होम International Journal of Operations & Production Management Towards a definition of a business performance measurement system

Towards a definition of a business performance measurement system

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english
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International Journal of Operations & Production Management
DOI:
10.1108/01443570710763778
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July, 2007
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The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/0144-3577.htm

IJOPM
27,8

784

Towards a definition of a business
performance measurement
system
Monica Franco-Santos, Mike Kennerley, Pietro Micheli,
Veronica Martinez, Steve Mason, Bernard Marr, Dina Gray
and Andrew Neely
Cranfield School of Management, Centre for Business Performance,
Cranfield University, Cranfield, UK
Abstract
Purpose – Scholars in the field of performance measurement tend to use the term business
performance measurement (BPM) systems without explaining exactly what they mean by it. This lack
of clarity creates confusion and comparability issues, and makes it difficult for researchers to build on
one an each other’s work. The purpose of this paper is to identify the key characteristics of a BPM
system, by reviewing the different definitions of a BPM system that exist in the literature. This work
aims to open a debate on what are the necessary and sufficient conditions of a BPM system. It is also
hoped that a greater level of clarity in the performance measurement research arena will be
encouraged.
Design/methodology/approach – The performance measurement literature is reviewed using a
systematic approach.
Findings – Based on this research, a set of conditions of a BPM system has been proposed from
which researchers can choose those which are necessary and sufficient conditions for their studies.
Research limitations/implications – The analysis in this paper provides a structure and set of
characteristics that researchers could use as a reference framework to define a BPM system for their
work, and as a way to define the specific focus of their investigations. More clarity and precision
around the use of the BPM systems phrase will improve the generalisability and comparability of
research in this area.
Originality/value – By reviewing the different definitions of a BPM system that exist in the
literature this paper will hopefully stimulate a debate on the necessary and sufficient conditions ; of a
BPM system and encourage a greater level of clarity in the performance measurement research arena.
Keywords Business performance, Performance measurement (quality), Performance management
Paper type Literature review

International Journal of Operations &
Production Management
Vol. 27 No. 8, 2007
pp. 784-801
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0144-3577
DOI 10.1108/01443570710763778

Introduction
The field of business performance measurement (BPM) lacks a cohesive body of
knowledge (Marr and Schiuma, 2003). Management researchers in areas as diverse as
strategy management, operations management, human resources, organisational
behaviour, information systems, marketing, and management accounting and control
are contributing to the field of performance measurement (Neely, 1999, 2002; Marr and
Schiuma, 2003; Franco-Santos and Bourne, 2005). While diverse and multi-disciplinary
The authors thank the EPSRC for support of this project through the research grants: Managing
through Measures (grant number GR/R56136/01) and Evaluating the Impact of Performance
Measurement Systems (grant number GR/S28846).

research is appealing, it can also foster complications. These different approaches
towards performance measurement have led to numerous definitions of a BPM system,
and there is little consensus regarding its main components and characteristics
(Dumond, 1994).
The lack of agreement on a definition creates confusion and clearly limits the
potential for generalisability and comparability of research in this area. This point is
well illustrated by reviewing the BPM system definitions found in the literature. From
an operations perspective, a BPM system is mainly perceived as a “set of metrics used
to quantify both the efficiency and effectiveness of actions” (Neely et al., 1995); or as the
reporting process that gives feedback to employees on the outcome of actions (Bititci
et al., 1997). From a strategic control perspective, two different aspects of a BPM
system can be identified. On one hand, it reflects the procedures used to cascade
down those performance metrics used to implement the strategy within the
organisation (Gates, 1999). On the other hand, a BPM system is the system that not
only allows an organisation to cascade down its business performance measures, but
also provides it with the information necessary to challenge the content and validity of
the strategy (Ittner et al., 2003). From a management accounting perspective, a BPM
system is considered to be synonymous with management planning and budgeting
(Otley, 1999).
The main purpose of this paper is not to provide another definition; rather, it is to
define the key characteristics of a BPM system, based on a review of the definitions
found in the literature. To define a concept, it is crucial to identify the necessary and
sufficient conditions for its existence (Brennan, 2003). This paper, therefore, seeks to
encourage a debate in the academic and practitioner communities regarding the main
elements of BPM systems. This reflective dialogue will hopefully lead to a shared and
comprehensive definition of a BPM system.
In terms of more immediate implications for the research arena, we believe that
greater clarity on what a BPM system comprises could substantially improve the
comparability and generalisability of the research conducted in the field of BPM. As it
stands, scholars utilise the phrase “BPM system” without specifying which elements
they are focusing on, and which conditions are (or have to be) present in the empirical
contexts they study. In order to ensure greater understanding of the research carried
out in this field, and the possibility of comparing findings appropriately, it is important
that researchers make explicit statements of which conditions are considered
necessary and/or sufficient for the existence of BPM systems in each study.
Furthermore, we believe that comparability, based on thorough understanding of what
every piece of research entails, is a fundamental requirement to contribute to both
theory and practice, and ultimately lead to evidence-based management (Rousseau,
2006; Pfeffer and Sutton, 2006).
This paper is structured as follows. Firstly, it provides a comprehensive review and
analysis of the different definitions of BPM systems that can be found in performance
measurement literature. Secondly, based on our analysis of the definitions of BPM
systems, it shows the different elements that a BPM system may have. Thirdly, our
findings are discussed and a set of necessary and sufficient conditions of a BPM
system are presented. Finally, limitations and conclusions of our study are outlined.

Business
performance
measurement
785

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786

Methodology
Definitions of BPM systems have been proposed by scholars coming from a number of
disciplines. This paper aims to report a review and synthesis of these. The paper
focuses on the phrase “business performance measurement systems” as the unit of
analysis. The paper focuses on “business” performance measurement systems, as
opposed to “organisational” performance measurement systems. The term “business”
is used as a boundary to exclude public and no-profit sector literatures. It is our
assumption that a BPM system is a unique combination of elements. It may be a
discrete or explicit system or a collection of existing sub-systems; however, it is the
combination of these sub-systems that makes it uniquely a BPM system. The term
“system” in this phrase is used inconsistently within the literature. Some of the
instances of the term may not be recognised as “systems” from some theoretical
perspectives. However, rather than attempt to address these semantic and theoretical
differences we have accepted all usages of the “system” term as valid in the contexts of
the definitions in which they are used. For a more comprehensive discussion and
definitions of the term “system” (Checkland, 1999; Klir, 1991; Marion, 1999). In order to
scope the literature review, we followed a systematic method. Firstly, we used two
different electronic databases to search for key references on the area of performance
measurement. These electronic databases were ABI-Proquest, and EBSCO. We
searched those databases using the keyword “performance measurement system *”[1].
In the former database, we found 2,041 references; in the latter, 239. Secondly, we
selected the relevant studies coming from these databases. Relevant studies were those
that fulfilled the following selection criteria:
.
research looking at BPM;
.
research published in peer reviewed scholarly journals;
.
private sector research; and
.
post-1980 research.
This last criterion was included because of the change in perspective that took place in
the 1980s, by which performance measurement moved away from having a pure
financial focus to include more comprehensive business characteristics (Kaplan, 1983;
Neely, 2005).
Out of the total number of journal articles found, 205 passed our selection criteria.
Subsequently, we read those articles looking for BPM system definitions. Whilst
reading those articles, notes were taken about potential cross-references that could be
relevant for our research. Through this process another 132 documents, including not
only journal articles but also books, books chapters, conference papers and working
papers, were identified and included. In total, more than 300 documents were reviewed,
but the research team came across only seventeen different definitions of BPM
systems.
In order to assess how widely known and relevant the definitions found in the
literature were, we conducted a citation analysis of the papers containing each
definition. We used three different databases to carry out this analysis: the social
science citation index, Scopus and Google scholar. Three databases were chosen in
order to enhance the rigour of our citation analysis. Scopus was selected because it
covers 14,200 publications (including conference proceedings); the social citation index

was selected because traditionally it has been the point of reference for this type of
research analysis; finally, the Google scholar was selected because it is the only
database that covers the citation of books. It must be noted that this type of analysis
has a random duplication effect. This means that the citation of a paper in one database
can be found in the other two databases; thus, the summary of citations per paper
across the three databases cannot be performed. Clearly the citation analysis we have
conducted can be criticised on the grounds that citations are made to papers rather
than definitions. However, we have assumed that the most frequently quoted articles
are amongst the most widely read and hence, if frequently cited papers contain
definitions, these too are likely to be reasonably well-known.
BPM system definitions
The definitions selected from the literature and the results of the citation analysis are
presented in Table I.
The definitions of BPM system extracted from the reviewed literature demonstrate
the diversity of the subject and the lack of consensus on a definition. Each definition
provides a different perspective on the concept, and no two definitions agree on
the precise characteristics. Each of the cited authors defines BPM system from a
different perspective, and does so using different types of characteristics to derive their
definition. Initial analysis of the definitions shows that the basis of the definitions is
one or a combination of the:
.
features of the BPM system
.
role(s) that the BPM system plays; and
.
processes that are part of the BPM system.
To be more precise, the features of a BPM system are properties or elements which
make up the BPM system; the roles of a BPM system are the purposes or functions that
are performed by the BPM system; and the processes of a BPM system are the series of
actions that combine together to constitute the BPM system.
In order to identify the key characteristics of a BPM system, the seventeen
definitions found in the literature were content analysed. Therefore, we conducted
three different analyses. Firstly, the content of the seventeen definitions was examined
in order to identify the main features of a BPM system. Secondly, the content of the
definitions was examined to identify the roles that a BPM system plays in an
organisation. Finally, the content of the definitions was examined in order to clarify the
processes that take place within a BPM system. Each content analysis was conducted
by two different teams of researchers in order to increase the validity of the analysis.
The outputs from both teams were shared and discussed, and a definite list of BPM
system characteristics was agreed.
Characteristics of a BPM system
The characteristics obtained as a result of the content analysis are presented in
Tables II-IV. The left hand column of each table describes the characteristic found in
the definitions with the columns showing in which of the definitions these
characteristics can be found.

Business
performance
measurement
787

“Strategic performance measurement defines the focus and scope of management accounting
[. . .] The process of strategic performance measurement begins with the organisation’s
owners specifying the organisation’s primary objectives [. . .] Organization planners
undertake strategic planning exercises to identify how they will pursue the organisation’s
primary objectives [. . .] The chosen strategic plan results in a set of formal and informal
contracts between the organisation and its stakeholders [. . .] The give and take between the
organisation and its critical stakeholders will define the organisation’s secondary objectives.
Secondary objectives derive their importance from their presumed effect on the achievement
level of primary objectives. Secondary objectives are critical because they are the variables
that the organisation’s employees use to promote success – defined as desired performance on
the organisation’s primary objective [. . .] As employees monitor the level of achieved primary
and secondary objectives, they can use the resulting data to revise their beliefs about, or model
of, the relationship between the secondary objectives and the organisation’s primary objective
– a process of organisational learning [. . .] The final step in strategic performance
measurement is to tie incentive pay to performance measurement results” (p. 553-555)
“Our approach to performance measurement focuses on one output of strategic planning:
senior management’s choice of the nature and scope of the contracts that it negotiates, both
explicitly and implicitly, with its stakeholders. The performance measurement system is the
tool the company uses to monitor those contractual relationships” (p. 26)
“A performance measurement system is the information system which is at the heart of the
performance management process and it is of critical importance to the effective and
efficient functioning of the performance management system” (p. 533)
“A business performance measurement system refers to the use of a multi-dimensional set of
performance measures for the planning and management of a business” (p. 4)
“A performance measurement system is an information system that supports managers in
the performance management process mainly fulfilling two primary functions: the first one
consists in enabling and structuring communication between all the organisational units
(individuals, teams, processes, functions, etc.) involved in the process of target setting. The
second one is that of collecting, processing and delivering information on the performance of
people, activities, processes, products, business units, etc.” (p. 359)

Atkinson (1998)

Forza and Salvador
(2000)

Bourne et al. (2003)

Bititci et al. (1997)

Atkinson et al. (1997)

Definition

Table I.
Selected definitions of
BPM systems

Author and date

788
1

–a

15

25

0

4

0

3

0

4

4
(continued)

11

57

128

14

Citation analysis
Social science
Google
citation index Scopus scholar

IJOPM
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Definition

“A strategic performance measurement system translates business strategies into
deliverable results. Combine financial, strategic and operating measures to gauge how well a
company meets its targets” (p. 4)
Ittner et al. (2003)
“A strategic performance measurement system: (1) provides information that allows the firm
to identify the strategies offering the highest potential for achieving the firm’s objectives,
and (2) aligns management processes, such as target setting, decision-making, and
performance evaluation, with the achievement of the chosen strategic objectives” (p. 715)
Kaplan and Norton
A balanced scorecardb is a comprehensive set of performance measures defined from four
different measurement perspectives (financial, customer, internal, and learning and growth)
(1996)
that provides a framework for translating the business strategy into operational terms
(p. 55)
Kerssens-Van
“Performance measurement and reporting takes place at 2 levels: (1) company as a whole,
Drongelen and Fisscher reporting to external stakeholders, (2) within the company, between managers and their
(2003)
subordinates. At both levels there are 3 types of actors: (a) evaluators (e.g. managers,
external stakeholders), (b) evaluate (e.g. middle managers, company), (c) assessor, which is
the person or institution assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of performance
measurement and reporting process and its outputs (e.g. controllers, external accountant
audits)” (p. 52)
Lebas (1995)
“Performance measurement is the system that supports a performance management
philosophy” (p. 34). A performance measurement system includes performance measures
that can be key success factors, measures for detection of deviations, measures to track past
achievements, measures to describe the status potential, measures of output, measures of
input, etc. A performance measurement system should also include a component that will
continuously check the validity of the cause-and-effect relationships among the measures
Lynch and Cross (1991) “A strategic performance measurement system is based on concepts of total quality
management, industrial engineering, and activity accounting. A 2-way communications
system is required to institute the strategic vision in the organization. Management
accountants should be participating in the information revolution and suggestions on how to
do this include: (1) providing the right information at the right time, (2) switching from
scorekeeper to coach, and (3) focusing on what counts the most. Interpreting the financial
and non-financial signals of the business and responding to them even when they do not
agree is a management issue, not an accounting issue.”

Gates (1999)

Author and date

–

–

–

23

–

–

130

2

39

42

0

0

49
(continued)

25

14

–

6

–

Citation analysis
Social science
Google
citation index Scopus scholar

Business
performance
measurement
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Table I.

“A BPM system enables an enterprise to plan, measure, and control its performance and
helps ensure that sales and marketing initiatives, operating practices, information
technology resources, business decision, and people’s activities are aligned with business
strategies to achieve desired business results and create shareholder value.” (p. 12)
“Strategic performance measurement is the integrated set of management processes which
link strategy to execution” (p. B6-1). The components of a strategic performance measurement
system are: “(1) performance metrics – defining evaluation criteria and corresponding
measures that will operate as leading indicators of performance against strategic goals and
initiatives. (2) Management process alignment – designing and reengineering core
management processes to incorporate new performance metrics as they evolve, and balancing
the various management processes of the organization so that they reinforce one another. The
processes include: planning and capital allocation, performance assessment, management
compensation and rewards, and stakeholder relationships. (3) Measurement and reporting
infrastructure: establishing processes and supporting technology infrastructures to collect
the raw data needed for all of an organization’s performance metrics and to disseminate the
results throughout the organization as needed” (pp. B6-2&3)
A performance measurement system enables informed decisions to be made and actions to
be taken because it quantifies the efficiency and effectiveness of past actions through the
acquisition, collation, sorting, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of appropriate
data. Organizations measure their performance in order to check their position (as a means
to establish position, compare position or benchmarking, monitor progress), communicate
their position (as a means to communicate performance internally and with the regulator),
confirm priorities (as a means to manage performance, cost and control, focus investment
and actions), and compel progress (as a means of motivation and rewards) (pp. 5-6)

Maisel (2001)

Neely (1998)

McGee (1992)

Definition

Table I.

Author and date

790
–

–

–

–

0

0

29
(continued)

0

2

Citation analysis
Social science
Google
citation index Scopus scholar

IJOPM
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–

–

42

234
24

136

107
0

50

Notes: The mark “-” means that the article does not appear in this database; a balanced scorecard is considered to be a BPM system by many
researchers (Atkinson, 1998; Ittner et al., 2003; Neely et al., 2000; Otley, 1999)

a

Otley (1999)

b

A performance measurement system (PMS) is “the set of metrics used to quantify both the
efficiency and effectiveness of actions” (p. 81). A PMS can be examined at three different
levels. (1) At the level of individual performance measures, the PMS can be analysed by
asking questions such as: What performance measures are used? What are they used for?
How much do they cost? What benefit do they provide? (2) At the next higher level, the
performance measurement system as an entity, can be analysed by exploring issues such as:
Have all the appropriate elements (internal, external, financial, non-financial) been covered?
Have measures which relate to the rate of improvement been introduced? Have measures
which relate to both the long and the short term objectives of the business been introduced?
Have the measures been integrated, both vertically and horizontally? Do any of the measures
conflict with one another? (3) And at the level of the relationship between the performance
measurement system and the environment within which it operates. At this level the system
can be analysed by assessing: Whether the measures reinforce the firm’s strategies; whether
the measures match the organization’s culture; whether the measures are consistent with the
existing recognition and reward structure; whether some measures focus on customer
satisfaction; whether some measures focus on what the competition is doing (p)
BPM systems can be characterized as “an integrated set of planning and review procedures
which cascade down through the organization to provide a link between each individual and
the overall strategy of the organization.” (in Smith and Goddard, 2002, p. 248)
“System that provides the information that is intended to be useful to managers in
performing their jobs and to assist organizations in developing and maintaining viable
patterns of behaviour. Any assessment of the role of such information requires consideration
of how managers make use of the information being provided to them” (p. 364). Main
components of a PMS: (1) objectives, (2) strategy, (3) targets, (4) rewards, (5) information
flows (feedback and feed-forward)

Neely et al. (1995)

Rogers (1990)

Definition

Author and date

Citation analysis
Social science
Google
citation index Scopus scholar

Business
performance
measurement
791

Table I.

Table II.
Main features of BPM
systems

X
X

X

X

X

X

X

X
X
X

X

X

X

Note: “X” is included if the definition provided refers to the feature in the first column

Performance measures
(including features
such as
Multi-dimensional,
leading/lagging,
efficiency/effectiveness,
internal/external,
vertically and
horizontally integrated,
multi-level)
Objectives/goals (often
referring to strategic
objectives)
Supporting
infrastructure (which
can include data
acquisition, collation,
sorting, analysis,
interpretation, and
dissemination (Neely,
1998))
Targets
Causal models
Hierarchy/cascade
Performance contract
Rewards

792

X

X

X
X

X

X
X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

29
24
12
12
12
12

35

53

Lynch
Kaplan Kerssens-Van
Forza
and
Neely
Drongelen
and
and
Ittner
Atkinson Bititci Bourne
Total
Atkinson
et al.
et al.
et al. Salvador Gates et al. Norton and Fisscher Lebas Cross Maisel McGee Neely et al. Otley Rogers
(2003)
(1995) (1991) (2001) (1992) (1998) (1995) (1999) (1990) percentage
(2000)
(1999) (2003) (1996)
(1998)
(1997)
(1997) (2002)

IJOPM
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X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X
X

X

Note: “X” is included if the definition provided refers to the role stated in the first column

Strategy
implementation/execution
Focus attention/provide
alignment
Internal communication
(communicating
performance, and
priorities/objectives)
Measure
performance/performance
evaluation
Monitor progress
Planning
External communication
Rewards
Performance
improvement
Managing relationships
Feedback
Double-loop learning
Strategy formulation
Benchmarking
Compliance with
regulations
Control
Influence behaviour
X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X
X
X

X

X

X
X
X
X

X

X

X

X
X

X

X
X

X
X

X

X

X

X

X
X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

6
6
6

18
12
12
12
6
6

41
35
29
24
18

41

41

59

Forza
Kaplan Kerssens-Van
Lynch
Atkinson Bititci Bourne
and
Ittner
and
Drongelen
and
Neely
Atkinson
et al.
et al.
et al. Salvador Gates et al. Norton and Fisscher Lebas Cross Maisel McGee Neely et al. Otley Rogers
Total
(1998)
(1997)
(1997) (2002)
(2000)
(1999) (2003) (1996)
(2003)
(1995) (1991) (2001) (1992) (1998) (1995) (1999) (1990) percentage

Business
performance
measurement
793

Table III.
Main roles of BPM
systems

Table IV.
Main processes of BPM
systems
X

X
X
X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X
X

X

Kerssens-Van
Drongelen and Lebas
Fisscher (2003) (1995)

Note: “X” is included if the definition provided refers to the process stated in the first column

X

X

X

X

X

Kaplan
and
Norton
(1996)

X

X

X

Lynch
and
Cross
(1991)

X
X

X

X

X
X

X

X
X

X
X

X

X
X

X
X

X

6

12
6

12
12
12

12

29
29
18
18

53

Neely
Maisel McGee Neely et al. Otley Rogers
Total
(2001) (1992) (1998) (1995) (1999) (1990) percentage

794

Information
provision
(feed-forward
and feedback)
Measures
design/selection
Data capture
Target setting
Rewards
Identify
stakeholders
needs and wants
Strategic
objectives
specification
Data analysis
Decision making
Performance
evaluation
Interpretation
Review
procedures
Planning

Forza
and
Ittner
Atkinson Bititci Bourne
Atkinson
et al.
et al.
et al. Salvador Gates et al.
(2000)
(1999) (2003)
(1998)
(1997)
(1997) (2002)

IJOPM
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Discussion
This research has examined a set of BPM system definitions found in the literature on
performance measurement in the private sector. The main purpose of looking at BPM
system definitions was to identify the characteristics that are seen as necessary and/or
sufficient for the existence of a BPM system. A “necessary” condition is one without
which something cannot be what it is. For example, if something is not a plant, it
cannot be a flower. So being a plant is a necessary condition for being a flower.
A “sufficient” condition specifies one way of being that thing. For example, a daisy is
one type of flower; however, not being a daisy does not mean that something is not a
flower, it could be a rose. So being a “daisy” could be a sufficient condition for being a
flower (Brennan, 2003). As such, if anything is to be defined, its necessary and
sufficient conditions must be specified.
After conducting a methodical literature review and reading over 300 documents
(including journal articles, books, conference papers and working papers), we found
only seventeen definitions of the BPM system concept. This finding has critical
implications for the performance measurement literature. It suggests that the majority
of researchers in this field do not explicitly define what they are referring to when they
use the phrase BPM system. This means that it is difficult for readers to know exactly
what these researchers are investigating, and hence compare different studies,
generalise and draw conclusions about the body of research in the field.
Clear understanding and comparability of research is important due to the diversity
of approaches used to look at performance measurement in organizations. This
heterogeneity is reflected in the variety of characteristics extracted from the set of
definitions analysed. BPM systems have been described according to their features,
roles and processes, but none of the definitions has a common or consistent set of
characteristics. Thus, although researchers may assume that there is a common
understanding of what is and is not a BPM system, this study suggests that this
assumption is flawed. As a result, it could be argued that if the performance
measurement field is to develop and become more relevant to theory and practice, then
researchers need to be more specific and explicit about the characteristics of the
systems they are studying. Otherwise, generalisability and comparability of research
will be difficult to judge, and this has strong implications regarding the development of
this field of research and its impact on practice.
As previously mentioned, there is little agreement concerning the characteristics of
a BPM system. However, we found some consensus about two features of BPM
systems: 53 per cent of the authors mention “performance measures”; and 35 per cent
suggest “objectives/goals” as features of BPM systems. There is also some consensus
regarding five roles of BPM systems: 59 per cent consider “strategy
implementation/execution”; 41 per cent suggest “focus attention/provide alignment”
“internal communication” and “measure performance/performance evaluation”; and
35 per cent of authors mention “progress monitoring” as roles of BPM systems. Finally,
there is some agreement concerning one process of BPM systems. That is “information
provision” which has been cited by 53 per cent of the authors. The remaining
characteristics found in the definitions are used by five or fewer people. It is interesting
to note that the majority of the authors concentrate on only a few elements from
the list. Neely (1998) is the only author to cover many of the elements together
(citing 51 per cent of the elements in his definition).

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As discussed in the introduction, in order to define something it is necessary to
specify its necessary and sufficient conditions. As we have stated, the main intention of
this paper is not to create a new definition, but to identify the characteristics that
researchers might include as necessary or sufficient conditions when defining the BPM
systems they are going to use in their investigations. Thus, which characteristics of a
BPM system could be considered key or necessary and which elements of a BPM
system could be considered sufficient? This question is addressed in the next three
sections, building on our findings, and on the knowledge and experience we have in the
field of performance measurement.
Features of a BPM system
Following the analyses of the definitions of a BPM system, we could argue that there are
only two necessary features: “performance measures” and “supporting infrastructure”.
That measures (also referred to as metrics or data in the definitions) are a necessary
requirement for a BPM system to exist is clearly a tautology. This perhaps explains why
so many authors neglect to mention them in their definitions. Although the existence of
measures is taken as a given, there is no such agreement on the nature and design of those
measures. There has long been a discussion about the need to include other dimensions of
performance than just financial (Drucker, 1954; Ghalayini and Noble, 1996; Goold and
Quinn, 1990; Fitzgerald, 1988; Johnson and Kaplan, 1987); however, there is no consensus
on what the other dimensions should be, and in fact the evidence that there should be
“balance” in the measures used is far from conclusive (Kennerley and Bourne, 2003).
As such, it is impossible to define generic types or characteristics of measures that should
be included in any definition of a BPM system.
A supporting infrastructure can vary from very simplistic manual methods of
recording data to sophisticated information systems and supporting procedures which
might include data acquisition, collation, sorting, analysis, interpretation, and
dissemination (Neely, 1998; Rolstadas, 1998), and the human resources required to
support them (Kerssens-Van Drongelen and Fisscher, 2003). A supporting infrastructure
may be an explicit and instantly recognisable system or a set of processes that have been
implemented as part of a discrete BPM system. It could also be separate activities within
other performance management processes that help to perform the roles of a BPM system.
Taking into account these two conditions, it could be argued that if a piece of research only
used performance measures and supporting infrastructure as necessary features of a BPM
system, then a computerised balanced scorecard IT system would be enough evidence of
the existence of the necessary features, and hence a PMS.
One feature that could be problematic as regards to its necessary or sufficient nature
is “goals” (often referred to as “strategic goals”). A common purpose for implementing
a BPM system is to achieve some organisational goals and, very often, this relates to
strategic goals. For example, one of the stated objectives of implementing a balanced
scorecard-based measurement system is often to achieve an organisation’s strategic
objectives. This could be expected, given the relationship between goals and
organizational viability (Deming, 1982; Feurer and Chaharbaghi, 1995). Given the
recent emphasis on strategic performance measurement systems, it is not surprising
that many of the definitions talk about linking measures to strategy or strategic
objectives. However, there are measurement systems within businesses that will only
have operational goals, which may or may not be implicitly or explicitly linked

to strategy. Furthermore, a set of financial accounts is undoubtedly a business
performance report, and hence the system that produced it is a BPM system.
Nevertheless, there is no specific performance objective, strategic or otherwise, to
which these accounts are necessarily linked.
Roles of BPM systems
Of a BPM system, 17 different roles have been identified. However, we argue that the only
necessary role is the use of BPM systems to “measure performance”. The consideration of
this role as necessary is again a tautology. This is probably the reason why many authors
do not mention it in their definition. We accept this despite the fact that a number of studies
argue that significant value is gained from the process of designing performance
measures, regardless of the implementation and data collection phases (Neely et al., 2000,
1995, 1997). The rest of the roles extracted from our analysis can be considered context
specific. Therefore, it is extremely important that researchers clarify in their studies the
different roles that the BPM system plays in the firms they are investigating.
It is interesting to note that organizational learning (Senge, 1990) is not directly
quoted as a BPM system role, although several definitions refer to some elements of the
learning process. This is surprising, given the centrality of the learning perspective in
the balanced scorecard (Sim and Koh, 2001) and in many other management areas such
as strategy (Feurer and Chaharbaghi, 1995). Our opinion is that, although it is possible
to design, maintain and use a BPM system without organizational learning occurring,
such an outcome is extremely unlikely. One of the primary effects of the kind of
“self-analysis” undertaken during system design is improved knowledge of the
organization, and given the iterative and cumulative impact of experience with a BPM
system, it is highly likely that learning will occur (Neely et al., 2000).
In order to help researchers in the process of identifying and selecting the roles of
BPM systems that will be the focus of their investigations, we propose five different
categories of BPM system roles. These are:
(1) “measure performance” this category encompasses the role of monitor progress
and measure performance/evaluate performance;
(2) “strategy management” this category comprises the roles of planning, strategy
formulation, strategy implementation/execution, and focus attention/provide
alignment;
(3) “communication” which comprises the roles of internal and external
communication, benchmarking and compliance with regulations;
(4) “influence behaviour” this category encompasses the roles of rewarding or
compensating behaviour, managing relationships and control; and
(5) “learning and improvement” that comprises the roles of feedback, double-loop
learning and performance improvement.
Processes of BPM systems
Based on our analysis, BPM systems include 12 different processes, out of which we
believe that only three could be considered necessary. These are: “information
provision” “measure design and selection” and “data capture” (regardless of how the
data capture is done). If a company does not have a specific process for selecting the
measures it is going to use to assess its performance (even if those measures are imposed

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by external stakeholders); if it does not have a process for capturing the data to calculate
its selected performance measures; and if it does not have a process to distribute the
results of the performance measurement exercise (even if it is with a simple Excel
spreadsheet); then, it could be argued that this company does not have a BPM system.
It is important to highlight that even though we consider these three processes as
the only necessary processes, it is highly unlikely that some kind of “data analysis” or
manipulation will not be done to sort the data into a meaningful and usable format.
Without even limited manipulation the measurement process will be of no value
whatsoever. In our opinion, the rest of the processes included in Table IV cannot be
considered necessary as they are not critical for the functioning of a BPM system. They
are probably beneficial for the effectiveness of a BPM system, but this discussion is out
of the scope of this paper.
To further the analysis, we have grouped the processes into five categories:
(1) “selection and design of measures” this category comprises the processes of
identifying stakeholders needs and wants, planning, strategic objectives
specification, measures design and selection and target setting;
(2) “collection and manipulation of data” this category includes the processes of
data capture and data analysis;
(3) “information management” this category encompasses the processes of
information provision, interpretation, decision making;
(4) “performance evaluation and rewards” this category includes the processes of
evaluating performance and linking it to rewards; and
(5) “system review” this category includes the different review procedures (these
procedures will ensure that there is a feedback loop within the system).
All these processes can take place at either organisational, team or individual levels.
Researchers need to bear in mind that when they specify the features, roles and
processes present in the BPM system they are studying, these specifications will define
the boundaries of the system, and hence, the research being undertaken. The greater
the number of features, roles or processes to be included in the definition, the more
difficult it will be to distinguish performance measurement from other management
processes, especially performance management.
Limitations
This research has looked at aspects of BPM systems that researchers have explicitly
mentioned in their definitions, and it has been conducted by a team of eight
researchers, all of whom have recognised knowledge and experience in the field of
BPM. However, using this type of method for identifying the main characteristics of a
BPM system also creates some limitations. Firstly, we have only looked at explicit
definitions of BPM systems. Although we cannot claim to have developed the complete
list of features, roles and processes that a BPM system comprises, we have developed a
very comprehensive list of BPM system characteristics that researchers could use to
define the boundaries of their studies and make their work more transparent and
comparable. Secondly, by only considering the definitions created by authors, rather
than the meaning of their work as a whole, we missed many of the nuances provided
by each paper. A more holistic approach, albeit necessarily more subjective, may

provide greater insights. Further, research on this area could improve the robustness of
our results.
Conclusions
Issues related to comparability and generalisability of research have to be addressed if we
want to make the field of performance measurement more relevant to theory and practice.
As we have shown in this paper, researchers have been looking at BPM systems, often
without explicitly describing the specific aspects of the BPM system under study. In the
literature, it is somehow assumed that the phrase BPM system is univocal. However, as we
have shown, there is no consensus about the meaning of this phrase, and this situation
creates confusion and inhibits the development of the field. Therefore, we suggest that
researchers need to be more specific and explicit about the characteristics of the
performance measurement systems they investigate. To start doing so, we have reviewed
a number of definitions of BPM systems found in the literature, and we have discussed
several characteristics of a BPM system from which researchers can choose for their
studies. With this list of conditions, we hope to encourage a central debate within the
performance measurement field, and to achieve greater level of clarity in future studies.
Note
1. A truncation character, * is used to find articles containing words with the same root.
Therefore, a search for performance measurement system * will find articles containing the
words “performance measurement system” and “performance measurement systems”; but
also “business performance measurement systems” “strategic performance measurement
systems”, etc.
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Further reading
Franco-Santos, M., Bourne, M. and Neely, A. (2003), “Understanding strategic performance
measurement systems and their impact on organisational outcomes: a systematic review”,
working paper, Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield.
Corresponding author
Monica Franco-Santos can be contacted at: monica.franco@cranfield.ac.uk

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