Posted by: Adam Deane | 02/02/2011

BPM Centre of Excellence

BPM CoEOn the way to one of the customers, I was pondering over their plans to build a BPM Centre of Excellence (CoE).

One of the Jack Daniels’ adverts on the London underground (Tube) that caught my eye was:
“No one ever built a monument to a committee”

CoEs are usually an internal steering group that oversees the BPM efforts within an organization. The CoE’s main targets are to set priorities, create a strategy map, standardise procedures and best practices – and enforce them.
But like in most organisation committees their day-to-day work includes settling arguments, creating reports for the management, argue some more…

There is a bundle of material on the topic of “BPM Centres of Excellence”:

Who’s in charge?
Creating a BPM Centre of Excellence is important, I’m not against it.
But if I had a say in it, I’d ask for a strong executive sponsor on board, not just someone that supports the BPM initiative, but someone who pushes the programme forward.
CoEs don’t need a nice guy to run them. They need a terrifying ogre. Someone who doesn’t care for niceties, a bulldozer that pushes, that people are afraid of.
BPM causes change. People don’t like change. For any change to succeed you need a lot of small carrots… and one enormous stick.

You need business analysts, you need techies. Cross-functional roles. You need a good mix. You need the people that have clout. People that can make decisions. Not people that just fly under the radar, fill an empty chair, say yes to make people happy, or say no just to pull peoples strings…

Remove the chairs from the room, start the meeting at 12:23 precisely and tell everyone that lunch break is straight after the meeting.

Free Speech
Bring a big russian that doesn’t speak english to the meeting.
Have him sit opposite the project manager.
Explain to the russian that every time the project manager starts to speak – he needs to jump out of his chair, yell Niet! and wave his gun in the air.
(he will only need to do this once…)

Keep to these rules and your CoE is sure to succeed

Centre of Excellence


  1. Hi Adam, as I read this I am unsure if this is one of your SATIRES or not?

    Most BPM-CoE are part of the bureucracy that I oppose, especially when they are meant to ENFORCE change with a big stick! That is utterly futile and part of the BPM-control-freak-mindset that is against good management principles.

    if you give the people who do processes the ability to create and modify processes themselves, all the CoE would need to do is helping executives to define strategy that can be transformed to process goals, coach the people who execute, and help to understand the process and customer feedback on outcomes. No CONTROL necessary.

    A Coe as you describe it would simply destroy any chance of BPM being beneficial to a business. So I certainly hope this is satire …

    • Hi Max,

      I’m sure, deep down, somewhere… there is a way to make CoE work. (but alas… I have yet to see one work)

      And I agree that it is basically all about good management controls.

      But I must admit that I admire the trust you give to “people who do processes” the ability to create and modify processes themselves…
      Some of the people who do processes in government departments and public offices – I wouldn’t trust to decide on their lunch, let alone processes…

      CoE is a steering group that oversees the BPM efforts within an organization. It’s all about good management practices. Some believe in love and good will… I believe a big stick is also needed.

      Al Capone once said: You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun


      • Adam, let me put it this way: To create, optimize and innovate processes must be part of normal management activity. It should be done the way a business operates and not in some special way because it is BPM software.

        If an orgnization is very centrally controlled, i.e. a government agency, then the people who decide on processes should create them, not a seperate CoE. If the company is very dynamic, i.e. Google, a CoE is doomed to fail anyway, regardless of the big stick.

        The core idea of being adaptive is to give the business the ability to do processes as they see fit and not IT provide no more than the infrastructure and a core business architecture.

        I am with you that a CoE is like Al Capone’s protection racket. Costs a lot of money for a false sense of security … and once you had it, trying to get out of it was nearly impossible.

  2. I like Max, wondered if this was one of your more satirical pieces?

    I take the points regarding, who’s in charge, participants, when etc. but in an attempt to be more pragmatic, and I would have to ask the question; who cares?

    Again agreeing with Max, all this CofE ‘talk’ seems to be a part of the BPM-control-freak-mindset and in addition I would suggest it is promoted by industry ‘experts’ that seem to be more focused upon matters other than delivering valuable BPM solutions to organisations and their end-users.

    I see a trend in a lot of BPM discussion groups towards purely academic and esoteric discussions around X & Y, all of which ignores the real needs of our clients to focus on improving their process asset(s).

    • Hi Jon,

      Most of the CoEs I’ve seen were created by the customers themselves, usually not even related to BPM.
      I think Max defined the problem correctly as it is “about good management controls”.
      Personally, I haven’t seen a successful CoE, although I believe it should work if managed properly.

      Regarding academic and esoteric discussions: Tom Baeyens wrote a good post this week about the distinction between BPM as a management discipline and BPMS solutions


      • Thanks, Adam. I have covered the ‘esoteric difference’ between BPM and BPMS extensively myself. But I strictly disagree with Tom that business people should not be involved in creating processes, but be at most just documenting them.

        it is the job of US IT PEOPLE to provide systems that enables them to do what they do within a process management system, without needing IT to implement and without having to nail down every little fart in a flowchart.

        BPMS do not implement BPM! That is not just esoteric! BPMS just execute BPM processes. Social BPMS try to bring the BPM governance into the BPMS domain. I believe in bringing BPM to the people who execute – executives, managers and employees.

  3. For 1% of all organizations (those with dynamic cultures that Max defends, those with employees at every level looking to improve processes, those where we would all love to work, etc.) leave the big stick home – agree with Max.

    Big sticks accompanying COE’s are only required for the other 99% (government, utilities, dilbertized, etc.) that have been given marching orders to improve at the risk of being eliminated.

    Identify the culture properly prior to placing an order to Louisville.

    • Robert, you sound so jaded about people and their managers that it is worrying. If management truly thinks that they can improve a business by implementing BPM, or ACM or Social and enforce it with a CoE then they are certain to kill it. What that means is that they are lucky that neither BPMS nor CoEs live up to their promise and so much flexibility remains that the business stays afloat.

    • One more thing: I believe in bringing BPM to the people and enable them to do processes as they see fit without bureucracy. The existing management structure should do the rest. I have no idea why that should be wrong. There must be some people in the business who know about processes and do them and some people must responsible for them. If not, then I don’t think businesses can survive at all, regardless if they take a BPM view or BPMS product.

      Like with Social it is technology empowerment that brings new opportunities and it needs to be guided and nurtured. Even if the processes are executed AS-IS, at the technology starts to provide transparency. People will start to look at goals and outcomes because they need to be defined. And thus the BPM perspective is drawn into everyday business life.

      People do not like to be inefficient and ignore customer needs. If you make it easy for them to do both, my take is they will. If you force them to do anything, they will simply do as told and what the heck!

      But go ahead and ignore the scientific evidence abotu intrinsic motivation and empowerment and stick to the old ways. Good luck with that.

  4. A portion of Humble Pie for the gentleman in the corner…

    Please accept my apologies Adam, for my 2nd of February Post – a full explanation of my revised position on this topic, can be found at

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