A business process is a collection of activities or tasks designed to produce a specific output for a particular customer or market (this may be either internal or external to an organization). A process approach implies a strong emphasis on how work is done within an organization, in contrast to a product-centric approach which focuses on what is done. A process is thus a specific ordering of work activities across time and place, with a beginning, an end, and clearly defined inputs and outputs. It is a structure for action.¹
There are typically three sorts of business processes:
- Management processes, the processes that govern the operation of a system. Typical management processes include "Corporate Governance" and "Strategic Management".
- Operational processes, processes that constitute the core business and create the primary value stream. Typical operational processes are Purchasing, Manufacturing, Marketing and Sales.
- Supporting processes, which support the core processes. Examples include Accounting, Recruitment, and Technical support.
A business process begins with a customer's need and ends with the fulfilment of this need.
Process oriented organizations break down the barriers of structural departments and try to avoid functional silos.
Business Processes are designed to add value for the customer and should not include unnecessary activities. The outcome of a well designed business process is increased effectiveness (value for the customer) and increased efficiency (less costs for the company).
Business Processes can be modelled through a large number of methods and techniques and various notations can be used for drawing business processes in a workflow.
¹ Adapted from Thomas Davenport (1993). Process Innovation: Reengineering work through information technology. Harvard Business School Press, Boston