Process Owners: How to Help Them Succeed

This is a brief summary of the article “How to help process owners succeed”, posted on Harvard Business Review Blog Network by Brad Power.

According to Brad, six things militate against success in the role of the process owner:

  • The management team’s attention shifts to other priorities.
  • Process owners misunderstand their role.
  • Process owners are not held accountable for improvements.
  • Process owners are not senior enough to have the necessary influence.
  • The organizational structure to accommodate the role is too complex.
  • Employees are uncomfortable belonging to business processes rather than functions.

Brad lists 6 specific bullet points how to address these issues:

  1. Make the process owner role permanent and incorporate it into overall performance management.
  2. Select process owners with strong leadership skills and develop those skills even further.
  3. Make the process owner accountable for how well the process performs.
  4. Give the process owner organizational power.
  5. Minimize disturbance to the organizational structure. Create process owners outside the formal organization with a very small staff, leave most people in their functional organizations, and clarify the process owner’s role with respect to the functions and business units they will work with.
  6. Help employees get comfortable thinking in terms of end-to-end activities that together generate value to customers. Encourage cross-departmental activities that solve customer problems, and reward cross-departmental teamwork.

The Principle of Process-Cascading and its Performance Impact

This article summarizes the study “The Performance Effects of Process Cascade-Based Organizational Design” by Kohlbacher M. and Weitlaner D., which was presented at the IEEE 2011 7th International Conference on Next Generation Web Services Practices in Salamanca, Spain, in October 2011.

An organizational design based on process cascades is an approach where the business process design of the organization is based on internal customer-supplier relationships. This design principle was originally developed by Schantin (2004) and Suter (2004; 2009). The principle is based on the idea that, in general, each business process is activated by an order which is placed by another business process. The receiving process executes the order and delivers the results back to the ordering process. The ordering process therefore acts as an internal customer for the receiving process, which acts as an internal supplier. The approach is recursive, i.e. the supplier process may act itself as a customer process which places an order to a third process, and so forth. The principle is illustrated by the following figure:

The principle of cascading business processes.

The principle of cascading business processes.

The study discusses the idea of process-cascade based organizational design and empirically investigates the impact of such a design on firm performance. The empirical findings of the study are that firms which implemented process-cascade-based organizational design achieve higher firm performance. The paper is available via IEEE Xplore.

Survey on Process Management: Structure follows Process

In the process approach, it is the process which comes to the fore, and not the existing organizational structure (Becker et al., 2004).This article discusses the concept of structure follows process which was investigated by the process management survey. Survey details (research design, sample, etc.) can be found here.

A process-oriented organization has adapted its structure to the process view. Several authors stress that the organizational structure should be aligned with the organization’s business processes (Suter, 2004; Gaitanides, 2007; Kiraka and Manning, 2005). 45% of the surveyed firms state that they derived their organizational structure from the organization’s business processes.

The item “The organizational structure is derived from the organization’s business processes” was rated by the firms in the sample as follows:

  • 22,96%: Disagree
  • 31,85%: Neither agree nor disagree
  • 45,19%: Agree
The organizational structure is derived from the organization's business processes.

The organizational structure is derived from the organization's business processes.

Survey on Process Management: Process-Oriented HR-Systems

Human resources systems have to support the process approach (Hammer, 2007). Process-oriented HR-systems incorporate job descriptions based on business process design and incentive systems that emphasize the process’ needs. This article discusses empirical insights on process-oriented HR-systems using the results of the process management survey. Survey details (research design, sample, etc.) can be found here.

In most of the firms, the design of business processes moderately drive role definitions, job descriptions and competency profiles (see figure below). The item “Process’ design drive role definitions, job descriptions and competency profiles” was rated by the firms in the sample as follows:

  • 26,85%: Disagree
  • 40,27%: Neither agree nor disagree
  • 32,89%: Agree
Process’ design drive role definitions, job descriptions and competency profiles.

Process’ design drive role definitions, job descriptions and competency profiles.

Old reward systems based on the functional model are no longer viable in a process-based organization (Armistead and Rowland, 1996). Traditional vertical management systems pull people in one direction, whereas they should work for the interest of inter-functional processes. Therefore, management systems also need to emphasize the process’ needs, otherwise conflict and confusion ensue, lowering performance (Hammer and Stanton, 1999). Interestingly, most of the surveyed organizations do not have reward systems in place that emphasize the needs of the organization’s business processes. The item “Our organization has implemented reward systems (incentive systems) that emphasize the needs of the organization’s business processes” was rated by the firms as follows:

  • 69,33%: Disagree
  • 16,67%: Neither agree nor disagree
  • 14,00%: Agree
The organization has implemented reward systems (incentive systems) that emphasize the needs of the organization’s business processes.

The organization has implemented reward systems (incentive systems) that emphasize the needs of the organization’s business processes.

The Impact of Process Ownership and Process Performance Measurement on Firm Performance

This article summarizes the study “Process Ownership, Process Performance Measurement and Firm Performance” by Kohlbacher M. and Gruenwald S., to be published in the International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 60, Issue 7, 2011.

Process performance measurement and the process owner role are two key components of business process orientation. The article investigates whether the implementation of process owners and process performance measurement can improve firm performance. The study was conducted with 132 randomly selected manufacturing companies in Austria. For every firm one executive (CEO, CIO or quality manager) was interviewed.

The following items were used to measure to which degree the role of the process owner is established in the organization:

  • Is a process owner assigned to each business process?
  • Are process owners experienced managers/leaders?
  • Are process owners responsible for continuous improvement of their processes and do they perform this task proactively?
  • etc.

The following items were used to measure to which degree measurement of process performance is carried out in the organization:

  • Are performance indicators defined for business processes?
  • Are process performance indicators derived from enterprise goals and/or from (internal) customer requirements?
  • Are improvement actions actually initiated if poor process performance is encountered?
  • etc.

Results of the study:

The contingency table of the process owner role and process performance measurement is illustrated below:

Process Performance Measurement
Low implementation High implementation Total
Process ownership Low implementation 46
(34.8%)
5
(3.8%)
51
(38.6%)
High implementation 34
(25.8%)
47
(35.6%)
81
(61.4%)
Total 80
(60.6%)
52
(39.4%)
132
(100%)

In approx. 35% of the firms, both process performance measurement and process owners are virtually absent. Approx. 26% of the interviewed firms implemented process owners in their organization, but do not or only sparely measure the performance of their business processes. Approx. 4% of the organizations implemented process performance measurement, but have no or only a rudimental implementation of the process owner role. Finally, approx. 36% of the firms have both process performance measurement and process owners in place.

The core finding of the study is that implementing process performance measurement or the process owner role only is insufficient to achieve high performance. Organizations must implement both concepts (process performance measurement and the process owner role) to reap the fruits of process management. This finding is illustrated in the following figure:

processowner_processperformancemeasurement_performance

The left illustration applies for firms with no or rudimentary implementation of process performance measurement. These firms apparently cannot profit from establishing process owners. The right illustration applies for firms which (comprehensively) implemented the concept of process performance measurement. It can be said that those firms benefit from establishing the process owner role in their organization.

In summary, the empirical evidence shows that both concepts – process ownership and process performance measurement – must be present in the organization in order to gain higher organizational
performance.

Survey on Process Management: BPM Office

How many firms do have a so-called BPM office in place which coordinates and integrates process projects? This article discusses this question which was investigated by the process management survey. Survey details (research design, sample, etc.) can be found here.

A business process management office, often also referred to as process office (Fischermanns, 2006) or business process management group (Harmon, 2007), coordinates and integrates process projects in the organization. 46% of the surveyed firms state that they have implemented a BPM office. However, 34% of the firms state that a BPM office doesn’t exist in their organization.

The organization has implemented an instance coordinating and integrating projects dealing with business process management.

The organization has implemented an instance coordinating and integrating projects dealing with business process management.

The item “The organization has implemented an instance coordinating and integrating projects dealing with business process management” was rated by the firms in the sample as follows:

  • 34,00%: Disagree
  • 20,00%: Neither agree nor disagree
  • 46,00%: Agree

Survey on Process Management: People and Expertise

In a process-oriented firm, people who execute the processes need to have appropriate skills and knowledge. Furthermore, knowledge of certain process improvement, process redesign and change management techniques have to be present. This article discusses the results related to people and expertise of the process management survey. Survey details (research design, sample, etc.) can be found here.

Process performers must have appropriate knowledge of how to execute the process, otherwise they won’t be able to implement the process design (Hammer, 2007). Most of the surveyed firms state that their employees only have moderate knowledge about the design of the business process they work for. The item “Employees can describe the design of the business process they work for. They know how their work affects subsequent work, customers and process performance” was rated by the firms in the sample as follows:

  • 13,33%: Disagree
  • 51,33%: Neither agree nor disagree
  • 35,33%: Agree

The item “Our organization’s employees are skilled in problem solving, process improvement and decision-making techniques” was rated by the firms in the sample as follows:

  • 20,67%: Disagree
  • 61,33%: Neither agree nor disagree
  • 18,00%: Agree

According to Hammer (2007), a process organization must have some people skilled in, and with knowledge of, process redesign. The item “An expert cadre is available in the organization including change management, process redesign and project management experts” was rated by the firms in the sample as follows:

  • 42,67%: Disagree
  • 33,33%: Neither agree nor disagree
  • 24,00%: Agree

Improving the performance of business processes requires knowledge about, and usage of, process improvement methodologies.The item “The organization makes use of methodologies for continuous process improvement, like KAIZEN, Six Sigma, etc.” was rated by the firms in the sample as follows:

  • 32,89%: Disagree
  • 29,53%: Neither agree nor disagree
  • 37,58%: Agree
The organization makes use of methodologies for continuous process improvement, like KAIZEN, Six Sigma, etc.

The organization makes use of methodologies for continuous process improvement, like KAIZEN, Six Sigma, etc.

Survey on Process Management: Business Process Management Software

A business process management software is a software tool that facilitates activities such as modeling, analysis and enactment of business processes (Reijers, 2006). This article discusses the results related to business process management software of the process management survey. Survey details (research design, sample, etc.) can be found here.

Most of the surveyed firms state that they do not use any business process management software to support their process management endeavors. The item “The organization is company-wide using a software to support business process management” was rated by the firms in the sample as follows:

  • 65,77%: Disagree
  • 14,09%: Neither agree nor disagree
  • 20,13%: Agree
The organization is company-wide using a software to support business process management.

The organization is company-wide using a software to support business process management.

Corporate Culture in Line with Business Process Orientation and its Impact on Organizational Performance

This article summarizes the study “Kohlbacher M., Gruenwald S. und Kreuzer E.: Corporate Culture in Line with Business Process Orientation and its Impact on Organizational Performance”. The paper was presented at the 6th International Workshop on Business Process Design at the Business Process Management Conference 2010, which took place at Stevens Institute of Technology (New Jersey, USA) in September 2010.

The study focuses on the question whether there is a positive relationship between a culture in line with the process approach and financial performance, delivery speed and delivery reliability. The study uses a sample of 132 Austrian manufacturing firms.

The results of the study show that firms which actually live the process approach outperform other firms in terms of profitability, order-to-delivery speed, and delivery reliability.

Organizations which live the process approach exhibit the following characteristics (amongst others):

  • The organization’s employees can describe the design of the process they work for.
  • The employees know how their work affects subsequent work, customers and process performance.
  • Teamwork between different departments of the organization can be taken for granted.
  • The organization’s employees understand that the purpose of their work is to fulfill the needs of the internal/external customers.

The study has been recently published by Springer (www.springerlink.com).

3rd International Workshop on BPMN

The Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) standard has seen a huge uptake in both, industry and academic research. Its promise of being one language for Business and IT has made it very popular with business analysts, tool vendors, practitioners, and end users. After two successful workshops in Vienna, Austria and Potsdam, Germany, this third workshop brings together practitioners and researchers to share experiences and discuss the latest developments around BPMN. There will be a practitioner session, a scientic session and an exhibition. Topics include:

  • Practical experience with BPMN
  • Empirical research on BPMN
  • BPMN as a modeling language
  • BPMN tools and runtimes
  • BPMN for business analysis
  • BPMN for process execution
  • Future directions of BPMN

The worshop will take place in Lucerne, Switzerland, from November 21-22, 2011. For detailed information, visit the workshop website.