BPM vs BA: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

“BPM is old school; BA is the new hype.” Huh…? With all terms and hypes it is easy to get confused. If you ask five different persons to clear things up, you will probably get five different explanations. It is all about definitions. In this blog I will distinguish Business Analysis (BA) from Business Process Management (BPM). Feel free to comment on this blog!


What does Wikipedia say about Business Analysis and Business Process Management?

“Business analysis is the discipline of identifying business needs and determining solutions to business problems. Solutions often include a systems development component, but may also consist of process improvement, organizational change or strategic planning and policy development.”

“Business process management is a holistic management approach focused on aligning all aspects of an organization with the wants and needs of clients. It promotes business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility, and integration with technology. BPM attempts to improve processes continuously.”

If we look at the definitions, we see that both BA and BPM are aimed at optimizing performances. Where BA has a (usual) strong IT focus, BPM has a broader scope. BPM focuses on end-to-end process performance. There is nothing ‘old school’ about end-to-end process performance. Organizations face challenges in both improving processes and optimizing the IT support. BPM and BA should strengthen instead of replace each other.

But why is it that BA is sometimes pressing BPM to the background? In my opinion it is all about legacy. BPM, as a practice, is a little ‘older’ than BA. With its ‘age’ there might be more success stories, but also the BPM fiascos are plenty. In the past we have seen many instrumental BPM implementations: BPMS (BPM Suites) were bought as solutions to problems, often leading to disappointing results. We now know that only describing our processes does not automatically improve process performances. BPM should be, as the Wikipedia definition explains, about real continuous process improvement. BA is not yet infected by the failures of BPM. This is why many people share the opinion that BA is more business oriented, whereas BPM is more execution focused… It is tempting to use the term of BA instead of BPM, while trying to do the same thing: improving process performance.

If I look at BA presentations, tools and approaches, I fortunately have a strong déjà vu feeling. Many BPM instruments are presented as BA instruments. So BPM is not gone, but only changed its name. BPM is a very powerful means, aimed at end-to-end process performance and customer quality. These are essential topics for every organization; they should all be involved with BPM. But if they like to call it differently, like BA, this is OK with me. At BiZZdesign we stick to BPM as the main practice, from where the Business Analysis services are delivered.

Good luck with BPM and BA in your organization!


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By Peter Matthijssen @ BiZZdesign | December 6, 2012

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