This is the author’s version of a work that was
submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:
vom Brocke, J., & Sinnl, T. (2011). Culture in business process
management. A literature review. Business Process
Management Journal (BPMJ), 17(2), 357-377.
Notice: Changes introduced as a result of publishing processes
such as copy-editing and formatting may not be reflected in this
document. For a definitive version of this work, please refer to
the published source.
The final publication is available at
Culture in Business Process Management:
A Literature Review
Purpose – Business Process Management (BPM) is a management approach that developed
with a strong focus on the adoption of Information Technology (IT). However, there is a
growing awareness that BPM requires a holistic organizational perspective especially since
culture is often considered a key element in BPM practice. Therefore, the purpose of this re-
view is to provide an overview of existing research on culture in BPM.
Design/methodology/approach – This literature review builds on major sources of the BPM
community including the BPM Journal, the BPM Conference and central journal/conference
databases. Forward and backward searches additionally deepen the analysis. Based on the re-
sults, a model of culture’s role in BPM is developed.
Findings – The results of the literature review provide evidence that culture is still a widely
under-researched topic in BPM. Furthermore, a framework on culture’s role in BPM is devel-
oped and areas for future research are revealed.
Research limitations/implications – The analysis focuses on the concepts of BPM and cul-
ture. Thus, results do not include findings regarding related concepts such as Business Process
Reengineering or Change Management.
Practical implications – The framework provides an orientation for managerial practice. It
helps identify dimensions of possible conflicts based on cultural aspects. It thus aims at rais-
ing awareness regarding potentially neglected cultural factors.
Originality/value – Although culture has been recognized in both theory and practice as an
important aspect of BPM, researchers have not systematically engaged with the specifics of
the culture phenomenon in BPM. This literature review provides a frame of reference that
serves as a basis for future research regarding culture’s role in BPM.
Keywords – Business Process Management, Culture
Paper type – Literature review
Business Process Management (BPM) is comprised of several core areas. The comprehension
of the concept in both science and practice ranges from purely IT-driven to a holistic under-
standing of BPM (Rosemann and de Bruin, 2005b; Harmon, 2010). Technical approaches to
BPM focus on the support of business processes and their design through information systems
(van der Aalst et al., 2003; Reijers, 2003). Holistic approaches (Pritchard and Armistead,
1999; Zairi, 1997), in contrast, include further organizational aspects of BPM (Rosemann and
vom Brocke, 2010) and perceive “processes as the central core from which business is con-
ducted, so long as they are supported by the people within the organization” (Jeston and Nel-
is, 2008b, p. 4). In this regard, culture is increasingly recognized as one central factor influ-
encing and being influenced by BPM (Spanyi, 2003; Llewellyn and Armistead, 2000; Ham-
mer, 2010). Moreover, culture is referred to as a source of failure or success in BPM initia-
tives (Melenovsky and Sinur, 2006; Ravesteyn and Versendaal, 2007; Bandara et al., 2009).
Even though most culture references in BPM relate to organizational culture, some studies
recognize national culture and work group culture as influential factors in BPM (Jayaganesh
and Shanks, 2009; Lee and Dale, 1998).
With regard to managerial practice, analysts of the Forrester Group identify cultural resistance
as the main cause of BPM project failure (Savvas, 2005). In many cases, this is due to a lack
of an employee’s identification with the need for process change or general process thinking.
According to a study of the Aberdeen Group, “the ability for BPM to permeate the organiza-
tion and drive value to multiple areas of the business is heavily dependent upon organizational
culture” (Lock, 2008, p. 12). Thus, a project’s success may depend more than expected on a
shared common understanding of why and how, for example, a new IT system benefits pro-
cess orientation. Shared values supporting the process organization and the awareness of how
cultural aspects affect and are affected are essential for BPM. Given this background, we seek
to analyze how far the relevance of culture’s role in BPM has been covered in the literature.
Therefore, we attempt to answer the following research question in this paper: What is the
current state of research on culture’s role in BPM?
Answering this research question, we intend to achieve the following research objectives: (a)
provide an overview of existing research on culture within the domain of BPM; (b) develop a
frame of reference regarding culture’s role in BPM; (c) derive potential areas for future re-
search in this field. Thus, we examine what the term culture refers to and what the relation
between culture and BPM is in BPM research. Addressing these questions, a literature review
of major sources in BPM provides a basis for the development of a framework on culture in
BPM. The structure of this paper is designed in the following way. First, an elaboration of the
two main concepts – BPM and culture – serves as a theoretical background for the literature
review to give relevance to culture in BPM and defines the scope of the concept of culture.
Second, the design of the literature review is illustrated and the research results are presented
and discussed. Furthermore, a frame of reference for the emerging research area of culture in
BPM is developed. Third, a discussion of the results helps reflect the impact of the frame-
work, deliberate limitations of the literature review, and identify the need for further research.
Finally, the paper concludes with a summary and outlook.
2 Theoretical background
2.1 Business Process Management
BPM emerged as a succeeding concept to Total Quality Management (TQM) in the 1980s
(Crosby, 1979; Powell, 1995) and Business Process Reengineering (BPR) in the 1990s
(Hammer, 1990; Hammer and Champy, 1993; Davenport, 1993). Following BPR, several IT
systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Manage-
ment (CRM) gained organizational focus (Jeston and Nelis, 2008a). Given this history of IT
systems, BPM initially focused on technical, IT-related aspects of business processes and
their design via technology (van der Aalst et al., 2003; Reijers, 2003). Despite an early
awareness by some (Zairi, 1997; Armistead and Machin, 1997), researchers have only in re-
cent years more broadly considered BPM to be an integrated approach that moves beyond
purely an IT focus (Harmon, 2010; Box and Platts, 2005; Hung, 2006; Chang, 2006; Rose-
mann and de Bruin, 2005b).
Several process maturity models aim at a holistic approach towards process management and
include culture as an important factor among others in their models (Rosemann and vom
Brocke, 2010; Hammer 2007; Fisher 2004; Maull et al., 2003). For example, the BPM maturi-
ty model developed by Rosemann and de Bruin (2005b) provides strong empirical evidence
for the relevance of culture in BPM. What has historically been the first association with
BPM, IT remains but one factor in six that is relevant for BPM maturity. The six core factors
of BPM identified in this model are strategic alignment, governance, methods, IT, people, and
culture. Each of the factors builds on five capability areas. Focusing on culture as one factor
of the BPM maturity model, the specific capability areas include responsiveness to process
change, process values and beliefs, process attitudes and behaviors, leadership attention to
process management, and process management social networks (Rosemann et al., 2008). The
capability areas of the culture factor refer to dimensions of a specific organizational culture
supportive of BPM.
Based on this aspect, we can assume that there is a complex interconnection between the con-
cepts of BPM and culture. This leads to the need for distinction between different relations of
the two concepts. We refer to an extensive literature review on culture in Information Systems
(IS) research in which Leidner and Keyworth (2006) differentiate the following relations be-
tween the concepts culture and IT: the impact of culture on IT, the impact of IT on culture,
and IT culture. Given this background, we discern culture’s influence on BPM and BPM’s
influence on culture in the course of this research. Furthermore, we examine to what extent a
BPM culture is referred to in the literature. We conclude that culture is an essential subject
within the BPM domain and that there seem to be different relationships between the concepts
BPM and culture. Before going into more detail on research in the respective areas, a closer
look at culture is offered to determine what characterizes its concept.
Culture is a broad and blurry concept because it is associated differently depending on the
context. More than 150 definitions of culture have been identified by Kroeber and Kluckhohn
(1952). Still, many of the definitions have a common theme. For example, Hofstede (2005)
considers culture to be the “collective programming of the mind” while Schein (2004) sug-
gests that a group learns “a pattern of shared basic assumptions.” Facing the variety of culture
conceptualizations, we define the scope of culture by differentiating between two defining
elements: (1) the manifestation of culture and (2) the scope of the referenced group.
(1) With regard to culture’s manifestation, Schein’s (2004) concept of culture is crucial to un-
derstanding this aspect. He differentiates three layers of culture: artifacts, espoused values,
and basic underlying assumptions. The different layers are either more or less observable. On
the surface, culture manifests itself through visible artifacts such as a company’s symbols, its
products, typical behaviors and rituals, the way of dressing, and architecture. Espoused values
are less visible; they include publicly expressed strategies and goals as well as norms and
rules that provide day-to-day operating principles for members of a culture group. Below the
surface, basic underlying assumptions account for the biggest part of culture. This subcon-
scious part of culture further accounts for a mental map of fundamental aspects of life such as
the nature of time and space, the role of social hierarchies, and the relative importance of
work, family, and self-development. While publicly expressed values (e.g., enjoying com-
mitment) are visible, some lived values (e.g., appreciating security) may be hidden based on
underlying assumptions (e.g., you can trust no one). Deciphering underlying assumptions al-
lows for interpreting artifacts correctly since the visible parts of culture result from an institu-
tionalization of the underlying values (Schein, 2004). For example, an organization manifests
its culture through visible structures and strategies (Tichy, 1983).
(2) Regarding the scope of the referenced group, prominent examples include national culture
in Hofstede’s (2005) studies and organizational culture in Goffee & Jones’ (1996) model. Yet
there are also further cultural groups that are distinguishable. In their research on culture in IS,
Leidner and Keyworth (2006) recognize the differences between a national, organizational,
and subgroup level of culture and suggest a holistic understanding of culture based on its
manifestation. Reflecting the culture concept in the context of BPR, Baba and Falkenburg
(1996) discern national, organizational, and work group culture as well. Therefore, our under-
standing of culture regarding the referenced group ties in with an established differentiation.
Even though organizational culture seems to be perceived as the first group culture recogniza-
ble in BPM (Pritchard and Armistead, 1999; Spanyi, 2003), we can see that there are also na-
tional cultures and work group cultures affecting BPM (Jayaganesh and Shanks, 2009; Vieira
and Neumann, 2008). Considering culture as a group’s collective phenomenon (Hofstede,
2005), it is important to note that apart from the referenced group, the concept of culture does
not fundamentally differ between various culture research streams. We can conclude that on
all group levels, there are values manifesting themselves in visible artifacts that can be per-
ceived as beneficial or cumbersome regarding BPM. The following section provides insights
into current research on culture’s role in BPM.
3 Literature review on culture in BPM
By conducting a structured literature review, we aim to provide insights into the role of cul-
ture in BPM. According to the nature of this research method (vom Brocke et al., 2009; Cre-
swell, 2009; Webster and Watson, 2002), maximum transparency should be achieved regard-
ing the various decisions in the review process. Hence, in this section, the design of the litera-
ture review is described with the intention of considering the contemporary scope of BPM
research. We focus on journal and conference publications because we assume that prevailing
BPM research problems are discussed therein and because we recognize the value of peer-
reviewed research. Regarding the analysis of the literature, we draw lessons from established
research on culture in the IS discipline. Details of our approach to the literature review are
given in the following three steps.
3.1.1 Defining a research basis
Both the BPM Journal and the BPM Conference were chosen as a starting point for the analy-
sis. Extending the review sources to general journal and conference databases, we aim at cov-
ering a broad range of relevant literature to explore the state-of-the-art research on culture in
BPM. We began with the BPM Journal in the Emerald database, further including the remain-
ing Emerald database, EBSCO Business Source Premier, and ABI Inform. We chose to sepa-
rate the analysis of the BPM Journal from the remaining Emerald database since the journal is
a major information and publishing source of the BPM community. We used the same pattern
to browse the BPM Journal and the different databases mentioned above. To cover articles
dealing with culture in BPM, we searched for “business process management” or “BPM” in
the title or abstract of the papers and used the wildcard search term “cultur*” in full text
searches. As for quality criteria, we only included peer-reviewed (scholarly) articles. With
regard to the conference search, we began with the BPM Conference and considered all pub-
lished conference proceedings. In addition, we searched the eLibrary of the Association of
Information Systems (AIS) to cover published proceedings of other conferences. Table 1 pro-
vides an overview of our research approach.
BSP, ABI Inform
Search Term I
Search Field I
document title /
title / abstract
Search Term II
[AND] “business pro-
cess management” OR
Search Field II
document title /
title / abstract
Search Term III
Search Field III
articles only / schol-
arly peer reviewed
Table 1. Research approach
3.1.2 Extracting and categorizing relevant research
This step aims to provide a quantitative overview of relevant research on culture topics in
BPM. In the analysis, research is considered relevant if it specifically covers cultural aspects
in the BPM field. All journal and conference papers were categorized according to the extent
to which they engage in research on cultural aspects in BPM. We defined two categories of
relevant papers and left out those that either do not reference culture in the context of BPM or
focus on a different concept with the same abbreviation (BPM). Intending to keep categoriza-
tion as simple and objective as possible, we only defined the following two:
Research that mentions culture’s role in BPM: This category includes papers that refer
to culture’s role in BPM research in few words and only mention the relation of the
concepts BPM and culture within their actual research focus.
Research that elaborates on cultural aspects in BPM: This category includes papers
that more intensively consider culture’s role with respect to BPM. This definition
leaves much leeway regarding the intensity of the culture focus, which ranges from a
paragraph or single section to a significant focus of culture in BPM.
As for the procedure, we categorized papers from both journals and conferences through a
full-text search, focussing on the two concepts of BPM and culture to identify relevant re-
search. We did not consider research on concepts related to BPM such as Business Process
Reengineering (BPR), Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), or Supply Chain Management
(SCM). Even though culture likely plays an important role with regard to these concepts, we
specifically aimed for state-of-the-art in BPM research. With regard to the concept of culture,
we took a literal approach as well since an additional search for concepts like change man-
agement, leadership, and communication calls for a more subjective handling and a softening
of the culture concept.
Based on the relevant papers found through the initial categorization, we conducted a forward
and backward search to identify additional articles considering culture in BPM research. As
for the backward search, we included further relevant contributions by analyzing references
that were used in the context of cultural aspects in BPM. Thus, the additional journal and con-
ference sources went beyond the ones used for the initial search. Regarding the forward
search, we checked the databases in which we found the article for citations of the respective
paper. The results of forward and backward searches were categorized in the same way as the
initial papers. Furthermore, we included two more papers that we came across on the Internet.
They could not be found in the structured search because 2009 was not yet included as a pub-
lication year in the conference database. This approach provided an initial overview on cul-
ture in BPM research.
3.1.3 Analyzing research on culture in BPM
Seeking a more qualitative approach for examining extant research, this literature review aims
to develop an understanding of how culture is perceived in BPM research. Therefore, we ana-
lyzed all papers mentioning or elaborating on culture with regard to the following two dimen-
sions derived from extant research on culture and particularly from culture research in the IS
discipline (Leidner and Keyworth, 2006).
The group referred to: First, we examined which group is referenced when discussing
culture. We identified whether the term culture refers to (I) work group culture, (II)
organizational culture, or (III) national culture.
The relationship between BPM and culture: Second, we determined the link between
our two main concepts. As described earlier in this literature review, we assumed three
relationships of culture and BPM: (a) culture as an independent factor influencing
BPM, (b) culture as a dependent factor influenced by BPM, and (c) culture as BPM
Based on the specifications described above, we categorized all of the papers using the two
dimensions. The categorization of all articles according to cultural group and the relationship
between BPM and culture was the first step in the qualitative analysis of relevant articles.
This provides a qualitative overview of all articles either mentioning or elaborating on cul-
ture’s role in BPM. In a second step, papers elaborating on culture in BPM underwent a deep-
er analysis. The results of the literature review are introduced in the following section.
3.2.1 Quantitative results of research categorization
Having identified papers potentially relevant to culture’s role in BPM, this effort offered a
preliminary glimpse into the current state of cultural research in BPM. The initial 19 articles
found when searching the BPM Journal accounted for only 3.3% of all articles published in
the journal since its first publication in 1995 when entitled Business Process Re-engineering
& Management Journal. This offered the first evidence that the topic has been under-
researched in the BPM community. The categorization procedure added to this assumption
and provided some profound figures (see Table 2), which show that the percentage of articles
in the BPM Journal that elaborate on culture’s role in BPM is as low as 0.3%. In total, 29 pa-
pers mention culture as one aspect in BPM research while only 13 papers elaborate on cul-
ture’s role in BPM. As expected, the BPM Journal includes relatively many relevant papers as
compared to the journal databases that are comprised of a large number of journals. The BPM
Conference, however, covers fewer relevant papers than other conferences that do not have so
fine a focus. This is less surprising than one may think since the BPM Conference has always
concentrated on technical aspects of BPM. Therefore, one could expect that it covers relative-
ly little research on culture in BPM. We can record as a first result of this literature review
that few articles discuss or study culture’s role in BPM research. This provides further evi-
dence that culture is still a widely under-researched topic in BPM.
Number of total publications
Culture ‘mentioned’ in BPM research
Culture ‘elaborated’ on in BPM research
Random finding in the internet
Table 2. Quantitative overview of culture in BPM research
3.2.2 Overall qualitative results of research analysis
Taking a qualitative approach, a closer look at the papers examining culture in their research
allows for a more detailed statement on the current state of the research. In this section, we
start with a rough overview of how culture is perceived in research mentioning or elaborating
on culture’s role in BPM. To do so, we categorized the papers according to the two dimen-
sions derived from established culture research, namely referenced cultural group and relation
between BPM and culture. Table 3 shows an overview of the qualitative results (papers elabo-
rating on culture’s role in BPM are shown in italics while papers mentioning culture are
shown in standard letters). Below, we provide a brief summary regarding the qualitative cate-
gorization of the identified papers. Subsequently, in section 3.2.3, we more deeply analyze
those papers that specifically elaborate on culture in BPM research:
I. BPM and work group culture: Regarding work group culture, we observed that almost
no research contribution explicitly considers cultures of sub-groups in organizations.
Even though BPM is an approach that is characterized as transcending departmental
thinking toward process thinking (Davenport and Short, 1990), challenges based on de-
partmental cultures seem to be not recognized as such but included under challenges
based on organizational culture. In fact, some authors who refer to organizational culture
also mention process groups and other teams in their examination of culture (Lee and
Dale, 1998; Pritchard and Armistead, 1999; Armistead and Machin, 1997; Corrigan,
1996). Still, BPM is noted as a concept facing challenges through departmental thinking.
Yet this aspect seems to have not been perceived as a work group cultural phenomenon.
II. BPM and organizational culture: Our analysis shows that most articles reference organ-
izational culture whereas work group culture and national culture are rarely recognized
in BPM research. Naturally, organizational culture is the dominant type studied since
BPM initiatives affect big parts of an organization. In fact, BPM projects often face ob-
stacles and a need for change with regard to the organizational culture.
III. BPM and national culture: It was interesting to note that the two articles referring to na-
tional culture view culture as an independent variable that influences other BPM factors.
This is a logical consequence since national cultures are relatively stable over time and
difficult to influence as compared to organizational cultures. What is surprising is the
fact that there are only two papers that mention national culture as a topic within BPM.
Given that global corporations’ business processes often transcend national borders and
BPM initiatives tend to include locations worldwide, challenges based on national cul-
tures are apparent.
(I) Work group
(a) Culture as
Chen, 1999; Fagan, 2006; Ghalimi, 2008; de
Bruin and Rosemann, 2006; Fenz et al.,
2009; Ravesteyn and Versendaal, 2007;
Vanhoenacker et al., 1999; Willaert et al.,
Bandara et al., 2009; Corrigan, 1996;
Rosemann and de Bruin, 2005b; Rosemann
and de Bruin, 2005a; Rosemann et al., 2004
Banerjee et al.,
(b) Culture as
influenced by BPM
Gulledge Jr and Sommer, 2002; Indulska et
al., 2006; Knights, 2008; Pyke, 2006; Scheer
and Klueckmann, 2009; Stohr and zur
Armistead and Machin, 1998; Pritchard and
(c) Culture as
Armistead et al., 1999; Armistead and
Machin, 1997; de Bruin, 2007; de Bruin and
Rosemann, 2007; Zairi, 1997
(d) Culture as
Smart et al.,
Armistead, 1996; Caverlee et al., 2007;
Chong, 2006; Process intelligence, 2007;
Fries, 1995; Hung, 2006; Lee and Dale,
1998; Llewellyn and Armistead, 2000;
Mencer and Jelenc, 2005; Niehaves, 2009;
Sentanin et al., 2008; Simpson et al., 1999;
Skrinjar et al., 2008
Table 3. Qualitative overview of culture in BPM research
Considering the relationship between BPM and culture, we identified three options when it
comes to studying culture in BPM: (a) culture as an independent factor influencing BPM; (b)
culture as a dependent factor influenced by BPM; and (c) culture as BPM culture. Analyzing
the papers, an additional category surfaced leading to the following four dimensions:
a) Culture as an independent factor influencing BPM: Identifying culture as an inde-
pendent factor in BPM research turns out to be difficult since most articles only men-
tion culture within their actual research topic. As a strategy for categorization, we
Papers ‘elaborating’ on culture’s role in BPM in italics; papers ‘mentioning’ culture in BPM in standard letters.
chose to allocate papers that perceive culture as a success factor or barrier regarding
BPM to category (a).
b) Culture as a dependent factor influenced by BPM: While identifying these types of
papers, we faced the same difficulties as above given the few papers that elaborate on
culture as a dependent factor influenced by BPM. Thus, articles in category (b) recog-
nize BPM systems or general BPM initiatives as affecting culture.
c) Culture as BPM culture: As we had assumed based on existing research on culture in
IS, there are papers that reference a BPM culture. In this regard, we identified overlap
of the two dimensions ‘referenced group culture’ and ‘culture-BPM relation’ in that a
BPM culture can be understood as a special facet of an organizational culture. Thus,
organizational culture is the only group culture considered with regard to category (c).
d) Culture as an important aspect in BPM: In many cases, it was neither possible to iden-
tify a clear direction of influence with regard to BPM and culture nor identify a pre-
scription of a BPM culture. Thus, we defined this additional category (d) to capture
those articles that simply find that BPM requires attention to culture.
The categorization of the papers according to the dimensions derived from the literature pro-
vides the first qualitative overview of existing BPM research that considers cultural aspects.
We can see that research commonly refers to organizational culture as both an independent
and a dependent factor. Additionally, we confirm that the concept of a BPM culture is present
in BPM research. Regarding work group and national culture, few papers were found that ex-
amine those topics in a BPM context. As for work group culture, we did not identify research
elaborating on the phenomenon. As stated before, this may be due to a partial inclusion of the
concept under organizational culture. With regard to national culture, the little recognition of
the concept in BPM research is surprising. Given these results, we more deeply analyzed
those papers that elaborate on culture in BPM.
3.2.3 Detailed analysis of papers elaborating on culture in BPM
Starting with research on national culture (category IIIa), we could only analyze one paper.
Jayaganesh and Shanks (2009) examined the role of national culture regarding an IT-enabled
BPM strategy. They particularly focused on two companies in India and, on the basis of Hof-
stede’s cultural dimensions, analyzed the impact of national culture on BPM. Taking a value
approach regarding the cultural examination, the authors recommend “adopting formal BPM
strategy and governance practices” to reduce negative intercultural effects in international
business. Hence, the authors call for an institutionalization of process orientation in the form
of BPM strategy and governance practices. Furthermore, they state that national culture’s in-
fluence on BPM is largely unexplored. These statements correspond to our findings.
Regarding organizational culture, several papers elaborate on culture as an independent factor
that influences BPM (category IIa). Bandara et al. (2009) conducted a literature review that
suggests culture is one of nine success factors for BPM that can serve both as a supporting or
hindering BPM success factor. According to Bandara et al., cultural success factors include “a
tendency for collaboration” (e.g., visible in decentralized decision-making) or “readiness for
change“ (e.g., comprising the rewarding and encouragement of creativity). Corrigan (1996)
reports on findings from several interviews elaborating on cultural barriers in BPM such as
hierarchical structures, vertical communication, and the perception of IT as an enemy. These
aspects represent both visible and invisible organizational cultural elements that do not seem
to go along with a BPM approach. Rosemann and de Bruin (2005a; 2005b) and Rosemann et
al. (2004) emphasize culture as a critical success factor regarding BPM, identifying cultural
barriers such as resistance to change and a lack of process understanding. In research papers
of this category, underlying values and beliefs as well as the institutionalization of them in
organizational structures and people’s actions play a role regarding organizational culture’s
influence on BPM.
Looking at culture as a dependent factor of BPM (category IIb), Armistead and Machin
(1998) report on a case study that suggests a cultural shift toward process orientation through
the implementation of process measurements. The company described in the case study set up
an Information System supporting the assessment of service productivity and achieved a cul-
ture change along with the system change. This approach suggests to change people’s think-
ing through a structural change. Pritchard and Armistead (1999) consider organizational cul-
ture change as one of the main benefits achieved through BPM. They additionally refer to
case studies considering culture in BPM initiatives. One company, for example, introduced
process specialists functioning as multipliers of process knowledge. Research papers of this
category report on culture changes through structure changes.
Considering papers describing a BPM culture (category IIc), we identified only two that ex-
plicitly refer to a BPM culture (Armistead et al., 1999; Zairi, 1997). Armistead et al. (1999)
recognize such a culture as a central theme in BPM, emphasizing that the approach to BPM
should fit within the organization’s culture and providing examples of companies with a BPM
approach. The Royal Mail defined its business direction by considering the corporate values
of the company. The authors tie this research in with a preceding paper in which Armistead
and Machin (1997) discuss a cultural fit that is required between the overall approach to BPM
and the organizational culture. In a subsequent paper, Armistead et al. (1999) recognize this
as a BPM culture. Furthermore, Zairi (1997) proposes some suggestions regarding the devel-
opment of a BPM culture that includes continuous improvement and performance measure-
ment. These concepts seem familiar in a BPM context. However, Zairi did not elaborate on
their cultural meaning. Understanding these concepts as part of a BPM culture places their
meaning beyond that of mere buzzwords or single silo approaches in an organization. Contin-
uous improvement as a cultural value may be visible in organizational structures and employ-
ee’s actions, yet most importantly, values like this one provide a general inner orientation for
everyone involved. We can conclude from research explicitly referring to BPM culture that
the concept generally describes a culture supportive of BPM objectives.
Additionally, we included two papers by de Bruin and Rosemann in category IIc in which
they do not explicitly refer to a BPM culture. However, they do include the capability areas of
the culture factor in their BPM maturity model. These can be viewed as requirements for a
BPM culture including process values and beliefs, process attitudes and behaviors, and pro-
cess management social networks. We conclude from the papers analyzed that the concept of
a BPM culture is present in the literature but that it has not been explicitly explored regarding
its cultural manifestations. Since a culture is predominantly defined through the basic underly-
ing values that are inherent in visible artifacts (Schein, 2004), the examination of BPM values
is essential. Even though the analyzed papers do not explicitly refer to specific BPM values,
we can derive values such as consistency, quality, continuous improvement, customer orienta-
tion, process orientation, and responsiveness to change from the research examined. These
may be general BPM values; however, there may also be specific BPM values differing based
on the organizational context or depending on the process to which they refer. For example,
creative processes may require different values in their BPM approach than routine work. The
analysis of BPM values clearly needs further consideration in future research.
In reference to research that considers organizational culture and/or BPM culture, we argue
that there appear to be organizational values supportive of BPM thus fitting to BPM culture
values and other values that may not be compatible with BPM values resulting in actions
demonstrating resistance. We further argue that the implementation of a BPM approach and
its values is challenged through the existing organizational culture and changes it at the same
time. What has been noted as a necessary fit between organizational culture and BPM may, in
fact, be a cultural fit or a value fit between the existing organizational culture and a BPM cul-
ture as a new facet of the corporate culture. The same cultural fit or misfit seems to hold true
regarding national culture. We have seen that national values do not necessarily fit with a
BPM approach and its values.
The analysis of papers elaborating on culture’s role in BPM allows for the following argu-
ment regarding the development of a BPM culture as a culture supportive of BPM objectives:
We have seen that the start of a BPM initiative may generate resistance (Rosemann and de
Bruin, 2005a; Rosemann and de Bruin, 2005b). We have also seen that the implementation of
a new organizational structure may be capable of changing people’s thinking and ultimately
organizational culture (Armistead and Machin, 1998). We further know that culture consists
of invisible values and their visible institutionalizations in artifacts (Schein, 2004). Conse-
quently, we argue that the development of BPM culture may function like this: The decision
for a BPM approach is likely based on a few people valuing process orientation for various
reasons. These values lead to visible actions that may result in a visible change of the organi-
zational structure (e.g. an IT system implementation or process change). Structural changes
may require a corresponding change in the actions of all employees. This way, a change in
values – and thus a culture change involving the whole organization – may be achieved. This
argument implies a culture triad of underlying values that account for both visible action and
structure. We are aware that the small sample of existing research elaborating on culture’s
role in BPM is not sufficient to verify the relationships between the concepts in this triad. In
fact, we argue that this triad can be derived from Schein’s understanding of culture by sum-
marizing espoused values and underlying assumptions as underlying values and, in addition,
specifying artifacts as both visible structures (e.g., physical environment, technology and
products, descriptions, organization charts) and visible actions (e.g., manners, observable rit-
uals and ceremonies, visible behaviour) (Schein, 2004).
From the analysis of papers elaborating on culture in BPM, we can learn that organizational
culture is the most common culture examined in BPM research. We see that national culture
and work group culture are also related to BPM. Furthermore, we note that differing relation-
ships between BPM and culture exist. In this regard, we identified the concept of a BPM cul-
ture being present in BPM research. Furthermore, the notions of different group cultures as
influencing or influenced factors with regard to BPM - respectively a BPM culture - can be
explained by a necessary cultural fit of underlying values. Finally, we see that the culture triad
of values, action, and structure can be derived from cultural studies and seems to have explan-
atory power with regard to cultural phenomena identified through our analysis of BPM litera-
ture. Due to a lack of models structuring and visualizing these aspects, we propose a frame-
work on culture’s role in BPM.
Based on our literature review, we suggest a framework that can be used to structure current
and future research on culture in BPM. The development of the model primarily builds on the
The concept of a BPM culture is present in BPM research. In fact, BPM can be viewed
as a management approach that requires a BPM culture (Source: BPM research).
The three group culture categories derived from IS research - national culture, organi-
zational culture, and work group culture - are not considered equally in existing re-
search. However, they do play a role in BPM research (Source: IS research, BPM re-
To achieve BPM objectives, a BPM approach requires a cultural fit (Source: BPM re-
Invisible values manifest themselves in visible actions and structures (Source: Culture
Our framework on the role of culture in BPM comprises several elements that are displayed in
Figure 1. BPM-Culture-Model: A framework for culture’s role in BPM
The model shows that – according to the results of our literature review – the following con-
structs appear to be particularly useful to conceptualize the role of culture in BPM:
BPM culture: With regard to BPM culture, we refer to a certain set of values consid-
ered supportive of BPM objectives. While we can identify a general understanding of
BPM culture in the literature, it remains open to future research which particular val-
ues actually constitute such a BPM culture. Presumably, there might also be the need
to specify the concept of a BPM culture according to organizational context factors.
The cultural context: Each BPM initiative faces a certain cultural environment that we
call cultural context. Even though the cultural context is determined by diverse situa-
tional factors, typical dimensions driving this context can be distinguished: organiza-
tional culture, work group cultures, and national cultures. These cultures are intercon-
nected in a complex way and influence the cultural context as a set of values driving
human action. They may serve as a starting point for determining the diverse cultural
context of a specific BPM initiative.
The cultural fit: Regarding the cultural fit, we refer to a basic congruence between the
cultural context and the BPM culture. Such a fit is considered critical for a successful
BPM implementation. To achieve the cultural fit, measures need to be taken that bring
the cultural context into line with the BPM culture. In this respect, future research is
needed to explore strategies on how to systematically align existing cultural values
with BPM values. Such strategies may serve as reference in different contexts.
The culture triad: To explain cultural phenomena with regard to BPM, the culture tri-
ad of values, action, and structures serves as a pattern for the internal differentiation of
culture. Underlying values are the essential element of a culture and become visible in
actions and structures. The visible elements help develop or maintain respective values
in that actions constantly re-create the essence of culture and structures additionally
Having introduced the BPM-Culture-Model, we discuss the impact, limitations and implica-
tions of our findings in the following section.
The results of our literature review suggest an impact for both research and practice. Regard-
ing the implications for research, the framework on culture’s role in BPM can be perceived as
a basis for existing and future BPM research in two respects. First, the framework serves as a
starting point to structure research on culture in BPM. Second, the framework depicts the in-
terconnection of different culture concepts; it describes the cultural fit that is necessary within
a cultural context that may support or challenge a BPM culture. Furthermore, the framework
can be used to explain culture-driven phenomena in BPM on the basis of the culture triad.
Thus, the framework represents the foundation for future research on BPM culture and its re-
lationship to interfering group cultures.
The managerial impact of the literature review lies in the orientation it provides for practice. It
helps foresee dimensions of possible conflicts that are based on cultural aspects. It may thus
raise awareness regarding potentially neglected cultural factors. The practical explanatory
power of the model regarding the development of a BPM culture can be briefly shown on the
basis of the culture triad. The case of Hilti may serve as an example to illustrate this explana-
tory power (vom Brocke et al., 2010). The corporation globally harmonized its processes and
data in a tremendous effort that lasted almost 10 years. Because Hilti leadership had always
perceived a global approach reasonable, it was possible to constitute a project team led by
Hilti IT that took action based on this value orientation. This action resulted in a huge struc-
tural change that, in turn, required a change in action for all employees since the global har-
monization of the Hilti processes accounted for a transformation of the daily work of the em-
ployees. Furthermore, actions were taken such as the realization of special communication
strategies to ensure people understood the significance of the initiative. This way, BPM val-
ues were spread and it was possible for Hilti to achieve a BPM culture. With regard to organi-
zational culture, Hilti’s BPM approach was supported by the strong culture the corporation
realized in previous years and very consciously maintains. This example shows how the
framework is able to explain cultural phenomena in BPM practice. In the following section,
we discuss the limitations of our research.
Concerning the framework, we are aware that it can be discussed to what extent one should
speak of a BPM culture or a business process culture since process-orientation not only af-
fects management. Still, we chose to stick with the term BPM culture, perceiving it as a cul-
ture supportive to BPM objectives and tying in with extant research. Regarding the design of
our literature review, we are aware that an extension of our conceptual frame may further
strengthen our findings. We chose not to include preceding concepts of BPM such as BPR or
TQM in the research to gain a clearer result for the BPM concept. With regard to culture, we
significantly focused on this very concept in our search strategy. Yet, not all researchers ex-
amining cultural issues in BPM may use the term culture. We still chose to keep our focus on
the literal concept since research becomes more subjective when including related concepts in
research such as leadership and communication. Furthermore, not all sources may have been
covered in the literature review. This became obvious when we came across two more papers
dealing with culture in BPM. These were from sources that should have been covered in our
choice of databases. However, the 2009 publication year had not yet been included in the da-
tabase. Beyond this, we are aware that a complex interconnection of group cultures exists; for
example, expatriates from different countries in a work group or the fact that organizational
culture may determine work group cultures to a large extent. In addition, one can imagine that
the national culture of the home country may greatly determine the organizational culture
even in foreign countries. At the same time, organizational culture may constitute a “third
place” (Kramsch, 2009) functioning as a cultural home independent from different national
cultures. Despite this awareness and for the sake of model simplicity, we espouse the distinc-
tion of the three group cultures derived from our research on culture in IS. Furthermore, the
findings of our structured literature review revealed only a small sample of articles resulting
in restricted generalizations. Additional research on work group culture and national culture
with regard to BPM would further strengthen our framework as would BPM research verify-
ing the relations of the culture triad. We examine areas of future research in the following sec-
4.3 Future research
The results of the literature review call for further research regarding several aspects of cul-
ture’s role in BPM. Generally speaking, there seems to be little research elaborating on cul-
ture in BPM and yet there are several papers mentioning the significance of the topic without
specifically illuminating it. This makes the few research papers examining the topic even
more surprising suggesting a strong need for further research. Based on the framework we
developed, we suggest that future research consider the following questions:
What characterizes the concept of a BPM culture in detail? Even though the concept
of BPM culture is present in research as a culture supportive to BPM objectives, there
are few references as to what exactly constitutes a BPM culture and especially, which
values define it. Those papers considering BPM culture do not solely focus on this
concept; this leads to sketchy consideration of the concept. Still, much research men-
tions the need for culture change in BPM initiatives even to the point of implicitly
calling for the development of BPM culture. Therefore, an examination of the concept
seems necessary in future research.
What determines the relationship between BPM culture and national, organizational,
and work group cultures? The literature review shows that the mapping between the
different group cultures and BPM culture seems to be challenging. Therefore, a de-
tailed examination of the relationship between a BPM culture and its cultural context
should provide valuable insights to address the following research question:
What measures are suitable to achieve a cultural fit between a BPM culture and its cul-
tural context? We have seen that cultural barriers are present in BPM initiatives. Thus,
future research should focus on measures that overcome these barriers or alternatively,
find ways to use cultural differences in a positive way.
Beyond the examination of these research questions, a review of culture’s role in BPM-related
concepts, like BPR, may provide valuable insights transferable to the BPM concept and the
framework developed here. At the same time, an analysis of culture in organizational sciences
may help find approaches dealing with cultural issues in organizations that follow a BPM ap-
proach. Summing up, the literature review provides evidence that little research on culture in
BPM exists. Thus, this study serves as a starting point for future research.
Answering the research question What is the current state-of-the-art of research on culture’s
role in BPM?, we provide a framework structuring current and future research on culture’s
role in BPM. This framework builds on a literature review that involves major sources of the
BPM community, the BPM Journal and the BPM Conference, as well as several journal and
conference databases. The literature review gives both quantitative and qualitative insights on
research considering culture in BPM. The quantitative overview shows that few articles from
several journals and conferences deal with culture as a topic in BPM research. Of the small
number of papers found, the qualitative analysis clearly confirms the need for further research
that had already been revealed on the basis of the quantitative results. In fact, we uncovered
several gaps in BPM research to be considered in future contributions. Based on the review,
our three research objectives have been achieved. (1) We provided an overview of existing
research on culture within the domain of BPM, (2) we developed a frame of reference regard-
ing culture in BPM, and (3) we derived potential areas for future research in the field. This
paper calls for more awareness of culture in BPM research and for more research on the topic.
This recommendation is based on a holistic understanding of both the BPM and the culture
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