In BPM, “B” Stands for “Business”

“Who should lead a business performance management project: IT, finance or both?” Robert Mitchell of Computerworld asked this question in a recent article, entitled “Who Should Lead BPM?” In the piece, Mitchell asks several IT and finance tech company pros how they’d define ownership of BPM – is it a business practice or an IT practice?

This is an argument that we’ve seen debated for ages and our answer has always been the same: business owns BPM, not IT. While IT’s role is to facilitate the creation and maintenance of a company’s software and hardware infrastructure, BPM stands for business process management, and it’s the business users who create, manage, benefit from or suffer from the way these processes work.

In Mitchell’s piece, a financial planning and analysis director says flat out that business/finance should lead BPM efforts, while a senior VP at a systems integrator feels that IT should take care of initial setup and then let the business side handle all aspects of BPM from then on. Ironically, however, the CIO of the aforementioned financial group thinks BPM projects should be “jointly led because neither finance nor IT will get it right on its own.”

While it may seem endearing to accuse both IT and finance of not being perfect, from the vantage point of IT workers having to get a BPM system up and running and then answering questions about potential technical snafus all-day every day is a nightmare. Some people say that IT relishes having control over all technological elements of a group’s operations, but as someone who worked in the trenches of IT for many years, I can tell you this is far from the truth. What IT wants is to have the freedom to focus on things that actually interest them – programming, design, communication, and planning. IT won’t get a chance to directly use the data and insights that result from an automated business process – why should they be tasked with managing it?

To this same point, forcing business users to take a backseat and rely on IT’s schedule and priorities is both patronizing and wildly inefficient. BPM Workflow Software has advanced to a point at which it yields nearly real-time, actionable insights that can be used to improve customer relationships, flag and correct cost overruns and process bottlenecks and make entire departments and companies run more smoothly. There simply isn’t any reason for IT to swoop in and save timid business users from their own jobs or for business and IT to have to work together on something that’s totally one-sided.

If we really want IT and business to get along, let’s start by giving each their own responsibilities and control over what affects them.

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