What is "Good Enough" BPM – part I, defining BPM

In a previous post I suggested that Google Wave might turn out to be a good enough BPM. That got me thinking about what  a good enough BPM might be. As a good academic, I decided the first step would be to find the definitive definition of BPM. So my first attempt was to look up BPM in Wikipedia – 

Business process management (BPM) is a management approach focused on aligning all aspects of an organization with the wants and needs of clients. It is a holistic management approach[1] that promotes business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility, and integration with technology. Business process management attempts to improve processes continuously. It could therefore be described as a “process optimization process.” – Wikipedia

What surprised me in the Wikipedia definition was the focus on “aligning all aspects of an organization with the wants and needs of the clients” – certainly important, but is that really what BPM is about? It doesn’t seem to be a good definition to me. So I decided to go and see what analysts are saying. I found an old quote from David McCoy of Gartner

“BPM is a management practice that provides for governance of a business’s process environment toward the goal of improving agility and operational performance. BPM is a structured approach employing methods, policies, metrics, management practices and software tools to manage and continuously optimize an organization’s activities and processes.” This seems closer to what I think most people understand when they hear the term BPM – but the focus is on continuous optimization, and I am not sure if that is the only goal (or even the main goal) of BPM. So I decided to look and see what the vendors are saying – since Lombardi was in the news this week, I decided to see how they define BPM. Here is a quote from Wayne Snell of  Lombardi Software

“Business Process Management (BPM) is the understanding, visibility and control of business processes. The real value of BPM comes from gaining visibility and control of the business process.” I actually liked that explanantion – the value is in the visibility and control (which of course may lead to optimization).  It also seems pretty close to Burton Group’s definition of BPM

“BPM is a discipline for managing business processes explicitly as strategic assets.”

Bottom line, there is no definitive definition of BPM! So I guess I can choose. I like the juxtaposition of the last two – one a high level analyst definition (leaving a lot of ambiguity) and a nitty gritty feet on the ground vendor definition. So if I merge those two together I get –

Business Process Management (BPM) is the understanding, visibility and control of business processes, enabling them to be managed as strategic assets.

I like that, and unless someone convinces me otherwise will stick with it. Now that I have a definition of BPM – I can move on to part II (my next post)  – defining the attributes of  “good enough” BPM.


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