How does this relate to the role of Business Process Expert? – Part 2/2
In the first part of this blog I described the role of a business analyst using ARIS for NetWeaver. I also made references to the new role of the Business Process Expert (BPX) without clearly defining it. – In part 2 of this blog I would like to explain the BPX role in detail. I will start out with defining the skill set; then I will explain how to develop or recruit the right people; finally, I will differentiate the BPX from other key IT or business roles. And so you know from the get go, I dont think there is only one career path or entry point to this role. Due to the variety of skills needed, any applicant will bring some of them and will need to build others.
Business Process Expert skill set
As I promoted the use of pictures and diagrams before, let me start with a model of the Business Process Expert role. Below, you can see the skills (next to the triangle and in the donut) and behaviors (in the yellow arrows) of the BPX. They will be discussed in the next paragraphs. – Please be aware that this is my own definition and I did not 100% cross reference this with the official SAP definitions; after all, this is a blog, and therefore reflects my own experiences and opinions and hopefully yours too 😉
Balanced core skills in the triangle Next to the sides of the triangle, you see the core skills needed by the BPX. They are:
- business skills,
- technical skills and
- project management skills.
Of these three, the business skills are the most instrumental to the success of the BPX. And why is that? It is because the end product of the BPXs work the business process will be the measure for success. In the world of composite applications with SAP NetWeaver, the technical implementation is transparent to the end user and therefore all that matters is meeting the business requirements in a streamlined fashion! All three core skills are dependent on the company the BPX works for: business processes are specific to the company, project management methodology may be standardized at a company, and the deployed technical solutions may be different from place to place too. Hence, the BPX needs to understand the environment he/she is working in and acquire the right company specific flavor of these core skills. While the BPX does not need to excel in each of the three core areas, the person needs to have a well balanced mix of the three. If not, the triangle will fall over to one side or the other and he/she will not be successful! Interaction skills in the donut The second layer of skills, shown in the donut surrounding the core skills, is what I call interaction skills. Key ones are:
- facilitation skills,
- collaboration skills,
- adaptability and
- method and tool knowledge.
Interaction skills are of softer nature than the core skills and are mostly independent of the company situation. They are more tied to the character and behaviors of the individual. And while interaction skills are tied to the individual, they need to be adjusted and adapted to the corporate culture of the BPXs company or of the partners he/she is working with. Successful interactions are not only positive and professional, they also need to be productive. This is where the method and tool knowledge comes into place (discussed in part one of the blog -> click here). Even though the interaction skills are of softer nature than the core skills, both skill groups need to exist, again in a balanced fashion. Only through successful interactions, the BPX will be able to use and apply all his great core skills. After all, he is tasked to build and integrate complex end-to-end processes with stakeholders within and outside of his own company. Only a good communicator and collaborator with the understanding of the process and technology will be able to do this. Look at the diagram: Interaction skills are needed to round out the Business Process Expert! Both core and interaction skills are the foundation for the key behaviors of the BPX. Key behaviors expressed to stakeholders The yellow arrows in the diagram above show the key visible behaviors of the BPX within and towards its environment. This environment consists of peers, team members, (project) management, project sponsors, business partners and so on. In short, all the stakeholders. It is important to recognize and understand these key behaviors. Unlike skills, they are normally more visible within the organization. Secondly, competence in behaviors is harder to train than competence in skills. So what does that mean? First, the behaviors help you to identify the right people for the job. Secondly, make sure that any candidate for the job of the BPX has shown some or all of these behaviors in the past. As I said, they are harder to train than the hard skills like knowledge about the Composite Application Framework (technology changes all the time anyways). And this leads us into the next section of how to develop or recruit people for the role.
Do Business Process Experts grow on trees?
Well, that would be nice. Actually they are rather like weeds! They will or may have popped up somewhere in your organization and their activities may feel a little disruptive to you (weed analogy). This notion of disruption may be caused by their behavior: They challenge the status quo of doing business, have lots of ideas how to improve things and talk to everybody about their ideas. Yes, I agree, this can be disruptive since the organization has to run or support a business with constant day to day pressures and may not be prepared for these kinds of discussions. If you look at it from a different angle though, this probing and questioning kind of behavior can be very beneficial to your organization. If you recognize it as an asset and promote it as a desired behavior, all the energy can be focused in a positive direction on solving organizational and business process challenges. Hey, I think we just identified the first Business Process Expert within your organization! And you may still say this behavior is disruptive. Let me reiterate: if you recognize such a player and give him the right environment and playground, he/she will prosper and lead your organization in innovation. First, create the role of Business Process Expert and recognize the weeds as such. Secondly, make them part of your Enterprise SOA strategy and give them the Composite Application Framework as a playground for example. Lets approach this from a more positive angle now Lets assume you have worked with HR and have implemented the role of the Business Process Expert within your organization. Now you are trying to identify the right people from within or are trying to recruit from the outside. Also, you do not have any weeds. I recommend that you use the diagram above as your roadmap. Make sure to find people with the right balance of core and interaction skills. In case there are skill gaps, remember that nobody will bring them all, but core skills are easier to train than interaction skills. One exception, however, are business skills and savvy. Any candidate needs to have a good baseline in this area. But this baseline may be in a different business process than you are recruiting for (please read the first part of the blog if you would like this point elaborated -> click here). During the interview process, make abundant use of behavioral questions like the following:
- Tell me about the biggest challenge you came across during a business process implementation? How did you overcome the challenge?
- Tell me about a creative business process solution that you designed? What was creative about it?
- What was the most diverse or distributed group of people you worked with? How did that feel and what did you learn?
- Give me an example of when you felt any kind of resistance in an assignment: What caused the resistance and how did you overcome it?
- How do you approach learning a new methodology or new technologies?
- If I would observe you in a team meeting through a glass door, what visible behavior could I recognize you by?
Hopefully I was able to clearly explain the role of the BPX to you. As a last step, I will have a brief look how this role is different from other roles in business or IT.
How is the Business Process Expert different from other related roles?
A comparison of the BPX to other roles in business and IT will help in defining career paths within your organization and will further outline the role. A brief discussion of the Business Analyst, IT Architect, and Developer follows. Business Analyst The role of Business Analyst is probably the closest to the role of Business Process Expert. The key differentiator is the clearly more technical nature of the BPX. Hence, a Business Architect that used to play with configuration and tools all the time and shows the other capabilities needed for the BPX would be an excellent choice for the role. To get such a Business Analyst fully up to speed, assess his technical capabilities and fill in the holes with some targeted training in NetWeaver, Composite Application Framework or Visual Composer. Also assess all other skills needed per the diagram above. Make sure that you see the outlined behaviors like excitement and eagerness in the person. IT Architect In my opinion BPX and IT Architect are related roles with three key differences:
- Time horizon of work The Architect works in tactical to strategic assignments, hence looking 1 4 years ahead. The BPX works on operational to tactical assignments, hence looking several weeks to one year ahead.
- Level of technical versus business expertise While the BPX needs to be able to choose and apply the right tools and technologies from his toolbox to solving real business problems, the Architect has to define the set of tools in the box beforehand. In order to choose and standardize on these tools, a deeper technical understanding will be helpful. Understanding of the high and medium level business needs are still needed.
- Ability to successfully implement While an architect should have shown the ability to successfully implement projects in the past, it is no longer part of his role. The responsibility to implement the solution is with the project team and the Business Process Expert as a member of this team.
IT Architect and BPX are strongly related roles with an easy transition from one to the other. Some kind of rotation between the two roles would also help to keep IT architecture and strategy close to the business and vice versa. Developer The business application developer is focusing on the programmatic implementation of the business requirements within your application solution. One of his/her tools is a code based development environment. With NetWeaver 2004s, the Composite Application Framework and Visual Composer, his/her time coding will be reduced in comparison to the time composing. Still, developers will be deeply involved in technology and implement/compose complex scenarios. As such, this function is the deeper level technical extension of the BPX, however, with less time spent in interactions. Hence, a senior developer with solid business skills and good interaction skills may be a candidate for the BPX. But only if the person wants to. Since developers love technology, they may not like the more visible integrator type role of the BPX.