A useful way of classifying business processes is to identify and define core, support and management processes. Business process classification is important to be able to develop an effective business process architecture.
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Core processes are end-to-end, cross-functional processes that directly deliver value to external clients or intermediaries. Core processes are often referred to as “primary” processes as they represent the essential activities an organisation performs to achieve its goals and objectives, fulfil its mission and attain its vision.
These processes make up what is called the value chain, which is the set of high level, interconnected core processes each of which adds value to the product or service. The value chain creates and delivers the product or service, which ultimately delivers value to customers.
Core processes can exist within organisational functions but usually move across functions and departments, or even across and between enterprises. Core processes are those involved in the development and creation of the product or service, the marketing and transfer to the service beneficiary or buyer, as well as customer feedback or after-sale support of the product or service. Core processes are the engines of the value chain and need to work seamlessly together to achieve real customer value.
The number of core processes in an organisation, regardless of size, is between four and eight.
An organisation’s ability to clearly identify and manage its core processes is a strategic capability for that organisation.
Core processes have strategic importance, have a major impact on an organisation and are critical to its success. If core processes are performed well, excellent service delivery can be provided but could pose a major strategic weakness if they are ineffective, inefficient or not managed.
Core processes are essentially operational, enabling service delivery by directly providing the organisation’s outputs and value to external key customers in the form of products, services, support or information. Core processes do not manage or provide internal services.
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Support processes are enabling processes designed to assist the value-delivering core processes by providing the resources and infrastructure required by primary processes.
The main difference between support and core processes is that support processes add value to internal customers and do not directly deliver value to external customers, while core processes do.
Examples of support processes include provision of information technology, finance and human resource services, as well as the provision of goods and services to internal customers. Each of these support processes may involve a resource delivery lifecycle, and are often associated with functional areas of the organisation.
Support processes can and often do cross functional boundaries. For example, the process of providing internal capacity does not directly deliver value to external customers but supports an organisation’s ability to deliver mandated products or services.
The fact that support processes do not directly deliver value to customers does not mean that they are unimportant to an organisation. Support processes can be critical and strategic to organisations as they directly affect the ability of an organisation to execute core processes effectively.
Management processes are designed to plan, measure, monitor and control business activities. They ensure that a core or support process meets operational, financial, regulatory and legal requirements. Management processes do not directly add value to customers, but are necessary in order to ensure the organisation operates effectively and efficiently.
Business process architecture, which is a description of the structure of the business processes in an organisation, defines and classifies processes by category, as well as the level of detail. The identification and understanding of core, support and management processes at architecture as well as detailed level, is an essential starting point for a successful business process management initiative.
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