Understanding Business Processes

Business processes are as important to business management as assembly lines are to manufacturing. Adhering to a well-defined, formalized set of processes can enable any business to increase productivity and lower costs. A business process defines the message exchange protocol between all the distributed participants. To define a business process, you must determine the logical order of actions and the corresponding flow of messages. A business process does not include definitions of the distributed participants who perform these actions.

The sequence of steps in a long-running business process is typically asynchronous. Each step is an action that can be performed by one or more independent, distributed participants. These actions can result in the sending and receiving of messages among the participants, who might or might not be people performing related tasks. A distributed participant might be an automated process that responds to input, or the participant might even be an entirely separate business process. To understand business processes, you must be able to visualize a complex variety of relationships and dependencies. Business process modeling tools, such as workflow diagrams and interaction diagrams, have been developed to visually describe these relationships.

The following topics are covered in this section:

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