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A business process, business method or business function is a collection of related, structured activities or
tasks Task may refer to: * Task (project management), an activity that needs to be accomplished within a defined period of time or by a deadline * Task (computing), in computing, a program execution context * TASK party, a series of improvisational parti ...
by people or equipment in which a specific sequence produces a service or product (serves a particular business goal) for a particular customer or customers. Business processes occur at all organizational levels and may or may not be visible to the customers. A business process may often be visualized (modeled) as a
flowchart A flowchart is a type of diagram that represents a workflow or process. A flowchart can also be defined as a diagrammatic representation of an algorithm, a step-by-step approach to solving a task. The flowchart shows the steps as boxes of var ...

flowchart
of a sequence of activities with interleaving decision points or as a process matrix of a sequence of activities with relevance rules based on data in the process. The benefits of using business processes include improved customer satisfaction and improved agility for reacting to rapid market change. Process-oriented organizations break down the barriers of structural departments and try to avoid functional silos.


Overview

A business process begins with a mission objective (an external event) and ends with achievement of the business objective of providing a result that provides customer value. Additionally, a process may be divided into subprocesses (process decomposition), the particular inner functions of the process. Business processes may also have a process owner, a responsible party for ensuring the process runs smoothly from start to finish. Broadly speaking, business processes can be organized into three types, according to von Rosing et al.: # Operational processes, which constitute the
core businessThe core business of an organization is an idealized construct intended to express that organization's "main" or "essential" activity. Core business process means that a business's success depends not only on how well each department performs its ...
and create the primary value stream, e.g., taking orders from customers, opening an account, and manufacturing a component #
Management process Management process is a process of setting goals, planning and/or Control (management), controlling the organizing (management), organizing and leading the execution of any type of activity, such as: * a project (project management process) or * a ...
es, the processes that oversee operational processes, including
corporate governance Corporate governance is the collection of mechanisms, processes and relations used by various parties to control and to operate a corporation A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company—authorized by the St ...
, budgetary oversight, and employee oversight # Supporting processes, which support the core operational processes, e.g.,
accounting Accounting or Accountancy is the measurement ' Measurement is the number, numerical quantification (science), quantification of the variable and attribute (research), attributes of an object or event, which can be used to compare with other ob ...
,
recruitment Recruitment refers to the overall process of identifying, sourcing, screening, shortlisting, and interviewing candidates for job Employment is the relationship between two parties Image:'Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Artist Festival at Skagen', by ...

recruitment
,
call center A call centre ( Commonwealth spelling) or call center ( American spelling; see spelling differences) is a centralised office used for receiving or transmitting a large volume of enquiries by telephone. An inbound call centre is operated by a ...

call center
,
technical support Technical support (often shortened to tech support) refers to services that entities provide to users of technology products or services. In general, technical support provides help regarding specific problems with a product or service, rather th ...
, and safety training A slightly different approach to these three types is offered by Kirchmer: # Operational processes, which focus on properly executing the operational tasks of an entity; this is where personnel "get the things done" # Management processes, which ensure that the operational processes are conducted appropriately; this is where managers "ensure efficient and effective work processes" # Governance processes, which ensure the entity is operating in full compliance with necessary legal regulations, guidelines, and shareholder expectations; this is where executives ensure the "rules and guidelines for business success" are followed A complex business process may be decomposed into several subprocesses, which have their own attributes but also contribute to achieving the overall goal of the business. The analysis of business processes typically includes the mapping or modeling of processes and sub-processes down to activity/task level. Processes can be modeled through a large number of methods and techniques. For instance, the
Business Process Modeling Notation Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a Information visualization, graphical representation for specifying business processes in a business process modeling, business process model. Originally developed by the Business Process Management ...
is a
business process modeling Business process modeling (BPM) in business process management Business process management (BPM) is the discipline in which people use various methods to Business process discovery, discover, Business process modeling, model, Business analysis, an ...
technique that can be used for drawing business processes in a visualized
workflow A workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of activity, enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes that transform materials, provide services, or process information. It can be depicted as a sequence of ...

workflow
. While decomposing processes into process types and categories can be useful, care must be taken in doing so as there may be crossover. In the end, all processes are part of a largely unified outcome, one of "customer value creation." This goal is expedited with business process management, which aims to analyze, improve, and enact business processes.


History


Adam Smith

An important early (1776) description of processes was that of economist
Adam Smith Adam Smith ( 1723 – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist, philosopher as well as a moral philosopher Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and ...

Adam Smith
in his famous example of a
pin A pin is a device used for fastening objects or material together, and can have three sorts of body: a shaft of a rigid inflexible material meant to be inserted in a slot, groove, or hole (as with pivots, hinges, and jigs); a shaft connected to ...
factory. Inspired by an article in
Encyclopédie ''Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers'' (English: ''Encyclopedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts''), better known as ''Encyclopédie'', was a general encyclopedia ...

Encyclopédie
, Smith described the production of a pin in the following way:
”One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another ... and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them.”
Smith also first recognized how the output could be increased through the use of labor division. Previously, in a society where production was dominated by , one man would perform all the activities required during the production process, while Smith described how the work was divided into a set of simple tasks, which would be performed by specialized workers. The result of labor division in Smith’s example resulted in productivity increasing by 24,000 percent (sic), i.e. that the same number of workers made 240 times as many pins as they had been producing before the introduction of labor division. It is worth noting that Smith did not advocate labor division at any price and ''
per se Per se may refer to: * ''wikt:per_se, per se'', a Latin phrase meaning "by itself" or "in itself". *Illegal per se, Illegal ''per se'', the legal usage in criminal and antitrust law *Negligence per se, Negligence ''per se'', legal use in tort law *P ...
''. The appropriate level of task division was defined through experimental design of the production process. In contrast to Smith's view which was limited to the same functional domain and comprised activities that are in direct sequence in the manufacturing process, today's process concept includes cross-functionality as an important characteristic. Following his ideas, the division of labor was adopted widely, while the integration of tasks into a functional, or cross-functional, process was not considered as an alternative option until much later.


Frederick Winslow Taylor

American engineer,
Frederick Winslow Taylor Frederick Winslow Taylor (March 20, 1856 – March 21, 1915) was an American mechanical engineer Mechanical may refer to: Machine * Mechanical system, a system that manages the power of forces and movements to accomplish a task * Machine (mech ...
greatly influenced and improved the quality of
industrial processes Industrial processes are procedures involving chemical A chemical substance is a form of matter having constant chemical composition and characteristic properties. Some references add that chemical substance cannot be separated into its consti ...
in the early twentieth century. His
Principles of Scientific Management ''The Principles of Scientific Management''1911 is a monograph published by Frederick Winslow Taylor. This laid out Taylor's views on principles of scientific management, or industrial era organization and decision theory. Taylor was an American man ...
focused on standardization of processes, systematic training and clearly defining the roles of management and employees. His methods were widely adopted in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, Russia and parts of Europe and led to further developments such as “time and motion study” and visual task optimization techniques, such as
Gantt charts A Gantt chart is a type of bar chart A bar chart or bar graph is a chart or graph that presents categorical data with Rectangle, rectangular bars with heights or lengths proportional to the values that they represent. The bars can be plotted ve ...
.


Peter Drucker

In the latter part of the twentieth century, management guru
Peter Drucker Peter Ferdinand Drucker (; ; November 19, 1909 – November 11, 2005) was an Austrian-American management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corp ...
focused much of his work on simplification and decentralization of processes, which led to the concept of
outsourcing Outsourcing is an agreement in which one company hires another company to be responsible for a planned or existing activity that is or could be done internally, and sometimes involves transferring employees and assets from one firm A compan ...

outsourcing
. He also coined the concept of the "
knowledge worker Knowledge workers are workers The workforce or labour force is the labour pool either in employment or unemployed.https://www.bls.gov/bls/glossary.htm It is generally used to describe those working for a single types of companies, company o ...
— as differentiated from manual workers — and how knowledge management would become part of an entity's processes.


Other definitions

Davenport (1993) defines a (business) process as:
”a structured, measured set of activities designed to produce a specific output for a particular customer or market. It implies a strong emphasis on how work is done within an organization, in contrast to a product focus’s emphasis on what. A process is thus a specific ordering of work activities across time and space, with a beginning and an end, and clearly defined inputs and outputs: a structure for action. ... Taking a process approach implies adopting the customer’s point of view. Processes are the structure by which an organization does what is necessary to produce value for its customers.”
This definition contains certain characteristics a process must possess. These characteristics are achieved by a focus on the business logic of the process (how work is done), instead of taking a product perspective (what is done). Following Davenport's definition of a process we can conclude that a process must have clearly defined boundaries, input and output, that it consists of smaller parts, activities, which are ordered in time and space, that there must be a receiver of the process outcome- a customer - and that the transformation taking place within the process must add customer value. Hammer & Champy’s (1993) definition can be considered as a subset of Davenport’s. They define a process as:
”a collection of activities that takes one or more kinds of input and creates an output that is of value to the customer.”
As we can note, Hammer & Champy have a more transformation oriented perception, and put less emphasis on the structural component – process boundaries and the order of activities in time and space. Rummler & Brache (1995) use a definition that clearly encompasses a focus on the organization’s external customers, when stating that
”a business process is a series of steps designed to produce a product or service. Most processes (...) are cross-functional, spanning the ‘white space’ between the boxes on the organization chart. Some processes result in a product or service that is received by an organization's external customer. We call these primary processes. Other processes produce products that are invisible to the external customer but essential to the effective management of the business. We call these support processes.”
The above definition distinguishes two types of processes, primary and support processes, depending on whether a process is directly involved in the creation of customer value, or concerned with the organization’s internal activities. In this sense, Rummler and Brache's definition follows Porter's
value chain A value chain is a set of activities that a firm operating in a specific industry performs in order to deliver a valuable product (i.e., good 125px, In many Western religions, angels are considered to be good beings and are contrasted with ...

value chain
model, which also builds on a division of primary and secondary activities. According to Rummler and Brache, a typical characteristic of a successful process-based organization is the absence of secondary activities in the primary value flow that is created in the customer oriented primary processes. The characteristic of processes as spanning the white space on the organization chart indicates that processes are embedded in some form of organizational structure. Also, a process can be cross-functional, i.e. it ranges over several business functions. Johansson et al. (1993). define a process as:
”a set of linked activities that take an input and transform it to create an output. Ideally, the transformation that occurs in the process should add value to the input and create an output that is more useful and effective to the recipient either upstream or downstream.”
This definition also emphasizes the constitution of links between activities and the transformation that takes place within the process. Johansson et al. also include the upstream part of the value chain as a possible recipient of the process output. Summarizing the four definitions above, we can compile the following list of characteristics for a business process: # ''Definability'' : It must have clearly defined boundaries, input and output. # ''Order'' : It must consist of activities that are ordered according to their position in time and space (a sequence). # ''Customer'' : There must be a recipient of the process' outcome, a customer. # ''Value-adding'' : The transformation taking place within the process must add value to the recipient, either upstream or downstream. # ''Embeddedness'' : A process cannot exist in itself, it must be embedded in an organizational structure. # ''Cross-functionality'' : A process regularly can, but not necessarily must, span several functions. Frequently, identifying a
process owner A process is a series or set of activities that interact to produce a result; it may occur once-only or be recurrent or periodic. Things called a process include: Business and management *Business process A business process, business method o ...
, (i.e., the person responsible for the continuous improvement of the process) is considered as a prerequisite. Sometimes the process owner is the same person who is performing the process.


Related concepts


Workflow

Workflow A workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of activity, enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes that transform materials, provide services, or process information. It can be depicted as a sequence of ...

Workflow
is the procedural movement of information, material, and tasks from one participant to another. Workflow includes the procedures, people and tools involved in each step of a business process. A single workflow may either be sequential, with each step contingent upon completion of the previous one, or parallel, with multiple steps occurring simultaneously. Multiple combinations of single workflows may be connected to achieve a resulting overall process.


Business process re-engineering

Business process re-engineering Business process re-engineering (BPR) is a business management strategy, originally pioneered in the early 1990s, focusing on the analysis and design of workflow A workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of activity, enabled ...
(BPR) was originally conceptualized by Hammer and Davenport as a means to improve organizational effectiveness and productivity. It can involve starting from a "blank slate" and completely recreating major business processes, or involve comparing the "as-is" process and the "to-be" process and mapping the path for change from one to the other. Often BPR will involve the use of information technology to secure significant performance improvement. The term unfortunately became associated with corporate "downsizing" in the mid-1990s.


Business process management (BPM)

Though the term has been used contextually to mixed effect, "
business process management Business process management (BPM) is the discipline in which people use various methods to discover, model In general, a model is an informative representation of an object, person or system. The term originally denoted the plans of a building ...
" (BPM) can generally be defined as a discipline involving a combination of a wide variety of business activity flows (e.g.,
business process automation Business process automation (BPA), also known as business automation or digital transformation, is the technology-enabled automation of complex business processes. It can streamline a business for simplicity, achieve digital transformation, increas ...
, modeling, and optimization) that strives to support the goals of an enterprise within and beyond multiple boundaries, involving many people, from employees to customers and external partners. A major part of BPM's enterprise support involves the continuous evaluation of existing processes and the identification of ways to improve upon it, resulting in a cycle of overall organizational improvement.


Knowledge management

Knowledge management Knowledge management (KM) is the collection of methods relating to creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as facts ( descriptive knowledge), s ...

Knowledge management
is the definition of the knowledge that employees and systems use to perform their functions and maintaining it in a format that can be accessed by others. The Duhon and the Gartner Group have defined it as "a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise's information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers."


Total quality management

Total quality management Total quality management (TQM) consists of organization-wide efforts to "install and make permanent climate where employees continuously improve their ability to provide on demand products and services that customers will find of particular valu ...
(TQM) emerged in the early 1980s as organizations sought to improve the quality of their products and services. It was followed by the Six Sigma methodology in the mid-1980s, first introduced by Motorola. Six Sigma consists of statistical methods to improve business processes and thus reduce defects in outputs. The "lean approach" to quality management was introduced by the Toyota Motor Company in the 1990s and focused on customer needs and reduction of wastage.


Information technology as an enabler for business process management

Advances in information technology over the years, have changed business processes within and between business enterprises. In the 1960s, operating systems had limited functionality, and any workflow management systems that were in use were tailor-made for the specific organization. The 1970s-1980s saw the development of data-driven approaches, as data storage and retrieval technologies improved. Data modeling rather than process modeling was the starting point for building an information system. Business processes had to adapt to information technology because process modeling was neglected. The shift towards process-oriented management occurred in the 1990s. Enterprise resource planning software with workflow management components such as SAP, Baan,
PeopleSoft PeopleSoft, Inc. was a company that provided human resource management systems (HRMS), Financial Management Solutions (FMS), supply chain management 400px, In an efficient supply chain agreements are aligned In commerce Commerce is the e ...
, Oracle and
JD Edwards J.D. Edwards World Solution Company or JD Edwards, abbreviated JDE, was an enterprise resource planning Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is the integrated management of main business processes, often in real time and mediated by software ...
emerged, as did business process management systems (BPMS) later. The world of e-business created a need to automate business processes across organizations, which in turn raised the need for standardized protocols and web services composition languages that can be understood across the industry. The
Business Process Modeling Notation Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a Information visualization, graphical representation for specifying business processes in a business process modeling, business process model. Originally developed by the Business Process Management ...
(BPMN) and
Business Motivation Model The Business Motivation Model (BMM) in enterprise architecture Enterprise architecture (EA) is the most reputed discipline that: i) defines, organises, standardizes, and documents the whole architecture and all important elements of the resp ...
(BMM) are widely used standards for business modeling. The Business Modeling and Integration Domain Task Force (BMI DTF) is a consortium of vendors and user companies that continues to work together to develop standards and specifications to promote collaboration and integration of people, systems, processes and information within and across enterprises. The most recent trends in BPM are influenced by the emergence of
cloud technology Cloud computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage (cloud storage) and computing power, without direct active management by the user. The term is generally used to describe data centers availa ...
, the prevalence of
social media Social media are interactive technologies that facilitate the creation Creation may refer to: Religion * Creation ''ex nihilo'', the concept that matter was created by God out of nothing * Creation myth A creation myth (or cosmogonic myth) ...

social media
, mobile technology, and the development of analytical techniques. Cloud-based technologies allow companies to purchase resources quickly and as required independent of their location. Social media, websites and smart phones are the newest channels through which organizations reach and support their customers. The abundance of customer data collected through these channels as well as through call center interactions, emails, voice calls, and customer surveys has led to a huge growth in data analytics which in turn is utilized for performance management and improving the ways in which the company services its customers.


Importance of the process chain

Business processes comprise a set of sequential sub-processes or tasks with alternative paths, depending on certain conditions as applicable, performed to achieve a given objective or produce given outputs. Each process has one or more needed inputs. The inputs and outputs may be received from, or sent to other business processes, other
organizational unit In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development of both computer hardware , hardware and software ...
s, or internal or external stakeholders. Business processes are designed to be operated by one or more business functional units, and emphasize the importance of the “ process chain” rather than the individual units. In general, the various tasks of a business process can be performed in one of two ways: # manually # by means of business
data processing Data processing is, generally, "the collection Collection or Collections may refer to: * Cash collection, the function of an accounts receivable department * Collection agency, agency to collect cash * Collections management (museum) ** Colle ...

data processing
systems such as ERP systems Typically, some process tasks will be manual, while some will be computer-based, and these tasks may be sequenced in many ways. In other words, the data and information that are being handled through the process may pass through manual or computer tasks in any given order.


Policies, processes and procedures

The above improvement areas are equally applicable to policies, processes, detailed procedures (sub-processes/tasks) and work instructions. There is a cascading effect of improvements made at a higher level on those made at a lower level. For example, if a recommendation to replace a given policy with a better one is made with proper justification and accepted in principle by business process owners, then corresponding changes in the consequent processes and procedures will follow naturally in order to enable implementation of the policies.


Reporting as an essential base for execution

Business processes must include up-to-date and accurate
reports 220px, Example of a front page of a report A report is a document that presents information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both its essence ...
to ensure effective action. An example of this is the availability of
purchase order A purchase order (PO) is a commercial Commercial may refer to: * a dose of advertising conveyed through media (such as - for example - radio or television) ** Radio advertisement ** Television advertisement * (adjective for:) commerce, a system ...
status reports for supplier delivery follow-up as described in the section on effectiveness above. There are numerous examples of this in every possible business process. Another example from production is the process of analysis of line rejections occurring on the shop floor. This process should include systematic periodical analysis of rejections by reason, and present the results in a suitable information report that pinpoints the major reasons, and trends in these reasons, for management to take
corrective action Corrective and preventive action (CAPA or simply corrective action) consists of improvements to an organization's processes taken to eliminate causes of Nonconformity (quality), non-conformities or other undesirable situations. It is usually a set ...
s to control rejections and keep them within acceptable limits. Such a process of analysis and summarisation of line rejection events is clearly superior to a process which merely inquires into each individual rejection as it occurs. Business
process owner A process is a series or set of activities that interact to produce a result; it may occur once-only or be recurrent or periodic. Things called a process include: Business and management *Business process A business process, business method o ...
s and operatives should realise that process improvement often occurs with introduction of appropriate transaction, operational, highlight, exception or M.I.S. reports, provided these are consciously used for day-to-day or periodical decision-making. With this understanding would hopefully come the willingness to invest time and other resources in business process improvement by introduction of useful and relevant reporting systems.


Supporting theories and concepts


Span of control

The
span of control Span of control, also called span of management, is the term used in business management, particularly human resource management. The term refers to the number of subordinates or direct reports a supervisor is responsible for. Overview In simple wo ...
is the number of subordinates a supervisor manages within a structural
organization An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a of the , originally spoken by the inhabitants of . It is named after the , one of the ancient that migrated from , a peninsu ...

organization
. Introducing a business process concept has a considerable impact on the structural elements of the organization and thus also on the span of control. Large organizations that are not organized as markets need to be organized in smaller units –
departments Department may refer to: * DepartmentalizationDepartmentalization (or departmentalisation) refers to the process of grouping activities into departments. Division of labour creates Expert, specialists who need :wikt:coordination, coordination. This ...
– which can be defined according to different principles.


Information management concepts

Information management Information management (IM) concerns a cycle of organizational activity: the acquisition of from one or more sources, the custodianship and the distribution of that information to those who need it, and its ultimate disposal through or deletio ...
, and the organization infrastructure strategies related to it, are a theoretical cornerstone of the business process concept, requiring "a framework for measuring the level of IT support for business processes."


See also

*
Business analysis Business analysis is a research discipline Discipline is Action (philosophy), action or inaction that is regulation, regulated to be in accordance (or to achieve accord) with a particular system of governance. Discipline is commonly applied t ...
*
Business method patent Business method patents are a class of patents which disclose and claim new methods of doing business. This includes new types of e-commerce, insurance, banking and tax compliance etc. Business method patents are a relatively new species of patent ...
*
Business process automation Business process automation (BPA), also known as business automation or digital transformation, is the technology-enabled automation of complex business processes. It can streamline a business for simplicity, achieve digital transformation, increas ...
* Business Process Definition Metamodel *
Business process mapping Business process mapping refers to activities involved in defining what a business entity does, who is responsible, to what standard a business process should be completed, and how the success of a business process can be determined. The main purpo ...
*
Business process outsourcing Outsourcing is an agreement in which one company hires another company to be responsible for a planned or existing activity that is or could be done internally, and sometimes involves transferring employees and assets from one firm A company, ...


References


Further reading

{{Wikiquote * Paul's Harmon, (2007). ''Business Process Change: 2nd Ed, A Guide for Business Managers and BPM and
Six Sigma Six Sigma (6σ) is a set of techniques and tools for process improvement. It was introduced by American engineer Bill Smith (Motorola engineer), Bill Smith while working at Motorola in 1986. A six sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of all op ...
Professionals''. Morgan Kaufmann * E. Obeng and S. Crainer S (1993). ''Making Re-engineering Happen''. Financial Times Prentice Hall * Howard Smith and Peter Fingar (2003). ''Business Process Management''. The Third Wave, MK Press * Slack et al., edited by: David Barnes (2000) The Open University, Understanding Business: Processes * Malakooti, B. (2013)
Operations and Production Systems with Multiple Objectives
John Wiley & Sons. Enterprise modelling