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Abstract and Figures

Business process management (BPM) drives corporate success through effective and efficient processes. In recent decades, knowledge has been accumulated regarding the identification, discovery, analysis , design, implementation, and monitoring of business processes. This includes methods and tools for tackling various kinds of process change such as continuous process improvement, process reengineering, process innovation, and process drift. However, exogenous shocks, which lead to unintentional and radical process change, have been neglected in BPM research although they severely affect an organization's context , strategy, and business processes. In this research note, we conceptualize the interplay of exogenous shocks and BPM in terms of the effects that such shocks can have on organizations' overall process performance over time. On this foundation, we identify related challenges and opportunities for BPM via several rounds of idea generation and consolidation within a diverse team of BPM scholars. We discuss our findings in light of extant literature from BPM and related disciplines, as well as present avenues for future (BPM) research to invigorate the academic discourse on the topic.
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Working Paper
Exogenous Shocks and Business Process Management:
A Scholars’ Perspective on Challenges and Opportunities
(Research Note)
by
Maximilian Röglinger1, Ralf Plattfaut², Vincent Borghoff², Georgi Kerpedzhiev³, Jörg Becker,
Daniel Beverungen, Jan vom Brocke, Amy Van Looy, Adela del Rio Ortega, Stefanie Rinderle-
Ma, Michael Rosemann1, Flavia Maria Santoro11, Peter Trkman12
1 (corresponding author) University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany Project Group
BISE of the Fraunhofer FIT, FIM Research Center
email: maximilian.roeglinger@fim-rc.de
2 South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences, Soest, Germany
3 University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany
European Research Center for Information Systems (ERCIS), University of Münster,
Münster, Germany
Paderborn University, Paderborn, Germany
University of Liechtenstein, Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Gent University, Gent, Belgium
University of Seville, Seville, Spain
University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
1 Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
11 State University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
12 University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia
December 2021
to be published in: Business & Information Systems Engineering
1
Abstract: Business process management (BPM) drives corporate success through effective and efficient
processes. In recent decades, knowledge has been accumulated regarding the identification, discovery, anal-
ysis, design, implementation, and monitoring of business processes. This includes methods and tools for
tackling various kinds of process change such as continuous process improvement, process reengineering,
process innovation, and process drift. However, exogenous shocks, which lead to unintentional and radical
process change, have been neglected in BPM research although they severely affect an organizations con-
text, strategy, and business processes. In this research note, we conceptualize the interplay of exogenous
shocks and BPM in terms of the effects that such shocks can have on organizations overall process perfor-
mance over time. On this foundation, we identify related challenges and opportunities for BPM via several
rounds of idea generation and consolidation within a diverse team of BPM scholars. We discuss our findings
in light of extant literature from BPM and related disciplines, as well as present avenues for future (BPM)
research to invigorate the academic discourse on the topic.
Keywords: Business Process Management, Exogenous Shocks, Challenges, Opportunities
1 Introduction
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our daily lives since early 2020. Apart from its medical implications
and humanitarian costs, the pandemic has had a profound effect on the global economy (Chakraborty and
Maity 2020). Organizations have experienced disruptive changes, not only regarding their internal opera-
tions but also their interactions with their environment. The pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in
employees working from home, hibernating organizations, the collapse of supply chains entailing the shut-
down of production facilities and stores, digital rather than paper sign-off procedures, and fast-tracked in-
novation and product go-lives (Guan et al. 2020; Gruszczynski 2020; Seetharaman 2020). This induced
dramatic changes in managerial and operational processes.
From an organizational perspective, the pandemic constitutes an exogenous shockan unanticipated, low-
likelihood event stemming from the external environment and entailing disruptive changes with potentially
existence-threatening consequences (Taleb 2010). Despite its severity, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the
only exogenous shock that organizations have had to tackle in recent years; for example, they also faced the
2008 global financial crisis (Roy and Kemme 2020), Brexit (Todd 2017), the US-China trade war (Thomas
et al. 2020), and the Fukushima nuclear disaster (Wakiyama et al. 2014). While not all exogenous shocks
have been, or will be, as severe as the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations will probably experience such
events more frequently since the economy is becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, ambigu-
ous, and hyperconnected (World Economic Forum 2016; Beverungen et al. 2020).
2
While the market-level effects of exogenous shocks have already been studied (Kilian 2008; Fridgen et al.
2015; Chakrabarti 2015; Li et al. 2016), we focus on their effects on individual organizations specifically
on business processes and business process management (BPM). As a corporate capability (Rosemann and
vom Brocke 2015), BPM drives intentional process change, particularly continuous process improvement
and business process reengineering (Hammer 2015). It also aims to enhance organizations’ ability to cope
with unintentional process change, both by preventing it through process compliance and by harnessing
positive effects in terms of positive deviance (König et al. 2018). Unintentional process change encompasses
process drift (Pentland et al. 2020; Beverungen 2014) and disruption (e.g., exogenous shocks) (Mendling et
al. 2020). Since the latter affects organizations more severely than other kinds of process change, it is highly
relevant to BPM researchers. Despite the presence of important works connected with crisis prevention and
management, including organizational resilience and high-reliability organizations (Antunes and Mourão
2011; Salovaara et al. 2019), the intersection of exogenous shocks and BPM is neither well understood, nor
do methods and tools for addressing associated challenges and opportunities exist. Against this backdrop,
this research explores the following research question: What challenges and opportunities exist for BPM
due to exogenous shocks?
To answer this research question, a diverse group of BPM scholars, each with close connections to industry
and BPM practice, joined forces and co-authored this research note. After developing a common conceptu-
alization of the interplay between BPM and exogenous shocks, we identified 24 challenges and opportuni-
ties for BPM structured according to the well-known six core elements of BPM (de Bruin and Rosemann
2007) through multiple rounds of idea generation and consolidation. We discuss these challenges and op-
portunities considering literature from BPM and disciplines related to crisis management. Our results aim
to foster the understanding of the interplay between exogenous shocks and BPM and to guide future BPM
research.
The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: In Section 2, we provide relevant background regarding
exogenous shocks and BPM. After outlining our research approach in Section 3, we conceptualize the in-
terplay of exogenous shocks and BPM in terms of their effects on overall process performance in Section 4.
Thereafter, we present the identified challenges and opportunities in Section 5. We discuss these findings
considering extant literature in Section 6 and call on the BPM community to address relevant research gaps.
We conclude in Section 7 with a summary of our work.
3
2 Background
2.1 Exogenous Shocks
Disciplines such as disaster risk science, supply chain management, finance, and economics have already
discussed exogenous shocks as well as various related terms. Shi (2019), for example, introduces a frame-
work for studying hazards, disasters, and risks that incorporates a temporal and a process perspective,
providing a comprehensive classification of natural or human-induced hazards (i.e., processes or phenomena
that may have negative impacts on the economy, society, and ecology) based on their causes and intensity.
Disasters, which are direct or indirect consequences of hazards, can lead to crises. Doern et al. (2019) char-
acterize crises as extreme, unexpected, and unpredictable events that create challenges for organizations and
require urgent responses. Such crises can be differentiated according to their origins, triggers, scale, and
impacts. Based on an extensive overview of the crisis literature, Kuipers and Welsh (2017) distinguish var-
ious crisis types (e.g., armed conflict, health, terrorism) and associated themes (e.g., risk, preparedness,
decision-making). They conclude that the crisis literature is mainly concerned with natural disasters, pre-
paredness as the predominant theme, and managerial actions to mitigate the negative effects of crises. Björck
(2016) consolidates existing crisis typologies based on dimensions such as predictability, controllability,
and impact. In line with the concepts just introduced, the term “exogenous shock” is also present in the
literature in multiple contexts: primarily economic, political, and financial.
Exogenous shocks have been defined by the International Monetary Fund as “sudden event[s] beyond the
control of the authorities that [have] a significant negative impact on the economy” (Geithner 2003, p. 4).
They conceptualize crises by emphasizing the external origin of the shock-generating event. A similar con-
cept is that of black swans, referring to highly improbable events with high impact (Taleb 2010). To the best
of our knowledge, there is no framework or typology unifying the above-mentioned terms. Rather, the con-
cepts used in the literature reflect subtle nuances concerning the exact nature of relevant events and organ-
izational responses.
Since there is no established understanding of exogenous shocks across disciplines, we define them as un-
anticipated, low-likelihood, potentially high-impact events originating from an organization’s environment
(Chakrabarti 2015). Thus, exogenous shocks pose risks (or opportunities) that cannot be fully predicted in
advance (Trkman and McCormack 2009). Their occurrence requires substantial organizational reorientation
(i.e., simultaneous and discontinuous shifts that transform structures, processes, and control mechanisms;
(Li and Tallman 2011). Even if organizations account for exogenous shocks, they may de-prioritize them in
their risk management strategies, as risks are usually managed based on multiplying their probability with
their expected magnitude of impact and individual exogenous shocks have very low likelihoods (Zsidisin
et al. 2004). In the long term, exogenous shocks may force organizations to realign their processes, struc-
tures, and strategies to fit the new environment shaped by the exogenous shock.
4
According to the literature, we posit that exogenous shocks may arise from events of diverse origins (e.g.,
natural disasters, political crises, healthcare crises, or military conflicts). Importantly, in this research note,
we view exogenous shocks from a single organization’s perspective. Thereby, we account for contextual
characteristics (Morgeson et al. 2015), meaning that the magnitude and direction of the impact of shock-
generating events depend on industry factors and organizational conditions (Li et al. 2017; Li and Tallman
2011). Events that constitute exogenous shocks for one organization or industry may be of marginal or no
importance for others. An example is China’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001, which
specifically led to a significant restructuring of the Portuguese footwear industry and constituted an external
shock for related organizations (Corbo et al. 2018). However, the same event may have been of marginal
importance for a German restaurant chain.
In terms of impact, events that constitute exogenous shocks according to our definition have been studied
in diverse fields (e.g., [macro-]economics, supply chain management, and information systems; (Fedoro-
wicz et al. 2004; Fridgen et al. 2015; Lyytinen and Newman 2008; Singh et al. 2020; Lee 2004). From an
economic standpoint, exogenous shocks may entail long- and short-term unfavorable internal conditions,
e.g., a loss of human capital causing the unavailability of productive skills or technical knowledge (Noy and
Nualsri 2007; Geithner 2003). Some effects of exogenous shocks may be permanent or long-lasting, while
others may be temporary. Furthermore, exogenous shocks can substantially impact an organization’s core
business or target markets, limiting its access to vital resources or its ability to pursue growth opportunities
(Chakrabarti 2015). Most often, an organization’s “old normal” business logic cannot be continued, and a
“new normal” must be established (Gersick 1991). Overall, exogenous shocks affect organizations by forc-
ing them to adapt their strategies, business models, structures, and business processes to react to changing
conditions and avoid extinction (Martins et al. 2015).
Next to the impact of exogenous shocks, there is ample research on preparing for, responding to, and recov-
ering from unfavorable conditions brought about by exogenous shocks. As the umbrella term, crisis (or
disaster) management reflects a continuous process that deals with decision-making, operational activities,
actors, and technologies along the three phases of a crisis/disaster (i.e., pre-crisis, crisis, and post-crisis)
(Lettieri et al. 2009; Khan et al. 2008; Pearson and Mitroff 1993). Thereby, mitigation and preparedness are
the main topics in the pre-crisis stage, disaster response in the crisis phase, and recovery as well as organi-
zational learning in the post-crisis phase (Lettieri et al. 2009; Bundy et al. 2017). In terms of preparedness,
organizations strive for resilience, which is a key concept referring to the maintenance of positive adjust-
ments under challenging conditions such that organizations emerge from those conditions strengthened and
more resourceful (Vogus and Sutcliffe 2007). Organizational resilience has been extensively studied from
multiple perspectives (i.e., capability, process, functional, results) (Chen et al. 2021; Hillmann and Guenther
2021). Examples include investigations on the relationship of resilience to concepts such as flexibility and
coping capacity (Karman 2020), defining resilience as an organizational meta-capability (Duchek 2020),
5
and creating conceptual frameworks for the establishment of resilience (Tasic et al. 2020; Kantur and İşeri-
Say 2012). As another key concept, high-reliability organizations have emerged as a research stream that
examines organizations successfully operating almost error-free even in hostile environments (Roberts
1990; Sutcliffe 2011). In this regard, the idea of collective mindfulness has emerged as heightened alertness
to changes/surprises which prioritizes safety over efficiency (Salovaara et al. 2019; Weick et al. 1999). In
terms of responding to disasters, business continuity management has been proposed as an approach to
identifying, managing, and mitigating risks that may disrupt essential processes and services (Gibb and
Buchanan 2006). Moreover, a disaster contingency plan is an essential part of a business continuity plan
and includes procedures to perform when disasters occur (Cerullo and Cerullo 2004). Crisis response has
also been studied from a human resource viewpoint, with strategic human resource development (HRD)
being proposed to enhance the operational capabilities during and capacity to learn after a crisis (Wang et
al. 2009). In the post-crisis phase, organizational learning has been investigated in terms of organizations
ability to derive insights from tackling disasters/crises (Broekema et al. 2017). Thereby, promoting organi-
zational learning also prior to and during crises has been shown to generate favorable effects in all stages of
crisis management (Wang 2008).
While the mentioned approaches do not fully cover the multi-faceted nature of research on crisis manage-
ment and related approaches, they provide an overview of important research streams related to organiza-
tions’ preparedness, response, and recovery from crises/disasters. Thus, they are also highly relevant in the
context of exogenous shocks as a specific form of crisis. We revisit the topics listed above in Section 6 when
discussing the implications of our results for BPM and related research areas.
2.2 Business Process Management and Process Change
BPM is the science and practice of overseeing how work is performed to ensure consistent outcomes and
capitalize on improvement opportunities (Dumas et al. 2018; van der Aalst 2013). It consolidates how to
best manage the (re-)design of individual business processes and how to develop a foundational capability
in organizations catering for a variety of purposes and contexts (vom Brocke and Rosemann 2015, p. viii).
BPM is commonly structured through capability frameworks that include capability areas conducive to es-
tablishing process orientation in organizations (Poeppelbuss et al. 2015; Rosemann and vom Brocke 2015;
van Looy 2020). One of the most widely adopted BPM capability frameworks is that of de Bruin and Rose-
mann (2007), which groups capability areas according to six core elements of BPMstrategic alignment,
governance, methods, information technology (IT), people, and culturethat have been extensively used in
BPM research (van Looy et al. 2017; Kerpedzhiev et al. 2020; vom Brocke and Mendling 2018). Table 1
provides brief definitions of these core elements, which we use to structure the challenges and opportunities
of exogenous shocks for BPM.
6
Table 1: Definitions of the six core elements of BPM (de Bruin and Rosemann 2007)
Core Element
Strategic Alignment
Governance
Methods
Information Technology
People
Culture
In the BPM context, exogenous shocks represent a specific form of process change. According to the BPM
literature, various types of process change can be distinguished based on dimensions such as intentionality,
frequency, scope, degree of change, duration, or performance effects (Grisold et al. 2019; König et al. 2018).
To differentiate exogenous shocks from other types of process change and to specify its effects on processes,
we focus on the intentionality and degree of change dimensions, perceiving process change as either inten-
tional or unintentional and as incremental or radical. Table 2 combines both dimensions and lists examples,
which have been studied to a varying extent in the literature.
Beginning with intentional change, business process reengineering is an example of radical change (Ham-
mer and Champy 2006), whereas continuous process improvement (e.g., lean management) implies incre-
mental change (Davenport 1997). The distinction between radical and incremental process change is also
considered in the literature on ambidextrous BPM in terms of process exploration (opportunity-driven, rad-
ical change) and exploitation (problem-driven, incremental change) (Rosemann 2014; Grisold et al. 2019).
Process drift, which is related to the gradual change of processes (van der Aalst et al. 2012; Pentland et al.
2020; Beverungen 2014), is an example of unintentional, incremental process change.
7
Table 2: Exemplary types of process change
Intentional
Unintentional
Incremental
continuous process
improvement
process drift
Radical
process reengineering,
process innovation
exogenous shock,
process disruption
In contrast to the other types of process change, unintentional radical process change, which could result
from an exogenous shock, has received little attention in BPM research. However, two important related
concepts established in BPM research are process resilience and agility (Chen et al. 2014; Antunes and
Mourão 2011; Rosemann 2020; Gilbert et al. 2012). Process resilience relates to flexibility-by-design (i.e.,
the ability to incorporate alternative execution paths and fast change ad-hoc at design time; Schonenberg et
al. 2008) and, thus, facilitates the organizations’ preparedness to address exogenous shocks. In contrast,
process agility is associated with flexibility-by-deviation, allowing organizations to quickly react to envi-
ronmental changes by deviating from prescribed process execution paths at runtime. Thus, both concepts
directly relate to the pre-shock and in-shock phase and are cognate with the concepts mentioned in Section
2.1. Further, BPM research has also addressed organizational learning and knowledge management (Shela-
gowski 2015; Jung et al. 2007; Choi et al. 2004). Despite their potential to support and enrich the knowledge
base regarding the handling of exogenous shocks throughout all phases, the mentioned concepts from the
BPM literature have not been investigated in relation to exogenous shocks yet. Therefore, we set out to
explore the intersection of BPM and exogenous shocks as a form of radical, unintentional process change
against the background of relevant concepts from related disciplines. While we do not claim exhaustiveness,
Table 3 provides a simplified overview of the discussed BPM concepts and those from Section 2.1 regarding
their primary relevance prior to, during, and in the aftermath of exogenous shocks. Thereby, an unambigu-
ous mapping of the concepts is unfeasible since they cover a wide spectrum of ideas, which normally has
implications for all phases.
Table 3: BPM and further concepts related to tackling exogenous shocks
Pre-shock phase
In-shock phase
Post-shock phase
BPM
research
process resilience;
flexibility-by-design
process agility;
flexibility-by-deviation
-
Related
research
organizational
resilience
business continuity;
disaster recovery
organizational learning
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3 Research Approach
To answer our research question, we followed a four-step research approach informed by the blueprint of
ranking-type Delphi studies (Dalkey and Helmer 1963; Paré et al. 2013): definition, brainstorming, valida-
tion, and discussion. Figure 1 provides an overview of the research approach.
Figure 1: Overview of the research approach
In the definition step, the initiating four co-authors of this paper (core team) conceptualized the interplay of
BPM and exogenous shocks (Section 4). This conceptualization served as a foundation for structuring the
subsequent steps. The core team then invited senior BPM scholars, all of whom have close connections with
industry, to contribute to the identification of challenges and opportunities for BPM in the context of exog-
enous shocks and asked them to join the author team. Following Olbrich et al. (2015) as well as established
expert selection criteria for Delphi studies (Okoli and Pawlowski 2004), we ensured diversity in terms of
geographical activity, gender, and technology/management focus. With this, we aimed at achieving as com-
prehensive a perspective of the impact of exogenous shocks as possible.
In the brainstorming step, the author team engaged in several rounds of idea generation and consolidation.
Based on an initial exchange, all scholars individually brainstormed challenges and opportunities for BPM
due to exogenous shocks as is typical in the related phases of Delphi studies (Paré et al. 2013). Thereby,
they drew on their observations of how organizations had reacted to exogenous shocks in the past. To struc-
ture their input and the overall results, we used the six core elements of BPM introduced in Section 2 and
the phase model presented in Section 4. The brainstorming resulted in an initial list of 111 challenges and
opportunities. The core team consolidated the input following a consensus-oriented interpretivist paradigm
promoted by the diversity of viewpoints on BPM. This approach follows an established epistemic theory of
truth (Becker and Niehaves 2007). The core team members read the full lists and clustered the input using
open coding (Glaser 1978; Strauss and Corbin 1991). To offset potential bias, the core team paid particular
9
attention to avoiding challenges and opportunities that only related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was
omnipresent when this research was conducted. This procedure was repeated two times until consensus was
reached (Butler 1998). This resulted in 38 preliminary challenges and opportunities.
In the validation step, all co-authors reviewed the consolidated list to ensure that their individual input had
been appropriately incorporated and that the identified challenges and opportunities were consistent in terms
of content and concept. They also provided feedback on the consolidated list, which was then incorporated
by the core team. This step resulted in 24 challenges and opportunities for BPM, which are presented in
Section 5. Since the author team agreed to include only those two challenges and two opportunities per core
element of BPM in the results that are reflected the most in the input of all co-authors, we do not claim that
our results are exhaustive. Rather, we see them as “food for thought” and stimuli for future research.
Finally, in the discussion step, the identified challenges and opportunities were discussed against existing
literature from BPM and other domains, predominantly getting back to concepts from Section 2. The idea
was to identify relationships, under- and un-explored topics as well as potential avenues for future research.
The results of the discussion are presented in Section 6.
4 Interplay of BPM and Exogenous Shocks
While intentional process change typically leads to positive performance effects, exogenous shocks com-
monly have adverse effects on process performance, which in turn is an important driver of organizational
performance (Hammer 2015; Lehnert et al. 2016). As pointed out in Section 2.1, the magnitude of such
effects depends on the nature of the shock-generating event as well as on industrial and organizational con-
ditions. Hence, the impact of exogenous shocks needs to be contextualized (vom Brocke et al. 2015).
Due to their unexpected nature and adverse effects, exogenous shocks are notorious for their potential to
disrupt business processes and their possibly existence-threatening consequences for organizations. In the
following, we conceptualize the effects of exogenous shocks on organizations overall process performance.
We cross-referenced these effects with extant literature on disaster and crisis management and related phases
(Section 2.1). Transferred to the context of exogenous shocks, the pre-shock phase usually involves prepar-
atory activities, the in-shock phase encompasses the direct impact of and response to exogenous shocks, and
the post-shock phase comprises recovery activities. Figure 2 shows the potential courses of an organizations
overall process performance in response to an exogenous shock, ranging from one steady state (with limited
volatility and possibly drift under control) before the occurrence of an external shock (old normal) to
another steady state (with limited volatility and maybe a positive or negative controlled drift) after the or-
ganization has adapted to the post-shock environment (new normal). In line with the literature on crisis
management and discussions within the author team, we distinguish five phases (I to V) with distinct effects
on process performance, which we present below.
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Figure 2: Potential effects of exogenous shocks on organizations’ overall process performance
Exogenous shocks impact business processes in two ways: First, they occur unexpectedly and disrupt or-
ganizations external environments, thereby creating also internal uncertainty that renders the pre-shock (I)
business processes and ongoing change initiatives (e.g., process improvement roadmaps) inadequate. Hence,
exogenous shocks impact overall process performance negatively in the pre-shock-in-shock transition phase
(II) and may even drive organizations out of existence. In some cases, exogenous shocks can have a positive
demand-side effect for some organizations (i.e., as for video conferencing providers during the COVID-19
pandemic). Nevertheless, overall process performance is still likely to suffer due to limited capacity or
longer lead times. Second, as organizations begin to reconfigure their business processes to respond to the
conditions caused by the shock, they experience highly volatile process performance due to great uncertainty
and the internal disordering of processes in the in-shock phase (III). In this phase, exogenous shocks can
create aftershocks, cycling between the two aforementioned effects (e.g., the following waves of the
COVID-19 pandemic). However, with decreasing volatility and increasing adaptation to the new environ-
ment, organizations regain overall process performance as they transition from the in-shock to a post-shock
phase (IV). This transition needs not to be continuous. Rather, organizations may leapfrog to the post-
shock phase (V), if they substantially change their processes or successfully launch process, business model,
or product innovations. An organizations process performance in the post-shock phase (V) may be lower
than, equal to, or higher than that in the pre-shock phase, depending on contextual and organization-specific
factors (e.g., the availability of a recovery stimulus package, the capability to adapt business models to new
11
external conditions, or the market entry of new competitors during the shock). Notably, phases I to V can
vary in length according to the nature of the exogenous shock and the organization’s specific context.
BPM can contribute to mitigating the adverse effects of exogenous shocks in multiple ways. First, it can
help reduce the initial drop in process performance in the pre-shockin-shock-transition phase (II). Second,
it can reduce the volatility of process performance in the in-shock phase and shorten the duration of both
the in-shock phase (III) and the in-shock-post-shock transition phase (IV). Finally, BPM can help ensure
that process performance in the post-shock phase (V) stabilizes at a higher level than that of the pre-shock
phase (bounce forward) and to prevent stabilization at a lower level (bounce back). Thus, BPM can
simultaneously contribute and benefit from approaches related to organizations’ preparedness (e.g., resili-
ence), response (e.g., business continuity, disaster recovery), and dealing with the aftermath of exogenous
shocks (e.g., organizational learning) to mitigate and possibly capitalize on the effects of exogenous shocks.
We refer to the phases just introduced when elaborating on the challenges and opportunities in the following
Section 5.
5 Challenges and Opportunities for BPM
In line with our research approach, we compiled challenges and opportunities of exogenous shocks for BPM
(
Table 4), which we structure and present following the six core elements of BPM. When presenting the
challenges and opportunities, we also refer to the phases introduced in Section 4. We added examples from
diverse contexts to make the challenges and opportunities tangible.
5.1 Strategic Alignment
Owing to exogenous shocks, the alignment between business processes and BPM capability, on the one
hand, and organizational strategy, on the other, becomes strained. Exogenous shocks can render existing
strategies obsolete and enforce an adaptation of business models and processes; for instance, the COVID-
19 pandemic has caused educational institutions to quickly adopt online platforms and come up with new
educational offerings (Seetharaman 2020). Organizations have different priorities regarding their objectives
in the pre-shock (I), in-shock (III), and post-shock (V) phases, but existing processes typically no longer
meet the right business objectives. Moreover, since exogenous shocks can render organizational strategy
12
obsolete, both process and BPM objectives must be scrutinized. Building on these observations, we propose
two challenges and opportunities for BPM.
Table 4: Challenges and opportunities of exogenous shocks for BPM
Core Element
Challenges
Opportunities
Strategic
Alignment
C1. Sudden obsolescence of organizational strategy
and uncertainty regarding the permanence of
changes
C2. Enforced reprioritization of business process
improvement efforts
O1. Need for novel (potentially process-based) value
propositions and radical improvement of
existing business processes
O2. Improvement of process-enabled shock
resilience
Governance
C3. Sudden inadequacy of existing BPM and process
governance setups
C4. Need for fast switches between different
governance modes
O3. Development of robust, multi-context BPM and
process governance
O4. Potential to instill process-oriented governance
in an organizations DNA
Methods
C5. Lack of agile process (re)design methods
C6. Inadequacy of existing process roll-out and
change management methods
O5. Development of simplified and resilient
business processes
O6. Insights into the vulnerability of business
processes
Information
Technology
C7. Absence of scalable and remotely available
process management tools
C8. Obsolescence of existing process monitoring
setups
O7. Adoption of lightweight process automation, de-
ployment, and experimentation techniques
O8. Increased transparency through increased
digitalization
People
C9. Absence of scalable process training concepts
C10. High individual stress owing to misaligned
business processes, reset of experience curve
effects, and communication overload
O9. Scaling of organization-wide process thinking
and digital literacy
O10. Leveraging the creative potential of employees
for process improvement
Culture
C11. Potential deprioritization of customer orientation
at the expense of internal shock management
C12. Necessity to effectively unlearn existing
business processes
O11. Utilization of the shock experience as a
foundation for future radical process changes
O12. Transition toward a results-oriented culture of
trust with improved worklife balance
C1: Sudden obsolescence of organizational strategy and uncertainty regarding the permanence
of changes. BPM needs to support the fast switch between pre-shock (I), in-shock (III), and post-
shock (V) strategies. Following the arguments in Section 4, BPM can help in identifying those process
and strategic elements that can stay as-is, mitigating the negative effects on process performance. Hence,
BPM needs to support dynamic strategic realignment, since there may be no consistent in-shock strategy
and contexts may change rapidly within and outside organizations. Moreover, in the in-shock
13
phase (III), BPM needs to support the identification of permanent and temporary changes to allow or-
ganizations to appropriately respond to the shock on the operational and strategic levels.
C2: Enforced reprioritization of business process improvement efforts. In the event of an exoge-
nous shock, organizations may need to cancel or postpone greenlighted process improvement initiatives
in the in-shock phase (III). BPM should therefore equip process managers with instruments to differen-
tiate must-do projects from those that have been rendered obsolete or have lost their strategic fit. More-
over, it is vital to identify projects that should be initiated or continued even in the in-shock phase (III).
O1: Need for novel (potentially process-based) value propositions and radical improvement of
existing business processes. BPM should not only help to operationalize organizational strategies, but
also actively shape them. BPM professionals can use their process and domain knowledge to design
novel process-based value propositions in both the in-shock (III) and post-shock (V) phases. Based on
this foundation, they can design strategies that improve the strategic alignment of business processes
and BPM and support the organization in tapping into new revenue pools.
O2: Improvement of process-enabled shock resilience. BPM should drive organizational resilience.
Resilient organizations depend on resilient business processes (i.e., processes designed with alternative
execution paths or sufficient degrees of freedom for dynamic adaptation at runtime). Such organizations
have low latency in response to shocks since processes either do not need to be redesigned at all or only
require partial redesign.
5.2 Governance
After an exogenous shock (i.e., beginning with the pre-shockin-shock transition [II]), existing decision-
making processes and authorities are confronted with highly uncertain and volatile environmental condi-
tions, which nevertheless require fast and concerted action. An extreme example is the Fukushima nuclear
disaster in 2011, which required urgent decisions with enormous consequences in a highly uncertain envi-
ronment (Travadel 2017). In such situations, established roles change due to the need for rapid process
adaption, and process performance indicators lose their relevance or become ineffective in the in-shock
phase (III). This poses challenges and opportunities for BPM practitioners.
C3: Sudden inadequacy of existing BPM and process governance setups. Established and com-
monly applied governance mechanisms are not practical during the pre-shockin-shock transition (II)
and in-shock (III) phases. This is for two reasons: First, the focus of interest and related business objec-
tives change in the event of exogenous shocks. Second, data collection for key performance indicators
becomes more challenging, especially when underlying information systems are not process-aware.
Moreover, many routine processes become ineffective, making it challenging to ensure compliance be-
cause reference points in terms of to-be processes are no longer available.
14
C4: Need for fast switches between different governance modes. The use of a proprietary governance
mode in the in-shock phase (III) can contribute to maintaining the pre-shock level or at least mitigating
decreases in process performance. In the sense of process continuity, organizations need plans for the
temporary and permanent simplification of governance processes. Such simplification includes roles,
responsibilities, and methods that replace existing approaches in the in-shock phase (III). One example
is the International Red Cross/Red Crescent movement, which, in the case of a disaster, switches gov-
ernance structures to a crisis mode to establish working processes where relief is needed (Peterken and
Bandara 2015). The challenge here is to incorporate the possibility of a targeted switch back to the old
normal state (if the expected shock does not materialize or is not long-lasting) or the transition to an
improved new normal state (IV/V).
O3: Development of robust, multi-context BPM and process governance. In the event of exogenous
shocks, intentional process change increasingly takes place in ad hoc and bottom-up initiatives, which
need to be managed through lightweight and adaptive governance setups. As discussed, the need for
such setups is magnified by exogenous shocks because the increased speed and extent of process change
can lead to misinformation and confusion. By contextualizing and synchronizing decentral ad-hoc
changes, BPM can implement both robust and multi-context BPM and process governance.
O4: Potential to instill process-oriented governance in an organizations DNA. The implemen-
tation of new governance setups may facilitate transformation toward a truly process-oriented organi-
zation. Currently, many organizations feature BPM roles and responsibilities that are formally described
but not anchored in the organizations (e.g., process owners without any decision-making rights or
budgets). Exogenous shocks can help BPM practitioners to implement truly process-oriented govern-
ance structures.
5.3 Methods
Organizations do not normally rely on dedicated methods when reacting to exogenous shocks. Rather, they
try to find ad-hoc solutions for upcoming problems. This was partially the case in several of the major space
shuttle disasters NASA faced, in the wake of which the agency embraced some new safety procedures
(Donahue and O'Leary 2012). However, ad-hoc solutions are not the product of properly managed projects
but of taskforces solely focused on an organizations survival (e.g., aimed at reducing the initial drop in
performance brought about by the shock [II]). Thus, exogenous shocks present challenges and opportunities
for organizations from a BPM methods perspective.
C5: Lack of agile process (re)design methods. Exogenous shocks call for agile process (re)design
methods. Organizations that use such methods can reduce initial performance decreases and recover
more quickly (II/IV). This is true because BPM typically works in a deductive wayfrom symptoms
15
(i.e., process inefficiencies) to solutions (i.e., optimized processes) based on existing frameworks (e.g.,
process improvement patterns). Since inductive process optimization (e.g., based on process mining)
does not work well in the event of exogenous shocks, abductive process (re)design methods are needed.
Such methods contribute to better process design based on the changing environment without relying
on existing frameworks (deduction) or vast data sets (induction).
C6: Inadequacy of existing process roll-out and change management methods. It is not only crucial
for organizations to identify viable process configurations for the in-shock (III) and post-shock (V)
phases, but also to implement them. Standard processes originally stemming from the pre-shock phase
(I) may additionally need to be split into multiple process variants. Thus, methods such as the rapid
prototyping of several process variants in combination with strong change management capabilities are
needed to speed up the recovery (IV) from exogenous shocks.
O5: Development of simplified and resilient business processes. Organizations are rarely prepared
to face exogenous shocks through shock-resistant and possibly simple process designs. While some
organizations may not need to change processes that are flexible enough, for others, exogenous shocks
present an opportunity to simplify historically developed processes and, where possible, improve pro-
cess resilience as well as process performance in the post-shock phase (V).
O6: Insights into the vulnerability of business processes. Especially organizations with resilient pro-
cesses already have deep insights into related process vulnerabilities. They can easily switch from a
normal mode to a shock mode with minimal impact on in-shock (III) process performance. Organ-
izations that rely on agile process change benefit from prior insights into vulnerabilities, since they
allow for a rapid focus on critical processes during the in-shock phase (III).
5.4 Information Technology
Information technology (IT) that supports process execution can contribute to or impede process agility and
resilience; for example, GeoWeb technologies have been used by various organizations to help deploy emer-
gency-related Web applications for visualizing the impact of natural disasters such as hurricanes and wide-
spread fires (Roche et al. 2013). Process change implies changes in information systems, which can be
achieved through process-aware technology or large-scale IT change. BPM-related information systems
commonly used to support the design, modeling, or monitoring are only partially useful in the in-shock
phase (III); therefore, BPM is facing the following challenges and opportunities.
C7: Absence of scalable and remotely available process management tools. Regarding process de-
sign and modeling, tools can only be used if they are widely (in the case of COVID-19, remotely)
available. For instance, it is possible that organizations lacking cloud solutions with scalable license
16
models will be unable to make use of their design tools when adapting to a new normal (VI). Such
tools can be used in the in-shock phase (III) only if knowledge about them is broadly available.
C8: Obsolescence of existing process monitoring setups. Information systems for monitoring and
controlling business processes need to be adapted quickly. Control mechanisms that rely on experience
become worthless if the experience does not match the new in-shock/post-shock reality (III/V); hence,
organizations need to quickly adapt their process monitoring tools.
O7: Adoption of lightweight process automation, deployment, and experimentation techniques.
Hard-wired business processes in heavyweight IT are challenged by the rapid changes induced by ex-
ogenous shocks. Organizations that rely on adaptive process-aware information systems can experiment
with new process designs and deploy them quickly into production. Moreover, lightweight solutions,
such as Robotic Process Automation or pre-configured chatbots, can enable the fast scaling of new
processes and, hence, help in coping with shocks (III/VI).
O8: Increased transparency through increased digitalization. Especially regarding the COVID-19
pandemic, which required substantial remote work and customer interaction, there was an increased
effort to digitalize transactions between users and employees. Organizations can leverage these ad-
vances to accelerate process digitalization; for example, by using data-driven process technology to
quickly improve in-shock processes and achieve or even surpass pre-shock performance (IV/V).
5.5 People
Exogenous shocks are not only a challenge to organizations at large but also to process participants (includ-
ing process managers); for instance, human resources managers of companies affected by the attacks of
September 11, 2001, had to make potentially existence-threatening decisions regarding moving work loca-
tions and/or hiring additional staff to ensure stable operations (Sayegh et al. 2004). In such cases, people
need to rapidly find and sustain new ways of working, which places employees under pressure, since training
for and during exogenous shocks is often not possible. Thus, exogenous shocks present BPM with chal-
lenges and opportunities from a people-oriented perspective.
C9: Absence of scalable process training concepts. In many organizations, BPM skills tend to be
centralized (e.g., in process centers of excellence), but to cope with shocks, BPM skills need to be
distributed across organizations and process change needs to be empowered (Kaplan et al. 2020). More-
over, the implementation of new processes requires employees to acquire new skills and adapt to chang-
ing roles. Accordingly, providing continuous and comprehensive process guidance that enables process
participants to quickly adapt to new or changed processes in the in-shock and post-shock (III/V) phases
is challenging.
17
C10: High individual stress owing to misaligned business processes, reset of experience curve ef-
fects, and communication overload. Especially in an environment of decentralized process change,
interfaces between processes may be misaligned; hence, leadership needs to reduce individuals job
strain when processes do not work seamlessly in the in-shock and post-shock (III/V) phases. Particularly
when transitioning to the post-shock phase (IV), organizations should employ change management ini-
tiatives to ensure that people do not revert to old habits. Only then can organizations reach higher levels
of performance after the shock than before the shock (V).
O9: Scaling of organization-wide process thinking and digital literacy. BPM practitioners have an
opportunity to increase the digital literacy of employees due to the wider adoption of digital technologies
and process-aware information systems. This unprecedented openness toward (emerging) digital tech-
nologies and the acquired literacy can catalyze further process digitalization after a shock (V).
O10: Leveraging the creative potential of employees for process improvement. In response to ex-
ogenous shocks, organizations have a unique opportunity to harvest the creative potential of employees
for improving their business processes. Employees efforts to make things work in the in-shock phase
(III) and the corresponding potential for positive deviance can be disseminated within organizations.
5.6 Culture
Organizational and BPM culture becomes strained by an exogenous shock. For instance, the fundamental
shift in the smartphone market due to the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 caused widespread fear and a
disconnect between top and middle management at Nokia (Vuori and Huy 2016). A culture of high com-
mitment to existing but obsolete objectives may cause problems if an exogenous shock occurs, while com-
mitment to measures for coping with the shock is important; hence, BPM practitioners face challenges and
opportunities regarding BPM culture.
C11: Potential deprioritization of customer orientation at the expense of internal shock manage-
ment. When organizations focus too greatly on securing their own survival in the in-shock phase (III),
interactions with partners and especially customers may suffer. In this regard, a BPM culture dedicated
to customer orientation is highly desirable. Organizations need to ensure that the deprioritization of
customer orientation if needed at all is a temporary and conscious decision.
C12: Necessity to effectively unlearn existing business processes. Process change can benefit from a
healthy level of process commitment and the corresponding ability to unlearn past routines during a
shock (III). However, process commitment should not focus only on as-is processes, but also on achiev-
ing overall process goals. In times of exogenous shocks (II/III), an overcommitment to, and reliance on,
existing processes may prove to be a liability for organizations by causing a sharp decrease in process
performance and, potentially, leading to the demise of the organizations.
18
O11: Utilization of the shock experience as a foundation for future radical process changes. From
a cultural perspective, an exogenous shock might be a good burning platform for future radical pro-
cess change. Based on previously experienced exogenous shocks, process managers can refer to changes
made because of the shock whenever the feasibility of future process changes is challenged in the post-
shock phase (V).
O12: Transition toward a results-oriented culture of trust with improved worklife balance. Dur-
ing the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations had an opportunity to change from an attendance-oriented
culture toward a results-oriented culture. While such transitions pose challenges for both line and pro-
cess managers in leading people, they also provide opportunities to explore new and hopefully better
ways of working with an improved worklife balance (e.g., working from home).
6 Discussion
We now discuss the identified challenges and opportunities against the literature from BPM and related
domains. Thereby, we point to opportunities for advancing both BPM research and research related to the
management of exogenous shocks as well as their symbiotic relationship. We specifically get back to cor-
responding concepts introduced in Section 2. Just like the challenges and opportunities, this section is struc-
tured according to the six core elements of BPM.
6.1 Strategic Alignment
As for the core element strategic alignment, BPM has the potential to complement organizational resilience
through a process-based approach (O2). Some research initiatives already aim at investigating the connec-
tion between resilience and information systems in general (Müller et al. 2013) with the intersection of BPM
and resilience also being explored (Zahoransky et al. 2015; Antunes and Mourão 2011). BPM research
should build on such works to establish guidance regarding the identification and assessment of critical
processes in line with corporate strategy, which should be resilient to sustain essential organizational func-
tions in the event of exogenous shocks. In this regard, examining established approaches related to process
prioritization can be very valuable in determining processes’ criticality both individually and based on their
interconnectedness (Lehnert et al. 2018; Kreuzer et al. 2020).
In the wake of exogenous shocks, established business strategies and processes can become obsolete (C1).
Hence, organizations may need to re-evaluate the maturity of their BPM capabilities. Building upon prior
publications (e.g., Poeppelbuss et al. 2015), BPM research should guide organizations in developing capa-
bilities to achieve a new BPM/strategy fit. Moreover, organizations experience dysfunctional processes and
must balance between a swift recovery of core processes and the development of long-term process im-
provement strategies to address the medium- and long-term impact of shocks. The magnitude of shock ef-
fects across all phases is an important context factor for prioritizing process improvement initiatives (C2).
19
Therefore, research on process performance metrics should be geared toward exogenous shocks and reflect
strategic priorities (van Looy and Shafagatova 2016; Estrada-Torres et al. 2019). Moreover, BPM research
should help organizations explore value propositions that fit the “new normal” (O1) in the post-shock phase.
Related approaches may build on existing process-led value propositions (e.g., Johannsen 2018) as well as
on findings from explorative BPM to guide the derivation of new value propositions (Grisold et al. 2021).
6.2 Governance
Our results have several implications from a governance perspective. To begin with, exogenous shocks
require switching between context-sensitive governance models that consider external and internal factors
(C4, O3). As outlined in Section 2, such an approach requires an understanding of different types of exog-
enous shocks. For example, while shocks such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster had a major impact, the
duration and nature of that shock differ greatly from that of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, BPM
research can build upon existing typologies of crises, e.g., from Kuipers and Welsh (2017), to distill shock
archetypes requiring similar BPM approaches. Moreover, the phase model from Figure 2 is also context-
sensitive, meaning that the magnitude and duration of effects depend on internal and external factors (e.g.,
an organization already operating in a highly uncertain environment may respond better to shocks). In this
regard, context-aware BPM has been recognized as an important topic area and extensively studied (vom
Brocke et al. 2015; vom Brocke et al. 2021a; Santoro et al. 2017). BPM research should extend this idea to
identify contextual factors relevant for exogenous shocks and investigate their influence on BPM and pro-
cess governance (Kerpedzhiev et al. 2020). By identifying context-sensitive BPM governance models de-
pending on shock archetypes, BPM can also contribute to extending and operationalizing crisis response
according to established disaster taxonomies and typologies (Kuipers and Welsh 2017; Björck 2016).
In terms of the need for new governance setups in the context of exogenous shocks (C3), understanding the
relationship between process flexibility and organizational resilience is key. Even though flexibility and
resilience are not identical concepts, current research on resilience shows that both concepts are positively
linked (Duchek 2020; Karman 2020). In this regard, BPM must clarify the role of workarounds and process
deviance, which have received significant attention in recent BPM research (König et al. 2018; Alter 2014;
Beerepoot et al. 2019; Weinzierl et al. 2021). One of the identified opportunities relevant to BPM govern-
ance is the occurrence of positive deviance, which should be identified and scaled (O10). However, without
clear guidance deviance entails risks. Thus, BPM research should develop frameworks that examine appro-
priate conditions, processes, and levels of deviance in the context of exogenous shocks.
6.3 Methods
The challenges and opportunities related to the core element methods imply that BPM should extend its
methodological base to appropriately cover exogenous shocks. As mentioned, the priority in dealing with
20
exogenous shocks is given to the immediate organizational response and maintaining business continuity.
Business continuity research has not only recognized the need to enhance the preparedness for incidents but
also to support organizations in responding to them (Niemimaa 2015). Translated to the BPM context, or-
ganizations need to take quick actions in the in-shock phase to address nonfunctional processes and critical
process performance. This entails the need for agile BPM approaches, methods, and systems that allow for
bottom-up design, implementation, and rollout of new processes (C5) as well as to support change manage-
ment initiatives (C6). Thus, existing research on agile BPM methods should be extended to the use case of
short-term handling of exogenous shocks (Thiemich and Puhlmann 2013). In addition, BPM must support
organizations in resource allocation and decision-making regarding balancing short-term emergency han-
dling and far-reaching, strategic process change (C2). Thereby, established ideas in BPM research such as
process project portfolio management as a means to balance process improvement and BPM capability de-
velopment (Lehnert et al. 2017) can be adopted to the case of exogenous shocks.
As for the design of resilient processes (O5), actionable process-based mechanisms that enable process re-
silience are needed (e.g. Antunes 2010). Such mechanisms could build upon existing works regarding pro-
cess flexibility and enable integrating redundant/alternative process paths for critical processes. Thereby, as
mentioned in Section 2, flexibility-by-design and flexibility-by-deviation are of interest in enhancing the
resilience of business processes at design- and run-time (Schonenberg et al. 2008). By using business pro-
cesses as the unit of analysis, BPM can contribute to instrumentalizing organizational resilience a chal-
lenge, which has been recognized in the corresponding research stream (Annarelli and Nonino 2016).
Finally, existing approaches in measuring resilience (Chen et al. 2021) can be strengthened through a BPM
lens to achieve real-time process resilience monitoring and an appropriate ex-post evaluation (O6). The
latter could be supported by process mining methods, which deliver insights into process vulnerabilities
based on event log data (Koslowski and Zimmermann 2013).
6.4 Information Technology
Our results also have implications on IT-related BPM topics. In conjunction with the opportunity regarding
process automation (O7), BPM research should address the potential of digital technologies for dealing with
sudden and unexpected events. Some research initiatives initiated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic
show promising results regarding the potential of digital technologies in enhancing organizational resilience
(Syed et al. 2020; Marques da Rosa et al. 2021; Marcucci et al. 2021; Kregel et al. 2021). In the context of
BPM, digital technologies can help make processes more responsive and potentially more predictive regard-
ing changing external conditions. Therefore, BPM research should build on existing initiatives regarding
the exploration of the opportunities offered by digital technologies (Denner et al. 2018), specifically in en-
hancing real-time monitoring and prediction of disruptions as well as process transparency (C8, O8) (e.g.,
Ivanov and Dolgui 2021).
21
Further, rapid process change resulting from exogenous shocks requires flexible IT architectures (C7). In
this regard, process-aware information systems have already been researched with a focus on flexibility and
the handling of declarative process models (Reichert and Weber 2012; Di Ciccio et al. 2017). Research on
such systems could be informed by works on high reliability organizations, which address the frame prob-
lem concerning the inability of algorithms to adapt to conditions outside their developers’ cognitive frame
(Salovaara et al. 2019) and in general have the ability to reduce process agility (Plattfaut and Borghoff
2022). At the same time, exploring the development and validation of process-aware information systems
considering existing frameworks for resilient BPM (e.g., Antunes and Mourão 2011) can help better under-
stand the role of IT in crisis management (Sakurai and Murayama 2019).
6.5 People
From a people perspective, BPM research should first evaluate the possibility of transferring skill portfolios
as well as communication and training models (C9) from the human resources and emergency management
domains. Second, BPM can help structure and sustain organizational learning efforts. In this regard, works
on organizational learning in the context of crises (e.g., Antonacopoulou and Sheaffer 2014) can be com-
bined with approaches at the intersection of knowledge management and BPM (e.g., Jung et al. 2007; Choi
et al. 2004) to provide guidance for fast organizational learning and knowledge dissemination in the case of
exogenous shocks. Thereby, BPM also has the potential to provide a systematic approach to learning and
ensure that shock-related knowledge including newly acquired competencies (O9) remain available in the
post-shock phase.
Apart from the implications on training and knowledge management, facing non-functional processes may
put employees under pressure (C10). In this respect, the pivotal role of HRD has been recognized in guiding
organizations through crises (Wang et al. 2009). Therefore, BPM research should evaluate how to adapt
results from HRD, such as leadership behavioral patterns and styles, thus contributing to shaping require-
ments for process leaders in times of exogenous shocks (Dirani et al. 2020; Bowers et al. 2017).
6.6 Culture
In terms of culture, BPM and crisis management research alike should examine to what extent established
BPM cultural values (i.e., customer orientation, excellence, responsibility, and teamwork (Schmiedel et al.
2015)) are neglected, strengthened, or substituted in the event of exogenous shocks (C11). This also holds
true for additional more specific values, beliefs, and experiences relevant during and in the aftermath of
exogenous shocks (e.g., willingness to innovate, attitude to errors, trust in data, prioritization of employees’
well-being) (O12). BPM research should also investigate the extent to which these values and beliefs are
sustained after a shock and deliver insights into their integration into a “new normal” culture to boost post-
shock process performance. As an example, exogenous shocks can trigger increased mindfulness about the
22
fit of existing processes in the context of external changes, which in turn boosts an organization’s intrinsic
process-related flexibility (Baiyere et al. 2020). Finally, transferring approaches from organizational un-
learning can prove useful in shaping a process culture open and willing to drop existing routines (C12)
(Tsang and Zahra 2008). Organizational unlearning and similar approaches related to reassessing learned
and established routines can also be beneficial in communicating and implementing future radical process
changes independent of exogenous shocks (O11), e.g., in light of digital innovation (Mendling et al. 2020).
On top of the afore-mentioned implications regarding the core elements of BPM, we also pose that BPM
research should explore specific shock-related capabilities. Current research has shown that transformative
phenomena such as digitalization require novel BPM capabilities (Kerpedzhiev et al. 2020). Most likely,
this holds true for exogenous shocks as well. Hence, more research is needed to identify which existing and
additional BPM capabilities are required to cope with exogenous shocks across all phases successfully. To
that end, the phase model presented in Figure 2, together with the six core elements of BPM, form a matrix-
like structure that may guide researchers in identifying new BPM capabilities related to exogenous shocks.
As an overarching insight, it has become evident that BPM and crisis management can considerably benefit
from one another in manifold areas. In line with the propositions in the recent call for the establishment of
process science (vom Brocke et al. 2021b), we pose that business processes can serve as a reasonable lens
for understanding, analyzing, and managing organizational change induced by exogenous shocks. There-
fore, we encourage the BPM, crisis management, and related research communities such as organizational
resilience and high reliability organizations to evaluate specific opportunities for cross-discipline knowledge
transfer but also to leverage corresponding synergies.
7 Conclusion
In this research note, we set out to explore the intersection of BPM and exogenous shocks. Although exog-
enous shocks and related terms are extensively covered in other disciplines, they have not yet been addressed
by BPM research, which has focused on other kinds of process change. However, since exogenous shocks
can disrupt an organizations context, strategy, and processes, they are highly relevant from a BPM perspec-
tive. Against this backdrop, we conceptualized the interplay of exogenous shocks and BPM in terms of their
effects on overall process performance. Thereafter, we identified related challenges and opportunities for
BPM and discussed these findings against the current BPM and related literature.
Like any other work, ours is beset with limitations that future research needs to be aware of. First, the
presented challenges and opportunities were derived from the individual input of BPM researchers. While
we cannot formally claim completeness and validity of our results, our approach is aligned with common
standards and guidelines in conducting qualitative research. Nevertheless, future research should engage in
exploring challenges and opportunities more rigorously (e.g., using exploratory interviews, case studies, or
the Delphi method). Future research may also involve BPM practitioners, as this research note only covers
23
the perspective of BPM scholars. Second, although we deliberately abstracted from specific exogenous
shocks, we cannot exclude that our results are biased toward the COVID-19 pandemic, which was omni-
present when the research was conducted. While we believe that the presented challenges and opportunities
are relevant beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, other shocks may entail new challenges or opportunities. For
this reason, it is vital for future research to investigate the underlying mechanics of the effects presented in
this research note and generalize them to allow for a comprehensive understanding of exogenous shocks.
Finally, the relationship of exogenous shocks and overall process performance we outline in Section 4 was
intended to serve as a foundation for the identification of challenges and opportunities. Consequently, it
represents only typical effects of shocks on process performance discussed in the literature. Naturally, these
effects including moderating factors need to be studied in more detail and backed by empirical works. This
would also enable the identification of salient issues within the presented challenges and opportunities and
empower researchers from disciplines related to crisis management to leverage possibilities for the integra-
tion of BPM-centered approaches.
By providing an initial conceptualization of the interplay of BPM and exogenous shocks as well as by pre-
senting and discussing related challenges and opportunities, we hope our results stimulate a community-
wide discussion on a hitherto neglected but highly relevant type of process change. In accordance with the
topics discussed in Section 6, we call for more research located at the intersection of BPM and exogenous
shocks. In light of currently aggravating global crises (e.g., climate crisis, rising geopolitical tensions), we
believe that BPM research should not only understand the effects of exogenous shocks on business processes
but also provide practitioners with guidance on how to mitigate shock-related challenges and leverage re-
lated opportunities throughout all phases of their management.
24
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