Business Process Manifesto By @RogerBurlton – Open For Comments

Roger Burlton, who has been doing business process stuff for even longer than me, has written The Business Process Manifesto, which he describes as “A necessary foundation for all things process”. He’s gathered some feedback on this at a few conferences, and has asked me to post it here for more comments:

Please review and add any comments here; I appreciate if you would use your real name and email address in the comment form (only I can see the email addresses) so that I can pass these on to Roger in case he wants to follow up with you on your comments.

24 thoughts on “Business Process Manifesto By @RogerBurlton – Open For Comments”

  1. Thanks to Sandy for putting this up for review. This document is a result of almost three years of effort and a lot of interaction with others who care about the topic. I would like to get more feedback on the manifesto content itself. Please read the whole thing through and then make suggestions on parts that are there or you feel are missing. Your name will be added to the list of contributors once published if you are OK with that. The plan is to leave this up for about a month and then consolidate all suggestions and republish more formally.

    Thanks for your anticipated involvement in establishing a baseline we can all use so we can get some consistency and common sense into this professional domain.

  2. I can see statements about adhering to business rules expanding, perhaps to its own principle. Yes, Business Rules have their own Manifesto, but the direct dependency of process on rules merits a clear identification of the relations between the two.

  3. Hi Roger, Sandy, et al.
    this is really nice, thanks for all the work you put into it.

    I particularly like all of it but most particularly I like principle 7, regarding models. The hardest part of all my consulting engagements is getting people to stop the flat-model thinking. That is, they think of the model as a set of documents or diagrams. Presumably they have a mental model but don’t get the connection between it and the business or process model.

  4. I am not sure about item 4 on slide 12. It may be a desirable feature of well run business, but saying there is no life outside a BP seems to me as maybe too strong.

  5. Regarding item 4/15, optimization always has a cost and I doubt it is worth for each and every BP any organization may have.

  6. Regarding 3/17, I believe the BP name should identify it unambiguously. But “communication of the intended result” seems a tall order for only a name.

  7. I was rather surprised to see my name at the end given I know nothing about this! Still, pleased that I may have sparked some thinking.

  8. Craig, I believe that Roger made some updates to this based on a presentation that he made about it at a conference recently in Australia — possibly that’s where he gathered your input?

  9. A great piece of work to go with the Business Rules Manifesto!

    Slide 7:
    add a definition of “Customer” to distinguish from stakeholder.
    Organizations – should read “…, exercises control …”

    Slide 8:
    point 1 – suggest either “Be tightly focused on the subject, not on issues …” or “Be tightly focused on the subject and not on issues …”

    Slide 13:
    point 2 – should read “… when defined business events trigger its initiation.”
    point 4 – add “… customers or stakeholders …”

    Slide 16:
    add a point re a Business Process requires a separate comprehensive and accurate set of Business Rules to ensure the Organisation meets its policies and procedural requirements?

    Slide 18:
    point 1 – does this include the Business Rules in “information”? I don’t think it should and, if agreed, should be excepted or “information” should be clarified in this context.

  10. My comments on thegreat feedback so far follow.

    A general statement about the manifesto is that the statements are intended to be aspirational (something to work towards). This means that some organizations will use it more strictly than others and that’s OK. It is a way of judging the quality of our models, our methods, our projects and our language. In light of this the following is my response to what’s submitted so far:

    Business rules do have their own Manifesto and Ron Ross was aleader in this effort. Ron prompted me to do the process equivalent and has been very deeply involved. The suggestion to call it out a bit more will be done. Thanks

    Slide12 point 4 is indeed a strong point and I will strive to tone it down just a little but the message is that these items add little in and of themselves without the context of a business process
    Slide 15 point 4 I include the cost of change in the optimization consideration. If it is not worth the cost of change then it should not be changed
    Slide 17 point 3 is clearly aspirational but I think really important since most process names are too vague – eg marketing, production, handle complaint, manage staff, take order (rather than fulfill order)

    Customer definition should go in

    The grammatical errors have been noted

    The comments regarding business rules on slide 16 and 18 are well taken but demand a consideration of what’s covered on slide 14. I will try to deal with these together

    Note to Craig -> Your name was added since I believe you commented on a summary version that Sandy tweeted when I presented this either last year from a Florida conference or earlier this year in London. If you would prefer, I can remove it from the list.

  11. Hi Roger – no, it’s no problem whatsoever – I am more than happy to help however I can – I just couldn’t remember how I had contributed! I will also have a more detailed look at this again and will comment in more detail.

  12. FYI … In developing the Business Rules Manifesto – -we actually had a draft Article on the relationship of process and rules. I should dig that out and perhaps circulate. Would that be useful??

    The draft Article didn’t make it into the final version for a variety of reasons … one being that we didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes (and at the time, we sure would have!). And of course, the BR Manfesto was a group effort, all of us having limited time.

    One thing I really like about the BP Manifesto draft (but I’ll have to re-read to verify) is that it *always* says “business process” … not just “process”. In creating the BR Manifesto, we always *meant* “business rule” (or real-world rule) but we said “rule”. If it could be done over, I would sure try to change that. But 1o years ago, I’m not so sure we understood how big a difference it could make. After all, it’s just a matter of semantics.

  13. A terrific initiative for BPM practitioners and business people alike. My only suggestion is that the Manifesto can be even bolder. Specifically:

    1) ORGANIZATION – Increase importance of the “organization”, which is the chief beneficiary of any BP project.

    2) WORK – Consider using the term “work” instead of “action” and increasing the importance of the subject of work, which is really the focus of both any organization and specific business process.

    3) TECHNOLOGY – Include the topic of “technology” in the Manifesto, although not BPM or any specific technology. BP is only an interesting discussion now because of technology. And there are specific aspects of technology that might appropriately be considered to be part of the Manifesto (see next item).

    4) MODELLING – Include the topic of “modelling” in the Manifesto. The technology of modelling enables one to say that “we can capture your vision on how you want to do business”. Manifesto Principle No. 7 reference modelling, but in a more technical way. It’s importance could be increased.

    5) ASSET – Business Processes are not “an asset” of any organization, they are among “THE assets” of an organization. Especially if the idea of the work of business is highlighted, then likewise the importance of business processes which define and organize that work increase.

    Again, an outstanding initiative!

    Very sincerely,


  14. Roger – an excellent and succinct presentation. I haven’t read all the comments but there were a couple of places where some grammar needs tweaking. The only substantive comments I have relate to integrity and the role of the process.

    Values – and integrity, of course – are often the only real reason an organization begins its life. You define all the terms but not integrity and that needs to be done. I also think that people exist within organizations as models or receptacles or champions of the moral code and strictures that drive behavior within an organization – the actual process that they do on a day to day basis may have nothing to do with the actual moral force they bring to the table.

    All relationships boil down to trust and share values – I think that we have not acknowledged the role of personal relationships as driving forces in business effectively enough. In my 30+ years of consulting and process work, I can tell you that EQ had every bit as much to do with successful projects as analytical ability.

    This is great – thanks for including me in the review!

  15. Great manifesto. I particularly agree with point 5 “A business process is enabled by a set of business capabilities.”. Any business process reform is a big deal. Clear guidelines to processes should always be followed to ensure efficiency.

  16. Well Done!

    My suggestions – which you are free to use or not use – as you see fit.

    1.) Slide 7 – add definition of “requirements”
    2.) Slide 8 and 22 – re-arrange axes (to improve readability) lower left quadrant to “Little/Little” and upper right quadrant to “Lots/Lots”. As for the “path” on Slide 22 – I’m not sure that it is possible to go from “Incomprehensible” to “Complex”.
    3.) Slide 9 – I’m not sure of the intent of the boxes at the Enterprise Level or whether the sequence has meaning – I would have put them in the following sequence: Understand Enterprise Context, Define Performance Goals, Align/Define Enterprise Capabilities, Model Enterprise Processes, Establish Process Governance.
    4.) Slide 12 – think that I would have added “capability” somewhere on this slide. The title include “distinct asset” and “a capability is defined as the ability of an asset…”
    5.) Slide 13 – Sometimes customers (as well as suppliers and partners) are in the middle of a business process – think of your interactions with a bank manager or any service situation. Both manufacturing (product can be inventoried) and service (product can not be inventoried) need to be addressed.
    6.) Slide 14 – hard link to business strategic intent – is worrisome – especially for those who think of business strategy is emergent (See Henry Mintzberg). Put differently – some see “definition of business processes as driving strategy” rather than “strategy driving the definition of business processes”.
    7.) Slide 17 – I personally prefer “noun verb past tense” with a focus on events that are observable and measurable rather than “verb-noun” with a focus on actions or activities.
    8.) Slide 18 – I am not a fan of “decomposition” – simply because of the possibility of multiple interpretations.
    9.) Slide 20 was not helpful for me.

    Wishing you continued success.

    P.S. – John H. forwarded your note and asked me to comment.

  17. Very cool piece of work! Bravo to Roger for taking on a very difficult task and for stimulating such great discussion and thought.

    Slide-specific feedback:

    Slide 13/Manifesto Principle #2: “A business process exits within a clearly defined business context” – In my experience, a business process exists whether or not the context is or has been clearly defined, is well-bounded or has had it triggering events defined – it’s “how we get things done around here”. I would agree that the business context is most of the time one that can be defined, but is also often changing far more rapidly than the ‘definers’ can keep up with. In the real world of hundreds and thousands of enterprise business processes, there are many that don’t exist in this idyllic state. These are good goals and intentions for a business process, but if the goal of the manifesto is to describe what a business process is, then I do not see this statement as a precondition to the existence of a business process, in my experience. This may also come down to semantics and what it means to have something “defined” – what actions must occur to define something?

    Slide 15/Point #4: “Business process performance should be continually optimized at all points in the lifecycle of the Business Process” – I agree with earlier commenter Tales Costa (July 30, 2011 at 7:48 pm). All processes do not have the same inherent value to an organization. If you have a simple, low-risk business process that is executed one day per year and consumes .25 FTE for that day alone, it’s hard to see where you would make back the cost of the endeavor to optimize it formally.

    Slide 16/Points #1 – #4: “A Business Process requires…access to co-ordinated, practical knowledge of how to best perform the Business Process… clear organizational roles and responsibilities for all its actions…requires individual and organization incentives to be consistent with the desired outcomes of the Business Process…assigned human resources to be able to conduct the work needed to execute its actions” – These don’t seem to apply completely when a business process has been fully automated. We have business processes that are now fully automated through integration with applications on our external web site, our BPMS and web services that allow us to update our LOB system of record. For these “straight through processing” processes, we no longer require assigned human resources who require knowledge, role definition and incentives to be able to conduct the work needed to execute the process activities; does this mean that these would not be considered a business process? We continue to view it as a business process.

    As illustrated by the manifesto scope, and consistent with many other discussions about process knowledge that I ‘ve read about and participated in, there is a clear aversion to bringing technology into a business process manifesto. I understand this when considering the ‘process purist’ perspective, but technology is often a direct participant in a business process that also has human participants. One of the problems with the anti-technology schism that exists in some BPM knowledge circles today is that it seems to shove the important and rapidly changing knowledge domain of the application of technology to business processes for optimization and innovation into some other discipline’s back yard, but I don’t really think such a place exists. Sometimes it seems like Enterprise Architecture is a fit, but depending on who you read, it can be too biased towards technology selection and implementation topics and lacks the rich process life cycle focus of BPM. It seems to me that there far more new knowledge is forming and needing to be formed in the ‘wild west’ of BPMS and other related, integrated technologies and approaches (i.e. ACM, social BPM) than there is in the business process improvement or “pure” business process elements of BPM, which have been around for almost a century. Perhaps it truly does need its own discipline, but it is such a natural, symbiotic fit with BPM, and frankly, it wasn’t until our organization started seeing return on investment from a BPMS that it began taking meaningful interest in business process improvement methods and techniques again (after killing off a Six Sigma team in 2006). The other sad effect of this is that it really leaves it up to those of us the trenches of an organization to form the knowledge ourselves – to attempt to blend the two in an effective way, often based on vendor-driven knowledge, which isn’t always as well-rounded as it could be, along with trial and error, which can be quite painful.

    Slide 13/Point #4: “A Business Process delivers things to or receives things from either stakeholders external to the organization or other internal Business Processes and not to or from a person, internal organization unit, information system, piece of equipment or facility.” – The distinction made in this sentence is confusing and doesn’t really seem necessary. How is it that a business process can deliver things to or receive things from external stakeholders or other internal business processes, but not to/from internal stakeholders or resources such as systems or physical plant?

    Slide 18/Point #5: “All Business Processes decompositions and compositions should be described using one common set of properties” – What is an example of “a common set of properties that would describe all business process decompositions and compositions”? Is it possible (or worthwhile) to create such a set of properties for all business processes in an organization? I’m assuming this is related to the whole “Level 1”, “Level 2”, etc. bit about process mapping. I’ve found those designations to be arbitrary and based almost entirely on the subjective view point of the process map creator but, it works so long as that is understood by all. Trying to define some common approach to that sounds like painful brain damage to me, if it is really even possible. I think an earlier commenter Ray McKenzie (August 13, 2011 at 12:13 pm) was making a similar point.

    Slide 19/general comment on business processes must have integrity: The manifesto overall has a rather rigid view of business process, which is helpful when you isolate a business process for study, as in any other academic pursuit. This reminds me of the concept of a “ceteris paribus assumption” (from Wikipedia):

    “A ceteris paribus assumption is often fundamental to the predictive purpose of scientific inquiry. In order to formulate scientific laws, it is usually necessary to rule out factors which interfere with examining a specific causal relationship. Under scientific experiments, the ceteris paribus assumption is realized when a scientist controls for all of the independent variables other than the one under study, so that the effect of a single independent variable on the dependent variable can be isolated. By holding all the other relevant factors constant, a scientist is able to focus on the unique effects of a given factor in a complex causal situation… Such assumptions are also relevant to the descriptive purpose of modeling a theory. In such circumstances, analysts such as physicists, economists, and behavioral psychologists apply simplifying assumptions in order to devise or explain an analytical framework that does not necessarily prove cause and effect but is still useful for describing fundamental concepts within a realm of inquiry.”

    However, I feel that missing in the manifesto’s ‘clean’ business process definition is a recognition of the true, fuzzy, dynamic nature of process – which can be intentionally or unintentionally changed by so many ambiguous and difficult to define elements like organizational culture, the performance and values of the process participants (as recognized by earlier commenter Nancy Lee Hutchin/August 10, 2011 at 9:59 am) like the course of a river can be changed by flooding, earthquakes and erosion. Not recognizing this reality of business processes may cause one to have a myopic approach to a business process management practice that may not deliver on its promise. If you attempt BPM in a business environment of dysfunction (which can exist in spite of a well-defined corporate strategy and process COE) it’s unlikely that any technology or other conventional process improvement technique will achieve the goal. However, if you have a reality-based, holistic view of business process, then you invite new knowledge into BPM and you believe a good BPM practitioner should be equipped with a ‘tool belt’ appreciation of the overlapping, related disciplines (strategic human resource development, for example), and you have a better chance at selecting and implementing the correct business process intervention. So, my point is: as you recognize on Slide #4 (Why the Fundamentals and Why Now?), how you define business process in this manifesto has real implications for how you will define the business process management practice and, ultimately that influences BPM effectiveness for an organization. A business process definition that doesn’t address these less tangible and adaptive elements of a business process doesn’t feel complete to me and I would suggest adding another point to this slide recognizing that or perhaps even a separate manifesto principle.

  18. Thanks to everyone so far with really well c0nsidered thoughts on this apparently not so simple task. Also thanks to all for the great support in the effort of getting something done that will be a great intial position for the marketplace. I will ensure that all your names are credited along the way (unless you would prefer otherwise). Within a week or two I will be challenged to pull all of it together and still try to keep it elegant and along the way sort out some of the conflicting points of view. This has been an exercise that has me and all of you thinking and that’s never a bad thing. One thing I am sworn to do is to try not to get too caught up in some of the jargon wars that vendors push to try to differentiate themselves by creating new meanings for old terms and also new terms when perfectly good ones exist. Keep the comments coming and invite others – for the next couple of weeks anyway.

  19. Roger
    While I agree that a business process should “comply with the organization’s policies and business rules” I think that this needs to more clearly differentiate between those policies and business rules that constrain and direct the process itself (routing and escalation for example) and those that constrain and direct decisions on which the process relies. Confusing these two, failing to identify decisions and managing the rules for those decisions orthogonally to the rules that are part of the business process is a critical problem in many business processes I come across.
    White paper on this topic here –

  20. @James – Indeed (as per SBVR) there are two kinds of business rules – behavioral rules (ones that can be violated) and defintiional rules (ones that classify, compute, or derive). Decision rules (the kind you kind in decision tables) are a subset of the latter.

    However, a Business Process Manifesto shouldn’t get into that per se I don’t think. Perhaps into some implications. The most important is probably that some business tasks in a business process are about operational business decisions … and they need to be recognized as such.



  21. I have done some homework and pulled out my old Editor notes from the 2003 Business Rules Manifesto work. There were some good thoughts about how business processes and business rules relate that never made it in.

    Have a look:

    Probably controversial(?). But I think right on the mark. Perhaps useful here. Feedback welcome.

  22. I respect Ron’s views on this and there have been lots of feedback about rules. I would prefer we keep the rules specific principles out of the business process manifesto but would like to include the ones which help Busness Rules and Business Process interrelationships to be better understood. There is some coverage but it seems to be needed more unambiguously.

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