“No matter how hard individuals work, they cannot overcome a flawed process design, much less the burden of no design at all.”
Michael Hammer, co-author of Reengineering the Corporation, in his book The Agenda.
Increasingly, organisations are realising that the first step in almost any major project is to analyse and define their business processes, and then communicate those processes to those who need them. This applies whether the project involves integrating standalone IT systems; using Web Services to connect an adhoc federation of partners and suppliers; making best use of the new Business Process Management tools; or creating process-based instructions to comply with ISO 9000:2000. You can barely read an article in a business magazine without coming across a reference to business process analysis and design, either as a pre-requisite for new projects, or as the integral element whose absence contributed to the failure of an earlier eCommerce, b2b or IT integration project. Like many business buzzwords, process-related terms have taken on an urgent resonance that can sometimes inhibit people from asking fundamental questions such as: What is a “business process”? What does “business process modelling” mean, and what is the nature and purpose of “business process analysis and design”? This paper attempts to put these issues into perspective.
What is a business process?
A business process is a set of logically related business activities that combine to deliver something of value (e.g. products, goods, services or information) to a customer.
A typical high-level business process, such as “Develop market” or “Sell to customer”, describes the means by which the organisation provides value to its customers, without regard to the individual functional departments (e.g. the accounting department) that might be involved. As a result, business processes represent an alternative – and in many ways more powerful – way of looking at an organisation and what it does than the traditional departmental or functional view. Business processes can be seen individually, as discrete steps in a business cycle, or collectively as the set of activities that create the value chain of an organisation and associate that value chain with the requirements of the customer. It is important to recognise that the “customer” of a business process can be several different things, according to the process’s position in the business cycle. For example, the customer of one process could be the next process in the cycle (in which case the output from one process is input to the next, “customer” process). Equally, the customer can be the end purchaser of a product.
What is Business Process Design and Why Should I Care? : Jay Cousins and Tony Stewart RivCom Ltd. 04/09/2002 Page 1 of 1
Business processes vs. functional departments
Most large organisations are structured into divisions and departments (e.g. sales or finance departments) that are dedicated to performing specific functions and staffed with personnel who are expert at those functions. Business processes cut across these organisational divisions. Where different activities in a process require different skills, the process is likely to involve a number of people and departments. For example, consider the business process “Sell to customer”. Within a typical implementation of this process: • • • the sales department finds the customer the distribution department takes the customer’s order the finance department invoices the customer.
Business processes flow across the departments within an organisation
In this case, the work flows through several internal departments. However, from the customer’s point of view, a single process has taken place. Process composition
A business process is made up of a hierarchy of activity levels. These levels are typically given