Seeking a BPM definition

International Lingerie ShowThe last customer presentation of Day 1 at the Proforma conference was Mary Baumgartner Vellequette from Genentech‘s Corporate Treasury division. Through curiosity on both of our parts, Mary and I later toured the show floor of the International Lingerie show that was going on down the hall, although they were in the process of tear-down so we didn’t see as much as we would have liked. 😉

Mary had some great material on establishing BPM programs within an organization, including governance, but the more that I listened to her, the more I realized that we still have a definition gap: her BPM (which does mean business process management) doesn’t really include one of the main foci of my BPM, namely the systems used to help automate business processes. Hers is really about analyzing and modelling the processes, integrating them into an overall architecture, documenting and communicating the processes, business reorganization and other non-automation tasks. Only on her long-term plans does she mention “business process automation” tools.

She does include some BPM measures and direct/indirect benefits in good detail, helpful to anyone who is looking to establish ROI for their BPM project. She also steps through the BPM project process in detail, discusses change management and how to map process improvements to organizational change.

I am left with the feeling that we still don’t have a comprehensive definition of business process management: although I consider everything that Mary talked about to be part of BPM, I also consider the process automation and BPMS to be a significant part.

2 thoughts on “Seeking a BPM definition”

  1. Hi Sandy,

    Very true. In the talks I have with various people from various disciplines, I noted the same thing: a lack of a common definition. Unfortunately it sometimes even seem that people define BPM in their own way, claiming it as the true definition…
    For me BPM is an “umbrella” concept for things as…
    – Managing processes as a management area
    – Modelling, analysing, riskmanagement, compliance
    – Process tracking and steering, BAM, KPI’s etc
    – BPMS, process automation (and so also SOA)
    – Process improvement, and frameworks for that such as Lean, Six Sigma

    And I am probably missing a lot of other area’s 🙂


  2. Roeland, thanks for your comment. I agree with your more all-encompassing definition, although more peripheral areas such as quality management frameworks like Six Sigma are a bit debatable.

    I was at a conference last week and discussing an SOA project with one of the exhibitors. I told him that I worked mostly in BPM, and he said “Oh, that’s part of SOA”. I informed him (with a smile) that those of us in BPM consider it the other way around. 😉

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