Process, Function, Mechanism, Procedure – Which One?

In the world of Business Modelling one of the greatest areas of confusion is the terminology used to name the activities performed by an enterprise.

What is the correct term for these activities, Process, Function, Mechanism or Procedure?

The simple answer is “all of the above”. Does this mean that these terms are synonyms? No they are not. All of these activities are carried out by the enterprise but they are not all the same thing.

The problem is that too many people, even those who should know better, are so lax in their use of terms that the correct meaning has become obscured. Many newcomers stand no chance of learning the correct terminology as they have nobody to learn from.

Business Modelling Basic Definitions

The core activities of every enterprise, those that define WHAT an enterprise OUGHT to be doing, are Business Functions.

If you need to know the order in which Business Functions need to be carried out in order to arrive at a specified outcome in a response to a specific trigger then you build a Business Process. Each step in a process will be a function. So, without functions there would be no processes! A good reason to start by modeling the functions!

Functions can be carried out by various means, using different systems, paper forms, etc. These different means are called Mechanisms. So Functions are the “What” and Mechanisms are the “How”.

As Mechanism is to Function, so Procedure is to Process, in that procedure describes the means by which Process are performed. A single Process can be carried out using various Procedures.

Another major terminology error is referring to a Department within an enterprise as a Function! A Function is a core business activity and NOT a department.

The “Finance Function” is NOT the Finance Department!! Rather, it is that set of ACTIVITIES needed to be carried out in order to enable an enterprise to comply with its financial commitments.

Being disciplined in our use of terms is not just being pedantic, it actually results in far higher quality business models.

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