Business Process Acronym Mania

Business Process Thesaurus

I spend a goodly amount of time reviewing this field’s blogs, association websites, presentations and vendor’s white papers. Am I the only one who feels dizzy sifting through the acronyms and proprietary terminology or are people really abusing concepts and terms? Can we afford an exclusive lexicon? I think not. Take a look:

  • Business Process Management (BPM)
  • Business Process Automation (BPA)
  • Business Process Analysis (a second BPA)
  • Business Process Improvement (BPI)
  • Business Process Optimization (BPO)
  • Business Process Design (BPD)
  • Business Process Re-Design (BPR)
  • Business Process Re-Engineering (BPR…another one)
  • Business Process Governance (BPG)
  • Business Process Modeling (BPM…another one of those too)
  • Business Process Mapping (a third!)
  • BPMN (notation) and BPMS (the suite)
  • Business Process Officer and Business Process Owner (that’s 2 BPOs in row!)
  • Business Process Outsourcing (a third BPO!)

How am I doing?

I left out BPI (interoperability), BPA (architecture), another BPI (infrastructure) and a handful of other terms I’m sure. The point is, this degree of specialization is a function of marketing and the incessant need people have to claim their stake in the field. “In order to stand out as an expert and succeed, I have to differentiate myself from the competition. I have to mine a different vein of gold. If you sell modeling, I have to sell mapping. If you sell improvement, I have to sell optimization.” It’s this verbose and we haven’t even begun talking about the actual notation!

Pity the Customer

I don’t know if you’ve ever responded to an RFP (another TLA (three-letter acronym)) but the alphabet soup above is really pronounced and rather silly when the lay-person tries to make sense of needs and methodologies. They don’t know if they’re buying a BPA or a BPO or a BPR. The same can be said for new analysts trying to make sense of their field. It’s time to apply some Lean methodology to our field and reject the complexity that found its way in here so people could sell something “new”. Academic types are part of the problem too. Everyone wants to write the killer thesis and if they can get credit for an acronym…well that’s the mother of all accomplishments in business school.

Abstract Pragmatist

Sure I can be a little abstract but I am also a pragmatist. I want to get it done because customers can’t wait.

The Bottom-Line

Business Process Management is my container. It is the field. Everything else is a function of that field. You can model, diagram, document and map a process. You can design and re-design a process. You can analyze a process, improve or optimize it, automate and integrate it. You can buy software that lets you build and run a process. You can connect them all and run your entire operation in a process architecture. You can even become more mature! Yet another BPM.

You know what that boils down to, folks?

  1. Draw it
  2. Study it (ask good questions)
  3. Fix it (in accordance with your business strategy)
  4. Implement it
  5. Measure it and tweak it
  6. Option: Automate it if you can afford to

It’s similar to the old standby: PDSA (plan-do-study-act). Keep it simple stupid (KISS) and people will be attracted to it and play nice with it.

As an operations guy, my initiation into this field was a ton of fun. I’m also an old marketing and sales guy. I know what some people are up to. This field can be elegant and it’s the right orientation (that’s another BPO for the neophyte). But be warned, if your ego needs to complicate this simple thing in order to carve out a special niche for yourself, its elegance and simplicity will be lost and the people around you – customers included – will seek answers elsewhere. This is supposed to make life easier.

What do you think? Am I over-reacting? Is specialization good for the field?

Let me know what you think.



5 responses to “Business Process Acronym Mania

  1. IMHO WON TLA’s AIT BP specialization ISTBD!

    (Acronyms make texting easier, maybe that’s why they’re the craze among BP folk. )

  2. I do not think you were exaggerating in your post, and you’re right regarding what it comes down to!!!

    Thanks for the info..

  3. Great insights! I think the acronym thing really confuses a lot of people especially the ones who are not familiar with its meaning.
    But I think the acronym BPO primarily corresponds to Business Process Outsourcing. Other definitions should not use BPO as its acronym because it truly confuses a lot of people.

    • Patrick Joseph Gauthier

      Thanks. I happen to agree that no two terms should be sharing an acronym. That’s OAO. Stands for One Acronym Only. Tee Hee! Take care – Patrick

  4. There are for too many of them!

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