Role of a Process Owner

Processes need to be established, implemented, maintained, and improved for an organization to consistently deliver products and services that satisfy its customers. To ensure this happens, each process should have a named owner.

What is a process? It is a set of interrelated or interacting activities that use inputs to deliver an intended result, for example, an output, product, or service.

The inputs to a process are the outputs from other processes, and the outputs of a process are inputs to other processes. Processes are planned and carried out under controlled conditions to ensure they meet requirements and add value.

A process owner is a person who is given the responsibility and authority for managing a specific process. Most organizations find it useful to appoint individual process owners that are responsible for the implementation, maintenance, performance, and improvement of their process and its interaction with other processes.

Process owners take an organization-wide view of their processes. They may not truly “own” the process in that some of the people who are involved in carrying out the process may not report to them. Instead, the owner is responsible for the design of the process, in other words, how it is carried out, how it interacts with other processes, and how it is monitored and measured. And, this responsibility is an ongoing task.

Process owners have responsibility for their specific process, end-to-end. However, as stated earlier, this does not mean that all the staff involved in a process actually report to the process owner. Process owners usually have responsibility for most steps in the process and are able to influence other key areas outside their direct organizational control.

Process owners should ensure the following activities are completed:

  • Communicate the owner role to interested parties
  • Determine the required inputs and expected outputs
  • Determine the process sequence and interaction
  • Define process methods to meet process criteria
  • Identify process documentation and training needs
  • Issue and maintain any procedures and instructions
  • Align process with quality policy and strategic direction
  • Make available necessary resources and information
    Operate and control an effective and efficient process
  • Collect objective evidence of conformity for audits
  • Resolve any problems and prevent their recurrence
  • Communicate process changes to the process users
  • Define and manage interfaces with other processes
  • Communicate input requirements to internal suppliers
  • Meet process output requirements of internal customers
  • Monitor, measure, analyze, and evaluate the process
  • Use performance data to establish quality objectives
  • Track progress against process performance targets
  • Identify any risks to meeting process objectives
  • Communicate with process users to identify issues
  • Evaluate and propose process improvements

Process owners can use the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology to improve their processes:

1) planning what to do and how to do it,
2) doing what was planned,
3) checking the results to see if things happened per the plan, and
4) acting to improve the process the next cycle.

ISO 9001:2015 does not specifically mention “process owners”, but it does state in clause 4.4.1.e that the organization must assign the responsibilities and authorities for its processes. Clause 4.4.1 also identifies process requirements for inputs, outputs, sequence, interactions, methods, criteria, operation, control, resources, risks, changes, and improvement.

IATF 16949:2016, the automotive standard based on ISO 9001:2015, includes a clause that is titled, “Process Owners”. It requires top management to identify process owners who are responsible for managing the processes and related outputs. It states these process owners must understand their roles and be competent to perform those roles.

In summary, a Process Owner is the person immediately accountable for creating, sustaining, and improving a specific process, as well as, being responsible for the outcomes of the process.

A process owner is usually someone in management, not a team or committee. You need a single point of contact that is accountable for the overall process. Of course, the process owner may establish a process leader and team to help set up, operate, and support the process.