Whither the IT organisation? Part 2: Business Process Management

In my last post I wrote about the synergies between IT and organisational change management. In this, the second of a three part series, I’m going to look at another discipline which I believe has a significant overlap with ‘traditional’ IT and discuss how it might co-exist with the IT organisation of the future: business process management.

Like change management, I see process management as something of a Cinderella topic. Frequently the effort put into this area comes down to organisational culture. Some organisations take it very seriously to the extent of having a clearly documented and well maintained business process architecture and even appointing a chief process officer with responsibility for managing and optimising overall business processes. Others have a much less formal approach with no or very limited organisation or governance around processes and with individual business managers being left to ensure that the processes within their area of responsibility are clear and optimal (or not as the case may be). Very often, what actually happens is that processes are documented as part of a project, usually linked to the implementation of a new IT system, and then put on one side where they slowly go out of date.

Why is process management important? For me there are two reasons. Firstly, all organisations (and this includes IT organisations!) should be constantly looking to improve their operating efficiency and if they don’t have a clear view of their operating processes then it will be very hard for them to achieve this. The importance of this is also being increased as more and more business processes include interfaces with external partners where it is absolutely essential that both sides are clear on what their responsibilities and obligations are.

This only works, however, where the right frameworks are in place to ensure that value is obtained from the effort that goes into documenting and optimising processes; too often this is not the case and the exercise is seen as purely bureaucratic and administrative

The second reason why this topic is important is that, very frequently, there are compliance and governance issues which require management to be able to demonstrate that they are clearly in control of the processes being operated in their organisation. It is beyond the scope of this blog to go into this in detail and, anyway, it varies between industries and between countries, but suffice to say that, particularly in areas such as, for example, financial services, the requirements for this are not going to get any less onerous in the foreseeable future.

So how does this relate to IT? Well for me, the clear overlap is in the area of architecture. To operate at maximum effectiveness, an organisation needs applications and business process architectures to be completely aligned. This is the basis of the whole concept of enterprise architecture management. For this to work, however, the business process architecture needs to exist, ideally in a form where it is documented based on consistent standards, and the individuals reasonable for overseeing this* need to be working hand in glove with the individuals responsible for the technology architectures.

Does this mean that the two groups need to sit in the same organisation? Well, not necessarily. Provided that they can work together effectively across organisational boundaries, that should be enough. Like change management, however, the answer to the question often comes down to being pragmatic. If process management doesn’t sit in the IT organisation where should it sit? It needs to be somewhere where both the efficiency and the compliance drivers are appreciated and where process management will be clearly understood as a discipline important in itself for adding value to the organisation, rather than being an administrative burden. The process management team also needs to have the organisational strength to be actually able to promote and enable the ongoing optimisation of processes, rather than just been seen as having a documentary function.

For these reason I see IT as very often being an excellent fit for this function not least because, in my experience, IT is frequently the only area in an organisation that does take a genuine end to end view of processes and has a real understanding at a detailed level of how the organisation as a whole operates.

In conclusion, I think business process management is certainly going to be a growth area and, whilst is probably not core to IT, there are definite benefits in it being integrated into an IT organisation, particularly where there is no other obvious owner for the process function.

So, that’s my take on this topic, but how does this get addressed in your organisation? If anyone out there has a good example of how process management has been carried out really effectively, I would be fascinated to learn about it.

* I use the word ‘overseeing’ advisedly here. Ultimately, I would expect individual business processes, just like IT applications, to be owned by the managers who are responsible for carrying out these processes. Where a process management team can add value (like an applications architecture team) is through ensuring that processes are adequately documented to consistent standards, ensuring that the ‘big picture’ of overall processes is clear and that interfaces are consistent and, in particularly but providing consultancy support to assist in optimising processes.

About the author

Adam Davison MBCS CITP has an MSc in IT from the University of Aston and has filled a variety of senior IT strategy roles for organisations such as E.ON and Esso.

See his LinkedIn profile

See all posts by Adam Davison
June 2018
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