Windward Insights

Process Ownership - The Organizational Hot Potato

Published Jul. 18, 2016
Written by Alan Dudash

streamlined processes concept on the gearwheels

Everyone wants to be involved in the development of a new process.Stakeholders want to make sure that their interests are incorporated, line managers want to make sure their organization’s participation is represented, the Information Assurance folks have their requirements, etc.

However, once the process has been rolled out,findingan organizational owner for the process is another matter entirely. Owning the process means being accountable for the continual improvement of the process as well as for managing the incremental changes that are necessary as the business need changes. This work can be complicated, tedious and time consuming. Worst of all – if this work is done correctly, process ownership (also known as process administration) will be largely invisible to senior management! The only time process ownership attracts attention is when things go wrong – in short, not what most people would consider desirable work at all.

How’s that for all the responsibility and none of the glory?Where do I sign up?

So finding a senior manager to take a role of process owner can be a daunting task. I specified “senior manager” because the owner of any critical business processmusthave the political capital to effectively arbitrate (or dictate, if need be) between the various line organizations that participate in the process to effect the needed changes. The process owner ideally is in a position where he or she is the common manager for all participants. As you can see, given the amount of work, the nature of the work and the organizational role that the process owner should (ideally) have, it is no wonder why many critical, well-designed and documented processes are often orphaned when it comes to having an owner.

Establishing an owner for each business process is critically important so that the business has an individual who is ultimately accountable for the process.The business needs to have a vested interest in assuring that the process continues to provide what the organization needs and the owner has the authority to bring the necessary participants to the table.This ensures that the specifics of the process modification can be hammered out in a timely manner. The last thing that the organization needs is participants playing a game of “organizational hot potato”—that is, constantly transferring ownership responsibility.Only strong, constant leadership will result in swift and decisive action to keep process design running smoothly.

By taking the time up front to establish who will be the process owner, you will avoid countless hours of haggling and in-fighting.