Glossary of Business Process Management (BPM) Terms


Business process management, or BPM, is just what its component terms suggest: the practice of creating, analyzing, and improving the processes that make a business operate. It involves coordination of not only BPM software, but also the people, systems, and data included in the process.

Business Process Automation is usually structured and repeatable, and sometimes automated, at least in part. Understanding BPM is a key to improving how efficiently your business functions. Check out this list of BPM terminology and what some important terms mean.

Asynchronous Process

During an asynchronous process, one task or activity notifies another but doesn’t demand an immediate response. As an analogy, think of an ordinary phone call. It starts out synchronous, with you waiting for the person to answer. But if they’re not there, and you leave a voicemail message, it becomes an asynchronous process. Business processes can be similar.


A bottleneck is a step within a chain of steps that, if limited in some way, will cause subsequent steps to slow down as well. Short-term bottlenecks aren’t usually a major problem, but long-term bottlenecks indicate that BPM changes are needed. The right BPM Workflow Software can make or break your organization’s BPM efforts.

Business Process Simulation

Business process simulation is a way of testing a process before it “goes live.” It attempts to simulate what will happen once people start using a process, and is useful for finding bottlenecks and other problems and fixing them beforehand. In some ways, business process simulation is like a dress rehearsal for actual business process use.

Continual Improvement

Continual improvement is simply the philosophy of constantly improving an organization’s processes. It’s necessary to maintain a competitive edge and may happen incrementally, or as a breakthrough (often due to a technological advancement). Striving for continual improvement in workflows is a way that organizations stave off complacency and stay ahead of the competition.


DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control. It is a Six Sigma term defining the steps in a Six Sigma improvement process, but it makes sense for any organization that uses workflow software and strives for continual improvement. Defining what you need to happen is step one in a virtuous cycle of designing and improving processes.

Exception Processing


Business processes must be designed to know what to do with exceptional or unexpected input.

What happens when some step in a process has exceptional input? Maybe a customer wants an especially large order that will require team members to go above and beyond the normal process steps. Though not all exceptions can be anticipated, it’s wise to consider exceptions when designing and testing business processes.


KPI stands for key performance indicators, and they are the metrics and benchmarks that drive the success of your company. Your KPIs are probably different from your competitors’ KPIs to some extent. It’s important to choose workflow software that allows users or process managers to create clear, KPI-based reports.

Parallel Process

Parallel processes are sequences of steps that can take place simultaneously. For example, writing the executive summary of an important report might take place at the same time someone else is designing the cover art or arranging for printing services. As another example, sending a document to multiple people at once is a type of parallel process.

Process Mapping

Process mapping is a technique for making processes both more efficient and more transparent. Creating process maps, which show all process-related activities like approvals, hand-offs, and exceptions, may be done by hand, but many workflow software programs allow the drag-and-drop creation of workflows that map out processes as they are created.

Rules Engine

A rules engine is the set of rules that govern how steps in a process move forward. You can think of it as a series of “If-then” statements, like “If the purchase order is for more than $1,000, it must go to the department head for approval.” Rules may be necessary at several steps of a process, depending on its complexity and variability of input.

Sequential Process

In contrast to a parallel process, where multiple steps that don’t affect each other may take place simultaneously, a sequential process is one where each step depends on the step before it. It’s like painting a room: applying paint depends on having primed walls, which depend on the walls being clean, which depends on removing artwork and other items from the wall.

The right BPM Workflow Software can make or break your organization’s BPM efforts. For an excellent overview of how BPM can be implemented using PerfectForms workflow software, we encourage you to have a look at our demo video.

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.