently in offer.  If business and IT teams are not aligned with the corporate strategies, or worse, if IT is not educated on business‘s expectations from IT, cross-team miscommunication and mistrust could occur which could be detrimental to the success of the IT delivery.  BPM COE can help customers with BPM business strategies, recommend rotation of IT resources with business for better understanding of each other’s operations, and help with the BPM methodology selection, adoption, and alignment.  Project staffing model, where business consulting works together with a technical resource pool, reflects our joint effort in achieving the shared business goals.

Like in any other business, attaining the Business – IT alignment starts with cross-team collaboration and communication.  This is critical especially for COE where business and technical governance is the center piece, and communicating that center piece without sounding authoritative is more an art than science.  As Stuart Chandler, Global Head of BPM Practice at Virtusa points out, “COE success hinges a great deal on people’s personality.”  An executive from our Client’s BPM COE team recently shared an interesting experience of hers that got me stunned – in order to communicate more effectively with their technical teams, she started to pick up Indian language and culture.

The path to a business-driven, mature client-facing COE model is a journey, and is ever evolving, and the golden goose of COE governance and practice is uniquely positioned to lay larger eggs to further benefit the BPM world.  We will keep building bridges that will enable the client to have a successful BPM program.

Authored by:

  1. Stuart Chandler, Senior Vice President – BPM Practice, Virtusa. 
  2. Ming Zhang, Director – Technology, Virtusa

Ming Zhang

Director - Technology, Virtusa. Ming brings over 15 years of IT experience in SOA and BPM, with a focus on BPM COE consulting and training for the past 8 years. A strong BPM COE advocate and practitioner, Ming had managed the Pega Lead System Architect certification (CLSA) program, sharing best practices with the field folks and working collaboratively across the functions helping build out the BPM asset toolkit for the Pega ecosystem. Ming currently focuses on supporting the client as well as Virtusa internal BPM COE initiatives.

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