A process architecture is a written or diagrammatic summary of the value chains and business processes supported by a given organization. A good process architecture shows how value chains... more

Business Architecture is not an intuitively obvious concept. It does not conjure up an immediate vision of what it is, or what it comprises. With this inherent disadvantage - the business can't articulate it easily - how can it be used to align IT with the business?

Business Architecture includes three components: the Functional Architecture, the Process Architecture and the Information Architecture. There are ...more

Process Architecture

Definition: Process Architecture is a schematic that shows the ways in which the business processes of an enterprise are grouped and inter-linked.


Process Architecture

For an enterprise to function effectively it is vital that managers understand the structure of business processes that allows inputs (raw materials, intellectual capital, etc.) to be turned into outputs (ideally, profit). Without this understanding the management level will be flying blind with no way of making informed decisions about the direction of the enterprise.

Enterprises achieve their objectives through the establishment of and adherence to a set of optimised business processes (i.e. a set of catalysing steps by which inputs can be converted to outputs). However, processes do not exist in isolation.

Rather, there are different levels of process. At its most basic level, a process is a discrete unit of work that has a beginning and an end, and produces some sort of output. An example of a basic process could be the cooking of a burger in a restaurant. The patty goes on the grill, and a few minutes later it is cooked. Simple, yes?

Not so. While the cooking of a burger may seem like a simple process, it relies on the success of a whole number of inter-linked processes to take place. The patty needs to be processed at a meat rendering plant and transported to the restaurant before the cooking process can take place. In addition to these basic processes there are any number of others that must go on behind the scene to result in a cooked burger quality control, purchasing, kitchen maintenance, and a hundred other related processes.

These basic processes can all be grouped together into process systems high-level, inter-dependent processes that require the success of each other in order to achieve their objectives.

Benefits of Process Architecture

Process architectures provide visual representations of the processes and process systems within an enterprise, offering executives and planners a birds-eye view of the activities of the enterprise as a whole.

Pro. Arch.The benefits of this should be clear. By gaining an overall view of the enterprise it becomes possible for planners to identify its strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to identify areas in need of improvement and offering them the ability to develop strategy to best exploit the strengths of the enterprise.

* Navigation Guide

A process architecture serves as a road map by which process planners can devise best practices for high level and basic processes to ensure that all processes are aligned with the overall business strategy.

* Automation Possibilities

By using process management software (from such vendors as InfoSys and Osellus) to develop a comprehensive process architecture schematic it is possible to identify processes (or steps within processes) that could be effectively automated to reduce the burden on staff members and increase speed and efficiency.

* Simplification

Process Architectures highlight redundant and needlessly complicated processes, enabling management to prune those areas and streamline the business.

* Reduced Cost

Obviously, this simplification and automation of processes should, ideally, result in reduced operational costs for the enterprise.

* Faster Reactions

Simplification and increased reliance on automation should also result in quicker reaction to changing market conditions, allowing executives to quickly adapt existing processes to new conditions.

* Training Benefits

A visual representation of the business practices and operations of an enterprise can be a powerful training tool for new staff. By using process architectures to simplify business processes it can be possible to use architecture diagrams to reduce training time.

* Strategy Creation

A comprehensive overview of the operations of an enterprise can be an invaluable aid in the creation and modification of business strategy. By using the architecture to identify strengths and core competencies executives can determine how to best move the enterprise forward.

* Costing

Process Architectures can serve to highlight areas of wastage, in which process outputs do not justify investment. These processes can then be remodelled. Architectures can also predict the cost of alterations to processes (i.e. costs related to additional use of IT systems, increased labour costs, etc.).

* Impact Prediction

Perhaps most importantly, process architectures can offer executives an insight into how processes interrelate, and how modifications to one process may affect down line or concurrent processes. Only by understanding the impact a process alteration will have on its surrounding processes can executives truly determine the best course of action.

Further information regarding process architecture can be found at the University of the West of England (pdf) and the University of Strathclyde