Process Owner versus Process Manager

Since this was originally written – I have expanded on this concept and had it published over at The ITSM Review.

You can find my expanded thoughts on this here!


Over the past two months I’ve been involved in some really good discussions about the differences between process ownership versus process management.

This has been especially important at my company because there hasn’t been a lot of clarity around this nor has there been too much of either ownership or management of processes. As we started out to fix some of the process problems we have here, we needed to first understand the roles and responsibilities of owners and managers.

This is my understanding of the two and explanation of why they are important and different.

So what does it mean to own a process. The owner of a process is responsible for the creation, maintenance and improvement of that process. They are responsible for (at least here) collaborating with the people that will be using/abiding by the process and helping educate them on the process. They are responsible for ensuring the outcomes of the process line up with business objectives. This means, measuring the success factors and key performance indicators of the process (compliance comes to mind). Process owners need to ensure the processes are compliant to policies (IT, HR, Legal, other) and work with other processes (such as with taxonomy – what is defined as an “Incident” in one process is synonymous with another process).

The manager of  a process has slightly different responsibilities. They are the executors of the process. The ones moving through the steps defined by the process, or at the very least ensuring that the ‘work’ is being moved through the steps in the proper order/manner as described by the process. They are responsible for managing the inputs/outputs of each step and for the final output of the process matching what is expected as detailed/described by the process. Which is to say if the process is not defined well or if defined incorrectly, that is not the manager’s fault – but the owner’s fault. The manager is required only produce the output as to the defined expectations. The manager should offer input to the process owner for improvements but is not responsible for updating the process. The process manager should also have critical success factors and KPI’s for his/her input and outputs and analyze those reports.

So the owner should be bigger picture, describing how things should move through a process. A manager is tactical, actually moving through the process.

These are of course roles, and don’t necessarily have to be different people. They do require different types of thinking and outputs. Depending on the size, scope, complexity of the process it may be wise to have different people play these roles.

Moreover, you should have only one process owner but you may have multiple process managers (perhaps they only manage a portion, or perhaps they manage only certain teams through the process).


3 comments on “Process Owner versus Process Manager

  1. kthxdie says:

    Thanks for this.

    I still find this very confusing but I will take note of your key words.

    The owner is the one who should align their processes with the policies while the manager just does it. While the Manager can contribute the Owner is the one who takes note of these suggestions and improves the process.

  2. Thomas says:

    What’s your opinion to the next statements?
    “Walking (one time) through a process there always will be only one owner.
    Depending the process has been defined there can be more process managers.”

    “In case the process will be multiple applied in the organisation the process managers can be diferend persons/roles.
    The process manager still will be the same person.”

    • Thomas,

      Sorry for the late reply. I am not quite sure I follow what you are trying to get at. There should only be one Process Owner – no matter the number of Process Managers. You can have Process Managers assigned to teams, groups, divisions, services, product lines, however you like but still at the end of the day…only 1 Process Owner.

      The Process Manager should be there to help people through the process, provide metrics/feedback to the Process Owner and work with both the people using the process, other process managers (for the same process), the process owner and other process owners/managers to improve the process.

      To provide an example: The Incident Process Owner is Mrs. Davis. There are 4 Incident Process Managers, they are Windy, Tamika, Guy, and Shamid. They work with the following groups in IT – Windy with the Service Desk, Tamika with Messaging and Collaboration Service, Guy with Engineering, and Shamid with End User Experience (Desktop/Virtual Desktop/BYOD Support).

      This means Windy, a Process Manager, can help anyone of course, but is primarily focused on ensuring the Service Desk is using the process appropriately, measuring effectiveness/efficiency, meeting with the Service Desk to find out what they like/don’t like about the process and so on. Windy would then report this information back to Mrs. Davis – who is ultimately responsible for the Incident Process. Mrs. Davis would have the aggregate data – how is the process being used overall – Windy would only have that information as it relates to the Service Desk.

      Mrs. Davis would get similar feedback from all her process managers and then work to ensure any improvements that are done are done in a well communicated manner with the full understanding how if a change to the process were to occur – how would it impact the various groups and other processes (inputs/outputs). Mrs. Davis would naturally need to have good Process Managers to help her navigate through that. Mrs. Davis would also need to have strong relationships with other Process Owners, Service Owners, Product Owners, etc.

      Process Ownership is big picture and ultimate responsibility for the usefulness of the process. Process Managers are facilitators,SME’s, and likely advocates for their particular area of focus (be that a team, service, product line, or component of the process itself).

      Hope that helps.

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