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“This method not only provided excellent tools, it also helped us build the habit of criticizing our own process so we can make it better.”

David Scronce,
Director Strategic Initiatives
University of California, Berkeley


Is the (BPM) Charter an Important Starter?

A charter is critical to your process. It is the foundation of your BPM project–your blueprint for what is expected.  Like the Constitution, it has several components  and it will change over time.   It starts as a draft and is iterated, as you gather critical quantitative data, hear from your customer, and analyze the current process.

Different BPM methodologies use different starter elements for the project.  Lean uses a high-level value stream map with key data on it.  Six Sigma uses a SIPOC (suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, and customer) model.  The 8 D method starts with Defining the Problem.

I suggest starting with a charter and yes the charter is an important starter.  Your company may already use a charter in other circumstances –in project management or to begin key initiatives.  All the better!  Replicate the elements of your company charter that make sense for your BPM project and add some BPM process specific elements.  For a complete list of the critical charter elements see my blog, “ How Long Should a Charter Be?”  parts 1 and 2 published in May 2012.  

Bring together the critical leaders of your project to write the first significant draft of the charter.  These people are the executive sponsor, process owner, project lead and internal facilitator (or external consultant).  A short explanation of their roles is given below.

Executive Sponsor

  • Executive over the process
  • Supports process owner working across the organization
  • Has authority over this process

Process Owner

  • Sets Improvement Targets and vision
  • Identifies team
  • Drives implementation
  • Ensures continuous improvement

Project Lead

  • Knows the whole process
  • Is strong project manager
  • Makes sure the team focuses on process owner’s targets
  • Leads operational implementation


  • Knows group process skills
  • Learns BPM methodology
  • Facilitates all workshop & team meetings

The charter is critical first piece.  It gets everyone started on the right foot and the same foot.  It

  • Helps the leaders clarify the project for themselves
  • Shows the leaders where they have a common understanding of the current challenges in the process and the improvement goals and where they have different perceptions

Once you have completed documenting the first draft of the charter, discuss resources for the project – team members, time, and potential budget for improvements.  The team is critical and the executive sponsor and process owner should select the team members, get their commitment to be team members, and  explain the necessary time commitment and schedule. This resource identification and commitment makes the BPM project doable and should be established even before the charter.  Team members will see the project as believable now.  During the charter meeting the facilitator should review the designated team members with the leaders to determine if the selected members the right ones, and if any more  are needed.

I also find it useful to review the roles and responsibilities of the leadership team at the initial charter meeting and provide the leaders with a roles and responsibilities document showing their roles and the team roles.  I go over their roles verbally so they understand their commitment.   I provide a time estimate for each role.  Then I ask if they have any questions, concerns, and whether they think it is doable.

It is helpful to share a roadmap showing the phases of the BPM process improvement project with dates for meetings, agenda topics and who’s expected at different meetings.  So often someone at the meeting is surprised by the dates, or level or commitment.  Now is the time to talk about this.  But this should not be the first time the sponsor and process owner hear this.

The charter is an important starter because it

  • Establishes a blueprint for your work
  • Builds the first high level model, thus moving away from dialog about the problems today to what is the current process
  • Designates the scope of the process improvement effort
  • Matches the team members to the process improvement effort
  • Defines roles and responsibilities
  • Provides focus to the team members who will work on the project

Want to learn more?  Sign up for my live-online BPMessentials workshop, Starting and Organizing a BPM Project on Sept 25 and 26. Found out how to write a charter in 90 minutes,  clarify key roles further using detailed role descriptions, learn how to build partnerships between the Business and IT and how to document process models in the BPMN standard, using the free ITP software.

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