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This article is nonsense. For example, "A business process begins with a mission objective and ends with achievement of the business objective." is plain wrong. A business process as a specification may terminate in many different ways and some of those ways may involve failure. For example, the business process for handling delivery of goods into the warehouse may result in complete destruction of all received goods. In this event the business process may specify some action, such as clearing up the goods, decontaminating the area and recording the loss. None of this has got anything to do with adding value, completing objectives or anything else referred to here.
Even the following sentence: "Process-oriented organizations break down the barriers of structural departments and try to avoid functional silos." is totally unrelated to the previous sentence, but they are somehow bundled into a paragraph. That sentence is also wrong. A process oriented organisation may also insist on rigid functional silos, and the notion of process-orientation as being somehow antithesis to expertise monopolies and functional fiefdoms is the stuff of academic fantasy, while 'process orientation' in this sense is just a seldom used buzzword.
Business processes as descriptions, or as what is presumed to actually be may be very different from what is prescribed, and may have nothing do with adding value, support, or primary function or anything else this article babbles about. For example, water cooler discussions are often critical to the operations of businesses. Part of the reason why many office workers failed to quit smoking for so many years was the benefit of 'fag break decision making'. None of these activities are recognised, but they are part of the business processes.
Business processes refer to processes that are no different from any other process, only that in the context of places of work they are expressed in certain ways. Descriptions are made in certain languages, such as flowcharts, bpel, and so on, and they are used for specification, description or both. In both cases they are only models. The phrase 'business process' is usually taken to mean that description or prescription, the model, not the processes themselves.
Business Process – Interlinkaged activities, performed by resources and using information and material as inputs, to create outputs for certain purposes.
- I have recently added the definitions from four different sources, which are largely equivalent to the proposal above. Is there a real need for discussing about an additional definition? --Kai a simon 19:23, 25 November 2006 (UTC)
Sources of information to define Business Process:
AIAG Glossary: Business – The organization of people, equipment, energy, procedures and material into the work activities needed to produce a specified end result or work output. A business process is a sequence of activities, with inputs, activities, outputs, and control.
A business process is a recipe for achieving a commercial result. Each business process has inputs, method and outputs. The inputs are a pre-requisite that must be in place before the method can be put into practice. When the method is applied to the inputs then certain outputs will be created.
A business process is a collection of related structural activities that produce a specific outcome for a particular customer. A business process can be part of a larger, encompassing process and can include other business processes that have to be included in its method.
The business process can be thought of as a cookbook for running a business; "Answer the phone", "place an order", "produce and invoice" might all be examples of a Business Process.
Procedure: Specified way to carry out an activity or a process.  Process: The combination of people, machine and equipment, raw materials, methods, and environment that produces a given product or service.  Process: Set of interrelated or interacting activities which transforms inputs into outputs. 
Tagging for buzzwords
I added the newly-minted buzzword tag. Passages like:
Each business process has inputs, method and outputs. The inputs are a pre-requisite that must be in place before the method can be put into practice.
strike me as excessively abstract and tautological; I'm not sure anyone knows any more after being told this. - Smerdis of Tlön 20:35, 24 August 2006 (UTC)
- The rewrite is better, but only slightly. The lead sentence still speaks of "interlinkaged activities, performed by resources and using information and material as inputs, to create outputs for business purposes." This still contains vague neologisms which surely count as buzzwords, such as the freshly minted verb to interlinkage. It continues to strike me as abstract to the point of evasiveness. I am still not convinced whether this article really is about anything. - Smerdis of Tlön 16:15, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
- Did some additional work with the intro section, since I was not too happy with it myself. However, since English is not my 1st language, I am careful with this kind of edits. Anyway, why don't you read it and give me some feedback, if it is easier to understand. Cheers, --Kai a simon 22:08, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Just Plain Wrong
I fundamentally disagree with the first statement in the article: "A business process is a set of linked activities that create value by transforming an input into a more valuable output." This is an 'information system' view of the world that is not necessarily valid in the world of office work.
For example consider a very important business activity: document approval. In this activity, a person will read a document, and then make a decision that it is OK for further use (e.g. for publishing, or for a work team to implement). The key aspect of this task is the communications of this decision, which in speech act terms is a "declaration" that effects the state of the group. It strikes me as an odd (and possibly twisted) view that the person "consumes" an unapproved document, and "produces" an approved document. You can if you wish view it this way, but this view gets more in the way than it helps. Consider for example two people that approve a document for two different purposes: in the "declaration" view it does not matter which order these decisions come in, but the "data transformation" view obviously it does, otherwise you end up with two "different" approved documents.
Look at the examples given: "answer the telephone". This is an activity which would be very hard to describe as "transforming an input into a more valuable output".
Please comment on this. I would be happy to re-write the beginning of the page, but I would like to know what others think before doing this.
Goflow6206 18:11, 28 May 2007 (UTC)goflow6206
- Document approval and answering the telephone are presumably useful to the business - otherwise why would the business employ people to perform them? Perhaps they create value in some way - an approved document is worth more than an unapproved document; an answered telephone more than an unanswered telephone.
- But Goflow6206 is correct to point out the potential complexities of this way of viewing business process. If there are n people who may approve a document, then there are potentially 2 to the power n approval states of the document. (In this case it might be easier to regard the approval instead as a separate entity.) But once the document has been approved (by manager A), does a second act of approval (by manager B) confer any additional value? So what is not clear about the current definition of business process is whether the value is created by the whole set of activities, or each of the activities is supposed to create value.
- One way of resolving this would be to say that the value-adding definition represents an important modeling perspective on a business process, but may not be the only one. Goflow6206 may be able to define and substantiate an alternative modelling perspective. --RichardVeryard 23:15, 28 May 2007 (UTC)
Since I am the creator of the opening sentence, that Goflow6206 dislikes so much, here my 2 cents. The added value comes from the process as a whole. Not all singular activities within a process add value. Those that still are required to run the process remain in place, the others are candidates for obliteration (but that belongs into the article Business process reengineering). So, maybe we can resolve the issue by adding a letter: "A business process is a set of linked activities that creates value by transforming an input into a more valuable output." In this case, the transformation no longer refers to the activities, but to the term business process which was the original intention.
A comment regarding Goflow6206's claim that the transformation perspective resembles an information systems view: Would you please underpin this claim?! I am aware that IS typically applies an ITO-perspective, but the concept of value add does not come from IS, but can be attributed to Porter's value chain concept.
Kai A. Simon 12:50, 29 May 2007 (UTC)
PS I: Keith - may I suggest that you are a little more careful before claiming that somebody's statement is plain wrong. This might actually backfire. :-)
PS II: I second your attempt to write an article about the WfMC. The organization is notable. Is this still a topic?
- I think Kai A. Simon is making a distinction between IS and OUGHT. Activities within a process SHOULD add value, but sometimes they don't. Within BPR, people often make a distinction between "As-Is" processes and "To-Be" processes. Perhaps it would be useful to make this explicit within the article.
- However, complex processes may include activities whose value-add is obscure or difficult to quantify. For example, a salesman carries out some social chat prior to demonstrating the product, and this possibly converts the customer to a more receptive state. A craftsman may play around with the materials before starting construction, which may possible put him into a more creative/innovative state. But do we really want to engineer every business conversation or playful bricolage to optimize some desired state-transition? This is BPR not NLP.
--RichardVeryard 18:19, 29 May 2007 (UTC)
This goes back to the topic of the article. It is about business processes, not process in general. Of course one could argue that processes that take place in an actor-network consisting of human actants and technological artefacts are not simply state-transitions, but the general notion of a business process implies that there is some value adding taking place. Despite that, I would appreciate any suggestion for a better formulation. Kai A. Simon 21:49, 29 May 2007 (UTC)
- I think it would be an odd definition of "business process" if it excluded things like dealing with customers. I regard customer relationship management as properly a business process involving human beings (actants if you must); I think it is a very strange IT custom to confuse the management of relationships with customers with the management of customer data.) I also think it would be an odd definition of "business process" if it excluded the processes of knowledge management and innovation. Is strategic planning a business process? Is leadership a business process?
- I believe the current formulation of business process is one many people are familiar with, but it has some limitations. My proposal is that Wikipedia should stick to this formulation, but should present it as a modelling perspective, rather than as the only valid way of understanding all types of business process in all situations. It is not the job of Wikipedia to establish a single unified theory of business process when no such theory currently exists. --RichardVeryard 22:46, 29 May 2007 (UTC)
Agreed, both with regard to the limitations of the current formulation and that there are more valid ways of understanding processes. What I haven't understood so far is the statement regarding the strange IT custom of seeing the world in terms of data transformation. It was my intention to provide a general definition and I tend to believe that transformation can also happen with knowledge. If you consider Langefors' infological equation (I = i (D, S, t) where I is the information produced from the data, D, and the recipient's prior knowledge, S, by the interpretation process, i, during the time, t), this could also be expressed by using the same definition, even though I have to admit that it would be a limited representation. Using your example of strategic planning, which in my eyes clearly can be seen as a strategic enterprise management sub-process, the output would be increased knowledge that is based on the transformation (in this case interpretation) of data by using existing knowledge.
BTW, I really enjoyed the discussion so far. Reminds me of some disputes with the late Claudio Ciborra on Business Process Redesign. And, sorry for the actant. :-)
Kai A. Simon 23:32, 29 May 2007 (UTC)
- The thing I said was a strange IT custom was thinking "customer relationship management" was all about databases (data representations of customers) rather than about real interactions with customers. What exactly is the process that CRM software supports - establishing knowledge about customers (which is undoubtedly valuable) or establishing relationships with customers - and what kind of people, outside IT, could possibly think these were the same thing? If strategic planning produces knowledge, it is a strange kind of knowledge. But we are getting off the point. Perhaps we should move this discussion to a blog? --RichardVeryard 07:35, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
OK - Thanks so much for the comments which I did not notice for a few days. Kai, sorry for the abrupt title but I wanted to encourage some discussion, and this is a much better discussion than I expected.
Value: I see that my original statment was not clear. I think we all agree that the activities in a business process add "value" to the organization that does the process. Richard has argued this very successfully: "why else would an organization do them?" Only disfunctional organizations execute processes which do not provide value (and believe me, I have seen a few).
Source of the value: My discomfort comes from saying that the value "is created by transforming an input into a more valuable output." There is no question that value is produced, but that value is not always located in an artifact. Richard points out that "there are potentially 2 to the power n approval states of the document." We could hang those approval bits on the document, but it is harder to locate the artifact of the phone call. I believe there are other cases the state change has to hang on two artifacts in such a way that if either artifact is removed or changed the 'value' disappears. Kai Simon said something very cogent: "The added value comes from the process as a whole." Similarly, the value is not always localized in a single output. How do we reconcile this with the opening sentence of the article which strongly implies that the value comes from an output of an activity?
This is a particular way of viewing the world, and it is not an uncommon one. Kai is right to point out that this is not exclusively an IT concept, and Porter's "Value Chain Analysis" is applicable to many processes, (e.g. manufacturing processes) which are not IT related. I attributed it to an IT point of view because this world view fits so well to programming languages where you pass input parameters to a routine, and you get a result back, which is often an improvement over what you sent in. It seems that there is a lot of marketing hype today about Service Oriented Architectures that pass data around from service to service, and "add value" along the way. (Of course any "orchestration" that calls a service that decreases the value is classified as a "bug"). Now that SOA is a buzzword in every vendor's marketing blitz it seems all too common to describe BPM as simply another way of programming.
There are many things that happen in a business process that simply are not best viewed as transforming inputs to output. Let me loosly call these things "communicative" events. Saying "I'm done!" has an effect on potentially many other people in the organization, in redefining what they should be doing. This kind of speech act is important to the success of the organization. It is possible to view this speech act as something that "transforms" an 'unfinished document' into a 'finished document'. What about saying: "I quit!" It is a stretch to say that this transforms anything into a thing of higher value. The quitting phrase might be applicable to a number of works in progress. It is hard to nail this down to any given artifact. Perhaps as Kai suggests "processes that take place in an actor-network consisting of human actants and technological artefacts are not simply state-transitions". Maybe we should see the state in the people, and not in the artifacts.
The view that a process transforms input into higher values outputs is useful in many situations, but problematic when that is the basis for concrete modeling of the business process. It leads people to view work as only transformations of artifacts. Then, when you get to something like difficult to describe in these terms, like a "phone call", you make up artificial artifacts simply to denote the result. You make up a "call record" simply to have something that can be an output of the phone call. Consider the case in a court room where someone "calls for a recess". What got transformed besides the state of every person in the room? Do we see this activity taking in a collection of "attentive people" and transforming them into "relaxing people"?
What is the matter with the opening sentence "A business process is a set of linked activities that create value." and leaving it at that? What is added by saying that it transforms the inputs into higher values output?
What about "A business process is a set of linked activities that accomplish organizational goals." ? I like this because organizational goals seem qualitatively different from products, and more in tune with what
Any way, I raised the issue because I see this definition all over the place, and I can not deny that many people hold this opinion, but at the same time I feel that is misses the key element of what distinguished a business process from all other processes.
Goflow6206 07:01, 16 June 2007 (UTC)
- This is all very interesting, and I agree that there are many limitations and issues with the value-adding perspective, but I am not sure this discussion is helping us improve the article. Can you please comment on my proposal - value-adding is a modelling perspective rather than the whole truth about business process. --RichardVeryard 22:33, 16 June 2007 (UTC)
- I am also concerned about the implication that we are seeking "the key element of what distinguishes a business process from all other processes". Given that there is no widespread consensus about what this key element might be, or even whether it exists, the quest for this element would surely count as Original Research. It therefore needs to be resolved and published elsewhere, before it is fit for inclusion in Wikipedia. --RichardVeryard 22:41, 16 June 2007 (UTC)
- Not being a Business process expert, I found http://uis.georgetown.edu/departments/eets/dw/GLOSSARY0816.html#B which has the following to say regarding a business process:
- Business Process The complete response that a business makes to an event. A business process entails the execution of a sequence of one or more process steps. It has a clearly defined deliverable or outcome. A Business Process is defined by the business event that triggers the process, the inputs and outputs, all the operational steps required to produce the output, the sequential relationship between the process steps, the business decisions that are part of the event response, and the flow of material and/or information between process steps.
- Does this provide a usable definition that does not count as original research as it has been published elsewhere? Scottj2512 14:21, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
- I think this definition is very useful. For one it seems to encompass several of the previously given definitions within the article. It also provides the scope of a deliverable or outcome which is important, as several of you have quite correctly pointed out. Anthony Draffin (talk) 12:48, 26 March 2008 (UTC)
- Not being a Business process expert, I found http://uis.georgetown.edu/departments/eets/dw/GLOSSARY0816.html#B which has the following to say regarding a business process:
I could live with Keith's suggestion, which could be appended with the current definition: A business process is a set of linked activities that accomplish organizational goals. The goals for business process are frequently described as transforming an input into a more valuable output. Both input and output can be artifacts and/or information and the transformation can be performed by human actors, machines, or both. Kai A. Simon 23:13, 19 June 2007 (UTC)
I think the concept 'value' should be left out altogether. Whether or not a process adds value or not depends on if the company is for-profit or just plain suicidal. There are also unpleasant philosophical implications: is the intention of the orchestrator relevant to the description of business processes, are processes always with an orchestrator or are some emergent? If you start to talk about value then you assume that the process has an orchestrator that intends to create value. It is irrelevant to processes themselves, or business processes. The process simply involves activities - how or why they come about is another topic.18.104.22.168 (talk) 08:24, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
A wider perspective on the article structure
I believe the major facets to address within this article are:
- A business process as distinct from a process.
- A business process may be linked together with other business processes in the form of Porter's Value Chain.
- A business process may be modelled, using a variety of different notations and and perspectives. From here we link to the business process modelling article.
Thanks everyone, I'm new to Wikipedia, but this discussion has been very informative and raised several significant points. However, I think we are currently getting lost in the small details of the definition of a business process rather than the actual structure of the article and its place within other related articles. Or in terms of the content, a business processes place as a defined concept and how it is utilised in a number of disciplines. Anthony Draffin (talk) 12:48, 26 March 2008 (UTC)
- See "An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith, Book I, Chapter I, On the Division of Labour. Lafeber (talk) 21:44, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Processes and areas of improvement
As discussed loosely here: Organisations the areas of improvement mentioned in the article (Effectiveness, Efficiency and etc) do not include maintaining adaptability. An organisation is both its structure and how that structure behaves. (Even 'structure' is really the result of how a system behaves in response to a type of observation.) Processes must alter and be alterable in order for the organisation to survive a changing environment. Computerisation has increased transactional throughput capability, but has introduced change management processes that effectively ossify the organisation. This is because the overall ability to change processes (the effectiveness of certain management processes, I suppose) has been diminished. So, in short the areas of improvement section seems to be more of a consequence of modern day business thinking and buzzwords, rather than a rigorous analysis of business processes and their necessities. 22.214.171.124 (talk) 08:38, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
One of my publications is relevant to this topic and I would like to share it here.
Article link: www.selfgrowth.com/articles/importance-of-processes-to-a-company