Start counting: 1 process, 2 processes, 3 pro


Share on LinkedIn

numbers2I recently put up the following topic for discussion on LinkedIn:

How many processes are there in one company?

This may sound like a stupid question, but we have a discussion with a process manager of a client going on about the sheer number of processes in his company. So, regardless of how you define a process, a sub-process, a series of tasks and regardless of how big the company is…. I’d be grateful if you’d start throwing some numbers at me. Is BPM looking at a single-digit number of processes, double-digits or even more?

72 comments later we seem to have reached a point on which we can safely start summarizing. Fortunately, fellow LinkedIn member Robert Starinsky has done the hard work and filtered all the input we received to come up with the following comment which nicely summarizes the discussion thus far:

“After a month of commentary, I’m not sure we’ve really answered your question directly through this forum – but we have touched upon the sheer complexity of the task of completing a comprehensive process analysis/inventory for any given organization. Here’s a sampling of the ‘process counts’ which have been mentioned:

JD noted the APQC generic cross-industry process classification framework defines 12 Business Process Categories (5 Primary, 7 Support), 62 Business Process Groups, 265 Business Processes and 797 process internal activities.

Titus noted the ISO has six (6) mandatory procedures – the minimum which an organization must have, including processes for (1) Internal Auditing, (2) Corrective Action Planning, (3) Preventive Action Planning, (4) Control of records, (5) Control of documents and (6) Control of non-conformance.

Russell noted his firm has defined a basic series of 24-30 processes related to product development. Russell further noted there are many other areas of a business outside of product development that would add to this process count.

Marcelo noted his business process improvement project within the IT value chain alone yielded 102 processes of 20 or more activities each.

Perhaps Marcelo and Karl have offered the most practical advice here. Karl noted that organizations have as many processes as they need to have to build/maintain customer satisfaction while Marcelo notes the number of value chain processes of any organization regardless of their industry, will depend on the level of abstraction that is used to map those processes. In the final analysis as Marcelo noted the number of processes in an organization doesn’t matter; what matters is the quality of the process maps produced and how well these maps show the current state of the business process and where the enhancement opportunities are.

No matter what methodology one might choose to employ to inventory, count or discover processes, in the end a relatively few number of high level processes will likely yield a much higher level of supporting sub processes, tasks, activities or business functions (or whatever it is your methodology calls them).

An organization is as complicated as we want to make (describe) it. I often use a recent Starbucks commercial to explain the concept of a value chain – see:
I refer to this spot as ‘the 60 second value chain’. I should add that my students love this spot and it really helps their understanding of the value chain and of primary and supporting business activities (processes). I would add this commercial summarizes the thoughts on value chains and customer related processes from Karl and Marcelo quite well.”

If anyone thinks that BPM can be done without creating a common understanding of processes, this discussion should set you thinking. It’s not a question of right or wrong, but of creating a commonly accepted starting point inside your company.

Final thought if you’re in the mood: Start counting your processes top-down using your companys process methodology. Afterwards do the same bottom-up. Did you get matching figures? Does the methodology still make sense?

Republished with author's permission from original post.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here