Three different things.  A process comprises steps, preferably in an optimal order, that leads to a business function being completed.  Who owns the business process for ‘enter an order’ or ‘validate a prospect?’  Note: I’m not asking ‘who does the work?’  I’m asking, who decides that the process they are following is good, and is rewarded for it’s goodness?

A solution is a subset of a process that involves automation using one or more applications.  For example, a solution may involve adding data to three systems, checking some business rules, and/or sending notifications, seeking approvals, etc.  This is an IT-specific construct used to model how the applications interact across one or more specific business processes.

An application is a set of executable components (perhaps) that delivers business functionality.  (I have trouble with the definability of an application, for portfolio reasons.  See my prior post). 

To me, it is clear who owns what, but apparently there is some disagreement about the way it should be.  Some technical leadership publications have begun to advocate that processes should be ‘owned’ by the business, but driven by IT.  Others feel that the process is less important than the solution, and the solution is owned by IT.  In other words, IT gets to change parts of the process at will and the business gets to deal with it. 

On the other end of the spectrum, some folks feel that IT doesn’t own any of them.  That the business owns the processes, the solutions, and the applications, and that IT is just a service organization that keeps the lights on.

What is your opinion?

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

4 thoughts on “Who owns the application, the process, and the solution?”
  1. I favour the last of these: "the business owns the processes, the solutions, and the applications, and that IT is just a service organization that keeps the lights on". If more IT organizations realized that the business is not just their customer but their entire raison d’être, they might start providing better service that is more appropriate to what the business is trying to do with *their* customers.

  2. Hi

    In the Enterprises I worked for, the Business owned the processes and had a veto right on application packages’ selection, such as Siebel, Oracle Applications etc.

    These were "natural" laws, meaning it was just like that and it was ok with everybody.

    It was inside the IT that bitter and ruthless wars took place. Who should be the owner of a cross-departmental business process? Some were claiming that the "starting point" department should be the owner of the entire process, while others maintained that the "most important" system is the one to own the entire process.

    As one of my colleagues explained to me, the more processes you own, the more powerful you get – politically speaking.

    In some other organizations a central BPM kind of tool was out of question. As one of the managers told me, these central tools are turning his application into "nothing but a button that launches a process running outside my territory".

    Politics, power, control and fears: we should always take these into account.


  3. I definitely agree the business unit owns the process, the solution and the application, but I dont think IT should be considered as the ones who keep the lights on, but should be viewed as enablers, the ones who through proper use of technology allow the business to do things it otherwise could either not do, or could not do as efficiently.

  4. I guess the thing that is lost from my original post is this: the business is broken down into a heirarchy.  In a large corporation, that heirarchy can be quite complex.  

    So, when I say "the business owns" something, I’m not talking about the business en masse.  I’m talking about the tiny business department that is responsible to one small part of the heirarchy.  

    If they own the applications, then you get unique applications for every department, and in a large corporation, the IT profolio explodes.

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