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Part I Introduction > Chapter 1 BPM: Background




BPM: Background

imagesn September 2010, ebizQ (, an online IT publisher, invited its readers to “describe BPM in one sentence.” Responses ranged from BPM being something that allows us to “take control of all work activities” to a “way of thinking,” with all the usual definitions in between. Interestingly, in all the explanations that the responders provided, one theme was consistent—BPM (Business Process Management) helps an organization do its job better. The reason for this belief would not be hard to understand if we consider that BPM involves comprehensive management of “business processes” that are, in turn, articulations of activities that a business does to conduct its operations.

The idea of taking control of the activities of a business, and thus enforcing a variety of disciplines to increase the quality of execution of such activities is not new. We can trace certain aspects of BPM to as early as the 18th century when the famous economist Adam Smith noted a more than two orders of magnitude increase in productivity at a pin factory via the use of the ideas of division of labor and work specialization. Of course, this “factory model” would be too simplistic for most of today’s businesses. In their book Business Process Management; The Third Wave (Meghan Kiffer Press, 2006), authors Howard Smith and Peter Fingar have captured the evolution of BPM in three waves:


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