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One of the most challenging aspects of managing a company is assigning roles and responsibilities around business processes. This is challenging because processes often span multiple departments.

When a process spans multiple departments, this often means that individual departments only understand a small portion of the process. Without knowledge of how a process fits into the bigger picture, it can be difficult to identify opportunities for improvement. It’s also difficult to suggest process improvements when it requires approval from multiple departments.

Fortunately, assigning ownership of certain business processes to key employees can enable process improvement without creating cross-departmental friction. These key employees are called process owners.

A process owner is responsible for managing a process from end-to-end. Their responsibility includes implementation, maintenance and improvement of this process. Process owners are most effective when they understand how their process interacts with upstream and downstream processes.

Assigning process ownership is a business process management best practice that many consultants recommend. Unfortunately, according to our 2019 ERP Report, less than half of companies use consultants for business process management services.

2019 ERP Report

This year's report delves deep into the data to analyze what ERP industry trends mean for organizations now and in the future.

If your company is about to begin a process improvement initiative or an ERP implementation, it’s important to understand the roles and responsibilities of a process owner:

5 Roles of a Business Process Owner

1. Be Data Driven

To help your process owners become more data-driven, we recommend implementing technology with strong business intelligence functionality. This is important because process owners don’t have time to manually gather process performance data.

Many modern ERP solutions have business intelligence powered by artificial intelligence, which enables predictive analytics. This can warn of early failures or declining performance. It allows process owners to quickly identify bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement.

Once your process owners have access to data insights, you can hold them accountable for suggesting process improvements, determining key performance indicators and measuring business benefits.

2. Create and Maintain Documentation

The “bus factor” is a risk metric that measures the impact on a business if an essential person disappears. In other words, what happens if they get hit by a bus?

If a process owner disappears, can the company still function? While a process may still be able to be executed, there will be no one to monitor performance or resolve issues.

Process documentation can mitigate the bus factor. Effective documentation allows anybody to manage, troubleshoot and complete a process without asking the process owner for guidance.

When we work with clients, we ensure that process owners are tasked with developing clear and simple documentation. In addition, we ensure this documentation is updated as processes evolve.

3. Understand the Big Picture

Process owners need to understand how their processes fit into the grand scheme of the business. This is especially important when it comes to process improvement because it gives the process owner insight into what outputs are commonly used downstream. Reengineering a process around a rarely used output is not a good use of time.

Process owners should always be asking themselves:

  • What processes feed into my process?
  • What downstream processes rely on my process?
  • What is strategically important about my process?
  • What part of the business does my process contribute to?

No individual process operates in a silo. In fact, process changes often disrupt systems and processes downstream. When process owners understand this, they can help the company develop a change management plan that ensures a smooth transition for affected employees.

4. Provide Visibility

Process owners should work with other stakeholders to develop a process map of how processes feed into each other and what inputs or outputs are involved. This provides visibility into how processes operate, what groups are affected and who should be alerted of problems.

Process maps are useful in many scenarios. For example, if an employee sees a failure in a process and understands the downstream processes that are affected, they can warn the process owner in charge of those systems. This gives the process owner time to fix the problem, work around it or push back timelines.

Process maps are also useful when a company is gathering ERP requirements. Requirements gathering sessions are essential for a successful ERP selection.

5. Empower End Users

An excellent example of this mindset is illustrated in the Japanese phrase, Kaizen, meaning continuous improvement. Toyota is a company that embraces Kaizen principles. This means employees at every level of the company can make process improvements. While these improvements may only be tiny changes on a shop floor that save seconds, many small tweaks combine to make a noticeable impact.

Empowering employees to make small changes can result in significant business benefits. After all, end users are the closest to the work they do. In fact, no amount of management expertise can replace the knowledge that day-to-day experience creates.

Finding Effective Business Process Owners

Whether your company is implementing a new ERP system or focusing on business process reengineering independent of technology, process owners are essential.

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help you identify effective process owners and provide them with the tools and expertise to improve your processes and competitive advantage.

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