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What is Business Process Architecture?

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  • Written By: Osmand Vitez
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Business process architecture is a blueprint that allows a company to create a fixed design for outlining the specific tasks necessary to complete a task or activity. Basic steps covered in the architecture include determining the task’s purpose, who completes the task, the information needed to complete the task and where the company desires to complete the task. The overall purpose for creating business process architecture is to have a plan that is repeatable for future job tasks or activities.

When defining the purpose of a business task or activity, owners and managers can review the firm’s corporate governance. The governance typically includes information about why the company has a set group of tasks in its business operations. Outside of the corporate governance, companies can also define a purpose for a task in the business process architecture. Defining a new purpose occurs when a company enters a new market, creates a new product line or changes its operations for improving quality or reducing costs associated with business processes.

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Another piece of an architectural frame in business is listing who or how many individuals are necessary to complete a task or activity. This part is necessary because many companies will need to increase their labor force when expanding business operations. Additionally, new tasks or activities may require a shift from unskilled labor to skilled labor. This can increase the company’s operating costs. As costs increase, the business process architecture must be able to increase the firm’s revenue, creating an offset that justifies the increase in operating costs.

Information is often an essential part of any business architecture. Advancements in technology allow a company to capture date and other information in real-time or near real-time capacity. The business process architecture must also define how information flows through the tasks within the process. Like the flow of water, information must have an inflow and an outflow. Without these, the company may experience information stagnation, which can result in the company’s inability to properly manage or control the business process.

The architecture also outlines the place or places where a company will complete tasks and activities. This place can be within the company’s current location or at a separate location necessary to house new operations. The company’s management team may make this decision based on the operational costs associated with the facility. These considerations may need to include some level of flexibility to ensure that future growth will not hinder the completion of tasks and activities.

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hamje32
Post 6

@NathanG - It’s important to emphasize who can and cannot carry out a certain process. In our company they are very explicit about who can handle certain details of financial transactions with customers and who can’t.

If you try to implement a process for which you don’t have authorization, it will look like you’ve got your hands in the cookie jar and you could be summarily fired.

Cross training is okay but employees need to know what their limitations are. If in doubt, get written approval from management before carrying out a task that is normally in somebody else’s domain. It will reduce any potential for interpersonal conflicts too.

NathanG
Post 5

@SkyWhisperer - The problem is that processes tend to change over time, in my experience. One of the biggest complaints we had at one company I worked at was that the processes were never current.

Either they weren’t written down or what was written down was obsolete. One thing that helps to keep processes current in my opinion is to begin with a high level view of the process.

You can use business process mapping software which will allow you to outline the steps in a bird’s eye view, along with an explanation of the rationale for each step. What this does is it helps you understand the ultimate goals of the process, so if the process does change, you can adapt quickly.

SkyWhisperer
Post 4

I worked for a Fortune 500 company once where I was responsible for processes and procedures. I didn’t write many of the procedures as such, but I helped work with others to codify them.

This involved meeting with other accountants and analysts and interviewing them to find how they carried out their individual tasks. We then wrote the procedures and vetted them to make sure that they were accurate and up to date.

The main reason we focused so much on getting processes and procedures down was for auditing purposes, not simply for training new hires. If the company every got audited, the auditor would want to look at their existing procedures and see how they compared with the way the company is actually doing things.

So this was high priority in the eyes of upper management as it was a very visible company.

starrynight
Post 3

I think business process design is a great idea. However, something like this definitely needs to be updated frequently. If things change for the business, than doing certain tasks the same way they've always been done simply won't work!

For example, I'm sure many businesses had to change their business process architecture when Internet shopping became popular. Businesses that only had brick and mortar stores suddenly had competitors online. So, they had to change their sales business process architecture to stay competitive.

I'm sure this is why many business that have physical stores also have online stores. This allows them to compete with online-only retailers.

ceilingcat
Post 2

@indemnifyme - That makes a lot of sense. I mean, there's no sense in having to re-learn a task every single time. If you have a business process model showing you how it's supposed to be done, you can simply follow the model.

I think stuff like this is really beneficial for people who are new to a business. If the company uses business process architecture, they can simply share it with the new person.

Then the new person will know exactly how to do something and what information they need to do it. The whole thing is pretty genius to me!

indemnifyme
Post 1

I think it really helps to have some kind of business process flow mapped out. I used to work for an insurance agency, and while we didn't call it a business process architecture, we definitely had one for certain tasks.

For example, we would call all of our customers who were getting close to being late on paying their premium a certain number of days before their policy was set to expire. A specific person in the office was responsible for this task, and it was done the same way, with the same script, every single time.

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