The wonderful, powerful, confusing world of Frameworks

Ah, frameworks…perhaps the most confusing term in BPM.  Maybe it is more than one person can tackle in a reasonably short blog.  I’ll try.

A framework everyone can understand

A framework is simply a skeletal structure upon which you build more specific things.  Like a house when the wood framework is there but no drywall, electricity, or plumbing.  The rooms, their sizes and arrangement are clear, but not what tile and paint will be used.  It is a reference point the architect and contractors can use, a common language, and a scope.

An expert in the business process context, APQC’s John Tesmer defines a framework as, “A set of building blocks on which organizations can build value streams or cross-functional processes.  A framework provides an objective place to gain internal support and to communicate business activities…a Rosetta Stone.”  My daughter did a project on the Rosetta Stone and I know it was used to translate ancient symbols into something everyone can understand.  I get it.

Frameworks in motion

In the real world of BPM, people are managing multiple frameworks to satisfy many goals.  There are compliance frameworks like ISO, supply chain frameworks like the SCOR Model, technology frameworks like ITIL, and many more.  There is a framework to meet every need to start somewhere, communicate ideas easily and have reasonable boundaries.  If you sort out where human activities touch one or many frameworks, you can manage the communication necessary to make sure it all hangs together.

Process utopia?  No.  Very real.  At a very large aerospace firm, a process framework allows incredibly complex aircraft to be built locally while the global supply chain organization is certain that their rules, checkpoints and measurements are part of each and every fuselage, every panel and every rivet that is touched.  Powerful stuff.

Measure it

Organizations having this ability can also measure the success of their executive initiatives.  Frameworks allow discreet activities deep down in the organization to be part of broad-based dashboards for how the business is working.  Frameworks allow the grouping of human activity into a hierarchy of measurable categories.  They allow one company to compare themselves to another, or to compare internally.

There’s so much more to this topic…watch this blog for  the upcoming release of the APQC Frameworks Study, which is a treasure chest of information on how companies are using established AND custom frameworks, often in combination, to get real work done.


Categories: Compliance, Frameworks, Workplace Reality

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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11 Comments on “The wonderful, powerful, confusing world of Frameworks”

  1. Paul Barrett
    March 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    … and speaking of APQC, there is of course their Process Classification FRAMEWORK, or more properly frameworkS.

    The trick is to inter-connect the multiple frameworks that every enterprise HAS to deal with, with the compliance obligations they all have, to the real world processes being used operationally by the business so that whichever of those is your start point, you can achieve outcomes across all of them that are consistent, repeatable and predictable because they work off the same process base. That’s been the holy grail of process for as long as I can remember. Nirvana? No, today’s reality if you now how.

  2. Craig
    March 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    Orchestrating multiple frameworks within an organization is one thing but integrating a new framework into existing processes must be one of the biggest challenges?

    Consider the scenario, we have two potentially huge accounts about to go online but the client’s won’t sign the contract unless we are, or planning to be, ISO2000 certified.

    We have tried and tested processes that perform as expected. Now the ITIL book says we should be using these processes. The real challenge will be how do we move to this new world as quickly, safely and painlessly as possible? And once we get there, how do stay there and continue to support all the other standards and regulations we previously did?

  3. March 16, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    Chris, thanks for the mention.

    We like to think our fair framework is just one of a variety of ways to look intelligently at the corpus of work being done at an organization. Getting value from adopting and adapting frameworks is possible – they’re not just “pretty pictures”. Our research identified a set of use cases performed by organizations that get value from process frameworks every day. Business process definition was but one of those uses.

    The ability to have a single language which we can all agree with (regardless of today’s organizational structure or the most recent management fad) and ultimately structure the business around through organic growth, specific engineering, or just simply overlaying the framework atop the existing organization is a powerful concept. The PCF and frameworks like it enable this flexibility.

    I learned today that the final report will be ready ahead of schedule. I encourage its widespread dissemination and look forward to the various discussions it will no doubt trigger. Stay tuned, as our research into this space continues in 2011.


  4. Kenety Borges
    March 16, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    Just wanted to congratulate you Chris on the blog, that’s outstanding content. I will definitely follow!

  5. Tom
    March 17, 2011 at 12:20 am #

    I think the real value of a framework is having a common language that people from different functions understand. This lets communication happen in a way that often isn’t possible otherwise. Another thing is that having a framework such as SCOR allows for the identification of any disconnects or gaps that might not be visible without something that spans multiple functions.

  6. Liam Ward
    March 29, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    There is some great information in this article Chris. I agree with your comments on measurements.

    We can only manage what we can measure and if transformation cannot be linked to success measurements then there is no point to change.

    So many projects fail because there is no proper process framework in place.

  7. October 7, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Great Article Chris. Would love to hear about the APQC Frameworks Study

  8. March 26, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    In this age of E2E business network dynamics, there is a compelling need for complex adaptive frameworks; that unify E2E network processes and business models. Without mandating fixed roles, relationships, rules, workflows and data formats on network participants.

    We define complex adaptable frameworks as, “A set of self organizing building blocks, which collaborating enterprises can combine, branch and recombine; to build unique value streams through cross-functional collaborative processes”. 


  1. Frameworks and getting REAL work done | BPM For Real - April 12, 2011

    […] For more on frameworks, see my blog, “The wonderful, powerful, confusing world of Frameworks.” […]

  2. What does business process maturity mean? #bpm | BPM For Real - May 24, 2011

    […] and blending that with their own personality.  What others have done is found readily in the many frameworks that support everything from process classification as defined by the APQC (the APQC PCF) to […]

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