Process Is The Main Thing

@ Anatoly Belaychuk’s BPM Blog

How Many BPM Flavors Do We Need?

It’s no secret that different people call BPM very different things. Some people call BPM the good old reengineering with its «as-is» and «to-be», others put BPM label on documenting business processes and/or quality management initiatives, the third believe that business process automation within ERP is BPM too, the fourth equate BPM with BPMS purchasing and implementation, fifth do BPM with ECM-embedded workflow, etc.

I personally join those who treat BPM in the spirit of Smith and Fingar’s «Business Process Management: The Third Wave» - as a coherent discipline comprising methodology, technology (BPMS) and (I add on my own) agile implementation. Qualifying BPM features for me are 1) closed loop management of business processes and 2) bridging the gap between business and IT. I dislike the idea of introducing a new term to label practices already existed for a decade. (BPM acronym spread widely since 2003 while re-engineering exists since the early 90s and the quality management ideas apply to the 80s.)

BPM in the broad and narrow sense

So we have two basic BPM interpretations:

  1. BPM in the broad sense, or business process management, or BPM as an umbrella concept - whatever methods or technologies dealing with business processes
  2. BPM in the narrow sense, or Business Process Management - a specific holistic discipline (methodology plus technology plus implementation) established in the first decade of XXI century.

Some time ago Alexander Samarin proposed to develop a commonly agreed BPM definition. Sadly enough, the commonly agreed definition cannot be worked out, it can only emerge. It’s hard to reach consensus because at the end of the day each vendor and consultant claims that BPM is what his organization does. BPM is a strong brand nowadays.

This state of affairs isn’t favorable to BPM market indeed (in any interpretation of the term). What the potential BPM project sponsor should think about this range of opinions? “If you’re so smart and pretend to teach me then why can’t you agree on basic definitions with each other?”

Sometimes it generates fun: a participant of a recent seminar representing major Russian insurance company insisted that his company doesn’t do BPM while other participants urged him it does, appealing to his own words. So what is BPM anyway if we can’t even say for sure whether we are doing it in our own company?

I believe we should accept that there is no and won’t ever be a single interpretation of BPM, period.  Incidentally, there is no and won’t be a single interpretation of the term “business process”. Consequently, anyone who wants to speak on these topics, request or offer a service in this area must begin with a definition: what he/she personally calls BPM and what he/she calls a business process. At a minimum, the responsible professional should clarify whether he/she follows a broad or narrow-sense definition of BPM.

But it’s better to position ourselves more precisely.

A three-level BPM classification

Gartner’s BPM Maturity Model can be used as a starting point for BPM classification.

In 2006 Gartner proposed a 6-level (zero to five) BPM maturity model that I dare to summarize as follows:

  • Phase 0. Functional management. Organization has yet to realize that its performance as a whole depends not only on how certain functions are performed, but also on how well these functions coordinate with each other, i.e. the quality of business processes interconnecting them.
  • Phase 1. Business processes awareness. The organization explores itself through the prism of business processes. End-to-end business processes are discovered and process owners are appointed. Everyone draw process diagrams. Gaps and bottlenecks are identified and eliminated, without investments into processes automation (BPMS).
  • Phase 2. Automated execution and control of business processes. The organization learns to manage business processes in a continuous loop model - execute - analyze and seeks to improve their effectiveness, mostly on a separate processes basis.
  • Phase 3. Execution and control of end-to end business processes. Process boundaries are expanded under the control of BPMS, inter-process communications are worked out and end-to-end processes are established connecting the company to its customers/partners and/or their business processes.
  • Phase 4. Explicit and automatic link between business goals and business processes. With the help of simulation and dynamic business rules, business goals changes trigger automatic rebuilding the network of business processes.
  • Phase 5. Adaptive business structure. The ability to quickly react to changing business environment, anticipate these changes and create opportunities through deeper integration into various markets and partner ecosystems.

The last two phases, I would attribute to science fiction category. Guess nobody has seen them in reality by now, including Gartner analysts. Phase zero isn’t a process phase really, so three phases remains:

BPM-1: Business processes description and modeling

BPM-2: Managing separate business processes

BPM-3: Managing end-to-end business processes networks

Well this is a working set. The original Gartners’s model is so cumbersome and expressed in such a language that I personally am unable to explain it to an ordinary businessman.

We may further define sub-levels:

  • BPM-1starts with text process descriptions, a more advanced version is graphical process modeling capable to generate text description automatically and a single repository of business processes.
  • BPM-2 doesn’t always implement continuous improvement cycle, in many cases it is reduced to one-time process automation.

If both clients and vendors/consultants referred to classification above while specifying their demands and offerings respectively, then it would contribute to better mutual understanding. E.g. a customer could describe itself as follows:

We are now at BPM-1 level using text descriptions mostly. In order to pass ISO9000 certification on a regular basis, we need full BPM-1 competence on our own, with graphical models and a single process repository.

We need an external consultant with proven industry expertise and BPM-2 qualification for supporting processes in human resources area.

We need an external consultant with BPM-3 qualification for “Order-to-Cash” operational processes. In addition to the process work, it should help us create a competence center that would do 80% of the work after 12 months.

After that it could select consulting companies capable at BPM-1, BPM-2 and BPM-3, and have a close look to the toolbox:

  • BPM-1 requires a process modeler/designer, Enterprise Architecture tool would also be handy
  • BPM-2 can be supported by a workflow engine built-in into ECM or CRM
  • BPM-3 requires a full-scale BPMS, it can be used for BPM-1 and BPM-2 tasks, too

One should not look at this classification in such a way that the levels are always better than lower ones and that we should put all efforts in advancing to higher levels for all our processes. Gartner’s model produces exactly this view and I believe it’s wrong.

The key words are “for all processes.” Trying to evenly raise the maturity of all processes is a recipe for disaster. In accordance with Pareto’s law, 20% of processes are responsible for 80% of the company’s performance. Wouldn’t it be wiser to focus on these 20%?

Sure the BPM-3 grants much more control over the processes than BPM-1. But it’s much more expensive as well! Complete BPMS implementation of an end-to-end business process is a custom IT development, apart from other considerations. And cheap custom IT development just doesn’t happen.

BPM-3 consultant can achieve more tight control over a business process yet it doesn’t entitle him to look down on BPM-1 colleagues because he/she can achieve the results in a relatively narrow front while their scope is much wider albeit maybe not so deep.

My second complaint about Gartner’s maturity model: it produces such a view phases should be passed successively, step by step. Not necessarily!

An organization infected with process management ideas may set itself a goal to get from zero to third BPM phase. OK, it’ll take time to gain the necessary competence and finally do the job but anyway the intermediate stops at levels 1 and 2 are not required.

BPMN as a common ground

Everything relating to business processes is fundamentally volatile. For example, we must be ready that in six months we come to the conclusion that some process for which we believed BPM-1 is sufficient from now on requires BPM-3. Of course we’d like investments into BPM-1 to be preserved during the transition to BPM-3.

The recipe is simple: leverage BPMN.

BPMN is methodologically neutral - in other words, it can be used in very different ways for very different purposes.

  • BPM-1 requires minimum BPMN to draw analytical process diagrams
  • BPM-2 requires BPMN orchestration
  • BPM-3 requires full BPMN palette, including messages, signals, events, transaction subprocesses etc.

There will be certain degree of compatibility between diagrams, so transforming BPM-1 analytical BPMN diagram into BPM-2 executable BPMN diagram would be easier and much more robust than, say, producing BPMN from IDEF0. There is no real alternative to BPMN at BPM-3 so better keep with it at all levels.

The final note: we (Business Console) provides BPM-3 consultancy.

07/22/11 | Articles | ,    

Comments (16)

  1. Ivo Velitchkov 07/23/11 02:05 AM

    Good post, as always!

    I don’t agree with many things in the Gartner BPM Maturity model. It’s not even worth commenting all of them. But one of those things you sort of keep in your three-level model: “BPM-3 requires a full-scale BPMS”. I don’t think so. Companies can have successful BPMS implementation and still be immature in BPM and just as well could be quite ahead in BPM without using BPMS. And I’m not talking hypothetically.

  2. Anatoly Belychook 07/23/11 08:37 AM


    You are right - this aspect deserves to be considered in more details. May be in next posts.

    There are number of BPM without BPMS cases indeed but the ones I’ve seen can’t be attributed to level 3. They don’t cover a processes end-to-end and/or don’t provide agility.

    As for BPMS without BPM, I had it mind it when saying “BPM-2 doesn’t always implement continuous improvement cycle, in many cases it is reduced to one-time process automation”.

  3. Dave Duggal 07/24/11 05:03 PM

    Hi Anatoly,

    I agree with your comment that the definition of BPM will necessarily ‘emerge’ as market demands and technologies evolve. In that regard, Gartner’s Phases 4 and 5 are looking ahead to some confluence of Adaptive Processes and BPMx that becomes the new definition of BPM. The term Business Process Management is general enough and entrenched enough to be a blanket reference.

    Given that you accept that definitions evolve, and your later statement “Everything relating to business processes is fundamentally volatile”, it seems you would appreciate that some applications could benefit from Adaptive Processes, where execution is not constrained to a flowchart so processes themselves can emerge.

    I’m not making an absolute comment here. If there are processes that have low volatility (variance/change) and can go six-twelve months between updates, then flowchart-based automation with fixed process definitions are a legitimate approach. However, in higher-volatility environments that can benefit from greater human involvement, then Adaptive Process approaches, related to Gartner’s Phases 4 and 5, without fixed control flows should be considered to enable emergent process definitions.

    Is that a balanced view? It would be great to get your feedback.


  4. Anatoly Belychook 07/24/11 07:30 PM

    Thank you for sharing thoughts, Dave.

    Regarding the definition - in fact, I said quite the opposite: it’d be great to have a widely agreed definition but I personally don’t believe it will ever hapen. Just like there is no single definition of a business process.

    You are right: I had “traditional” processes in mind, with lifecycle measured in months and predictable enough to make flowchart usable. Including adaptive processes into classification is an interesting idea, however I can see two obstacles here:

    1) BPM levels as defined in the post above are built on top of each other: process modeling from level 1 is also used on level 2; process orchestration techniques from level 2 are used on level 3.

    ACM is another story: it shares certain things with traditional BPM e.g. task lists or activity monitoring but it leaves behind all techniques dealing with process diagram. Hence it can hardly be presented on a same scale. Guess we’ll need something two-dimensional.

    2) I seriously doubt that Gartner’s report has anything to do with what we call ACM today - after all it’s dated 2006. I believe they meant a different kind of agility; however it’s just my opinion - the language of the report is so vague that it leaves quite a room for interpretations.

  5. Dave Duggal 07/25/11 04:00 AM

    Thanks for the response Anatoly.

    I did understand that you were saying a single definition for BPM was unlikely, and I agree. Sorry if I was unclear, I was simply conjecturing on Gartner’s use of the term relative to their 5 Phases. They weren’t thinking about ACM, that’s why I stuck with the term Adaptive Process, but by 2006, with SOA, BRMS, EDA already on the scene folks were already starting to see the potential for loosely-coupled Tasks.

    Your BPM maturity model is aimed at the development of a sound BPMN-specific practice. Adaptive Process fits in one of two ways: 1) as an extension of the practice for those operations that have the greater volatility for select processes and/or select activities within certain processes - the 2nd dimension you referenced; or 2) as evolution through decomposition of Task sequences and definitions.

    Is that a fair assessment?

  6. Anatoly Belychook 07/25/11 11:25 AM


    Cannot disagree.

  7. AS 07/25/11 01:43 PM

    Thanks Anatoly for the ref.

    My offer is still open and as shown in the post ( ) BPM (as a discipline) is much richer than “rigid flowchart”. Also, thanks to BPMN and “social”, there is a better understanding that different activity-coordination techniques (i.e. template-based, event-based, data-based, rule-based, role-based, intelligence-based, community-based, etc.) should be used together. Of course some BPMSs (as technology) do not implement all this richness.

    I looked again at this Gartner article and found interesting their description of motivations for different phases.

    “The primary motivation of Phase 3 is to optimize the relationships between business processes across functional barriers, partners and customers.” – sounds like the “social” aspect of the managing by processes.

    “The primary motivation of Phase 4 is to link process results to desired operational and strategic outcomes.” – sounds like “goal-oriented” aspect of the managing by processes.

    Agree with Anatoly’s remark about “…we should put all efforts in advancing to higher levels for all our processes.” – This classification is a tool/guidance, but not a dogma. Each company should select the desired levels for its processes. In some industries, 3-4 is OK, in other industries it is necessary to go higher than 5.

    My interpretation of process-based maturity models is in — at the beginning of the curve BPM-as-discipline is necessary, then BPM-as-technology should be added and to reach the top of the curve a proper architecture is mandatory.

    Happy climbing,

  8. Anatoly Belychook 07/25/11 02:29 PM


    Enjoyed your comment, thank you.

    A small remark: my point was not exactly that each company have to select the process level which is best for its processes. Each company should “sit on several chairs” - operate at several process levels at once, deciding which processes which level deserve.

    The overall maturity then may be defined as the highest level the company is able to reach, yet the majority of its processes (80/20 rule) would remain below this level.

    Considering this, it’s better to talk not about “BPM Maturity” as Gartner does but about “BPM Capability Maturity” - we are capable of doing something yet it doesn’t necessarily mean we do.

  9. AS 07/25/11 03:07 PM

    Anatoly, we are on the same page - “…desired levels for its processes” - not all processes within a company require to be the same level of agility at the same time. Just an extra optimisation issue (or optimal agility) which may be a bit more sophisticated than 80/20 rule.


  10. Marco Brambilla (@MarcoBrambi) 07/25/11 04:56 PM

    Anatoly, I agree and I like your syllabus of the BPM stack.
    I’m not so sure instead about proposing BPMN as the panacea for all the problems and interpretations. It can be a common ground as you say, but for sure will not enable all you mention “per se”.

  11. Anatoly Belychook 07/25/11 05:09 PM


    Thank you. Frankly, I wasn’t sure it’ll be accepted by the expert community.

    Agree with your note. BPMN has clear advantages over alternatives but definitely isn’t a a panacea.

    As an example, BPMN doesn’t work for me when I need a high-level process architecture diagram. I use plain old DFD for this purpose, each DFD process referring to a separate BPMN diagram.

  12. procesje 07/26/11 10:43 PM


    I think I have to agree with you. We should start a new movement to make al those gurus. gartners, etc aware that we don’t care about maturity models. We want to know why BPM is good for us. And if we decide to implement it we want to know how we have to do it.

    Indeed some processess need more management (is that maturity?) and some don’t.

    Personally I am very happy I am not so mature ;-))


  13. Сергей Ладнич 07/27/11 09:54 AM

    Позволю высказать мысль, которая мне пришла по прочтению вашего поста.
    По поводу шестиуровневой модели зрелости и Вашего упрощения ее до трехуровневой.
    Думаю тут уместно оглянуться на аналогию: любую модель жизненного цикла компании. Такую модель используют не как расчетную, а как ориентирующую.
    По моему мнению, модель Гартнера полезна в плане ориентации: куда должно приводить BPM. Вендоры и внедренцы должны использовать ее как стратегический ориентир в текущих проектах с оглядкой на перспективы. При этом в голове формируется понимание отличия workflow от BPM. Использование только workflow не может привести к уровням 4 и 5 по Гартнеру. BPM же способно на это, хотя пока и без практических примеров.

  14. Anatoly Belychook 07/27/11 12:47 PM


    Спасибо за Ваше мнение.

    Гартнер конечно могуч, и я не без внутреннего трепета позволил себе с ним не согласиться. Но у меня была веская причина: в разговоре с потенциальными заказчиками оперировать этой моделью не получается. Не для людей она.

    А потребность в какой-то единой модели есть, потому что слишком много процессных гуру говорят слишком разные вещи. Одни ратуют за бумажную регламентацию, другие за автоматизацию документооборота, третьи за исполняемые процессы.

    Что касается уровней 4 и 5 - Вы читали оригинальный документ? Я вроде по-английски понимаю, но то что там написано - это муть голубая.

    Причем в модели Гартнера прослеживаются явные параллели с 5-уровневой моделью CMMI, к которой у меня претензий нет - все понятно, все разумно. А у Гартнера какие-то, простите, фантазии: BPM-системы, которые сами перестраиваются, когда президент компании задает новые целевые ориентиры. Вы хотите сказать, что это полезно в качестве стратегического ориентира? Сомневаюсь.

    В реальности BPM эволюционирует совершенно в направлениях совершенно иных, чем это виделось аналитикам Гартнер пять лет назад: ACM, облака, мобильные приложения.

  15. Владимир Репин 09/01/11 10:04 AM

    Согласен насчет Гартнера - мутная классификация.
    По классификации Анатолия, мы работаем на уровне BPM-1. При этом, работы более чем достаточно. Разработка архитектуры процессов, описание процессов под регламенты, выполняемые людьми, - эти задачи продолжают оставаться актуальными. Но кроме описания процессов и формирования регламентов на уровне BPM-1 еще очень много другой работы: разработка методов контроля регламентов, разработка показателей, анализ и оптимизация, нормирование, мотивация персонала на исполнение стандартов и проч.
    Не предполагал, что Анатолий найдет место всем уровням BPM в своей концепции. Еще года 3 назад он, имхо, считал реальным BPM-ом только BPM-3. Хорошо, что взгляды поменялись, и в концепции нашлось место всем.
    Кстати, про BPM-1 много информации на сайте

  16. Anatoly Belychook 09/01/11 11:03 AM


    Рад, что предложенная классификация не вызвала у тебя протеста.

    > кроме описания процессов и формирования регламентов на уровне BPM-1 еще очень много другой работы: разработка методов контроля регламентов, разработка показателей, анализ и оптимизация, нормирование, мотивация персонала на исполнение стандартов и проч.

    Разумеется. На остальных уровнях тоже деятельность многогранная, просто тут я не стал входить в подробности.

    > Еще года 3 назад он, имхо, считал реальным BPM-ом только BPM-3.

    Честно говоря, я и сейчас так считаю ;) Но признаю, что это экстремизм -

    В конечном счете, это ведь вопрос терминологии. То, что деятельность такая востребована множеством организаций, вопроса не вызывало и не вызывает. Но дело в том, что BPM в первоначальном значении этого термина (в духе манифеста “The Third Wave”) - это то, что я здесь назвал BPM-3. А потом BPM превратили в зонтичную концепцию, охватывающую BPM-1, 2 и 3. Нравится это кому-то (мне например) или нет, но таково существующее положение вещей: термин растянули.

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