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Business process conceptualizations and the flexibility-support tradeoff

Pedro Antunes (LASIGE, Faculdade de Ciência, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal)
Mary Tate (Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand) (School of Information Systems, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)

Business Process Management Journal

ISSN: 1463-7154

Article publication date: 25 April 2022

Issue publication date: 20 May 2022




Many organizations struggle to achieve their desired levels of business process flexibility and support. However, these two capabilities conflict with each other and different tradeoffs have to be made. In this paper, the authors analyze different process conceptualizations and discuss their implications. The authors argue that the conceptualizations people adopt to think (conceptualize) about business processes affect the way they model them, which in turn result in different flexibility-support tradeoffs.


A set of properties is proposed to compare process conceptualizations: dominant concept, contract, and existential and representational properties. Using these properties, several process conceptualizations are analyzed and integrated in a comparison chart, which highlights different flexibility-support tradeoffs. The storytelling method is adopted to support the analytic process.


The authors show how different process conceptualizations result in different flexibility-support tradeoffs. The authors suggest that we need to intervene on a set of properties of process conceptualizations to achieve different flexibility-support tradeoffs.

Research limitations/implications

This research contributes to understanding the relationships between process conceptualizations, process modeling, and the flexibility-support tradeoff. A comparison chart helps organizations analyze their desired levels of flexibility and support using a set of properties.


The extent of covered viewpoints makes this study unique in the process management field. Such effort provides a contribution towards a more multidisciplinary discussion of process models, which integrates different process conceptualizations.



Funding: The study was funded by the LASIGE Research Unit [UIDB/00408/2020].


Antunes, P. and Tate, M. (2022), "Business process conceptualizations and the flexibility-support tradeoff", Business Process Management Journal, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 856-875.



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