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What is a Business Process?

In an “offline conversation” with the BPX content strategist, Audrey Weinland, Audrey proposed I pose this question to the evolving Business Process Expert Community and suggested giving our members the opportunity to weigh in. Afterall, there had been much lively conversation around the topic Who is a BPX?. Being a proponent of the larger group discussion and group decision, but a sometimes coward, I gingerly experimented with some feedback to the idea of asking the question from a smaller community of experts. I got back responses like: “What would be the logistics around posing such a question”? “How could people respond and comment”? “That’s too broad a question without context?”

Then again, how can one speak of a Business Process Expert without understanding what is a business process, really? So, I braved the waters, braced myself for the cold splash of reality from the community and its collective wisdom, and decided to pose the question anyway. Luckily, about the time that I was thinking of posting and was querying, I read a number of community posts including Andre Truong‘s blog, Why Netweaver as Composition Platform matters? Part II which put some SAP context to this question. In his blog Andre discusses an “Enterprise Process Framework” and describes exactly the kind of processes that might be good candidates for a business process expert to wrap hands around, specifically “process(es)that would be a nightmare for IT to software enable because it’s so unique to your company and prone to changes that it’d be pretty much suicidal from an ROI standpoint to code.” (Andre Truong)

Hmmm..that sounded like something an BPexpert would need to deal with …Enterprise Processes.

But before I open this question to the wider community, let’s look at a few glossary definitions:

  • Business Process: A set of activities transforming a defined business input into a defined business result.
  • Business Process Platform: The combination of SAP’s Application Platform with SAP’s technology platform, it supports the creation, enhancement, and seamless execution of business processes and business scenarios.
  • Business Process Step: A task or an interaction performed by a process component either with or without human interaction and together with other steps forming a business process.
  • Application: A collection of business processes required to address specific business needs, implemented via a set of application and software components running on a platform. Example is mySAP CRM 2005
What Phase of the Process Life Cycle Do You Manage?

Not only can BPXers approach the definition of process from the perspective of how they manage them, but also from their touchpoints to the process phases.

How would you define process from your own context of Analytics? Implementation? Design? Organizational Change Management? From a consultant’s perspective?

Description of a Business Process Management Life Cycle

I wonder how you, the community, will distinguish between the job of the “ordinary” business application consultant, working with traditional applications, software solutions and components and contrast that to the work of the business process expert working with enterprise processes. I mean, aren’t “User Productivity, Innovation, Process Efficiency, and Agility” terms that should apply to leading practices in normal configurations and implementations of software solutions?

These topics can be further discussed and expanded upon in comments or in the /community [original link is broken].

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5 Comments

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  1. Andre Truong
    what about a Request-to-Order process where more than 50% of the company revenue booking flows through
    – involving CSR, business line managers, technicians
    – touching R3 SD module, CRM Lead Management, a Document Management application
    – mixed up with different UIs and manual steps
    – providing low visibility into the end-to-end process with some process instances hitting dead-ends or black holes
    – and with each process taking too long to complete
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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      Back from a long vacation and glad to see activity here.  Thank you both for your comments! So Timothy speaks of the solution maps as a starting point for engaging with the customer, and Andre introduces an example of a complex process with “black holes” and “dead ends”.
      I would like to hear more from the community of how a BPX practically deals with scenarios or processes that are “off the map”.  What are some of the methodologies and approaches that a BPX would employ?  What tools or aids are at her/his disposal?

      Marilyn

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  2. Anonymous
    I think this is an excellent question, and is the main driver on how we engage the field on the BPP. 

    However, although the definition of a process is going to vary company by company depending on the scope and focus.  For instance, a claim process for an insurance company could differ depending on whether it is a Life or Property and Casualty company.  Additionally, the process itself may be more complicated depending on the company . 

    Fortunately, we have the solution maps that identify most of the business processes that take place in each industry and horizontal apps.  These give us a starting point when working with a customer and allow us to engage at the right level.

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  3. Simon Landau
    I come to this from the standpoint of business change and architecture. Many businesses (especially in my sector of metals) see processes in physical terms only.  So the business process experts may be a) rare (at least an endangered species) or b) outside consultants (talking a language we are all trying to understand)or c) solution providers (with unique sand in the desert).  At the architectural conceptual level I may be interested in abstracted end-to-end processes like order to cash or recruit to retire.  At the physical level I have to grapple with the devil in the detail of the fine-grained implementation of portions of that process.  We seem to use the same word for very different things!.  De Tocqueville wrote of the Americans in the 18th century that they either thought big ideas with vague content or very small ones with great detail. Much of the job of a business process expert in asset intensive industry like my own may be to try to get an understanding of business processes in an intermediate logical layer that mediates between the interests of all the people that use this very vague term !.
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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      So we Americans are vague with our big ideas, says De Tocqueville. Provocative but a little distracting from your title which seems to want to know more about our reference models. Are we looking for white spaces? Faults? De Tocqueville purportedly also wrote: “We succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess, but we excel in those which can also make use of our defects.” quoted from brainyquote So let’s see how vagueness can be turned on its head to a positive attribute. I don’t understand what you are looking for but would be happy to have you explain in a clearer way: Better definition of the business process professional? Clearer reference models?
      While trying to think of how to respond came across this interesting article about SAP reference models to be published in August of 2007. Verification of the SAP reference models
      Are you looking for reference models in metals? If so, now would be a good time to start contributing your thoughts to the forums or blog space and spicing up the conversation.
      (0) 

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