INTRODUCTORY GUIDE TO
CESS MANAGEMENT (BPM)
by Ryan K. L. Ko
Computers play an integral part in designing, modelling, optimizing, and managing business processes within and across companies. Although business process management (BPM), workflow management (WfM), and business process reengineering (BPR) have been IT-
related disciplines with a history of about three decades, there is still a lack of publications clarifying
definitions and scope of basic BPM terminologies, such as business process, BPM versus WfM, work-
flow, BPR, etc. Such a myriad of similar-sounding terminologies can be overwhelming for computer
scientists and computer science students who may wish to venture into this area of research. This
guide aims to address this gap by providing a high-level overview of the key concepts, rationale, fea-
tures, and the developments of BPM.
Every human endeavor, from planning a holiday to managing complex
manufacturing processes, is governed by processes. Processes can be
optimized by either experience (e.g., planning a holiday) or by prudent
scientific investigations (e.g., manufacturing processes). Likewise,
there are business processes in business. Business processes (e.g.,
purchase orders, price negotiations, shipping management, request for
quotations, merger-and-acquisition procedures, etc.) are commonly
found in business organizations and across organizations. There are
many types of business processes. Fundamentally, business processes
are either private or public business processes. Private business
processes are those internal to the enterprise and can be at the strategic, management, or operational level. Public business processes
involve external organizations, e.g., delivery of goods, ordering of
materials, etc. Public business processes are also commonly known as
collaborative business processes (cBPs). With intensified globaliza-tion, cBPs are becoming more important because of:
1. The rise in frequency of goods ordered.
2. The need for fast information transfer.
3. The need for quick decision making.
4. he need to adapt to changing demands.
5. A larger pool of international competitors.
6. Shorter cycle time.
In a bid to deal with these challenges, Information Technology
IT) was harnessed to manage business processes. Previously manual
hand-filled forms are increasingly being replaced by their “paperless”
electronic counterparts. This eventually gave rise to business process
management (BPM). According to prominent BPM researcher van
der Aalst , BPM is defined as “supporting business processes
using methods, techniques and software to design, enact, control and
analyze operational processes involving humans, organizations,
applications, documents and other sources of information.” Software
tools supporting the management of such operational processes
became known as business process management systems (BPMS).
At the end of 2006, the BPMS market reached nearly $1.7 billion
n total software revenue [ 14] and began to exhibit the characteristics
of an early mainstream software market, i.e., proven technology, stable vendors, vendor consolidation, and rapid user adoption. The
BPMS market is also the second-fastest-growing middleware (a type
of integrative software) market segment. Gartner estimates that the
BPMS market will have a compound annual growth rate of more than
24% from 2006 to 2011 [ 14]. Interest in BPM from among practitioners and researchers grew rapidly. A wide variety of paradigms and
methodologies from organization management theory, computer science, mathematics, linguistics, semiotics, and philosophy were
adopted, making BPM a cross-discipline “theory in practice” subject.
Background and Objectives
Perhaps because it is cross-disciplinary, BPM practice and research
are fraught with duplication and possible misunderstandings. This
does not help the computer scientists who are trying to understand
this field. A common problem in BPM is the absence of universal terminologies [ 8, 23, 30, 34, 37]. Terms are used loosely to represent distinct scope and feature differences [ 15]. One example is the
interchangeable reference between business processes and Web services. Another example is the confusion between business process
reengineering (BPR), workflow management (WfM) and BPM. Such
confusion has led to mismatched (or worse, wrong) BP solutions
being implemented. The frequent mention of BPM in many information systems research such as the Semantic Web and Service Oriented
Architectures may also be rather overwhelming to a beginner in the
field and may be mistakenly passed off as another buzzword.