In recent times we have focused a lot more on the importance of processes and the need for them to enjoy the primacy that will get organizations to achieve a much needed Business Process Perspective. In an earlier post (Café Innovation – The Business Process Enterprise), I had sought to make the case for recognizing that the business process orientation of an organization is an imperative that can make the difference between the success and failure of its SOA journey. We said that if process excellence were to be achieved, we needed to move away from the traditional functional silos and the damaging divide between IT and Business. Continuing on with this line of thought, in a subsequent post (Café Innovation – Is your organization’s leadership committed to delivering on The Business Process Enterprise (BPEn)?) I pointed out that this will remain a noble goal unless there is true and demonstrable senior leadership commitment to taking the organization beyond just using SOA as another enabling tool. The use of the word “leadership” is deliberate; what is needed is not more “management” but a level of engagement from these senior executives that is clearly much higher. In the last two months I have traveled around the globe with these messages and it is increasingly clear that they resonate at many levels across cultural boundaries.
I am hopeful that what is becoming a trend will eventually grow into a tidal wave that will sweep us into a new era where we do not implement software functionality but realize business process value through technology deployments. In the quest for attaining this objective we will need to consider at least one other vital practical matter. And that is the governance of these processes themselves! And this is what I discuss in my SAP NetWeaver Magazine column (Winter 2009) titled: SOA Success: Got Process Governance? (online at: http://www.netweavermagazine.com/archive/Volume_05_(2009)/Issue_01_(Winter)/v5i104.cfm?session=).
We must consider that a lot has changed since SAP R/3 first came out. When “SAP introduced its three-tier client-server architecture (SAP R/3), traditional IT folks found logical extensions to the governance methods they already employed and simply built a governance model around them. This was fine until the age of SAP NetWeaver, when the IT world shifted to an Internet-intensive model, requiring organizations to think beyond traditional IT governance and consider how to best use and manage the newer stacks necessary for maintaining meaningful SAP functionality.” This, needs to be tempered with the fact that processes “no longer change slowly and occasionally; they often change prolifically and at the speed of thought.” This should lead us to conclude that to “meet the demands of this new era, enterprises need a more robust framework and a process governance model.” The good news is that this is being recognized in the marketplace. There are emerging solution providers out there, such as PIEmatrix Inc., that offer up new ways and tools to put process governance in place. One way is through collaboration tools (some in development) that are “designed to be repositories of best practices (as accepted by the organization), as well as function as a guide for implementing them.” The promise of tools like these is that they will “help provide an auditable trail of changes and help companies understand why their processes are what they are.”
It should be recognized that an organization’s evolution into a BPEn is not just a matter of appropriate emphasis and commitment from its senior leadership or that of appropriate enablement of the BPXers, but also one of due importance being given to process governance. A true BPEn will “have an integrated aspect of process governance that encompasses both IT and the business…” A comprehensive governance approach will be required – one that goes beyond good IT governance.