As organizations continue to focus on improving and managing business processes the question of what the scope of this management effort is along with the skills required has been a popular question from various industries associated with our university. This newly labeled role of Business Process Expert attempts to define a skill-set that encompasses both business and IT knowledge needed for business process management (BPM) endeavors of today’s organizations. However before an organization can obtain or develop a skilled business process workforce they must know what skills the BPM Endeavour encompasses and whether they are in need of these skills within their organization. Is there a gap between current and needed process skills in organizations today? As part of a research project I am involved with, I surveyed 146 companies who were already involved with BPM in some capacity in order to help answer this question. The responding companies indicated they typically assigned BPM related activities to existing organizational roles, stating they did this because they didn’t have the desired process skilled role. When asked what type (if any) BPM training they provided their employees only 3% of the responding organizations indicated they either had no plans to or did not provide any type of BPM training, 32% indicated they provided BPM training internally, 11% indicated they sent their employees to external BPM training classes (including programs such as Six Sigma and Lean Management), and a staggering 54% indicated they were planning on sending their employees to external BPM training but were unable to find appropriate training mainly because they did not know what training was needed. There was an overwhelming response from these organizations that they needed to understand not only what BPM encompassed but also how to link process strategy with process execution in a unified and common way that appeals to both business and IT managers. It was obvious from this survey that most of the organizations did not have a clear understanding of the required skill set for BPM endeavors.How you define BPM will help you define required BPM skillsIdentifying these needed skills requires an understanding of what BPM is in addition to BPM activities. Several Business Process Management (BPM) thought leaders have come to an agreement that BPM must focus on a holistic view of process management. This means that organizations should focus on the goal of integrating management, organizational issues, people, process, compliance and technology for both operational and strategic activities with resulting business processes that produce value, serve customers and generate income (Hill, 2004; Miers, 2004; Khan, 2003; Smith and Fingar 2002; Spanyi, 2006). These strategic activities encompass analytical and predictive methods with technologies in an effort to create agile organizations. While well defined and automated processes can be successful accomplishments for organizations, sustained success lies in the ability to create value through effectively managing and orchestrating these processes across the organization. As a result developing and managing business processes appears to require a comprehensive skill set! Yet, how do we define that skill set? Defining Process Skills within a Continuous BPM Practice FrameworkIn order to define this skill set, an examination and definition of the BPM practice is required. The most common business process practice or life-cycle I have found defines a set of activities or phases beginning with (1) process planning and strategy used to direct (2) analysis , design and modeling of business processes, that drives the (3) configuration of business processes, leading to the implementation of processes and (4) Process execution, creating processes instances that can then be (5) monitored and controlled, providing feedback for process refinement and continued process performance analysis, leading to additional (2) analysis, design, modeling and so forth. Although this business process practice emphasizes the development and implementation of processes, it lacks the management practices of key success factors that must also be integrated in order to encompass both the business and IT aspects of BPM (see figure 1). Successful BPM practices need to be supported by simultaneous management activities (such as obtaining appropriate process sponsorship, identifying process owners, deploying employee incentives for process improvement and change management, etc.). Translating the required skills for a business process expert role needs to correspond to these interacting activities. In addition a strong process skill is one that can help communicate a customer-focused common process view across the organization, from management to IT. As a result of these various skills needs we have seen the emergence and growth of many different process related positions such as business process officer, architect, analyst, etc. These have emerged in a piecemeal fashion, usually focused on either IT or management, lacking integration and consistency. An effective business process expert needs to encompass the skills that integrate process and management practices for end-to-end processes. This framework is a starting point to help define the comprehensive skill set for business process professionals, but there remains a need or further refinement of skill responsibility definitions. Figure 1 In response to this need we are seeing several professional organizations currently drafting BPM BOK resources (see ABPMP.org) in the effort to define the BPM space and needed skill set. Several universities are also beginning to define needed skills and integrate BPM discipline topics and courses within their curricula that integrate both the IT and business aspects of business processes. These definitions will be very helpful in defining the skill set for your business process professional roles. Conclusion A comprehensive skill set for the business process expert role has yet to be thoroughly defined. This blog provided a framework to start defining your process professional skill sets. It would be very interesting to know how your organization has been able to meet your business process skill requirements. Specifically: Has your organization been examining process skill sets? What BPM skills are lacking (if any) in your organization? Have you (or are you) deploying formal BPM training in your organization? Have you had a hard time finding appropriate training for your organizational BPM needs? What are you looking for?
- Hill, J. (2004) “Business Process Management: The Path to Becoming an Adaptive Enterprise”, BrainstormBPMConference, New York, November.
- Khan, R. (2003) “Evaluating BPM Software”, Business Integration Journal, October.
- Miers, D. (2004) “The Split Personality of BPM”, in 2004 Workflow Handbook, Editor Layna Fischer, Future Strategies Inc., Lighthouse Point, Florida
- Smith; Fingar. (2002) Business Process Management (BPM): The Third Wave, Meghan-Kiffer Press.
- Spanyi, A. (2006) More For Less, Meghan-Kiffer Press.