Does the Janitor Own your Processes?

Who owns your processes?

It’s a simple question but a complex answer.  (Unless, of course, you’re a one-person business where you do everything, in which case I’m fairly sure you are the process owner)

In the real world where companies are larger than a  single individual – and multinationals can have hundreds of thousands of employees – finding the process owner is often a difficult task.

“But isn’t the process owner the head of the relevant department?” you ask?  I mean, if this is an on-boarding process then it’s part of Human Resources, right?  And the supplier payment process is part of Accounts Payable, right?

Well, at the basic level “Yes”.

But let’s look at a more relevant process: Customer Invoicing.  Or rather let’s look at the process that Customer Invoicing is a part of: “Customer Fulfilment”.  Who owns “Customer Fulfilment”?  Well it’s Accounts Receivable isn’t it?  I mean they deal with the raising of the invoice and the reminders, the… oh, wait, they don’t raise orders, do they?  The Sales department do that.  So it’s a Sales function then?

Well… no.  Sales deal with the selling side (and the CRM part).  Accounts Receivable deal with the invoicing part.  Treasury deal with the cash part.  General Ledger deal with the accounting part etc. etc.  In fact there are multiple areas of the business that are participants in any given process.

“So let them all own the process” I hear you say.  Bad Idea!  If everyone owns a process, nobody owns a process.

The key driver to determining who owns a process is to find out who has the power to change any and all parts of that process.  Which individual in the organisation can make Sales and Accounts Receivable and Treasury change their part?

In the long run that’s the individual who is the owner.  Giving ‘sub-responsibility’ to the department heads of the affected process will only work so far – especially as they will generally be very territorial and siloed in their approach, often making changes that improve their part of the process regardless of what happens up or down stream.

Now I’ll ask you again: “Who owns your processes?”

Process Owner

Read another opinion

Image by Robert S. Donovan

This is a guest post by Gary Comerford. If you want to learn more about what Gary can offer then please visit his Business Process Consultancy web site. If you would like to guest post on this site, read the guidelines here.


  1. A great way of looking at process ownership – you have added to my view of the world, thank you.

    May I offer another perspective: who cares enough to do something about it? This is the bottom up version of leadership and influencing change.

  2. James Lawther says:

    Now there is a powerful thought

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