A Matrix for Context-Aware Business Process
Management: Empirical Evidence from Hilti
Jan vom Brocke1, Manuel Weber1, Thomas Grisold1
1 University of Liechtenstein, Fürst-Franz-Josef-Strasse, 9490 Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Abstract. We present a framework to classify business processes according to their con-
textual management requirements. Our framework results from a real-world project
with Hilti, a globally operating company. Following a design science research approach,
we identify two key dimensions to classify business processes: variability and frequency.
As these two dimensions are present to different degrees, we develop four context clus-
ters in which business processes can be organized: reliability, performance, agility, and
innovation. Our framework provides several implications for business process manage-
ment (BPM). It facilitates BPM approaches, which are sensitive towards contextual re-
quirements and thus, are more likely to be adopted successfully. Specifically, our BPM
Context Matrix can also be used to plan and scope the implementation of various digital
technologies to support and advance BPM in organizations.
Keywords: Business Process Management, Context-Aware BPM, Information
Technologies, Business Process Taxonomy, Process Mining, Robotic Process
Our case company, Hilti, is a globally operating company in the construction industry.
It develops products, software, and services for customers worldwide. Hilti has intro-
duced a process repository based on Microsoft (MS) Sharepoint. Like for many com-
panies, however, the adoption of such models as well as their maintenance has proven
challenging. Hilti decided to revisit their business process management (BPM) ap-
proach considering the state of the art in research. Hilti engaged with the ten princi-
ples of good BPM  and decided to develop a context-aware approach to manage
their business processes.
Context-awareness essentially states that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach for
the management of processes. This is because business processes have different func-
tions and thus, espouse different management requirements . There are numerous
Authors Version. Please cite as: vom Brocke, J., Weber, M., and Grisold, T. (2021). A Matrix for
Context-Aware Business Process Management: Empirical Evidence from Hilti, presented at the
19th International Conference on Business Process Management Conferences, Rome, Italy.
advantages to context-aware process management, such as increased process flexi-
bility, better decision-making, and better risk management [8, 25, 30].
We have engaged with Hilti on their journey of revising their global process manage-
ment system within a project called ‘GPMS next generation’. We present our ap-
proach in the following. The global rollout is planned for 2022.
2 Situation faced
2.1 Case Description
Hilti is a globally operating corporation specialized in construction tools and ser-
vices. Employing more than 30’000 people worldwide, the company develops prod-
ucts, services, and infrastructures, mostly in the B2B sector. The headquarters are lo-
cated in Schaan, Liechtenstein .
Hilti implemented a BPM approach many years ago. The founder, Martin Hilti, had
envisioned an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system long before this became the
standard . In 2018, Hilti has been awarded with the Global Awards for Excellence in
BPM & Workflow by the Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC) .
Besides a traditional functional organization, Hilti implemented a process organiza-
tion and allocated resources to business process management along the BPM lifecycle
. To this end, the company specified most of its 149 single processes.
The company currently uses a global process management system (GPMS). A pro-
cess repository based on MS Sharepoint is used for describing, designing, and dissem-
inating process models and information throughout the organization  and along
the whole BPM lifecycle .
2.2 Problems and Challenges in BPM
Despite the strong success of the existing BPM approach, it became apparent that
the existing GPMS is being used only to a limited extent. Most of the stored documents
have not been accessed or modified in the ways it was envisioned when introducing
the system. This entails the risk that processes are executed incorrectly, inadequately,
or in an uncoordinated manner as process descriptions might not be accessed or – if
accessed – might prove outdated. Furthermore, stakeholders reported that opera-
tional staff is seeking for additional process information but lack user experience in
finding useful information or documents in the current process repository (database).
Also, it was reported that the implemented software had been perceived as outdated
because it would not align with the expectations of a modern digital work experience.
This has led to a rather negative attitude of many employees towards the GPMS and
also the BPM approach as a whole. In summary, it can be said that the problem at
hand goes beyond merely technical issues. The main reason lies in the limited user
experience with the existing tool, which is based on a "simple" process repository that
does not account for various capability areas in BPM, such as governance, use of new
digital technologies, and new methods  along the whole BPM lifecycle .
Specifically, we identified the following problems:
• ‘One-size-fits-all’ approach: Most business processes are modeled, visual-
ized, and described in one and the same way, predominantly using traditional
modeling languages (e.g., BPMN). Different process requirements are hardly
or not at all considered in the modeling and description.
• Outdated information and low access rates: More than two-thirds of the doc-
uments containing useful insights were not uploaded or modified within the
last two years. Moreover, most of them are seldomly opened.
• No ‘single source of truth’: Some functional areas have implemented addi-
tional systems providing useful and valuable insights for users. Data is scat-
tered across various systems and repositories, increasing the risk of incon-
sistent process information.
• Missing functionality: The current GPMS is set up as a stand-alone repository
and has several shortcomings regarding its features and functionalities,
which are relevant for efficient process work.
These problems point to issues with respect to the existing BPM approach. To
solve these problems, the company recognized the need for a new approach to guide
their BPM initiatives. Given that processes have different contextual requirements,
we initiated a project where we explicitly accounted for context-awareness around
business process work.
2.3 Project Goal: Development of a Context-Aware BPM Approach
We decided to design a new BPM approach that is based on context-awareness.
Building on taxonomies that were developed to operationalize and measure the or-
ganizational context [30, 31], we set out to (1) pinpoint the relevant context at Hilti,
(2) identify project clusters, and (3) propose cluster-specific guidelines to manage the
processes. It has been decided to showcase and evaluate the approach focusing on
process descriptions (i.e., models, documentation, visualization) and the associated
process documents (e.g., attachments such as technical documentation, standard op-
erating procedures, manuals/instructions, forms, and templates).
To this end, we embraced context-aware process descriptions, which were not con-
sidered before. This means that processes can be described in different ways depend-
ing on their contextual requirements. Accordingly, processes are modeled, stored, and
represented differently unless they share very similar contextual needs. This approach
should also account for the fact that different stakeholders with different require-
ments access this application/platform to acquire existing or updated process
While working with the company on the context-aware process descriptions, it al-
ready became apparent that the context-aware approach would be of use beyond re-
vising the methods for process descriptions. The project team realized that context-
awareness affects the entire BPM approach. Using the BPM Billboard , we also in-
vestigated what management recommendations would apply in each of the clusters,
referring to the BPM capability areas [13, 26]. As one important outcome, the com-
pany envisioned that our approach can inform and guide the implementation of new
digital technologies; accordingly, we ensured that our approach can inform the selec-
tion of digital technologies, such as process mining and robotic process automation,
by accounting for the contextual needs of the processes.
3 Action taken
Our project has been following a design science research (DSR) approach ,
where we closely collaborate with process experts in the company to obtain first-hand
knowledge about contextual requirements . Following vom Brocke et al. , the key
motivation of any DSR-project is to generate design knowledge, which in our case was
design knowledge in the form of a new artifact: the BPM Context Matrix. In the fol-
lowing, we briefly outline the actions taken. More details regarding the methodologi-
cal procedure can be found in Weber et al. , vom Brocke et al. , and .
In 2019, we first developed a joint understanding of the problem together with the
management. We informally discussed the case with the Chief Information Officer
(CIO) as well as with the Head of Operational Excellence. We then presented our vision
of a next-generation BPM approach at the semi-annual meeting of all global process
owners (GPOs), who have strategic responsibility for individual processes or process
areas. We emphasized the principles of purpose, context-awareness, technology ap-
propriation, and simplicity [10, 12].
There was agreement that these four principles are important and should drive the
development of a new BPM approach. In addition, there was consensus that the key
to such a new approach is to detail to operationalize context-awareness. Once we
knew distinct types of contexts at Hilti, we could – for each context type – focus on
the purpose (and requirements), identify the most appropriate technology, and de-
liver the purpose in the most simple and effective way. Hence, we decided to empha-
size context-awareness within this project.
3.2 The Survey
In the next stage, we conducted a company-wide global survey in order to assess the
contextual factors of all business processes at Hilti. We approached Global Process
Owners (GPO), Global Process Managers (GPM), and Regional / Local Process Manag-
ers (R/LPM) of the case company: 42 process experts were asked to specify the pro-
cess(es) they are responsible for .
The survey was based on the contextual process dimensions as proposed by vom
Brocke et al. . We slightly adapted these dimensions and included additional factors
that were considered important by key informants in the organization: standardiza-
tion, creativity, variability, interdependence (human interaction, process steps),
3.3 Expert Workshops and Task Force
Subsequently, we conducted a workshop and several individual meetings with GPOs
and the CIO to make sense of the survey data. Three researchers from the University
of Liechtenstein and three employees from Hilti’s Department for Operational Excel-
lence formed the core team (the task force). We held weekly heads-up meetings as
well as topic-specific ad-hoc meetings and brainstorming sessions. The overarching
goal of this task force was to identify the needs underlying different process types,
understand the impact of different contextual factors, and jointly develop an overall
process approach that considers contextual factors and integrate them under one
overarching BPM approach.
Occasionally, we engaged operational clerks to obtain feedback on the usefulness
and limitations of our context-aware approach for specific business processes. The
results were then presented and discussed with the CIO/GPO community, which
formed the steering board for this project.
4 Results developed so far
4.1 Development of the BPM Context Matrix
The following Fig. 1 shows the (survey-)evaluation of the six process-dimensions
across all 41 main processes. The survey participants rated these contextual process-
dimensions using the 7-point Likert-scale. In specific, we see that each process has
different characteristics with regards to the context dimensions.
Fig. 1. Overview of the six dimensions among the analyzed processes.
We created a single figure for each process. This allowed us to find similar or iden-
tical properties across business processes with respect to these six dimensions. We
developed a spider diagram for each process showing how the respective process has
been evaluated according to all dimensions. We printed each spider diagram on a sep-
arate sheet and conducted a card-sorting exercise together with all GPOs at the
CIO/GPO meeting. Fig. 2 shows two randomly selected spider diagrams we printed for
the workshop. We asked the participants to form groups on the grounds of similar
spider diagrams. Importantly, we did not reveal the names of the processes (as this
would bias the perception of the process) but only numbers. We had four groups of
3-4 GPOs working in parallel, and we subsequently discussed the groupings they came
The card sorting exercise demonstrated the actual differences of processes regard-
ing contextual needs. At the same time, we recognized the potentials for grouping or
clustering the processes with respect to similar properties. Interestingly, while the
groups worked independently, they all converged towards similar groupings. We used
these groups, then, to find key dimensions, which would serve best to distinguish the
processes regarding the relevant context.
Fig. 2. Exemplary processes, evaluated using the six context process dimension 
Dimensions. Based on the groupings, we discussed which dimensions were most sali-
ent to distinguish process types. Together with the management of the company, we
agreed on two key dimensions: variability and frequency.
Variability is expressed as the degree to which a process can or should respond to
internal and external dynamics [15, 23]. We observed that some process groups need
variability (e.g., a R&D process, which differs according to the goal, timeline, and peo-
ple involved). Other processes such as those prevailing in Audit and Finance should
not be variable at all.
The second dimension, frequency, reflects how often the process is carried out .
We observed that some processes are performed often, and others are performed
once per month or year. Process executions are more similar when they often occur
. Audit and finance processes, for example, need to conform to some defined
standard in contrast to R&D processes, which by their nature tend to occur rather
rarely but usually deviate from detailed guidelines and standards.
Context clusters. By using a combination of two dimensions (variability and fre-
quency), we developed a 4-quadrant matrix. We refer to this as the BPM Context Ma-
trix. Each quadrant represents a process cluster that contains processes with compa-
rable characteristics (‘identical nature’) as well as the number of runs. We have as-
signed intuitive names to these process clusters (as shown in Fig. 3): Performance,
Innovation, Reliability, and Agility. In the following, we will exemplify our ideas, but
we would like to note that such processes occur in almost every organization.
Performance Cluster: Processes of high frequency and low variability. This cluster is
about processes which are performed very often (high frequency). Each performance
should be carried out in one pre-defined way (low variability). Consider a production
process. Ideally, the outcome of such a process is always the same, and the way of
production (production process) usually does not change.
Innovation Cluster: Processes of low frequency and high variability. Processes that
belong to the Innovation Cluster require a high degree of creativity . Much of what
happens in these processes cannot be anticipated or prescribed. These processes oc-
cur rather rarely (low frequency). However, if such innovation processes are executed,
they usually run differently after each iteration (high variability). An example of this is
the design of a new product or service, which usually involves a high degree of crea-
tivity. Since the outcome of such processes is usually uncertain and not clear in detail
from the beginning, they exhibit a high degree of variability. However, the frequency
with which such processes are performed is rather low.
Reliability Cluster: Processes of both low frequency and low variability. This cluster
is about processes which are performed very rarely (low frequency). When they are
performed, however, the execution should be more or less the same (low variability).
Consider the preparation of a tax return. This process is typically always structured in
the same way and is usually carried out once a year. Consistency and reliability are
key, not only for reasons of compliance but also to ensure that information is inte-
grated when it is needed. The preparation of a tax return can be mentioned here as
an example. Since tax returns usually have to be filed once a year (low frequency) and
are usually always done in the same way (low variability), this type of process can be
assigned to the Reliability Cluster.
Agility Cluster: Processes of both high frequency and high variability. In the Agility
Cluster, we find processes that run frequently (high frequency) and, at the same time,
exhibit a strong potential to deviate across process executions (high variability). We
assume that we often have to deal with complex issues in the Agility Cluster. One ex-
ample is the talent acquisition process. The way in which new employees are acquired
may be similar in its basic steps, but the exact implementation varies depending on
the applicant (the talent) and the open position.
Fig. 3. BPM Context Matrix.
Impact of process clusters. For each cluster, we identified the key challenges for man-
aging these processes. Thereby, we clarify what is most critical in both running and
managing processes as part of a specific context cluster. We then mapped our insights
against the BPM capability framework [13, 26]. Table 1 gives examples for all context
types and all capability areas. These preliminary results and insights were obtained
Low Variability High
Low Frequency High
through close collaboration between researchers and key stakeholders from the com-
Table 1. Description of the process cluster according to six core elements in BPM .
4.2 Adapting the Framework for the Selection of New Digital
Our BPM Context Matrix does not only enable the management of business processes
according to their contextual requirements. It can also inform and guide the selection
of relevant digital technologies, such as process mining and robotic process automa-
tion (RPA). Fig. 4. enlists requirements for digital technologies to ensure that the pro-
cess is running as desired. We assert that digital technologies need to fulfill different
functions and provide different affordances, depending on the contextual require-
ments of a respective business process. We sketch out implications for each cluster
PERFORMANCE AGILITY INNOVATION RELIABILITY
•Keep people motivated
•Manage efficiently and
the first time right
•Be sensitive and adaptive for
•Find innovative solutions to
largely unknown challenges
•Focus on effectiveness
•Ensure knowledge transfer
Improve by incorporating new
Orient towards efficiency
•Consider the number of
variants and the process time
Be aware of the uniqueness of
•Act result-oriented according
to measures like time, budget,
•Constantly monitor roles
•Reduce variability to a
•Question the status
•Involve experts and their
•Appoint expert groups
•Appoint a Center of
•Standardize process steps •Use decision models
•Deploy reference cases
•Apply a stage-gate and cook-
•Utilize best practices
whenever and wherever
•Deploy an event-based
•Deploy specific functional
•Deploy collaboration tools
•Apply and pursue a project
•Make use of workflows and
•Employ reliable and hard
Focus on continuous learning
•Apply an agile approach
•Set the focus on rapid
•Look for and encourage
•Enable and promote agile
•Enable and encourage “out-of
•Challenge existing processes
•Stick to the standard
•Establish a disciplined
•Enable a functioning and
•Give and receive feedback
•Commit to the extraordinary
•Establish an “Excellence
Fig. 4. Framework for the Selection of New Digital Technologies.
Performance Cluster: For this cluster, we envision IT-enabled automation of pro-
cesses in order to make processes more efficient and effective. Since these processes
occur very often, and given they are supported through multiple digital technologies,
we typically have extensive event logs. Hence, process mining is a suitable digital tech-
nology, which can be used to ensure conformance and efficiency . Furthermore,
robotic process automation can be useful to automate recurrent steps in the process
Innovation Cluster: We do not consider it necessary to document detailed steps of
a process belonging to the Innovation Cluster. This would also restrict the process us-
ers in their creative work. An example can be a product design process where design-
ers take new actions which respond to the specific needs of a given project . Sup-
port can be provided by means of project management or messaging systems, which
afford knowledge sharing and process transparency, as well as social media [24, 28]
and web-conferencing tools .
Reliability Cluster: For processes belonging to the Reliability Cluster, we see the ne-
cessity to provide the users or employees only relevant process information (as far as
its execution is concerned). The documentation should therefore be available in a
compact and easy-to-use form. Knowledge management systems or simple checklists
could be used to support the process stakeholders as effectively as possible.
Agility Cluster: For processes belonging to the Agility Cluster, we recommend man-
aging their complexity (especially the variability factor) to be able to intervene at an
early stage. This is because such complex processes are usually difficult to manage and
adapt once they have been started. Similar to the performance cluster, these pro-
cesses also occur very frequently (high frequency). Hence, process analytics methods
and tools can also be used here.
5 Lessons learned
Lesson Learned (1): The process experts in our case company reported that the es-
tablished and old approach was of limited use. Our BPM Context Matrix provides more
Automation Management Support System
•Automate the process
•Review and revise annually
•Document based on log data
•Apply workflow management systems
•Apply process analytical methods
Knowledge Management Support System
•Make use of check lists (“yellow pages”)
•Reduce to essential documentation
•Apply knowledge management systems
Project Management Support System
•Apply creative problem solving and
design methods as well as tools
•Document only on stages
•Apply project management systems
•Apply messaging systems
Complexity Management Support System
•Continuously measure process data
•Review and take measures
•Document two levels:
standard (constrains) and variability
•Apply process analytical methods
Low Variability High
Low Frequency High
support and acceptance within the company's internal BPM organization. They now
see the BPM Context Matrix (Fig. 3) as a map and guidance for their process modeling
activities. In addition, they use it as an internal tool to communicate, plan and coordi-
nate BPM initiatives.
It is important to note that our framework results from the work of a single com-
pany. Arguably, this limits the generalizability of our framework. However, after using
this framework in several other projects with different companies, we report that the
process clusters are suitable for many other organizations, too. This is because the
process clusters are organized in a way that any kind of business process can be as-
Lesson Learned (2): Digital technologies have been playing an important role for
BPM. They provide emerging opportunities to improve and innovate business process
work . It often seems that companies want to select digital technologies (such as
RPA or process mining) because they are popular. What is often overlooked is that
such technologies need to respond to the specific requirements of a process . Oth-
erwise, there is a high chance that these technologies fall into oblivion. Our framework
provides a pragmatic yet empirically grounded means to select and/or design digital
technologies that support business process work in the most suitable way. From this
point of view, our framework is not only helpful for the case presented herein but also
for any other organization which wants to capitalize on the potentials associated with
various digital technologies.
Lesson Learned (3): In the context of this university-industry project, we were able
to identify two motives for the implementation of a (new) context-aware BPM ap-
(3 a) Some companies are subject to external (international) standards. We strongly
advise that only those process events and issues should be included within process
models and descriptions, which are absolutely necessary. We advocate starting mod-
eling ‘minimally inversive’ processes, which are minimally viable for the time being
and meet the basic needs of all stakeholders. Hence, with this new BPM approach, we
want to promote an appropriate balance between the minimum requirements from a
regulatory perspective and the necessary requirements from a practical perspective.
(3 b) Although the advantages of such a context-aware BPM matrix outweigh the
disadvantages, this approach should only be seen as an offer for all process stakehold-
ers to align and coordinate their BPM initiatives and projects. Moreover, the process
stakeholders should only accept this new approach to model processes context-aware
if they can see a benefit in doing so. This also increases the acceptance of the involved
people of these conceived (context-aware) solutions and considerations.
This research has profited from funding provided by the European Union within the
Erasmus+ program [2019-1-LI01-KA203-000169], “BPM and Organizational Theory: An
Integrated Reference Curriculum Design”.
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