A Global Approach to Process Governance

Kathy A.  Long
Kathy A. Long Global Upstream Process Architect, Shell Oil Read Author Bio || Read All Articles by Kathy A. Long

Process governance is an essential aspect of the successful implementation of process change.  Process governance is normally associated with the process maturity of an organization.  From the maturity perspective, this deals with whether it's part of an organization, how it's organized, where it's placed in the organization, what roles have been defined, and whether there is also a C of E (Center of Excellence).

There is an essential group of roles that need to be considered as part of process governance.

Too much governance constrains an organization's ability to adapt and be flexible.  Governance can also be very costly.

Too little governance prevents the advantages of standardization, increases duplication of effort, and increases risk due to higher probability that violations will occur.

This article is structured around a series of questions and answers to some of the popular issues related to this topic:

  • How important is process governance to BPM?
  • What type of org chart should a governance program use?
  • What are the key roles in a company's governance program?
  • Who should fill these roles?
  • How does the traditional organizational reporting structure interface with the process governance?
  • What are some of the biggest mistakes companies make with a process governance program?

How important is process governance to BPM?

First, we should probably try to define 'process governance'.  With some variation in definition, process governance is generally defined as:

Doing what is required to assure that value is produced by the organization for the intended stakeholders in the most efficient, effective, and scalable manner possible.

To fulfill the requirements of this definition, it is necessary that:

  • The roles and responsibilities necessary to assure compliance are defined and assigned, and that includes a definition of empowerment — the authority and accountability to make decisions in an organization with regard to a process or processes;

  • The Framework or methodology to be followed in monitoring and governing process exists;

  • A BPM C of E (Center of Excellence) exists to ensure the continuity and capabilities; 

  • The structure and composition of the various governance groups (such as "process councils") have been well defined and implemented.

Most people can see that process governance is integral to BPM.  In fact, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to "Manage Business Processes" without at least some aspects of process governance.

One final thought, for those seeking to achieve the highest levels of process maturity, this cannot be attained without process governance in place, regardless of the maturity model.

What type of org chart should a governance program use?

First, most people will ask, "Where in the organization should this governance report?"  The reality is that most organizations have placed it in the IT organization.

This may be one of the worst places to try implementing process governance.  This is because the priorities here are mainly IT related, not enterprise or business related. 

The next best solution would be to place process governance in Finance, reporting directly to the CFO.  This can be moderately successful since at least it's on the business side, and Finance is concerned with meeting the financial goals of the organization.

However, the best place for process governance is not "under" any of these areas but rather working side-by-side with these areas.  This position is called the Chief Process Office (or CPO).  This position would oversee everything related to the business processes, including governance.  In large global organizations it is generally better to create a Global Process Board rather than a single position.

An example of a process governance structure and its relationship to the traditional organization is depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1.  Process Governance Program Example  

This example is for a global organization.  As with any attempt to create an example structure, the actual structure most useful in any particular organization is dependent on a multitude of factors.  For example:

  • How dedicated the organization is to a process approach for managing the business,
  • The process maturity of the organization's processes,
  • The scale of the process work to be done,
  • The process skills and capabilities within the organization.

I'm sure there are many other considerations.  These are just a few of the high-level factors.

What are the key roles in a company's governance program?

These roles are based on the Process Governance Structure example in Figure 1.  Keep in mind that a role and a job are not the same thing.  A person can fill more than one role.  A role is group of responsibilities, skills, and capabilities.

So, the key roles are:

Global Process Board

Composed of all Executive/Process Champions — process value stream owners and the relevant business area executives

  • Overall oversight of all processes within an organization;
  • Ensures alignment with overall strategy of the organization;
  • Ensures alignment across all organization processes;
  • Provides high-level direction to Global Process Owners;
  • Responsible for:
    • (Overall) establishing the framework for process governance.

Executive Process Champion/Process Value Stream Owner

  • Ensures the proper alignment and coordination of all process improvement work within the value chain;
  • Responsible for:
    • The overall value delivered to the organization through the value-chain;
    • Ensuring the alignment of the strategies of each of the processes in the value chain and alignment to the overall organizational strategy;
    • Ensuring cooperation across all the business functions in the process value chain;
    • Alignment of the value stream metrics with the overall organizational metrics.

Global Process Owner

  • Approves the process standards, policies, guidelines, and KPIs;
  • Sets priorities for process improvement projects;
  • Coordinates process management with performance management, change management, and technology changes;
  • Ensures alignment across all organization sub-processes;
  • Ensures all technology, application, and data changes are aligned;
  • Responsible for:
    • The overall performance of a specific global process.

Change Manager

  • Overall responsibility for establishing the framework (change management program) for implementation of process change;
  • Responsible for:
    • Ensuring change management is incorporated in all process and technology changes;
    • Ensuring cultural change is incorporated in the change management program.

Process Architect

  • Ensures the alignment of the process architecture with the business strategy and the technology and data architecture;
  • Ensures compliance with all process-related standards;
  • Provides guidance and support to all Process Owners;
  • Responsible for:
    • The design and development of the overall architecture for process;
    • Coordinating the work of the Process Analysts, Process Modeler, Business Analyst, and Process Facilitator;
    • The development, implementation, and compliance with the Process Management Framework.

Application Architect (TOGAF — concept)

  • Responsible for:
    • The design and development of the overall application architecture;
    • The alignment of the application architecture to process and data architectures.

Regional/Sub-process Owner

  • Works closely with all areas of the business tied to the relevant sub-process;
  • Sets initial priorities for process improvement projects;
  • Ensures that the coordination of resources across all relevant areas of the business are achieving the highest value for the stakeholders;
  • Oversees the execution of the processes;
  • Coordinates process management with performance, change, and technology management;
  • Ensures alignment across all organization "area" sub-processes-if applicable;
  • Responsible for:
    • The overall performance of a particular sub-process.

Area Process Manager

Area processes apply to processes that occur in specific areas of the business or processes that occur in multiple instances within a region/country/group

  • Manages process on a daily basis, including process performance and resource allocation;
  • Works very closely with the business functions to ensure processes are efficient, effective, and scalable from the business perspective;
  • Monitors process performance and ensure necessary adjustments are implemented as required;
  • Ensures the process is designed or redesigned;
  • Ensures change management process is implemented;
  • Leads the implementation of a particular business process;
  • Ensures resources have the right set of capabilities;
  • Works closely with the process team;
  • Responsible for:
    • The resources necessary for the process.

Process Analyst

  • Responsible for:
    • Documenting, analyzing, and communicating the process;
    • Finding opportunities to improve the process;
    • Measuring the process;
    • Translating business requirements into technical specifications;
    • Working closely with the "area" process managers.

Process Modeler

  • Responsible for:
    • Modeling the process;
    • Adherence to modeling standards;
    • Assuring the integrity of the process models.

Business Analyst

May not be a separate category but can be.  These are normally the functional SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) who are responsible for contributing requirements at a detailed level from the business perspective.

  • Serves as an interface with a technology group to interpret and clarify the business needs.

Process Facilitator

Almost always a role, not a job.

  • Responsible for:
    • Facilitating process-related sessions including, but not limited to, the creation of process strategy, discovery of current process, process analysis, and process redesign.

Data Architect

  • Responsible for:
    • The definition and design of the conceptual, logical, and physical data models;
    • Ensuring the data model meets the needs of the business processes.

Solution Architect (a technical position)

  • Coordinates with Data Architect to ensure data is defined to meet solution requirements;
  • Coordinates with Process Architect to ensure technical solution aligns with business processes and requirements;
  • Responsible for:
    • The design and planning of the technology solution.

Technical Analyst/System Analyst

  • Oversees implementation of technical components of the process;
  • Provides suggestions, ideas, and limitations from a technology view point;
  • Oversees system installation and configuration, application and forms development, and back-end integration.

Who should fill these roles?

Most of these roles are filled by people who come from the business vs. the IT side of an organization (the exceptions being the Application Architect, Data Architect, and Data Analyst, as well as the Solution Architect and other technical resources).

This is where the C of E (Center of Excellence) contributes significant value.  It is the responsibility of the C of E to supply the capabilities needed to ensure that process governance can be achieved.

Executive Process Champion/Process Value Stream Owner — This should be:

  • Someone who works well at the "C" level but is also very familiar with process;
  • Someone at the executive level of an organization;
  • Someone who had built the relationships necessary to remove all the roadblocks;
  • Someone who "sells" the process concepts and culture.

Global Process Owner — This should be:

  • Someone who knows the business well and can see and understand the cross functional aspects of the process;
  • An individual with extensive process experience, or willingness to be trained and coached in process until they have extensive process experience;
  • An individual who has developed significant influence within and above their peer group;
  • An individual who understands the nuances of doing business globally.

Other Process Owner — This should be:

  • A high-level individual — someone who works well at the "C" level but is also an expert in process;
  • Someone who knows the business well and can see and understand the cross functional aspects of the process;
  • An individual who has developed significant influence within and above their peer group;
  • (Depending the level) an individual who manages the process on a daily basis, so they should also understand all aspects of the process.

Process Architect — This should be:

  • An individual who can see the big picture.  Depending on the size of the organization and whether it is a global organization, there may be a need for more than one Process Architect;
  • A process expert;
  • Someone who not only understands process very well and can work across the functional groups in an organization to ensure the alignment of process to the business strategy but also someone who can create the Process Architecture or redesign the Process Architecture if necessary;
  • The individual responsible for the high-level process architecture and responsible for ensuring that any other process architectures align to the top level.

Process Analyst — This should be:

  • An analytical individual, as well as an individual who can see the big picture;
  • (Ideally) someone who has process modeling skills.

Business Analyst (may not be a separate category but can be) — This should be:  

  • (If in a different group) the individual who interfaces between technology and business to ensure the correct definition of requirements for changes to technology.

How does the traditional organizational reporting structure interface with the process governance?

One of the most successful mechanisms for ensuring the continued alignment of the process with the needs and requirements of the business is the formation of a group called a "Process Council."  Basically, the intent of the Process Council is to ensure governance of all aspects of the process on a continual basis.  The Process Council is comprised of the appropriate levels of Process Owners and their business counterparts, along with the SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) from the business. 

For alignment purposes, it's important to receive feedback from each of the Enterprise Architecture groups.  These members are normally non-voting members.  The Process Council meets on a regular basis — as determined by the members — to discuss the current state of the process, current projects, metrics, adjustments to the improvement plan, etc.

What are some of the biggest mistakes companies make with a process governance program?

  • The one single biggest mistake is:  Not Doing it!!!

  • Probably the second biggest mistake is placing process governance in the IT organization.

  • Other mistakes include:
    • Implementing process governance anywhere except at the same level as all the other "C"s;
    • Not having a good solid framework for governance  — and therefore not having the alignment and traceability necessary to make it successful;
    • Not creating the C of E (Center of Excellence) to ensure the capabilities to fulfill the responsibilities continue to exist in the future.

Looking Ahead

In looking ahead, some of the important factors that will affect the implementation of process governance as a more common practice are:

Process Maturity

  • Process governance should evolve just as the awareness of process has been and is evolving.

  • In levels of maturity, organizations will seek out solutions that address the immediate problems.  However, as organizations become more aware of the importance of process and the value that a process perspective brings, they will begin to understand that just doing process improvement projects is not enough.

  • Organizations will understand that an overall process governance approach is required if they are to reach the higher levels of process maturity and thereby produce the highest value with the least cost in the shortest period of time.

  • Organizations will recognize the importance of oversight for the process improvement projects. 

Then, as organizations implement project oversight, they will begin to realize the importance and value of overall standards for coordinating all work around process.  They will recognize the importance of aligning that with the overall strategies of the organization and of developing the capabilities necessary for process and process governance.  This will most likely result in two things:  (1) creating, within the organization, the process of process governance and (2) the creation of a C of E (Center of Excellence).


  • Crisis motivates.

  • The more that organizations are faced with growing crisis — whether they are economic, knowledge, technology, or whatever — the more they will look for solutions.

In Conclusion

The journey that an organization takes to implement process governance is as important as the concept itself.  The application of the concepts in this article will be slightly different for each organization.  The example included is somewhat complex, so always remember to implement only what you need and make sure that you are always asking the question, "Is it adding value?"  Never make anything more complex than it needs to be.

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Standard citation for this article:

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Kathy A. Long , "A Global Approach to Process Governance" Business Rules Journal Vol. 13, No. 3, (Mar. 2012)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2012/b643.html

About our Contributor:

Kathy  A. Long
Kathy A. Long Global Upstream Process Architect, Shell Oil

Ms. Long has twenty-five plus years of experience in all aspects of BPM as well as Continuous Improvement and Lean. She is certified as a Lean Office practitioner as well as a Kaizen facilitator. She is currently in the role of Global Process Architect responsible for Upstream Process Architecture. During past two years at Shell Kathy has managed projects which implemented a new Business Management System for the upstream business as well as designed and documented the majority of core business processes. Working closely with the Global Process Owners, Leads and Architects to create quality standards and fit for purpose processes.

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