The Basic Concept

A critical assertion is that BPM is a concept that must be understood in any discussions of service orientation. The term BPM is confusing, because it has one meaning for managers and another for technologists. It is necessary to separate the two definitions, and to add clarity, the two definitions are discussed in some detail. The term “Business BPM” is used to represent the manager's definition of BPM, and the term “Technical BPM” represents the technologist's definition of BPM. The concepts are discussed here, but they are covered in more detail in Gulledge (2008). Managers must have a business process orientation. Since business processes define how work is executed, managers are constantly trying to improve business processes in an attempt to increase organizational

Fig. 1 Business and technical BPM

involves interviewing subject matter experts and documenting the business processes for study and analyses. The concept is simple – you cannot improve what you do not understand, so managers are constantly striving for improvement. These management-oriented processes are typically not documented using the technical notation of a system developer or integrator, but are documented in a notation that is comfortable to managers and using common business terminology (e.g., BPMN or EPCs). Since Business BPM describes how managers desire to execute their business, Business BPM represents the business process requirements of the organization. If the underlying systems do not support these requirements with pertinent information, an “organizational requirements gap” must be filled.[1]

Technical BPM is a software concept. It depicts the execution flow as objects (data and code) flow across systems. Technical BPM can be documented in a standard notation, and the most widely accepted standard is the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL). The processes that are documented in BPEL must perfectly align with the Business BPM processes, or business process requirements are not realized. The implication is that Business BPM dominates Technical BPM. Many information system projects are initiated at the Technical BPM level. While such an approach is practical from a technical point-of-view, there is no indication (much less guarantee) that business process requirements (defined by managers) will be realized if the requirements are defined from an IT point-of-view. Figure 1 depicts the relationship between Business and Technical BPM. Both concepts reflect processes, but their orientation is different. Business BPM is a management approach for documenting, analyzing, improving, and ultimately codifying a set of business

Fig. 2 Business and technical BPM in a logistics order-to-cash implementation project

process requirements. These requirements are often organized in an integrated repository, and in the form of a Business Process Management Framework.

As asserted, Technical BPM is a technology approach for documenting the flow of control within or across information systems. Technical BPM must align with Business BPM in order to realize business process requirements. Managers execute Business BPM, and system developers execute Technical BPM; however, the two concepts are tightly linked. Managers and technologists must work together while defining and realizing requirements.

Figure 2 presents the concept in an actual implementation that was completed in early 2008.

While the figure is conceptual, it describes the relationship that is more clearly delineated in the subsequent sections of the chapter. The organization has one set of desired business processes, and they are documented using a method that is useful for managers. The organization has many systems, and these systems provide information to support the business processes. The top layer of Fig. 2 represents the business process requirements and the lower level represents the supporting information systems. If the top and bottom are not aligned, the gap must be closed. Technical BPM (center section of Fig. 2) provides the linkage between Business BPM and the systems that provide the required information to automate the Business BPM processes.

  • [1] Gulledge (2006) for a discussion of business process oriented gap analysis.
 
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