Simple version: definition from wiki (link)
A business process is a collection of related, structured activities or tasks that produce a specific service or product (serve a particular goal) for a particular customer or customers.
”a structured, measured set of activities designed to produce a specific output for a particular customer or market. It implies a strong emphasis on how work is done within an organization, in contrast to a product focus’s emphasis on what. A process is thus a specific ordering of work activities across time and space, with a beginning and an end, and clearly defined inputs and outputs: a structure for action. … Taking a process approach implies adopting the customer’s point of view. Processes are the structure by which an organization does what is necessary to produce value for its customers.”
Generally, business process has below basic characteristics:
- A business process has clear boundaries, time and space
- A business process contains different steps (or activities) or sub-processes
- Every step in the process should have input to trigger the action, output from the action, actors to do the action
- All the tasks of the process are serving particular goals
Take a simple example for on-line purchase, e.g., shirt and skirt. The goal here is to deliver the right cloth at the right time and location as per customer requirement. The process can be defined as below steps.
- Step 1 is done by customer; its output is paid order with information of customer name, item (skirt or shirt), quantity, address and date of delivery, customer mobile number, etc.
- Step 2 is done by shipping clerk; its input is the output from step1. The shipping clerk will pick the items; pack them into one bag or box; find a carrier and arrange the shipping. The output of the step is that orders are shipped out with specific delivering address.
- Step 3 involves customer and deliveryman. Deliveryman delivers the package to the shipping address as per the instruction from step2; customer receives and verifies the package; hence, the order is closed.
Process Innovation: Re-engineering work through information technology from Thomas Davenport