This is the author’s version of a work that was
submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:
vom Brocke, J., Schmiedel, T., Recker, J., Trkman, P., Mertens,
W., & Viaene, S. (2014). Ten Principles of Good Business
Process Management. Business Process Management Journal
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.
Ten Principles of Good Business Process
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to foster a common understanding of business process
management (BPM) by proposing a set of ten principles that characterize BPM as a research
domain and guide its successful use in organizational practice.
Design/methodology/approach – The identification and discussion of the principles reflects
our viewpoint, which was informed by extant literature and focus groups, including 20 BPM
experts from academia and practice.
Findings – We identify ten principles which represent a set of capabilities essential for
mastering contemporary and future challenges in BPM. Their antonyms signify potential
roadblocks and bad practices in BPM. We also identify a set of open research questions that
can guide future BPM research.
Research limitation/implication – Our findings suggest several areas of research regarding
each of the identified principles of good BPM. Also, the principles themselves should be
systematically and empirically examined in future studies.
Practical implications – Our findings allow practitioners to comprehensively scope their
BPM initiatives and provide a general guidance for BPM implementation. Moreover, the
principles may also serve to tackle contemporary issues in other management areas.
Originality/value – This is the first paper that distills principles of BPM in the sense of both
good and bad practice recommendations. The value of the principles lies in providing
normative advice to practitioners as well as in identifying open research areas for academia,
thereby extending the reach and richness of BPM beyond its traditional frontiers.
Keywords principles, business process management, BPM, research agenda
Paper type Viewpoint
Business process management (BPM) has evolved as an important research domain that has
matured considerably. It provides well-proven methods that build the foundation to master
current and future challenges in management. However, the adoption and use of BPM remains
fragmented and there is little agreement concerning the right scoping of BPM (Rosemann and
vom Brocke, 2010). Although researchers call for a comprehensive approach to BPM
(Rosemann and de Bruin, 2005; Viaene et al., 2010) both in academia and practice, BPM has
largely remained focused on originating areas such as process modeling and workflow
management systems or on identifying case- or industry-specific and general critical success
factors (CSFs) of BPM programs (van der Aalst et al., 2003; Jeston and Nelis, 2008).
Although CSFs of BPM, defined as a few things that must function well to assure success
(Boynton and Zmud, 1984), may provide relevant ideas for practitioners, most CSF studies
conclude by presenting a list of general factors (e.g., top management support,
communication, appropriate culture, appointment of process owners and end-user training
(Ariyachandra and Frolick, 2008; Bai and Sarkis, 2013; Bandara et al., 2005; Karim et al.,
2007; Trkman and Trkman, 2009)) but provide little further practical guidance (King and
Burgess, 2006). Some authors attempt to provide a more detailed recommendation for the
usage of CSFs. Škrinjar and Trkman (2013), for example, study which critical practices have
a significant positive effect on improvement in an organization’s business process orientation.
They argue that there are specific and identifiable practices for each maturity level and break
down previously identified critical success factors (Trkman, 2010) to very precise practices
such as “Process terms such as input, output, process, and process owners are used in
conversations” or “Managers from different departments regularly have meetings to discuss
business process-related issues”.
While such attempts are important to provide both generic and specific guidelines for
implementing BPM, they do not contribute to shaping BPM as a research domain or to
providing overarching guidance for the governance of BPM programs. We believe that a
focus on critical practices is too limited and that identified CSFs do not sufficiently reflect the
essential principles of good BPM. Further, we have observed many cases where projects are
labeled as BPM, despite the fact that they do not abide by the essential principles of BPM. In
other projects, methods such as process modeling are being applied, but in too narrow a sense.
This is the case, for instance, when process-modeling efforts are made with little
consideration of governance structures required to leverage and maintain such models or to
turn the results of such efforts into long-term benefits for an organization and its stakeholders.
Arguably, the problems in applying BPM in practice are mirrored in scholarly work – by far
the largest share of contributions to the BPM conference series to date, for instance, have been
dedicated to designing, enacting or verifying process models (van der Aalst, 2012). Research
that indicates a more holistic coverage of BPM issues, such as educational (Bandara et al.,
2010a) or cultural dimensions (Schmiedel et al., 2013), have only emerged very recently.
Against this background, we would like to share our viewpoint on principles of good BPM.
This viewpoint is primarily based on opinions of BPM experts, but it also ties in with our own
experience and with extant BPM literature. We set out to identify ten principles of good BPM
that we hope will strengthen the core of BPM, so it can grow beyond its current boundaries,
and guide BPM initiatives in practice, in order for these to live up to the promise of a holistic
and sustainable transformation.
We are by no means the first to suggest guiding principles for BPM. Armistead (1996), for
example, suggested a set of guiding principles 17 years ago when the concept of BPM was
still in its infancy and when today’s comprehensive understanding had not yet emerged. Few
years later, Burlton (2001) also suggested a number of principles, yet most of these relate to
“business change” and “process renewal”, while none of them relate to “process
management” in the sense of how to size and scope BPM in an organization. Revisiting BPM
as a research domain today, we build our viewpoint on several sources, bringing together
opinions of key players in the field to suggest encompassing principles of good BPM.
We frame our principles as a research agenda for BPM research to identify key research
questions extending the richness and reach of the current body of knowledge (Chircu et al.,
2010). Our definition of the principles complements and goes beyond the BPM body of
knowledge in several ways. It extends prior work on principles and definitions of business
processes and BPM (Burlton, 2012; Burlton, 2001; Armistead, 1996), and deepens the
discussion on a common BPM body of knowledge (ABPM, 2009). Our work also provides a
possible answer to the call for a comprehensive consideration of BPM including
organizational and social factors (Rosemann and de Bruin, 2005). While studies like these
already provided important knowledge on which aspects to consider in BPM initiatives (vom
Brocke et al., 2011), there is still a lack of knowledge on essential principles that support the
right planning and coordination of BPM initiatives at a strategic level. This is where the
principles intend to contribute and call for the consideration of previously less-covered
concepts in various application domains.
Thus our purpose for establishing these ten principles is to assist both researchers and
practitioners towards an understanding of the requirements of effective BPM. Following
Klein and Myers (1999) and Hevner et al. (2004), we advise against compulsory or mere
routine use of the principles. Readers must use their experience and judgment to apply the
principles in light of the requirements of a specific BPM program.
We proceed as follows: In the next section, we present the ten principles and discuss each
principle relating to seminal work in the respected field. We then discuss the implications for
research and practice. Finally, we conclude with a summary and outlook on future work.
2. Ten Principles of Good BPM
We build on expert opinions and focus groups to identify principles that characterize
successful BPM practice. These focus groups involved 20 BPM experts from practice and
academia. Specifically, ten academics and ten practitioners were invited to the focus groups.
In order to integrate a complete range of viewpoints, we involved researchers in the BPM
domain from four universities worldwide and from diverse positions: three full professors,
one assistant professor, two PhD post-graduates, and four PhD students. The practitioners
were managers in the area of BPM who, in turn, represented eight global companies from
diverse industries: one from the automotive industry, two from banking, two from
construction, two from engineering, one from healthcare, and two from logistics. We took the
following eight steps with two focus groups to shape our viewpoint (these steps are explained
in detail in the following paragraphs):
First focus group (academics and practitioners)
1. Shaping of joint BPM understanding
2. Identification of principles for good BPM
3. Clustering of the identified principles
Second focus group (academics)
4. Identification of a linguistic reference model for the principles
5. Formulation of a principle for each cluster based on linguistic reference model
6. Refinement of the identified principles
Follow-up group reflections (practitioners)
7. Reflection of the ten principles
8. Further refinement of the wording
In a first focus group setting, we started off by discussing BPM as a holistic management
approach with the practitioners and academics to generate a joint understanding of the main
concept. We then asked each expert the open-ended question to individually identify up to
three principles that he or she deemed important for successful BPM and to write them down
on cards, so as not to bias ideas through discussions before-hand. We then went through all
the cards and discussed how to categorize them. During this process, we identified nine idea
categories for principles of good BPM.
In a second focus group setting, the academics formulated principles based on the identified
idea categories. To do so, we first defined a linguistic reference model, i.e. how the principles
should generally be formulated. We decided that the meaning of each principle should be
specified considering both positive and negative statements. This approach allowed us to
describe each principle in terms of its positive manifestation (i.e. a normative statement of
how the principle can be realized) as well as its antonym (i.e. a normative statement of how
the principle cannot be realized) (see Table 1). We then formulated principles for each idea
category. Finally, we refined the principles to ensure that their content was distinct from each
The identified principles were first fed back to the practitioners from the first focus group to
ask them for feedback. After revisions, we then included further practitioners (e.g., in
executive classes and executive consulting projects) in the discussion on potential
improvements regarding content or wording of the principles. Overall, more than 40
practitioners from around 10 European countries were involved at this particular stage of the
process. Feedback was largely positive, with suggestions mainly focusing on wording but not
on the content of the principles.
The principles solidify the state-of-the-art knowledge in BPM and, thus, may serve as a
reference for further development of the field. Considering these principles, BPM can provide
a solid set of capabilities essential to master contemporary and future challenges. For
research, these principles are critical to further shape BPM as a research domain and at the
same time prove its value for practice. Next, we present the principles in alphabetic order.
Each principle is discussed in terms of its definition, its coverage in BPM research and the
implications of adhering or not adhering to the principles in practice. While extant work in the
field has covered at least aspects of all of the principles, we outline multiple facets of each
principle and present a comprehensive overview of key guidelines to consider in BPM.
Description of positive manifestation (+) and antonym
Principle of Context
+ BPM should fit to the organizational context.
- It should not follow a cookbook approach.
Principle of Continuity
+ BPM should be a permanent practice.
- It should not be a one-off project.
Principle of Enablement
+ BPM should develop capabilities.
- It should not be limited to firefighting.
Principle of Holism
+ BPM should be inclusive in scope.
- It should not have an isolated focus.
+ BPM should be embedded in the organizational
- It should not be an ad-hoc responsibility.
Principle of Involvement
+ BPM should integrate all stakeholder groups.
- It should not neglect employee participation.
Principle of Joint
+ BPM should create shared meaning.
- It should not be the language of experts.
Principle of Purpose
+ BPM should contribute to strategic value creation.
- It should not be done for the sake of doing it.
Principle of Simplicity
+ BPM should be economical.
- It should not be over-engineered.
Principle of Technology
+ BPM should make opportune use of technology.
- It should not consider technology management as an
Table 1. Ten principles of good BPM
2.1. Principle of Context Awareness
Many BPM projects apply one and the same cookbook approach to all organizational
processes, which results in numerous project failures. Going beyond this narrow approach, the
principle of context-awareness points out that BPM requires consideration of the given
organizational setting. Context awareness involves a concern for factors that distinguish BPM
contexts between organizations, such as size, strategy, industry, market, and objectives of
BPM, and within organizations, such as types of processes or available resources. For
example, small companies may have less personnel resources for BPM governance than large
companies, while specific IT systems may not yield efficiency gains in all processes to the
The principle of context awareness is rooted in contingency theory (Donaldson, 2001).
According to this theory, organizational effectiveness is based on the fit between
organizational characteristics and contingencies, i.e. context factors. Therefore, the best way
to manage is context specific, which requires organizations to adapt to their given
contingencies. Accordingly, the principle of context awareness assumes that there is no
unique way of managing business processes. While our understanding of this principle refers
to the context-aware implementation of BPM (resp. management of processes), extant BPM
research has explored the adaptation of processes to their given context, most notably in the
areas of modeling context-aware processes (Ploesser and Recker, 2011; Rosemann et al.,
2008) or context-aware process mining (Günther et al., 2008).
In practice, most BPM programs still follow a one-size-fits-all approach that does not
distinguish between external or internal contingencies, and may thus lead to major setbacks
regarding the internal support for BPM in the organization. Difficulties that arise based on
such an approach and the related disappointments are likely to have a negative influence on
the perception of BPM. Therefore, BPM should be adapted to suit the existing circumstances.
It should fit the organization and, in particular, differentiate the management of business
processes according to the process nature, e.g. degree of automation, standardization,
2.2. Principle of Continuity
BPM is often introduced in an organization through short-term projects that aim to solve
specific inefficiencies. Yet, it is important to go beyond only achieving quick wins. The
principle of continuity stresses that BPM should be a permanent practice that facilitates
continuous gains in efficiency and effectiveness. Establishing a long-term BPM approach and
installing a process mindset sustainably is important in order to be able to leverage the
potential and the value of BPM.
While research found that BPM only leads to sustained competitive advantage if business
process are continuously improved (Trkman, 2010; Hammer, 2010), literature also
emphasized the benefits of radical redesign of organizations in one big bang (Hammer and
Champy, 1993). Acknowledging that such a huge overhaul is necessary at certain points in
time, researchers today agree that BPM goes beyond these single interventions. Today it is
well established that any isolated project – incremental or radical in scope – may lead to
certain gains, but it can at best create a temporary optimum that will soon lose ground, as the
economic environment and competition continue to evolve (Hammer, 2010).
In order for BPM not to be a one-off change project, it is important to establish a process
mindset (vom Brocke et al., 2010a). This can be done by creating and maintaining an
organizational culture that is supportive of BPM (Schmiedel et al., 2013). If BPM-facilitating
values become part of the organizational culture, BPM will be a natural part of daily work.
The internalization of these values can be stimulated by adapting communication, leadership
behaviors, reward structures and governance practices.
2.3. Principle of Enablement
Many organizations merely invest in BPM tools or consultants rather than in capabilities.
Thus, they are likely to acquire components that they may not really understand and may not
be capable of fully utilizing to achieve their process objectives. The principle of enablement
focuses on the need to develop individual and organizational BPM capabilities.
Extant research found that a broad range of personal competencies of key BPM employees
play a crucial role in actively developing organizational BPM capabilities (Müller et al.,
2013). Further, research examined how to assess which BPM capabilities are needed at which
stage and how to develop them (Plattfaut et al., 2011). Studies found that such questions
should be answered taking the maturity of the company into consideration (Škrinjar and
Trkman, 2013). In this regard, maturity models (Rosemann et al., 2006) offer a strong
possibility for identifying and evaluating required BPM capabilities.
Organizations which develop BPM capabilities, for example through considering BPM
competencies in staffing key BPM positions (Müller et al., 2013), prevent BPM from being
limited to firefighting, such as through the adoption of ad-hoc solutions from external
consultants. In fact, BPM should not only focus on building capabilities currently needed by
an organization but also on building dynamic capabilities needed for responding effectively to
future contingencies (Teece, 2009; Pavlou and El Sawy, 2011).
2.4. Principle of Holism
BPM projects often only focus on single organizational aspects, such as the operational
excellence of a single process, a single department, or for support processes only. Resulting
disappointments on the limited contribution of such projects call for the principle of holism,
which emphasizes the need for a holistic scope of BPM. Two dimensions can be
distinguished: first, BPM should not have an isolated focus on specific areas of an
organization, i.e. BPM should not be a project only in one or few departments but run
throughout the value chain. Second, BPM should not have an isolated focus on specific
aspects, i.e. BPM should not be solely conceived as a modeling exercise only but as a holistic
approach that comprises, for example, strategic, methodological, technical, and social aspects.
While the origins of BPM research focused on IT systems for process support and process
modeling (Jeston and Nelis, 2008), academics have, in recent years, become aware that BPM
requires a holistic understanding (Hammer, 2010; Harmon, 2010). Today, there is growing
consensus on factors to be considered in BPM (vom Brocke and Rosemann, 2013). For
example, the maturity model developed by de Bruin and Rosemann (2005) includes the
factors strategic alignment, governance, methods, IT, people, and culture. Other researchers
also called for the inclusion of such factors in a holistic BPM approach (Hammer, 2007;
Trkman, 2010; Willaert et al., 2007).
Still, starting with a more narrow/functional focus rather than with an enterprise-wide focus
can increase the initial BPM performance (Altinkemer et al., 2011). Nevertheless, even such
BPM initiatives need to consider the enterprise environment and the current and future
implications of the project. For instance, the choice of IT systems should not merely meet the
local requirements of one function but, rather, fit the organization. Organizations should, thus,
define an inclusive scope of BPM, integrating recognized BPM factors across the entire
2.5. Principle of Institutionalization
In many organizations, entrenched habits and adverse circumstances promote silo behavior,
preventing horizontal process thinking and acting. The principle of institutionalization calls
for embedding BPM in the organizational structure. The introduction of formal BPM roles
and responsibilities ensures that the “horizontal discipline” is given its due weight and that the
organization is rebalanced in favor of a more customer-centric, horizontal integration of work.
Researchers generally use the notion of business process governance to refer to the need to
institutionalize this horizontal thinking (Markus and Jacobson, 2010). The literature has
intensively discussed the trade-offs in finding the right balance between using institutional or
impersonal governance mechanisms (e.g. rules, formal roles and accountability structures)
and personal governance mechanisms (i.e. administered by individuals who may or may not
have formally designated accountability) to direct, coordinate and control process work end-
to-end (Galbraith, 1994).
To prevent BPM from being only an ad-hoc responsibility, the role of process owners with
real responsibility, accountability and authority is pivotal (Power, 2011). Also, many
organizations have found that a centralized BPM support organization (e.g. BPM Centre for
Excellence or BPM Office) can help raise the general level of process orientation (Rosemann,
2010). These support organizations typically use multi-dimensional BPM maturity
assessments to guide the journey towards becoming more process-oriented, however their
portfolio of service offerings may vary widely (Rosemann, 2010; Willaert et al., 2007).
2.6. Principle of Involvement
Organizational changes can be very threatening and often trigger employee resistance. The
principle of involvement stresses that all stakeholder groups who are affected by BPM should
be involved. Since introducing BPM typically means that many jobs change and many people
will be affected, the responsiveness of people and their true commitment toward the change is
critical to the success of BPM. The active involvement of employees fosters a true sense of
ownership and even increases organizational performance.
Studies found that organizations often attempt to limit stakeholder involvement by simply
gathering information through interviews and then having processes (re-) designed by a
dedicated team of experts (Rosemann, 2006b; Sarker and Sidorova, 2006). The (re-) design
process, however, is likely to be more important than the final design. Ideally, the design
process is a collaborative effort by group of actively involved stakeholders that represent the
voice of their peers and that act as “change agents” (Rosemann, 2006a). The broader group of
all stakeholders can be involved through mechanisms such as interactive feedback sessions,
idea boxes and collaborative process modeling.
In conclusion, BPM practice should not neglect the impact of employee participation. While
the active involvement of stakeholders can be costly, and the required effort can trigger
resistance, creating a sense of involvement will pay off in commitment, ownership, and
diminished levels of resistance. It will also create a feeling of being part of a bigger picture,
helping to make BPM “the way we do things around here”.
2.7. Principle of Joint Understanding
Many BPM projects split employees in that only few understand the process language that is
used. The principle of joint understanding draws attention to BPM as a mechanism to
introduce and sustain a common language allowing different stakeholders to view, frame and
analyze organizational systems. The embodiment of process thinking into an organizational
culture requires that ‘process’ is a term that is actively shared by all stakeholders. Ideally,
processes are part of all conversations, reflecting a shared understanding of processes and
ways in which their improvement can be sought.
In BPM terms, most attempts at creating joint understanding revolve around the use of
process models (Curtis et al., 1992). Typically, process modeling is performed with a view
towards using a common, often graphical language to describe, communicate and analyze
processes. Research has shown that it encourages users to conceptualize processes in terms of
events, tasks, actors and other notions (Recker et al., 2009). However, process models should
not remain complex artifacts that can only be comprehended by experts (Mendling et al.,
2012), but instead should aspire to be simple and intuitive.
This way, organizations can create shared meaning and a common understanding across all
stakeholders involved in business processes, independent of their expertise in process
modeling languages. Fortunately, several guidelines have been researched (Mendling et al.,
2010; La Rosa et al., 2011a; La Rosa et al., 2011b; Becker et al., 2000) that can help
organizations to use process modeling in simple, understandable ways to create shared
meaning – through reduction of complexity (Recker, 2013), coloring (Reijers et al., 2011a),
labeling (Mendling et al., 2010), modularization (Reijers et al., 2011b) and other mechanisms.
Still, often the question remains whether advanced and sophisticated process models using
advanced formalism are truly the language that the organization wants to speak to
communicate about their processes –research shows that novices, for instance, prefer talking
in terms of storyboards or even cartoons (Recker et al., 2012b).
2.8. Principle of Purpose
Following a BPM approach because it seems to be in vogue is likely to lead to project
failures. The principle of purpose highlights the role of BPM as a management method to
achieve organizational change and create value. It indicates the requirement of BPM to align
with a strategic mission and goals. While this principle is seemingly obvious, it is in practice
often forgotten. It is particularly important as it focuses on the ability of BPM to create
transparency about the business and the organizational system. Perusing this transparency
then helps to create and improve the value that can be generated within the organization.
In research, the principle of purpose is often equated with the notion of value-oriented BPM
(Franz and Kirchmer, 2012; vom Brocke et al., 2010b). It highlights that value creation can be
achieved by different mechanisms proffered by BPM and that the choice of mechanism
should be made in alignment with a strategic purpose, e.g. efficiency gains, compliance
enforcement, networking with business partners, or integration and agility. Case studies
demonstrate that the purpose of BPM can be manifold and that BPM has the potential to serve
many purposes (Bandara et al., 2010b), including green initiatives and sustainability
transformations (vom Brocke et al., 2012).
In practice, a common pitfall of BPM activities is overdoing some of the tasks (e.g. process
modeling) and forgetting the true purpose of the activity (e.g. creating a shared understanding
that allows process improvement opportunities to be revealed). Then BPM becomes l’Art
pour l’Art (Rosemann, 2006b): a self-absorbing exercise gaining and feeding off its own
momentum without fulfilling a larger and wider purpose. Failure to achieve a valuable
purpose, however, can lead to dissatisfaction – and eventually even discontinuance of BPM
(Nwabueze, 2012; Karim and Arif-Uz-Zaman, 2013).
2.9. Principle of Simplicity
BPM initiatives can easily be set up consuming enormous amounts of resources. The principle
of simplicity suggests that the amount of resources (e.g. effort, time, money) invested into
BPM should be economical. Focusing on simple solutions means balancing the inputs against
the output of more efficient and effective organizational processes. An organization should
carefully choose which processes require which level of attention from a strategic, technical,
staffing, etc. viewpoint.
As a research domain, BPM has evolved into a complex array of methodologies and practices
both from an IT and a business perspective without numerous guidelines on when and how to
best implement which of these (Rohloff, 2009). In addition to the multiple techniques
encompassed in BPM, its outcomes can be used for a variety of purposes such as for the
documentation and the improvement of business processes, for their compliance (with e.g.
Sarbanes-Oxley and Basel II), or for software selection, configuration and development
Since these developments add to the inherent complexity of managing business processes,
organizations should not develop a habit of over-engineering. In case of uncertainties about
which options to follow, the paraphrase of Occam’s razor can be helpful: one should not
increase, beyond what is necessary, the number and intensity of BPM-related projects and
activities required to realize efficient and effective business processes. Every company should
look for the simplest way to achieve its BPM-related goals.
2.10. Principle of Technology Appropriation
Countless IT solutions can be used to foster the efficiency and effectiveness of business
processes. The principle of technology appropriation emphasizes that BPM should make
opportune use of technology, particularly IT. For example, process re-engineering projects
have benefited tremendously from the introduction of enterprise systems. Continuous
improvement has gone mainstream thanks to the introduction of business intelligence
solutions. Today, predictions abound on the transformative power of new IT, like cloud,
mobile, social, big data and analytics technologies.
In research, the role of the IT resource in driving the progression of value creation with BPM
is well established (Davenport, 1993; van den Bergh and Viane, 2012; Mitchell and Zmud,
1999). Yet, serious issues with aligning business and IT management have existed for over 30
years (Luftman and Derksen, 2012). Despite these issues, research suggests that best-in-class
CIOs have realized that business and IT need to find better ways to realize enterprise value
together, rather than locally optimized solutions or functional value (Viaene et al., 2011).
While modern organizations are found to manage end-to-end processes rather than IT per se,
treating IT management as an after-thought when introducing IT into work environments may
seriously jeopardize the continuity, the growth, and the transformational capability of an
enterprise as a whole. The selection, adoption and exploitation of IT should be inherent in
BPM and managed from the point of view of supporting the enterprise, rather than single
departments or individuals. Fortunately, there are already organizations managing IT outside
of the business-IT duality.
The principles of good BPM are partially reflected in the state of the art research on how to
adopt BPM in practice. Based on our experience, we now introduce some fundamental
implications both for research and practice that are related to the principles. Further, we point
out some limitations and potential ways to overcome these in future research.
3.1. Informing BPM Practice through the Ten Principles
For practice, the ten principles provide normative statements on how to scope and implement
BPM as well as normative advice on what not to do. The condensed form of the statements
helps to better master the huge knowledge base on BPM available today. Managers can also
use the principles as a checklist in order to assure the appropriateness of their own BPM
approach. Thus, the principles serve both to coordinate internal initiatives as well as to
evaluate the offering of third parties, such as consultancy companies. As to the latter, the
principles can certainly help to further develop service offerings. That is, businesses can use
the principles to shape service offerings contributing to a wider service portfolio necessary for
BPM in an organization. Table 2 provides an overview of sample questions regarding each of
the principles that are aimed at guiding BPM practice.
Questions to guide BPM practice
- In what context is our BPM initiative set up?
- What factors characterize the context of application?
- What requirements can we derive from this context for the BPM
- How do we sustain a BPM initiative?
- How do we establish continuous improvement and innovation of
business processes in the long run?
- What is the overall agenda connecting different BPM projects?
- What measures have we taken to develop capabilities in BPM?
- Do we know what capabilities are needed in different areas of the
- How do we establish the required dynamic capabilities for BPM
- To what other business or management areas does our initiative
- Which of these areas need to be taken into account?
- What synergies can we leverage?
- Who takes ownership of BPM?
- Which organizational structure supports BPM?
- What are the incentives for our employees to engage in BPM?
- Which stakeholders are affected by a our BPM initiative?
- What are the specific preferences of these stakeholders?
- How can their perspectives be considered to increase support?
- What is a language all employees would understand?
- What are essential concepts relevant in different business areas?
- How can language gaps between different groups be bridged?
- What do we want to achieve with BPM?
- What alternatives do we have?
- How can we measure the gains of BPM?
- Which BPM activities should we focus on?
- How can we reduce effort in BPM?
- What would happen if we stop supporting certain BPM activities?
- Which technology is available to support a particular BPM purpose?
- How can we make sure the technology gets used in this specific
- How can we manage the organizational transformation that comes
with the use of a new technology?
Table 2. Sample questions to guide BPM practice
3.2. A Research Agenda based on the Ten Principles
For research, the principles effect a reflection on past and current BPM research and also
describe a roadmap with important areas requiring future research contributions. The
principles of context awareness and the principle of purpose, for instance, illustrate that BPM
needs to be sensitive to a wide range of both business contexts and strategic orientations. The
related research challenge is thus to examine how existing methods and tools need to be
chosen, extended or revised to incorporate the extended scope and application areas – be it to
be able to visualize relevant information for novel purposes such as the potential for
sustainability improvement in a process model (Recker et al., 2012a) or to examine how
process performance management can be applied successfully given contextual or strategic
contingencies (Blasini and Leist, 2013).
Principles such as enablement, institutionalization, involvement, and joint understanding, on
the other hand, emphasize the role of people in making BPM initiatives effective. These are
areas which have been widely neglected in previous research, and that need to be addressed in
much more detail and more expansively in the future. We provide a roadmap for future
research by identifying relevant research questions for each principle in Table 3.
Questions to guide BPM research
- Which typical context factors determine BPM approaches?
- Which BPM approaches are effective in specific contexts?
- How can context-suitable BPM approaches be determined?
- How can the progress of the BPM program be measured?
- How can BPM be realized as part of the organizational culture?
- How can employees be motivated to keep BPM alive?
- What specific organizational capabilities are required to realize BPM?
- How can these best be implemented?
- Which factors are necessary and which are sufficient for BPM
- What are measurement criteria for these factors?
- Which governance structures are most effective in BPM programs?
- What type of key performance indicators support BPM best?
- Does active involvement in process model creation change the use of
- What is the return on investment of involving vs. informing key
- Are process models a good mechanism to create joint understanding
between business and IT?
- Which elements of processes need to be understood?
- What are configuration mechanisms to tailor BPM depending on
- For which purposes should BPM not be applied?
- What are BPM failure factors?
- What is the tipping point for effort invested in BPM?
- Which BPM activities contribute most to value-creation?
- What are criteria to identify the appropriate BPM technology for a
- What is the value of using a certain BPM technology vs. another?
Table 3. Questions to guide BPM research
Both the scope and the realization of our paper are limited in a number of ways. First, our
paper presents a viewpoint that is informed by focus groups with academics and practitioners.
As such, this work should not be seen as final. Instead, we invite practitioners and academics
alike to apply, challenge and extend our viewpoint on BPM as a research domain. With our
ten principles of good BPM, we aim to provide a starting point to generate a joint
understanding of the BPM field.
Second, the ten principles may seem generic in the sense that they might also hold true for the
management of projects in general. They were, however, specifically derived for BPM: we
asked BPM experts for principles of good BPM. Also, we elaborate on each of the principles
from a dedicated BPM perspective. Nonetheless, we do acknowledge that some of the
identified principles might also apply to other management areas and wish to highlight that
this reflects our understanding of BPM as a management capability. Therefore, we
recommend that future research look into the applicability of the ten principles to other
Third, the tight relation between the principles leads to certain overlaps in their meaning for
the BPM domain. Nevertheless, each of the principles is, at its core, distinct from the others.
For example, the principle of continuity states that BPM should be a permanent practice. One
way to realize continuity may be to embed BPM in the organizational structure (principle of
institutionalization). While the two principles are closely related, their cores are distinct as
one emphasizes time (continuity) whereas the other emphasizes structure
(institutionalization). Similarly, each of the other principles draws attention to a specific and
distinct aspect of good BPM.
Finally, some principles might, at first sight, seem contradictory, like the principle of holism
and the principle of simplicity. Yet, a closer look shows that these principles are rather
complementary than contradictory. While the principle of holism calls for inclusiveness in
scope, the principle of simplicity recommends an economic way for such inclusiveness. In
other words, while BPM should not have an isolated focus, it does not mean all areas in the
organization need to necessarily receive the same level of attention from a strategic, technical,
cultural, etc. perspective. Nevertheless, future research should further examine the relations
between the identified principles.
In this viewpoint paper we have shared our view of ten principles for good BPM. We consider
these principles a starting point for an important discussion on further shaping the BPM
domain both in academia and practice. The foremost intention is to foster a joint
understanding of what BPM actually requires in order to be applied successfully, i.e. an
understanding of what characterizes BPM as a research domain and what guides its successful
use in organizational practice. We do not wish to argue that every single contribution needs to
cover the entire scope of the ten principles, but every initiative needs to consider its specific
contribution within the overall field of BPM. Our aim was to provide a starting point for such
a discussion in the BPM research community. In fact, the ten principles offer a framework to
conceptualize both current and future research in a critical way. For example, further analyses
may examine how much research has been conducted on which of the ten principles over the
past ten years, how far research strikes a balance in developing understanding on the positive
and the negative manifestations of the principles, and which principles are over-, which are
In deciding in which ways we can best act upon the principles of good BPM, knowledge
about the principles also must be considered in the shapes and formats of BPM teaching and
education. We need to update our curriculum according to recent developments in BPM.
Bergener et al. (2012), for instance, have analyzed BPM curricula and found that courses still
focus on methodological skills, in particular process modeling. Similar studies over recent
years echoed this sentiment and lament singular focus areas in BPM education (Bandara et
al., 2010a). In light of the ten principles, it remains to be asked whether our teaching provides
a comprehensive understanding of good BPM, or whether we only teach within our own
comfort zone of knowledge created through research. In more pointed terms, our principles
suggest that we need to stop teaching BPMN and labeling it BPM. It may well be important to
continue with the teaching of BPMN (Recker and Rosemann, 2009); however, within the
scope of teaching a “modeling notation” rather than BPM as such.
We elaborated on each principle and offered normative advice for their implementation in
BPM practice as well as suggestions for a roadmap for future BPM research. Yet, we do not
claim that our set of principles is complete. The list of ten principles is our interpretation of
several extremely important principles. In fact, we ask fellow researchers to challenge and
extend our view of these principles – we would indeed see this as a fruitful development of
the BPM research area to commonly transcend current boundaries in terms of richness and
reach. To this end, we have set up a website that provides interested BPM fellows the
opportunity to freely and openly contribute to the discussion and formation of the principles
(www.bpm-principles.org) and, ultimately, to progress in the field of BPM.
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