Discovering Business Process Similarities: An Empirical Study with SAP Best Practice Business Processes

Large organizations tend to have hundreds of business processes. Discovering and Understanding the similarities among these business processes are useful to organizations for a number of reasons: (a) business processes can be managed and maintained more efficiently, (b) business processes can be reused in new or changed implementations, and (c) investment guidance on which aspects of business processes to improve can be obtained. In this empirical paper, we present the results of our study on over five thousand business processes obtained from SAP's standardized business process repository divided up into two groups: Industry-specific and Cross-industry. The results are encouraging. We found that 39% of cross-industry processes and 43% of SAP-industry processes are re-used across maps. Additionally, we found that 20% of all processes studied have at least 50% similarity with other processes. We use the notion of semantic similarity on process and process activity labels to determine similarity. These results indicate that there is enough similarity among business processes in organizations to take advantage of. While this is anecdotally stated, to our knowledge, this is the first attempt to empirically validate this hypothesis using real-world business processes of this size. We present the implications and future research directions on this topic and call for further empirical studies in this area.

By: Anca Ivan; Rama Akkiraju

Published in: RJ10469 in 2010


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