Published here November 2016

Introduction | Definitions of "Project" in the Public Domain
Business Process | The Need for a Specific Definition of "Project"
What Have We Learned from Our Efforts to Dissect "Project"? | Our Final "Project" Definition

Business Process[3]

Here are several classic definitions of "Business Process". These definitions are instructive for the insights that each contain:

  1. Davenport (1993)[5] defines a (business) process as:

    "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."

  2. Hammer & Champy's (1993)[6] definition can be considered as a subset of Davenport's. They define a process as:

    "A collection of activities that takes one or more kinds of input and creates an output that is of value to the customer."

  3. Rummler & Brache (1995)[7] use a definition that clearly encompasses a focus on the organization's external customers, when stating that

    "A business process is a series of steps designed to produce a product or service. Most processes (...) are cross-functional, spanning the 'white space' between the boxes on the organization chart. Some processes result in a product or service that is received by an organization's external customer. We call these primary processes. Other processes produce products that are invisible to the external customer but essential to the effective management of the business. We call these support processes."

  4. Johansson et al. (1993) define a process as:

    "A set of linked activities that take an input and transform it to create an output. Ideally, the transformation that occurs in the process should add value to the input and create an output that is more useful and effective to the recipient either upstream or downstream."

As the Wikipedia article goes on to observe, by summarizing the four definitions above, we can compile the following list of characteristics for a "Business Process" as follows:[4]

  1. Definability: It must have clearly defined boundaries, input and output.
  2. Order: It must consist of activities that are ordered according to their position in time and space (a sequence).
  3. Customer: There must be a recipient of the process' outcome, a customer.
  4. Value-adding: The transformation taking place within the process must add value to the recipient, either upstream or downstream.
  5. Embeddedness: A process cannot exist in itself. It must be embedded in an organizational structure.
  6. Cross-functionality: A process regularly can, but not necessarily must, span several functions.

The Wikipedia article also adds:[5]

"Frequently, identifying a process owner (i.e., the person responsible for the continuous improvement of the process) is considered as a prerequisite. Sometimes the process owner is the same person who is performing the process."

Wikipedia goes on to offer its own definition as follows:

"A business process or business method 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. It may often be visualized as a flowchart of a sequence of activities with interleaving decision points or as a Process Matrix of a sequence of activities with relevance rules based on data in the process."

All of this is very instructive because, aside from item 6 in the 6-point list above, the aspirations and activities of both BaU and project are very similar. Hence we may assert that for all intents and purposes:

A Project is a Distinct Process

And, in trying to define the term "project" as being distinct from BaU, in any definition of the term "project", the first five items in the foregoing list should be avoided. We can simply refer to the collection as a "distinct process". But again, what is the need for such precision?

Definitions of   Definitions of "Project" in the Public Domain

3. The following quotations are taken from Wikipedia at
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
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