Microsoft’s framework for Web services and component software introduced in 2000 and pronounced “dot-net.” .NET is Microsoft’s approach to a comprehensive development and runtime environment similar to J2EE. .NET supports all the Web-based features and functions, including XML and web services protocols such as SOAP and UDDI. .NET applications run on intranets as well as public Internet sites, thus .NET is an all-inclusive Web-oriented software architecture for internal and external use. Subsequent versions of Microsoft products (browsers, applications, Windows) were enhanced with support for .NET in some manner.
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.
Administrative Workflow Systems
Workflow systems that keep track of what individuals are doing and assign new tasks according to some set of rules. Compare with Ad Hoc 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. A phone call to another person is a synchronous process – it can’t go forward if the person you want to talk to doesn’t answer the phone. Leaving a message on an answering machine turns it into an asynchronous process. You leave your message and go on with your business, figuring the person will respond when they get the message.
A movement, method and technique for aligning measures from an organization’s strategic goals to specific process measures. It stresses measuring a variety of things to obtain a good overview of what’s actually happening. A complementary approach to what we recommend. Usually associated with Robert Kaplan and David Norton.
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
According to Gartner, Inc., 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.
Aggregated information on business processes that enables managers to analyze process trends, view performance metrics, and respond to organizational change.
Business Intelligence (BI)
Software systems and tools that seek to extract useful patterns or conclusions from masses of data.
At its most generic, any set of activities performed by a business that is initiated by an event, transforms information, materials or business commitments, and produces an output. Value chains and large-scale business processes produce outputs that are valued by customers. Other processes generate outputs that are valued by other processes.
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 Design or Redesign
Business Process Redesign focuses on making major changes in an existing process, or creating a new process. Depending on the size of the process, this can be a major undertaking, is done infrequently, and, once done, should be followed by continuous business process improvement. Compared with BPR, as defined in the early Nineties, Business Process Redesign usually focuses on smaller scale processes and aims for more modest improvements. Redesign focuses on major improvements in existing processes. Design focuses on creating entirely new processes.
Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL, BPEL4WS)
In the first draft of this glossary, we described two alternative XML business process languages, WSFL from IBM and XLANG from Microsoft. As the glossary is published, IBM, Microsoft and BEA have announced that they will be combining WSFL and XLANG to create a common XML business process language that will support both public (protocol) and private (execution) language.
Business Process Improvement (BPI)
Business process improvement focuses on incrementally improving existing processes. There are many approaches, including the currently popular Six Sigma approach. BPI is usually narrowly focused and repeated over and over again during the life of each process.
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.
Business Process Management (BPM) Platform
A more comprehensive approach to BPM, it provides all of the process management capabilities of BPM software, plus the following functionality: knowledge management, document management, collaboration tools, business analytics, and a work portal.
Business Process Management (BPM) Solution
A solution that automates, executes, and monitors business processes from beginning to end by connecting people to people, applications to applications, and people to applications.
Business Process Management (BPM) Vendors
Vendors that design, develop and/or sell Business Process Management software and solutions.
Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI)
Consortium of business process modeling tools vendors and user companies that are working together to develop an XML-based business process language (BPMI), a notation for the language (BPMN) and a query language (BPQL). The idea is that companies would model their automated processes in BPMI and then be able to monitor and change the processes as needed. BPML would primarily be used by those who want to create collaborative Internet or Web Service systems.
Business Process Management Software (BPMS)
An enterprise application software that enables an organization to streamline processes and gain organizational efficiency through the modeling, execution and analysis of business processes.
Business Process Modeling (BPM) Tool
A software tool that lets managers or analysts create business process diagrams. Simple tools only support diagramming. Professional Business Process Modeling Tools store each model element in a database so that they can be reused on other diagrams or updated. Many Professional tools support simulation or code generation.
Business Process Outsourcing
Many companies outsource business processes to other companies to manage and execute. Few companies outsource core business processes that they depend on for their unique position in the market. They fear that the outsourcer won’t be able to improve the process quickly enough to respond to market changes. Some companies are now offering to outsource such processes, arguing that they have an approach that will let the owner make changes in the process as needed.
Business Process Reengineering (BPR)
A term coined by Hammer and Davenport in the early Nineties. As originally defined in their books it emphasized starting from a blank sheet and completely reconceptualizing major business processes and using information technology in order to obtain breakthrough improvements in performance. The term became unpopular in the late Nineties and many business people associate BPR with failures. Those who still use the term have redefined it to mean what we mean by Business Process Redesign.
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.
BPM created using a collaborative business process language (usually ebXML). It is particularly suitable to describe the collaborations between partners that are all considered at the same level.
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.
Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE)
Software methods and tools designed to generate code from models. Those involved in the CASE movement have always sought to make software generation more systematic and predictable. Software developers often use CASE tools to model business processes.
Continuous Process Improvement
A strategy to find ways to improve process and product performance measures on an ongoing basis.
Core Business Process
Core processes are the processes that rely on the unique knowledge and skills of the owner and that contribute to the owner’s competitive advantage. Contrast with subsidiary business processes.
Also sometimes Can-Be Process. Description of one of two or more alternative redesigns that are being considered.
Customer Resource Management (CRM)
A vague term describing any of a number of packaged or tailored applications or tools designed to help with sales, tracking customers, or managing information gained from customer interactions.
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.
A record of an enterprise’s past transactional and operational information, stored in a database. Data warehousing is not meant for current “live” data; rather, data from the production databases are copied to the data warehouse so that queries can be performed without disturbing the performance or the stability of the production systems.
A collection of records stored in a computer in a systematic way, such that a computer program called a database management system (DBMS) can consult it to answer questions. DBMSs can manage many forms of data, including text, images, sound, and video. For better retrieval and sorting, each record is usually organized as a set of data elements. The items retrieved in answer to queries become information that can be used to make decisions that might otherwise be more difficult or impossible to make.
Decision Point or Diamond
A diamond or hexagonal figure used on process diagrams to show when a decision leads to a branching in the flow of information, control or materials. Technically, all decisions take place within activities and arrows only show the flow between activities. As a convenience, however, if the decisions lead to branching, we often represent them on the process diagram and label them to indicate why a flow would go to one subsequent activity rather than another.
DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control)
An acronym used by Six Sigma practitioners to remind them of the steps in a Six Sigma improvement project.
A system for storing and securing electronic documents, images, and other files within an organization. The term used to imply the management of documents after they were scanned into the computer. Today, the term has become an umbrella under which document imaging, workflow, text retrieval and multimedia fall.
ebXML (electronic business XML)
A consortium set up by two other organizations, a United Nations (UN/CEFACT) committee and OASIS, an Internet consortium. ebXML is charged with creating an XML architecture that standardizes all of the services companies will need to build Web Services. One sub-committee of ebXML is focused on business process communication, and has proposed BPSS.
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
A pre-Internet system for exchanging data between organizations. EDI requires that organizations standardize terms and invest heavily in computers and the maintenance of the EDI software. Although some companies use EDI systems and will only phase them out slowly, EDI is being replaced by less expensive Internet systems and protocols like XML.
As used by software designers, an enterprise system is a major software application that is designed to be used or accessed by many different departments and is usually maintained at the corporate level. Payroll is a good example of an enterprise system.
Enterprise Application Integration (EAI)
As companies seek to link their existing software applications with each other and with portals, the ability to get their applications to exchange data has become critical. EAI is usually close to the top of any CIO’s list of concerns. There are different approaches to EAI. Some rely on linking specific applications with tailored code, but most rely on generic solutions, typically called middleware. XML, combined with SOAP and UDDI is a kind of middleware.
When a company elects to use an ERP application, it is getting an application that already makes assumptions about the inputs and outputs it will receive. To insert such an application into an existing business process, the company must first determine where it will fit and what it will replace and redo the existing process so that it interfaces with the new ERP application. In effect, this is the reverse of what happens when a company redesigns a process and then asks an IT group to create an application that will take inputs generated by the process and make designated outputs.
The act of adjusting and repairing transactions that were unable to be completed. Without automation, organizations find that exceptions processing is one of the more costly and time-consuming efforts within their business.
Gaps and Disconnects Patterns
A process redesign pattern that focuses on checking the handoffs between departments and functional groups in order to assure that flows across departmental lines are smooth and effective.
IS process diagram
Also commonly AS-IS process diagram. A description or diagram of an existing process before changes are made.
ISO 9000 (International Standards Organization)
An international standard for how organizations should document their processes. In effect, an early effort to encourage organizations to create a well-defined process architecture. In practice, its too often simply an exercise in creating documentation to satisfy a requirement for getting on a bidding list.
J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition)
A software programming platform from Sun for developing and running distributed enterprise applications, based largely on modular components running on an application server. J2EE comprises a specification, reference implementation, and a set of testing platforms. J2EE is also considered informally to be a language or standard because providers must agree to certain conformance requirements in order to declare their products at J2EE compliant.
Junction, Junction Bar
On a process diagram a way of showing that one flow (output) is divided and sent into multiple activities, or to show that multiple flows must all be complete before the activity immediately after the bar can occur.
An approach to defining customer satisfaction that divides outputs , service or product features of outputs into (1) basic requirements (the minimum a customer expects), (2) satisfiers (additional outputs or features that please customers) and (3) delighters (outputs or features that the customer didn’t expect that really please customers. Associated with Noriaki Kano, a Japanese quality control expert.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Personalized performance metrics and benchmarks that drive the financial and operational success of the company.
Knowledge Management (KM)
BPM component that allows users to share tasks, content, documents, and notifications through knowledge communities.
An approach to designing and managing production processes that emphasizes minimal inventory and just-in-time delivery, among other things, to improve the efficiency of a manufacturing process.
A hierarchical tree that shows how organizational measures, pictured at the top or on the left are subdivided into more specific measures for value chains, processes, sub-processes and ultimately to activity goals. For every goal there are measures – specific tests of whether the goal is achieved or not. Thus, there is also a goal hierarchy that mirrors the goal hierarchy.
Software that allows two modules or applications to exchange data. Also see Enterprise Application Integration (EAI).
A formal set of relationships that can be manipulated to test assumptions. A simulation that tests the number of units that can be processed each hour under a set of conditions is an example of a model. Models do not need to be graphical.
Model Driven Architecture (MDA)
A new approach to application development being promoted by the Object Management Group. In essence, the idea is that organizations out to create abstract class models of their applications and then use those models to generate specific models and software code. The idea behind MDA is that the same abstract model could be used to generate different types of code. Thus, rather than creating new applications when new technologies come along, a company could have a high-level architecture and reusable components that it could use over and over again for many years. This approach is in the early stages of development but it has attracted quite a bit of attention. Compare with Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE).
In a loose sense, modeling simply refers to creating a simplified representation of something else. A model can be a picture, a diagram or a mathematical formula. In the sense of business process modeling, the term is referred to a diagrammatic representation of how work is done. In a rigorous sense, a model must specify formal relationships and assumptions that can be tested.
Within a process modeler, nodes are tasks or packages of functionality that, when connected, encompass an entire process. Nodes can be either attended (the task is assigned to a person) or unattended (the task is assigned to a computer system.)
An approach to structuring software applications. Instead of thinking of an application as a process with steps, we think of it as a set of objects that exchange messages. Now the dominant approach to software development. Java and Visual Basic are object-oriented software development languages.
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 process in which two or more sequences of activities are going on simultaneously. If a physical document is being passed from one person to another, the process is necessarily a single sequence. An electronic document in a workflow system, on the other hand, can be sent to several people, simultaneously.
A Web site that allows the user to find other Web pages or Web sites. As a generalization, a portal is a train station. You go there in order to find out where else you can go and then to go there. Most companies will maintain one portal for their employees, where they can go to get information and to access company services, and another public portal for customers to provide customers with information and the opportunity to buy products or services from the company.
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).
Data about each particular tasks or events in a business process. This information can be used to fix bottlenecks, deal with exceptions, and optimize business processes.
Also Business Process Architecture. A process architecture is a written or diagrammatic summary of the value chains and business processes supported by a given organization. A good process architecture shows how value chains and business processes are related to each other and to the strategic goals of the organization. Some companies use the term process architecture to refer to the process diagram for a single process. We refer to that as a process model or process diagram. We often add business or enterprise to process architecture to suggest that it’s a high-level architecture of all of the processes in the organization.
BPM component that allows a trained user to analyze and model a process, step by step, as well as assign logic to it.
A diagram that shows the flow of information, control, or materials from one activity to another. The diagram shows departments, functions, or individuals on the vertical axis and uses swimlanes to show which sub-processes or activities are managed by which departments, functions or individuals. The customer of the process always appears on the top swimlane. External processes are listed below the main process. The horizontal axis usually depicts the flow of time from left to right, although informal process diagrams sometimes allow loops which violate a strict time flow. Rectangles with rounded corners represent sub-processes or activities. Arrows represent various types of flow between rectangles. Some developers divide process diagrams into IS process diagrams that show a process as it is currently performed, COULD process diagrams, that show how a process might be changed, and SHOULD process diagrams that show how a process redesign team ultimately proposes to change a process.
BPM component that executes the actual flow of a modeled process, assigning manual activities to people and automated activities to applications as the process unfolds.
A process diagram describes a generic sequence of events. An instance describes an actual process which includes data, real actions, and specific decisions. Workflow systems and simulation systems both keep track of the data from the execution of specific process instances in order to determine things like how long the process actually takes, who handled a specific instance or how much it cost. In the case of simulation systems, someone has to supply information about a set of actual instances.
Most managers or supervisors are responsible for specific processes or activities. They are responsible for organizing the process or activity and securing the resources need to execute it, and they are responsible for measuring the results of the activity and providing rewards or corrective feedback when necessary. They are also responsible for changing and improving it whenever possible.
Process Measures or Process Output Measures
Measures of whether a process or activity is achieving its goals. At every level, processes have outputs and those outputs should be measures to assure that the process is functioning as it should. In an ideal organization, company goals and measures are associated with value chains and then subdivided so that, at every level, managers are measuring process outcomes that are related to the ultimate goals and measures of the organization. If vertical alignment is ignored, its possible that activities or processes will be measured in ways that don’t contribute to the overall success of the larger process or the success of the company.
Creating a diagrammatic representation of how a specific process is completed.
BPM component that manages the flow of information and activities within a process according to the formulas and rules assigned to it.
Geary Rummler and Alan Brache defined a comprehensive approach to organizing companies around processes, managing and measuring processes and redefining processes in their 1990 book Improving Processes. This is probably the best known, systematic approach to business process change and ideas first introduced in this book have been very influential on other, less comprehensive approaches.
Business Process Management software offered via a SaaS model. See Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for more details.
Cross-functional analytic applications that define, measure, and analyze a business strategy according to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Scorecards aggregate KPIs into higher level initiatives and objectives. Each KPI in a scorecard is weighted in a way that articulated its relative impact on the higher objective. The most famous scorecard is the Kaplan-Norton “balanced scorecard,” which measures a company’s activities in terms of its vision and strategies, and gives managers a comprehensive view of the performance of a business.
Also TO-BE process. A description or diagram of the process that the redesign team proposes to create.
This is a metaphor drawn from the large grain silos that one sees throughout the US Midwest. It is a term of derision that suggests that each department on an organization chart is a silo and that its stands alone, not interacting with any of the other departmental silos.
Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP)
An Internet protocol that is used to move XML files around the Internet.
A technique that uses a model to make predictions about a system or process. There are different types of simulation, some more informal and some more formal. Process simulation tools normally assign values to activities and then a number of cases to see how the business process will respond. The simulation of complex processes can often reveal outcomes that the developers don’t anticipate.
SIPOC (Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer)
An acronym used by Six Sigma practitioners to remind them of how to set up a high-level overview of a process.
A movement, method and set of techniques focused on improving business processes. Relies heavily on statistical techniques to measure success. There are multiple Six Sigma methods, some designed for process improvement and some for designing or redesigning business processes. Most Six Sigma books, however, emphasize incremental process improvement. Often associated with Mikel Harry and Motorola.
A movement, methods, and techniques aimed at making software development more systematic. Software methodologies, like the OMG’s UML, and software tools that help developers model application designs and then generate code are all closely associated with software engineering.
A more or less formal statement of what a software application should do. Sometimes business analysts create requirements and hand them to software developers. Other times software analysts interview business people in order to determine the requirements for a software application development effort. Business people invariably define requirements less formally than necessary. Business people tend to define requirements with written statements or with process diagrams. Software developers are more likely to define software requirements by means of Use Case Diagrams or Class Diagrams, which often aren’t that clear to business analysts. Software Requirements constitute an important interface between business managers and IT organizations. If the handoff isn’t clear and precise then the resulting system is likely to disappoint the business people who requested it.
A provider licenses an application to customers as a service on demand, through a subscription or a “pay-as-you-go” model. SaaS is also called “software on demand.”
One standard deviation to the left or the right of the mean on a standard bell-shaped curve accounts for 34.13% of the variation. Two standard deviations, one to the left and one to the right, account for 68.26% of the variation. The Greek letter, Sigma, is used to represent a deviation. One determines deviations in actual situations by gathering data and determining what about of actual deviation accounts for 68.26% of the deviations, and so forth. Six Sigma people rely on tables to translate numbers into deviations or sigmas.
Standard or Normal Bell-Shaped Curve
A statistical tool for describing variations from a mean. Developed by Carl Frederick Gauss. Shows that most deviation is slight and that extreme variations are few and infrequent. Six Sigma relies on concepts derived from the standard curve, but the actual curve that is used in Six Sigma tables is a different curve defined by what is referred as long-run process drift.
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.
Subsidiary Business Processes
Processes that support core business processes or processes that provide products or services that are not among the most important that the company produces. In most companies, IT and HR processes are classified as subsidiary processes because they exist to provide support services for the core business processes.
An organization diagram that represents the company as a blank box and focuses on the elements like suppliers and customers that make inputs and outputs to the company. Normally we group outside elements into four groups: suppliers on the left, customers and shareholders on the right, governmental and environmental factors above, and competitors below.
Supplier-Oriented e-Business Applications
A generic way of talking about business processes and Internet applications that use the Internet to allow companies to link with business partners or suppliers to coordinate their efforts.
Supply Chain Council (SCC)
International consortium of companies that are interested in improving organizational supply chains. SCC has conferences, publications, and training programs. They promote SCOR, a systematic process methodology for creating supply chain systems.
Supply Chain Management (SCM)
A vague term describing any of a number of packaged or tailored applications or tools designed to help with the development or execution of supply chain systems or with managing information gained from supply chain interactions.
A row on a business process diagram. A way of indicating who is responsible for a given process or activity. Swimlanes are named on the left side of the process diagram. In most cases swimlanes are assigned to departments, groups within departments, individuals, or to applications, systems of applications or databases. In exceptional cases, swimlanes may represent geographical regions. Processes, sub-processes or activities that fall within a given swimlane are the responsibility of the entity named on the left axis of the process diagram. (Some workflow tools represent swimlanes as vertical columns, effectively rotating the process diagrams 90 degrees. The distinction between horizontal or vertical swimlanes is arbitrary.)
In a synchronous process, one activity sends a message to another and then waits for a response before proceeding. A phone call to another person is a synchronous process – it can’t go forward if the person you want to talk to doesn’t answer the phone. Leaving a message on an answering machine turns it into an asynchronous process. You leave your message and go on with your business, figuring the person will respond when they get the message.
Three Levels of Organization (Performance Framework)
A Rummler-Brache concept. Holds that there are three primary levels of business process analysis: the organizational level, the process level, and the activity or performance level (which Improving Performance called the Job Level). Sometimes presented as a matrix, the Performance Framework, where the 3 levels are shown on the vertical axis and the perspectives or viewpoints are shown on the horizontal axis: Goals and Measures, Design and Implementation, and Management. A nice way of classifying the concerns that a comprehensive business process approach should encompass.
Total Quality Management (TQM)
A movement, an industrial discipline, and a set of techniques for improving the quality of processes. TQM emphasizes constant measures and statistical techniques to help improve and then maintain the output quality of processes. Often associated with Edwards Deming.
Transaction or Production Workflow Systems
A type of workflow system that moves documents or information from one terminal to another following a workflow model. Compare with Ad Hoc and Administrative Workflow Systems.
Transitioning to a New Process
The transition period occurs after managers and employees have been trained in the new process, when they actually start using it. A successful transition depends on having senior management support and having measurement and incentive systems in place to assure that local managers work to see that the new process is implemented correctly.
Unified Modeling Language (UML)
An international, standard notation for modeling software systems. The UML specification supports several different types of diagrams, including the Activity Diagram, which is used to model business processes and workflow diagrams. UML was created and is maintained by the OMG.
Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI)
A Web protocol, based on the WSDL language, that allows one Web system to locate others and determine what format messages to that system must take.
Use Case Diagram
One type of UML diagram. Often used by software developers to define the software requirements for a system. Use case diagrams focus on scenarios that describe how users use the application.
A very large-scale business process that is initiated by a customer request, or by the decision of the company to enter a new line of business, and results in the delivery of a process or service to a customer. A value chain includes everything that contributes to the output. By adding up all of the costs of each activity in a value chain, and subtracting the total from the sale price, an organization can determine the profit margin on the value chain. Most organizations support from 3 to 15 value chains. Many managers associate value chains with the description provided in Michael Porter’s Competitive Advantage (1985).
A vague term that refers to distributed or virtual applications or processes that use the Internet to link activities or software components. A travel Web site that takes a reservation from a customer, and then sends a message to a hotel application, accessed via the Web, to determine if a room is available, books it, and tells the customer he or she has a reservation is an example of a Web Services application.
Web Services Flow Language (WSFL)
Early IBM XML business process language. See BPEL4WS.
BPM platform component that gives users a productive workspace for managing tasks, content, forms, documents, notifications, and reminders.
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 Reference Model
Model created by the Workflow Management Coalition to define a workflow management system and to identify the most important system interfaces. Other WfMC standards make reference to this model.
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.
XML (eXtended Markup Language)
An Internet protocol defined by the W3C. A file format that includes within a file both data and rules for how the data is to be interpreted. Using XML, one can create XML languages – in effect, sets of terms that companies agree to use in a specific way in order to facilitate the exchange of data. Emerging as the most popular way to transmit data between applications and companies over the Internet.
XML Business Process Language
A computing language in which one can describe business processes and their relationships. These languages use XML to pass messages.
XML-Based Process Definition Language (XPDL)
The Workflow Management Collation (WfMC) created this standard language to describe how workflow tools can communicate information about business processes with each other over the Internet.