The Six Core Elements of Business Process Management

Michael Rosemann and Jan vom Brocke

Abstract The previous chapters gave an insightful introduction into the various facets of Business Process Management. We now share a rich understanding of the essential ideas behind designing, managing and changing processes for a variety of organizational purposes. We have also learned about the streams of research and development that have influenced contemporary BPM. As a result of more than two decades of inter-disciplinary research and a plethora of diverse BPM initiatives in corporations of all sizes and across all industries, BPM has become a holistic management discipline. Consequently, it requires that a number of complementary elements needs to be addressed for its successful und sustainable deployment. This chapter introduces a consolidating framework that provides structure and decomposes BPM into six essential elements. Drawing from research in the field of maturity models and its application in a number of organizations all over the globe, we suggest the following six core elements of BPM: strategic alignment, governance, methods, information technology, people, and culture. These six elements serve as the core structure for this BPM Handbook.

Why Looking for BPM Core Elements?

Despite the fact that BPM has disappeared as the top issue for CIOs (Gartner 2010), the interest in process-aware management and supporting methods and technologies remains very high (Gartner 2013). BPM is nowadays seen as being beyond the stage of inflated hype and the related expectations have become more realistic. Overall there is a much more matured understanding of how to approach BPM as a program of work or on a project-by-project base (vom Brocke et al. 2014). Nevertheless, new expectations are continuously being fuelled with emerging BPM solutions such as process mining, social BPM or cloud BPM. In this regard, BPM has increasingly been recognized a driver for innovation in a digital world (vom Brocke and Schmiedel 2014).

This context demands a robust frame of reference that helps decomposing the

complexity of a holistic approach such as Business Process Management and allows accommodating new BPM capabilities. A framework highlighting essential building blocks of BPM can particularly serve the following purposes:

Project and Program Management: How can all relevant issues within a BPM approach be safeguarded? When implementing a BPM initiative, either as a project or as a program, is it essential to individually adjust the scope and have different BPM flavors in different areas of the organization? What competencies are relevant? What approach fits best with the culture and strategic imperatives of the organization? How can BPM be best tailored to the specific corporate context? Michael Hammer has pointed in his previous chapter to the significance of appropriately motivated and skilled employees for the overall success of BPM. What might be further BPM elements of significance? In order to find answers to these questions, a framework articulating the core elements of BPM provides invaluable advice.

Vendor Management: How can service and product offerings in the field of BPM be evaluated in terms of their overall contribution to successful BPM? What portfolio of solutions is required to address the key issues of BPM, and to what extent do these solutions need to be sourced from outside the organization? There is, for example, a large list of providers of process-aware information systems, process change experts, BPM training providers, and a variety of BPM consulting services. How can it be guaranteed that these offerings cover the required capabilities? In fact, the vast number of BPM offerings does not meet the requirements as distilled in this Handbook; see for example, Hammer (2014), Davenport (2014), Harmon (2014), and Rummler and Ramias (2014). It is also for the purpose of BPM make-or-buy decisions and the overall management of vendors and advisors that a framework structuring core elements of BPM is highly needed.

Complexity Management: How can the complexity that results from the holistic and comprehensive nature of BPM be decomposed so that it becomes manageable? How can a number of coexisting BPM initiatives within one organization be synchronized? An overarching picture of BPM is needed in order to provide orientation for these initiatives. Following a “divide-and-conquer” approach, a shared understanding of the core elements can help to focus on special factors of BPM. For each element, a specific analysis could be carried out involving experts from the various fields. Such an assessment should be conducted by experts with the required technical, business and socio-cultural skills and knowledge.

Standards Management: What elements of BPM need to be standardized across the organization? What BPM elements need to be mandated for every BPM initiative? What BPM elements can be configured individually within each initiative? A comprehensive framework allows an element-by-element decision for the degrees of standardization that are required. For example, it might be decided that a company-wide process model repository will be “enforced” on all BPM initiatives, while performance management and cultural change will be decentralized activities.

Strategy Management: What is the BPM strategy of the organization? How does this strategy materialize in a BPM roadmap? How will the naturally limited attention of all involved stakeholders be distributed across the various BPM elements? How do we measure progression in a BPM initiative (“BPM audit”)?

A BPM framework that clearly outlines the different elements of BPM has the potential to become an essential tool for such strategy and road-mapping challenges as it facilitates the task of allocating priorities and timeframes to the progression of the various BPM elements.

Based on this demand for a BPM framework that can be used for project and program management, vendor management, complexity management, standards management, and strategy management, we propose a framework that can guide BPM decision makers in all of these challenges. In the following section, we outline how we identified these elements. We then introduce the six core elements by first giving an overview and second presenting each element and its subcomponents in more detail.

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