An Introduction to "The Business Process Manifesto"

Roger T.  Burlton
Roger T. Burlton President and Managing Partner, Process Renewal Group Read Author Bio || Read All Articles by Roger T. Burlton

The Business Process Manifesto grew from the challenges that I, even after twenty years in the business of helping organizations with their Business Processes, experienced in attempting to explain what a Business Process was in a way that all could agree was simple and workable.  I then looked at other professional communities and realized that only those that had put in significant effort to really create shared definitions and a shared understanding of the terminology had gained any traction whatsoever.  Furthermore, I observed that only those that had created semantics whose rich shared meaning resonated universally had advanced beyond wallowing in immaturity to higher levels of professional maturity.

This realization led me to discuss the challenge with Ron Ross, who had previously worked with the Business Rules Group to develop such a semantic foundation for Business Rules found at BusinessRulesGroup.org.  This prompted me to develop a draft set of principles to get the ball rolling.  Over a three-year period, multiple versions of the Manifesto have been circulated to members of the Business Process community who provided rigorous (and sometimes brutal) feedback on the latest iteration.  Each time I re-edited and tried to make sense of the set of professional principles that all could relate to and derive benefit from.

Now that the principles have started to settle in, the partners at BPTrends felt that it was time to release the Business Process Manifesto to the community at large.  It is not finished.  It will never be.  It will continue to evolve and be updated periodically.

The Manifesto is needed since the field of Business Processes and their management is complex, and shared meaning is still non-existent.  In addition, many failures in BPM can be traced to lack of real process thinking and so that thinking must become more professional, disciplined, repeatable, and trusted.  It is certainly true that there can be no useful body of knowledge or methodology without a consistent semantic foundation.  This requires standardization of the fundamentals.

  • The document is focused on the Business Process subject area, not other subject areas such as technology.

  • It is not a BPM Manifesto since it is intended to be methodology-neutral and should support any useful methodology.

  • It strives to reduce each principle to a single concept — the most basic principle possible — and not contain modifying adjectives or adverbs.  For full effect, however, the reader should consider the full set of principles, not each one in isolation.

  • It attempts to follow Einstein's assertion that "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."

This article is the first in a series that communicates what the principles are all about.  I hope in later articles to explore, explain, and illustrate the components in a way that assures a consistent usage of each.  This first article strives to set the baseline for the ones to follow.

Some Foundational Definitions

In order to write a document that deals with meaning of words, one has to define many of the words used.  Let me start with the name of the document itself. 

  • Business Process:  As a general foundation, based on all the feedback received, I would say that "an organization's Business Processes clearly describe the work performed by all resources involved in creating outcomes of value for its customers and other stakeholders."

  • Manifesto:  A manifesto is a public declaration of intentions, motivations, or views — a public statement of policy or intention. 

Since the Business Process field is evolving, most existing dictionary definitions of relevant terms do not adequately reflect a Business Process context.  Consequently, we have used the most practical and relevant definitions of terms based on common usage in the field of Business Process.

Activity:  In the Manifesto the term 'Activity' is used extremely generally and is seen as 'something that is done', with no hierarchical implications.  It is our word for any 'unit of work'.

Asset:  a tangible or intangible item of value.

Business Event:  an occurrence of relevance to the organization at a point in time, including an action or decision event, a temporal event at a pre-determined time, or a conditional event that observes that some predefined limit has been reached.

Business:  an organization or group of organizations with the purpose of providing goods, information, or services.

Business Process Model:  the fundamental abstract structure and organization of a Business Process or set of Business Processes as described by their elements, their relationships to one another, and to the environment in which they operate.  NOTE:  The individual components of the Business Model do not constitute the Business Process Model.

Capability:  the ability of an organization or a Business Process to achieve a desired outcome.

Customer:  a stakeholder that receives the direct product, information, or service from an organization or one of its Business Processes.

Organization:  an entity or group of persons which pursues collective goals, exercises control over its own performance, and has a boundary separating it from its environment.  For the purposes of the Business Process Manifesto, 'organization' will include all defined organizations participating in the Business Process.

Outcome:  the value that the Business Process produces.

Principle:  a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption.

Resource:  a person, organization unit, facility, piece of equipment, or technology involved in supporting the work of a Business Process.

Result:  See Outcome.

These terms occur often in the Business Process Manifesto document.

The Eight Principles of the Business Process Manifesto

The principles of the Business Process Manifesto are stated in one of two ways:  (1) a statement of definition or (2) a statement of recommendation using "must" or "should" in order to reflect best practice and lessons learned.  At the first level in the principle groupings, a statement of definition is used.  At the second level, recommendations are presented.

Each principle addresses one major aspect of Business Processes and each has a number of specific rules within it that are described in the original document itself.  The eight, first-level principles are:

  1. About work:  A Business Process describes the work of an organization.

  2. About value creation:  A Business Process creates value for customers and other stakeholders of the Business Process.

  3. About resources:  A Business Process is performed by a mix of resources in various organizations or organizational units.

  4. About context:  A Business Process exists within a defined business context.

  5. About motivation:  Business Process' goals and objectives support the strategic goals and objectives of the business.

  6. About names:  An ideal Business Process name is unambiguous, business friendly, and consistently used.

  7. About models:  A Business Process model enables multiple perspectives, notations, and diagrams.

  8. About uniqueness:  A Business Process is a unique organizational asset that employs other organizational assets.

Where to find the Business Process Manifesto

The first released English version of the document can be obtained from the BPTrends website at www.bptrends.com/bpmmanifesto.cfm.  Other language versions will be available soon.  These will include Arabic, Danish, French, Lithuanian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Russian, and others.  They will be posted to the same site as the English version.

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Standard citation for this article:


citations icon
Roger T. Burlton , "An Introduction to "The Business Process Manifesto"" Business Rules Journal Vol. 13, No. 10, (Oct. 2012)
URL: http://www.brcommunity.com/a2012/b672.html

About our Contributor:


Roger  T. Burlton
Roger T. Burlton President and Managing Partner, Process Renewal Group

Roger is a respected pioneer in the introduction of innovative approaches for Business Management. He is a world leader in the field of Business Process Management, having authored one of the most read and followed books on the topic early in BPM's growth as well as the Business Process Manifesto. Roger's leadership is also witnessed by his position as chair of several of the most influential conferences each year on BPM and Business Architecture and by his role as chair of the BPTrends.com Advisory Board. The insights he brings to PRG's consulting clients are thoughtful and pragmatic.

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