What does BPM mean .. in reality?

When I use the word PROCESS in a meeting or presentation; is everyone thinking the same thing? Even when I had just put a definition up on the wall only minutes earlier?

The answer to that question is probably: “No, of course everyone has interpreted it differently!”

This is an on-going challenge for anyone involved in organisational change, and a key source of resistance and conflict. I think BPM is the toughest type of organisational change as it crosses all areas of the business, introduces a new way to manage what we do and a new way of thinking.

Even on this website, I will use terminology in a different way to my peers, and it will cause comment and conflict! To help you out I have added a new page to the Executive Guide to BPM that provides a Glossary of BPM Terms in the way that I use them. The glossary will never be finished, I will continually add to it. I hope it helps.

What process terms are causing conflict?

One term that I have problems with is SERVICE, or BUSINESS SERVICES. What is a service? How does it relate to processes, work practices and IT systems?

A related question was asked on the BPM-Collaboration website, “What is the difference between a process and a service?”. This generated an interesting discussion (registration to the website is required to access).

I see a business service as a discrete function that is provided to abstract over a sub-process or software solution, e.g. Create a New User. Multiple business processes can utilise the business service without any knowledge of how it is implemented, only that it will achieve the desired result. The functional manager of the service can then change the implementation without needing to change any of the referring processes.

If all of the functional requirements of a business process are met in this way then they become very easy to sustain; however there is a requirement for strong governance and change management to ensure each business services continues to deliver the agreed results.

One solution to the terminology problem is to adopt an organisational Process Taxonomy, describing the meaning of all of the terminology used. When this is linked into a Process Methodology that is trained and adopted across the business, then you will have a much better chance of achieving real common understanding. My glossary may be a good place to start!

Do you have any word based war stories to share? How would you achieve common understanding?