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How Would You Define (or Redefine) BPM For Today?

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An issue that came up with last week's question, What's the Best Way to Handle Unstructured and Ad-Hoc Processes With BPM? and that's further explored in this blog, Defining BPM and State Thereof -- The Perspectives at Play, by Ashish Bhagwat.  So how would you define (or redefine) BPM for today?

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  • I see three concepts behind Business Process Management (BPM):

    [the theory]
    BPM as a management discipline (i.e. using process to manage business)

    [the tools] BPM as a software (BPM suite)

    [the practice] BPM as a portfolio of the business processes of an enterprise, and the practices and tools for governing the design, execution and evolution of this portfolio (BPM system)

    One can implement a BPM system without any automation, for example, an ISO 9001 Quality Management System is a BPM system in which (very often) processes exist in paper and employers’ minds. Such a BPM system is difficult to use and to evolve.

    Usually, it is necessary, but not sufficient, to use a BPMS to implement a BPM system. Because one of the most important and less visible characteristic of any BPM system - flexibility - should be carefully architectured.


  • In general, I would avoid a major redefinition of BPM, although I would certainly like to refine it somewhat so as to manage expectations of what can be achieved with it.

    A major redefinition should be avoided, since businesses will be reluctant to invest in a discipline unless it sees that there is some stability in the discipline. Few businesses want to expose themselves to the turmoil that can occur by following every nascent management fad. BPM, as a discipline, is only now gaining the traction that can be achieved when a discipline has been around long enough to build up a critical mass of expertise.

    For refinement, I'd make sure that expectations for the value of BPM are realistic. BPM provides a huge value, but if it is overstated -- if the business is promised crystal-ball-quality visibility into every aspect of their business -- then there will be disillusionment. Most business have some processes that can be formalized, automated, and with that automation, accurately measured. However, not all processes can or should be subject to that level of formalism. Creativity should not just be allowed but encouraged.

    So concentrate on BPM for the processes that are well suited to automation (whether in the near or long term) and understand that not everything in the company will derive huge benefits from a formal analysis.

  • According to the ABPMP International's Guide to The BPM CBOK®, "Business Process Management (BPM) is a disciplined approach to identify, design, execute, document, measure, monitor, and control both automated and non-automated business processes to achieve consistent, targeted results aligned 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. BPM enables an enterprise to align its business processes to its business strategy, leading to effective overall company performance through improvements of specific work activities either within a specific department, across the enterprise, or between organizations."


  • I think my previous blog posts (It's time to redefine BPM for a new era.... and Will the Case Management crowd sit down and work a common roadmap please) speak volumes by the comments received:



    I have to disagree with Michael here, what we need is a wholesale redefinition of BPM together with some of the emergents like Social BPM and Adaptive Case, there's too much happening right now to let them slip into the same fate BPM has over the past two decades which has been to remain a confused discipline with conflicting messages and jargon overload. If we don't actually stop the bus and define what we have right now and foresee over the next 2-3 years then it's going to get worse and trying to explain ROI to clients won't be any easier. Case is a perfect example; we have three definitions of the same thing now, all the space of less than 12 months. What value does that really bring to the table, what kind of message does that relay to prospective clients when they hear different terms and meanings all for the same proposition ?

    Someone really needs to take a brave step and kick off a roundtable or coalition of sorts to pull something together and at least give it a try. If not, then we're going to end up with more branches of 'BPM' but no single message that's understandable.

    I don't care what it's called, I've said this before, let someone hang their hat on it if they want to while the rest of us get down to the serious business.

    So, who's up for a little challenge ?....

  • @Theo, we have been discussing this for some time over various channels and I do agree with you (in principle) that we should attempt to sort out some of the spaghetti that's got created and further getting created with more areas mashing in...

    However, it can not be a definition with one or two dimensions. Like I mentioned in my post that is referred in the question, we can all attempt to define/refine/re-define BPM but let's also be consciously aware of all the various perspectives at play and understand it's going to be very difficult to do that to address all - Biz Strategy, Biz Ops / Process Performance, Technology, Vendors space, Discipline aspects, Structures within Enterprise BPM, Enterprise Architecture, Biz Solutions, S/W Engineering processes,...

    The ABPMP definition that @Tony shared here looks comprehensive enough. But, how do we use this for an audience that just wants to know what BPM can do for their problem space? It needs to be freed from jargon-ism and simplified too. There's danger of semantic overplay with little pragmatic value.

    My thinking on this aligns with @Michael in the sense that we need to remain conscious of the ground level needs as well, but another part of me thinks we ought to get some clarity across on the definition of BPM. And it doesn't remain simple with the convergence in the BPM ecosystem - http://wp.me/pN8i1-30

  • I don't see any reason to redefine BPM for the same reason that I dont see any reason to redefine ERP, CRM, BI, etc. It is a waste of time. There is so much written about BPM that those who want to be confused will continue to be confused, regardless of the number of redefinitions. At the end of the day, BPM is not that complicated and is mostly common sense. I think we are too focused on definitions insead of on practial applications.

    Rashid N. Khan
    Chatty Solutions

  • Redefining terms that are in public use makes no sense. It makes more sense to use existing terms in a consistent way, and if you have a new concept you want to discuss, then invent a new term for that.

    Clearly people are searching for new directions, particularly for handling unpredictable work patterns, and knowledge work. Some discussion of this is available in Mastering the Unpredictable.

    I started writing this up and got rather carried away, and the resulting blog entry is at:


    While BPM is a "doing by design" approach, unpredictable work patterns are handled by a completely different approach: "design by doing". See a discussion of this at:



  • __Most important, I think, is to strictly distinguish

    (1) what is happening (and possibly 'running') in the company, whether perceived and denoted as 'Business-Processes' or not

    (2) from any model of these very occurrences, it may be designed in BPM-style or other.

    __Second, concerning modelling (re-constructing reality), I am considering the BP-Engine as THE defining feature (criterion) for a model to be BPM-style:

    According to my 'feeling', a model (of business occurrences) is a BPM-model, if and only if it includes, explicitely or tacitly, an authority, human or machine (= program-&-processor), entitled to start the total process as decribed by the model.

    What do you think about that? Just an idea.

  • The definition of BPM has been pretty comprehensively covered in the earlier comments. I belive that Dr Alexander got closest in terms of the 'clearest'definition and the ABPMP as the most convoluted - albeit correct .

    Sadly BPM has been defined in the minds of CIOs (and others) as "software you automate processes with" by the 200+ automation (BPMS) software companies whose marketing budgets are fueled by $millions of VC funding. In the same way that Managing your Customers is not defined as CRM software.

    But this is only one element of the BPM story.

    So trying to redefine BPM is a lost cause. I worked for Arthur Andersen who spent millions on rebranding Andersen Consulting and then Accenture. But still my first client continued to call us Arthur Andersen long after they disappeared.

    So perhaps we should think of a new name which defines the activity of 'defining, improving, managing and communicating our business operations'

  • BPM in the driest sense is the management of business processes, but that's way too confining for today's enterprise. BPM at this point encompasses social and collaborative elements that weren't feasible just a few years ago, and empowers business users to take control over their own data and workflow automation as opposed to being at the beckon and call of IT. What we have with modern BPM is a level of equality that we haven't seen before, an emphasis on productivity and effective CRM that both invites department-wide collaboration and preserves business users' autonomy and authority over their process requirements.

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