Workflow and BPM Terminology
Processes can be sub-divided into smaller and smaller units or sub-processes. We define activity as the smallest sub-process that a given business process team decides to illustrate on their process diagrams. (We could reverse that and say that a process is made up of one or more activities.) Activities can consist of a single step, like approving a purchase request or placing a cap on a bottle passing on a production line. Other activities involve multiple steps, like filling out a form, or assembling a chair. There is no consistency about how the various methodologies use terms like task and step, but, increasingly, the term activity is reserved for the smallest unit of analysis. A given activity could be performed by one or more employees, by a software system, or by some combination. In the UML notation, both processes and activities are represented by rectangles with rounded corners. (See Business Process Hierarchy.) We sometimes indicate if activities are manual (normal line around rectangle), systems (bold line around rectangle) or mixed activities that involve both manual activities an systems (dashed line around activity rectangle).
Activity Cost Worksheet
A grid or matrix that one can use to analyze the various costs of a set of activities. Activities are listed on the vertical axis and data about outputs, costs, times and problems are described for each activity.
Ad Hoc Workflow Systems
Workflow systems that wait on users to indicate what should happen next. An insurance system might pull up documents for an underwriter only on request. Compare with Administrative and Transaction or Production Workflow Systems.
Application Programming Interface (API)
An application programming interface (API) is a set of definitions of the ways one piece of computer software communicates with another. It is a method of achieving abstraction, usually (but not necessarily) between lower-level and higher-level software. APIs are implemented by writing function calls in the program, which provide the linkage to the required subroutine for execution. Thus, an API implies that some program module is available in the computer to perform the operation or that it must be linked into the existing program to perform the tasks.
In an asynchronous process, one activity sends a message to another, but does not wait until it gets a response.
In either human or computer processes, a step where lots of items are accumulated and then processed together. In contrast to continuous processing where items are processes as soon as possible.
As used in business process redesign, data about process measures obtained for specific types of processes. Many companies seek benchmark data on processes they seek to redesign in order to determine how well other companies manage the process.
BPM is software that automates, executes, and monitors business processes from beginning to end by connecting people to people, applications to applications, and people to applications
BPM is a management practice that provides for governance of a business’s process environment toward the goal of improving agility and operational performance. This more holistic view offers a structured approach for optimizing processes and takes into account the software tools discussed above as well as an organization’s methods, policies, metrics, and management practices.
Business Intelligence (BI)
Software systems and tools that seek to extract useful patterns or conclusions from masses of data.
Business Process Automation
Refers to the use of computer systems and software to automate a process. Processes can be completely automated, so no human intervention is required, or semi-automated, when some human intervention is required to make decisions or handle exceptions. Techniques used for BP Automation, include workflow, BP-XML languages, ERP, and software development and EAI.
Business Process Management (BPM)
Refers to aligning processes with an organization’s strategic goals, designing and implementing process architectures, establishing process measurement systems that align with organizational goals, and educating and organizing managers so that they will manage processes effectively. Business Process Management or BPM can also refer to various automation efforts, including workflow systems, XML Business Process languages and packaged ERP systems. In this case the management emphasizes the ability of workflow engines to control process flows, automatically measure processes, and M can also refer to various automation efforts, including workflow systems, XML Business Process languages and packaged ERP systems. In this case the management emphasizes the ability of workflow engines to control process flows, automatically measure processes, and M can also refer to various automation efforts, including workflow systems, XML Business Process languages and packaged ERP systems. In this case the management emphasizes the ability of workflow engines to control process flows, automatically measure processes, and ems that align with organizational goals, and educating and organizing managers so that they will manage processes effectively. Business Process Management or BPM can also refer to various automation efforts, including workflow systems, XML Business Process languages and packaged ERP systems. In this case the management emphasizes the ability of workflow engines to control process flows, automatically measure processes, and to change process flows from a computer terminal.
A statement describing a business policy or decision procedure. Some programming languages run business rules together into very complex algorithms. In business process analysis, each rule is usually stated independently, in the general format: If A and B, Then C. Workflow tools and detailed process diagrams both depend on business rules to specify how decisions are made. We generally associate business rules with activities. A decision diamond is adequate to show what happens if a loan is accepted or rejected, but dozens or even hundreds of business rules may need to be defined to clarify what a loan should be accepted or rejected. Training programs, job aids, software systems and knowledge management systems aim to document business rules either to automate the decision process or to and make the rules available to other decision makers.
Tools like discussion forums, dynamic workspaces, and message boards that are provided within the BPM platform framework and are designed to remove intra- and inter-departmental communication barriers.
Composite Process Application
An enterprise application that is developed and deployed using a BPM platform to solve a particular business problem, such as complying with regulatory standards or managing a company’s assets. By integrating existing applications, pulling relevant data, and connecting appropriate people, it overcomes the limitations of traditional enterprise applications, offering more flexibility and scalability as well as better collaboration and integration.
A user interface that resembles the dashboard of an automobile. Dashboards contain small graphs, charts, and gauges that provide data on key information within an organization.
Generically, any pre-packaged software application. Normally it is used as a way of referring to vendors who sell ERP or CRM application platforms that are organized to be used to integrate all of a company’s main software applications. By installing a number of packaged applications a company can assure that major business process applications in finance, accounting, human resources, and manufacturing all communicate smoothly and store data in a common database.
A set of activities and transactions that an organization conducts on a regular basis in order to achieve its objectives. It can be simple (i.e. order fulfillment) or complex (i.e. new product development), short-running (i.e. employee on-boarding) or long-running (i.e. regulatory compliance), function-specific (i.e. proposal management) or industry-specific (i.e. energy procurement). It can exist within a single department (i.e. billing), run throughout the entire enterprise (i.e. strategic sourcing), or extend across the whole value chain (i.e. supply chain management).
BPM component that manages the flow of information and activities within a process according to the formulas and rules assigned to it.
Process analysis necessarily occurs on levels. A high-level process diagram shows major processes. Each major process is typically divided into sub-processes which are represented on separate process diagrams. Those processes, in turn, may be sub-divided into sub-processes. There is no logical limit to the number of times we may sub-divide processes into sub-processes. We repeat it until we understand the process in sufficient detail to successfully redesign or improve it. The smallest sub-processes we identify in any given analysis effort are arbitrarily called activities.
Generic term for a process or for the movement of information or material from one activity (worksite) to another.
Another name for a process diagram. Often includes both a diagram and rules that define the flow of information from one activity to the next. If used in conjunction with a workflow system or engine, a software-based process diagram that becomes the program for a workflow system that will move information from a database to one computer terminal after another.
Workflow System or Engine
A software tool or program that helps analysts define a process and the rules governing process decisions, and then manages the actual distribution of information related to specific instances or cases to terminals and databases.