Enabling Operational Excellence
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Enabling Operational Excellence
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MetaProcess vs. Generalization of Processes

John Bertolet, Global Business Process Management director at Schneider Electric, commented[1]: I have seen the term metaprocess used as the generic name for a high-level process. This usually comes up in the context of trying to name the levels of a process architecture – for example:

1) Highest-level, end-to-end process or “value chain” or assembly of processes 2) Process 3) Sub-process 4) Activity 5) Task

People usually mean the first level above as a metaprocess. But I have not seen any universally accepted standard for this naming convention; so it is whatever you define it to be. My reply: My definition of metaprocess is process that transforms other processes. Your hierarchy represents the decomposing of processes. A process being (passively) decomposed is certainly not the same thing as a process (actively) transforming another process. Based on that difference, no, I would not say a value chain is a metaprocess. Of course, there is (must be) a process for decomposing other processes. But that specific functionality is highly specialized; not all processes do it. In fact most don’t. So decompose is not an appropriate verb for a definition of metaprocess. It’s not intrinsic to what all processes do. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A Systems Architect commented: Is there such a thing as a metaprocess? Yes. One way to look at the answer is processes for the creation and management of processes. But another way is a generalized process … like a design-level process pattern for a certain class of operable processes … which must go through a process design and implementation for specific situation before it is an operable process. My reply: Design-level process patterns can be highly useful. However, I don’t think they qualify under the useful dictionary definition of meta-. Let’s test the ‘rule for meta’. Inserting a verb phrase I get “design-level process pattern that can be customized to a more specific process”. There are at least two problems with that:
  • The nouns must be the same on either side of the verb phrase. But a “pattern” is not the same as a “process.”
  • A process is fundamentally one that transforms things. But “can be customized to” has no sense of transforming something else.
So no, I don’t think a design-level process pattern should be viewed as a metaprocess in the strict sense of the term. (Thought-provoking though!) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Filipe Pinto, business process architect, commented: An example of a metaprocess is the epistemic process. My reply: I assume you mean the process through which knowledge is acquired. That’s an interesting one. For the sake of argument I’ll say that doesn’t fit the definition of metaprocess I’m using: process that transforms other processes. Instead, I would argue it’s a case of extreme generalization. Rather than being a process that supports the learning of only one kind of thing, it’s a process that supports the learning of many (all?) kinds of things. Meta- and generalization are not the same. But of course, it all depends on what definition you use – which is the whole point of this discussion. http://www.brsolutions.com/

[1] This series of point/counterpoint replies is a follow-up to my post “Meta Here. Meta There. Meta Everywhere?” (March 31, 2014), which generated a surprising amount of great discussion. (Thanks all!) Refer to: http://www.brsolutions.com/2014/03/31/meta-here-meta-there-meta-everywhere/ The definition I’m using for meta- is from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary [3b]:

3b: of a higher logical type – in nouns formed from names of disciplines and designating new but related disciplines such as can deal critically with the nature, structure, or behavior of the original ones *metalanguage* *metatheory* *metasystem*


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Ronald G. Ross

Ronald G. Ross

Ron Ross, Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rules Solutions, LLC, is internationally acknowledged as the “father of business rules.” Recognizing early on the importance of independently managed business rules for business operations and architecture, he has pioneered innovative techniques and standards since the mid-1980s. He wrote the industry’s first book on business rules in 1994.

Comments (2)

  • Mark H Linehan


    Well-run businesses have a formal “governance process”: a business process for managing changes to other business processes. Defined this way, a “governance process” is a meta-process.

    In the area of models, think of “templated models”: parameterized models that instantiate as concrete models when supplied with arguments for the parameters. For example, one might have a templated model of a governance process, one that might be instantiated for a specific company department, and that requires values for parameters such as the name of a governance body, or a rule for a governance decision. “Templated models” could be thought of as constrained meta-models, in the sense that variance is possible only with respect to the parameters.

    • Ronald G. Ross

      Ronald G. Ross



      * Governance Process. See http://www.brsolutions.com/2014/06/28/metaprocess-vs-governance-process/

      * Templated Models. A generalized process, including parameterized processes, do not qualify as ‘meta’ under the definition I am using. They don’t operate on (transform) other things of their own kind (i.e., other processes).

      P.S. A templated model of a governance process nonetheless obviously has significant value.

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