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A business process, business method or business function is a collection of related, structured activities or tasks 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.[1][2][3] A business process may often be visualized (modeled) as a 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.[2][3][4][5] The benefits of using business processes include improved customer satisfaction and improved agility for reacting to rapid market change.[1][2] Process-oriented organizations break down the barriers of structural departments and try to avoid functional silos.[6]

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 &

Hammer & Champy’s (1993)[12] 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 &

Rummler & Brache (1995)[13] 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 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

Johansson et al. (1993).[14] 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:

  1. Def

    Frequently, identifying a process owner, (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 is the procedural movement of inf

    Workflow is the procedural movement of information, material, and tasks from one participant to another.[15] 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.[15] A

    Business process re-engineering

    Business process re-engineering (BPR) was originally conceptualized by Hammer and Davenport as a means to improve organizational effectiveness and productivity. It co

    Business process re-engineering (BPR) was originally conceptualized by Hammer and Davenport as a means to improve organizational effectiveness and productivity. It consisted of starting from a blank slate and completely recreating major business processes as well as the use of information technology for significant performance improvement. The term unfortunately became associated with corporate "downsizing" in the mid-1990s.[16]

    Business process management (BPM)

    Knowledge management i

    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."[18]

    Total quality management<

    Total quality management (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.[19][20][21]

    Information technology as an enabler for business process management

    Information man

    Large organizations that are not organized as markets need to be organized in smaller units – departments – which can be defined according to different principles.

    Information management, 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."[28]

    See also