Business Processes:

Process Definition

Characteristics of Business Processes


 Source: Business Process Management: The Third Wave, Howard Smith and Peter Fingar


  1. Large and complex, involving the end-to-end flow of materials, information and business commitments.

  2. Dynamic, responding to demands from customers and to changing market conditions.

  3. Widely distributed and customized across boundaries within and between businesses, often spanning multiple applications on disparate technology platforms.

  1. Long-running a single instance of a process such as "order to cash" or "develop product" may run for months or even years.

  2. Automated at least in part. Routine or mundane activities are performed by computers wherever possible, for the sake of speed and reliability.

  3. Both "business" and "technical" in nature IT processes are a subset of business processes and provide support to larger processes involving both people and machines. End-to-end business processes depend on distributed computing systems that are both transactional and collaborative. Process models may therefore comprise network models, object models, control flows, message flows, business rules, metrics, exceptions, transformations and assignments.

  4. Dependent on and supportive of the intelligence and judgment of humans. People perform tasks that are too unstructured to delegate to a computer or that require personal interaction with customers. People also make sense of the rich information flowing through the value chain, solving problems before they irritate customers and devising strategies to take advantage of new market opportunities.

  5. Difficult to make visible. In many companies business processes have been neither conscious nor explicit. They are undocumented, embedded, ingrained and implicit within the communal history of the organization, or if they are documented or definition is maintained independently of the systems that support them.