It may seem incredible, but in production and other related management areas started to define and use „business processes” as early as the 1700s in Europe, as written evidence shows. Of course, these processes were not the processes – especially not business processes – as we know them now, much rather sets of written instructions about how to perform certain tasks such as: harvesting and storage of crops, wine making, tool and accessory fabrication or conserving meat.
The first written „inventories” are also originating from these ages, in similar industries. The aim of writing down instructions and inventories has been – most probably – to ensure constant work and therefore product quality while preserving the goods owned by the respective squires. These instruction sets were more similar to cookbooks which were in use as early as the 1400s (of course, these were not too detailed or exact, however contained relevant information regarding the food selection of the middle ages.) During the industrial revolution, technical advancement and industrialization brought the improvement of processes while also improved the quality of end products. However, processes and procedures became more complicated and even new industries emerged due to the advancements.
For centuries after the industrial revolution, the description of processes did not change much. It goes without saying that as literacy and printing gained ground, new methods became widely available for describing processes. But until the middle of the 20th century, even the theoretical possibility of replacing paper or parchment for such descriptions with other methods seemed to be nonsense.
The 60s of the last century, computers slowly started to gain ground and the possibility of digital data storage started to take shape. Technology advancements and spreading brought the first era of the information age in the 70s and 80s. The first waves of globalization required far bigger and more complex organizational structures than ever before, along with operations spanning across different industries. Consequently, different operational and quality expectations put up serious requirements towards corporate IT support systems. Quality management and managerial information systems started to emerge at the biggest corporations. Besides these, business process formation and management started their ways at the same time, which enabled cheaper, better quality viz. more effective production and distribution.
The nineties were characterized mostly by innovative approaches to business processes and business innovations. Business process reengineering started, and the abbreviation BPR was born. The quick spread of IT technologies enabled more optimal corporate operations than ever before and information quickened as the Internet gained ground. Therefore, commercial activities started to move into the online world.
Following the millennium, continuous development of IT technologies resulted in cheaper and more accessible hardware and software solutions. This trend – continuing even today – brings tools to small and medium enterprises previously considered to be privileges of the largest corporations. These advancements are necessary of course, as the world of business became far more complex and global hyper competition forces players to constantly innovate and improve – both their products and companies. Besides traditional values, such as quality, reliability, and trustworthiness, new qualities, such as speed, reaction times, effective operations and perfect customer service became cornerstones of customer satisfaction.
Business process support systems – thanks to the above described advancements – are becoming more and more organic parts of companies’ operations, as in many cases it is really hard – or even impossible – to operate the business without such systems.
However, it is a separate, complex and many times impenetrable world, in which not only technologies or financial possibilities, but the legal environment, customers’ needs and many other circumstances might be determinative.
Our mission is to help our readers finding their ways in the complex world of business processes while showing the opportunities of business process management in order to make companies more effective, efficient and therefore more profitable.
In our following posts we will go through the interesting and sometimes a bit abstract world of business processes, starting at the basics and going towards the most complex and challenging process management issues, which will be interesting for even experts in the field.
Our goal with all these is to provide guidance to entrepreneurs and companies who would like to make their operations more effective, efficient, cheaper or more convenient for that matter.