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Processes Do NOT Create Data!

I was recently asked to provide guidance on mapping how data is shared across different stages of Business Processes in order to achieve the greatest reuse possible. This was my answer.

One of the most important things to emphasise when looking at data usage across an enterprise is that Business Processes do NOT create, transform or use data!!!

All data in an enterprise is created, transformed and used by Business Functions.  Keeping this in mind is key to data quality and ‘re-usability’.  This is why Business Function Modelling is so powerful.  Once you identify and model Business Functions you can define their data usage – the CRUD matrix is ideal for this – and then, wherever a Business Function is used in any Business Process, its data usage will be exactly the same.

So, when you are looking at data usage in Business Processes, never look at the Process as a whole, look at the Process steps because each step is a Business Function.

One other very important data rule to remember is that, although many different Business Functions can use the same Data Entity,  only one Business Function can create it!

Looking at Processes totally obscures this key data rule as, although one Entity might be created IN several processes, it is not created BY the Process!  It is a Business Function in the Process that creates the Entity.  Knowing this immediately removes the Illusion of Duplication.

Another thing to remember is that a single Business Function might be implemented via several different mechanisms in different Processes. For example, the Business Function that creates ‘Customer’ will be implemented by means of one mechanism on the company website and by a very different mechanism in the high street store of the same enterprise.   However, by realising that these are the same Business Function, merely different Mechanisms for it, again removes the illusion of duplication. Managers and designers need to ensure that the CRUD matrix for every mechanism aligns exactly to the CRUD matrix for the Business Function that the mechanisms are implementing.

I put ‘Customer’ in quotes above as, contrary to popular belief’ ‘Customer’ is not Master Data Entity, rather a Role (be it a hugely important Role) played by the real entity, that might be called Party, Legal Entity or Third Party.  This is another key fact that, once it is realised, can greatly reduce data duplication across the enterprise.

I have found that being aware of and implementing these simple data rules results in far higher data quality and data integrity by removing unnecessary and avoidable duplication.

So, to summarise:

  • Business Processes do NOT create data.
  • ALL data in an enterprise is created, transformed and used by Business Functions. NB a Business Function is a core business activity and NOT a business department
  • Only one Business Function can create any one data entity.



2 Responses to “Processes Do NOT Create Data!”

  1. Joe May 7, 2012 3:10 pm #

    Interesting article. I would just be curious on how you would define a Business Process Vs. Business Function, to see where for example an ETL Process to populate a Datawarehouse falls, and though I assume its not creating DATA, would you see it as creating INFORMATION?

    • John Owens May 8, 2012 12:17 am #

      Hi Joe

      Thanks for the comment. Here are two definitions that should answer your question on Function vs Process.

      A Business Function – also called a Function – is an activity or set of activities that a business must perform in order to meet its business objectives and continue in existence.
      It is the Business Functions that create, transform and use all data in an enterprise.

      A Business Process – also called a Process – describes the order of execution of Business Functions in response to a specific Trigger in order to achieve a Preferred or Non-preferred outcome.

      ETL processes/functions are not Business Processes or Business Functions. They are system functions (with a small ‘f’) or utilities, which are simply mechanisms for moving data around between systems. They neither create nor transform data – they might change its structure but not its value or the information that it conveys.

      I hope that this helps.


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