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  1. Keith Swenson
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. Sunday, December 08 2013, 08:23 PM
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I am looking for the best stand-alone definition of Business Process Management. I have found lots of them, and they are all different. I am looking for what you think is the best definition. It needs to be clear enough to be able to tell the difference between what is BPM and what is not BPM. It needs to be understandable by the general public, and not laden with jargon. Please post your best definition, and a link to the source if that is appropriate. Please don't post a circular definition that uses "business process" within the definition.

The biggest problem with BPM at this point is that there are many varying definitions, so many that serious discussion is not possible. You can't really have a serious discussion if people can't decide whether it is a plant, animal, or mineral. So, to rescue the BPM field, and to allow meaningful discussion, we need to agree on a clear definition of BPM.

In the BPM Guru group of Linked-In, we debated this for the past week, and you are welcome to review the thread of conversation on linked-in or a PDF of the discussion.

Best definition so far:

Business process management is the discipline to model, automate, execute, control, measure and optimize the flows of business activities that span the enterprise’s systems, employees, customers and partners within and beyond the enterprise boundaries.

(Many thanks are due to Alexander Samarin for contributing and defending this definition.) This was kept quite short, because a short, succinct definition is useful. It corresponds quite well with the definition from the ABPMP which is filled out with some unnecessary words:

Business Process Management (BPM) is a disciplined approach to identify, design, execute, document, monitor, control, and measure both automated and non-automated business processes to achieve consistent, targeted results consistent with an organization's strategic goals. BPM involves the deliberate, collaborative and increasingly technology-aided definition, improvement, innovation, and management of end-to-end business processes that drive business results, create value, and enable an organization to meet its business objectives with more agility.

There are a couple of things to note about both of these definitions: they describe something that people do, a "discipline". Also, it includes just about anything a business does. in some ways it seems to me that 'business process management' is virtually the same thing as 'business management' or just 'management' itself.

I am looking for more input from people with experience with BPM. My goal is agreement: a definition that we can point to and say that is ti, and if you are talking about something else, call it something else. Without agreement, we can not discuss BPM, and this being "BPM.COM" it is critical that we know what this site is about.

If you do or don't agree with the definition at the top, please make a comment explaining why.
Thanks to efforts from Keith and comments/questions from several people, I think that the definition (BPM as a discipline) can be slightly improved. It seems to me that two aspects are currently missing:
1) "explicitness" as BPM is to carry out all 6 functions (or verbs) explicitly not implicitly (i.e. in the brain of somebody)
2) "togetherness" as BPM is to carry out all 6 functions together.

Also, the definition of process should be considered together with the definition of BPM. I use the following one: process is an explicitly-defined coordination of services (or activities) to achieve a particular result.

Ideally, a commonly-agreed BPM reference model (with an ontology) should be developed within the BPM industry.

Thanks,
AS
Comment
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 1
Bogdan Nafornita Accepted Answer
I am fine with the ABPMP definition, shortened a bit:

Business Process Management (BPM) is a disciplined approach to identify, design, execute, document, monitor, control, and measure business processes to achieve an organization's goals.

Automation is just a form of execution and I do not believe it's important for the scope of the definition.
Managing Founder, profluo.com
Comment
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 2
Emiel Kelly Accepted Answer
Will take a more detailed look later, but I would never use Model and Automate in a definition for BPM. Those are just tricks to get more grip on your processes (maybe that's my definition...)

I know companies who are great in BPM without modeling or Automating.
Common Sensei at Procesje.nl
Comment
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 3
The verb “model” as well as “plan” and “simulate” is use to emphasize that some way of working is externalized and communicated to all roles involved.

The verb “automate” is used to emphasize that some tools/instruments are provided to help carrying out the process.

The verb “execution” does not cover “automate” as the former relates to explicit enacting of the agreed way of working.

Thanks,
AS
Comment
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 4
Keith Swenson Accepted Answer
I have always taken "automation" to be the act of taking a design of a process, and expressing it in an executable form. A process analyst or possibly a programmer will "automate" a process by programming the process (either visually or textually) into an executable.

Then executing is the actual running, or enactment, of the process, which includes the system running automated tasks, as well as people doing manual tasks.

As a way of explaining this: a process might be automated once, and then executed many times. (A better version of the process might be automated again later to replace the earlier version, and then that version will be executed many times.

Does that make sense?
References
  1. http://social-biz.org/2013/11/02/automation-leads-to-forgetting/
Comment
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 5
Keith Swenson Accepted Answer
It is hard for a definition to stand on its own without context. Here is the definition, along with a description that explains what the terms mean for completeness:

Business process management is the discipline to model, automate, execute, control, measure and optimize the flows of business activities that span the enterprise’s systems, employees, customers and partners within and beyond the enterprise boundaries.



  • BPM is a discipline; it is a practice; it is something you do.
  • A person doing BPM would consider a complete, end-to-end, business process. This is the key difference from a functional view of business where each function optimizes itself independent of the other functions. A process oriented view means that optimization is relative to the entire process.
  • Process means a flow of business activities and seeing those activities as connected toward the achievement of some business transaction. Flow is meant loosely here: the order may or may not be strictly defined.
  • Model means that they would make a representation of the complete process to support communication about the process. There is no single standard way to model, but the model must encompass the process.
  • Automate means that they create some things that are designed to help support the process. Today this often means writing some software that helps in information exchange, but it does not have to be software. It might be as simple as printed instructions posted where people can read and follow them.
  • Execute meaning that the process is performed or enacted with the help of the automated parts if there are any. The process executes itself, it is not executed by the BPM practitioner.
  • Controlled means that the there is some aspect of making sure that the process follows the designed course. This can be strict control and enforcement, or it might be loose control in the form of guidelines, training, and manual practices.
  • Measure means that effort is taken to quantitatively determine how well the process is working in terms of serving the needs of customers.
  • Optimize means that the discipline of BPM is an ongoing activity which builds over time to steadily improve the measures of the process. Improvement is relative to the goals of the organization, and ultimately in terms of meeting the needs of customers.
  • Enterprise is used here simply to mean a business organization; any organization where people are working together to meet common goals; it does not need to be exceptionally large, and it does not need to be for profit.
  • Inside and outside the organization recognizes that the enterprise is part of a larger system. Customers are part of the business process. Their interaction, along with those of employees should be considered as part of the end-to-end interaction.
Comment
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 6
David Chassels Accepted Answer
Let’s adopt the KISS principles.....so here is my shot at a definition.

"BPM is IT's recognition of the importance in business to support the creation of information and outcomes by people and machines that is fundamental to the real world of work and drives all businesses"

I was doing modelling in the 70s then IT came along and basically imposed "centralised" systems such as ERP and frankly we now have a bit of a mess….. So good “BPM” supporting technologies have the opportunity to regain business trust but must be in their language?
Comment
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 7
Keith Swenson Accepted Answer
I have created a place to keep score of which definition is supported the most.

http://social-biz.org/2014/01/02/bpm-definitions/

The explanations from above have been copied at the bottom -- and slightly improved. the purpose of the page is that as discussions go on online, there is an endless chain of new and different improvements. To come to closure we need list where everyone's latest position is, and drive toward a unanimous position.

There were a couple of definitions listed in earlier comments. Please let me know either (1) you want to endorse one of the existing definition on that page, or (2) you want a new proposed definition to be included there on the page for serious consideration. Please participate in this ... it is very important that we get a single, common definition for BPM.

thanks,
-Keith
References
  1. http://social-biz.org/2014/01/02/bpm-definitions/
Comment
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 8
Alisa Addison Accepted Answer

Business process Management is a way of looking at and then controlling the processes that are present in an organization. It is an effective methodology to use in times of crisis to make certain that the processes are efficient and effective, as this will result in a better and more cost efficient organization.
Comment
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 9
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