27 October 2013

Business Process - Enterprise Architecture View vs BPM View

When discussing business process, there is always the confusion on what constitutes a business process. This is not about the boundary of your process model. It is about whether the term "business process" is inclusive of human resource, finance, tools or even time. This article provides the key difference between process of Enterprise Architecture (EA) / Business Architecture (BA) and process based on Business Process Management (BPM).

Architecture View of Business Process

From Enterprise (IT) Architecture to Business Architecture, the term "process" is generally used in a very limited context representing only the workflow dimension or procedural steps. Figure 1 is based on Zachman's architectural view when it is clear that the term "business process" excludes information, location, human resource, time and objectives.

Figure 1

In addition to that the term business functions are considered to be classes of business processes or a collective term for related business processes. In other words, a business process is the workflow or procedures within a business function. A business function is a collective term for a group of related business processes. The term "capabilities" is used to represent the inclusive term of all the required components.

Business Process Management (BPM) View of Business Process

On the other hand, in BPM practice a business process is viewed with a much larger context. As shown by Howard Smith in one of his presentation1, it is not just the workflow or procedural steps. In BPM a business process encompasses the information, the procedures (workflow), the human resources, other resources (such as tools), time and its objectives (see Figure 2). This is one of the source of confusion between BPM and the architecture view on business process. Consequently the term such as "capabilities" is redundant in BPM perspective. In short when working on business process improvement the efforts are inclusive across all the dimensions mentioned earlier and not just the workflow.

Figure 2

The other key difference is the scope of the term business process within an organisation. On contrary to the functional process defined in the architectural space, BPM considers business processes at enterprise level or an end-to-end view. This is itself a topic for another day - business function vs business process.


1 Howard Smith. 2009. BCS presentation titled "Business Process Management: The Third Wave".

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