On Theoretical Foundations of Empirical Business Process Management Research

  • Constantin Houy
  • Peter Fettke
  • Peter Loos
Part of the Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing book series (LNBIP, volume 99)


Business Process Management (BPM) has gained considerable importance in research and practice in recent years and has become one of the currently mostly discussed fields of research in the Information Systems (IS) discipline. BPM research aims to develop innovative methods and techniques for the management of business processes in the first place and, moreover, to build and further develop theory, which is an important objective of every scientific discipline. The state of theory is commonly considered a significant indicator for the maturity and grounding of a field of research. This article investigates theoretical foundations of empirical BPM research based on conceptual considerations and a review of empirical BPM literature. Our analysis shows that empirical BPM research is only to a certain extent guided by existing theory. Furthermore, the investigated contributions often refer to theories originating from different other fields of research, like economics or sociology. Implications and the potential of dedicated BPM theory development by means of empirical research are discussed.


Business Process Management BPM Empirical Research Theory Theoretical Foundations Theory Building Design Theory 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Scheer, A.-W., Brabänder, E.: The Process of Business Process Management. In: vom Brocke, J., Rosemann, M. (eds.) Handbook on Business Process Management 2 - Strategic Alignment, Governance, People and Culture, pp. 239–265. Springer, Berlin (2010)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ko, R.K.L., Lee, S.S.G., Lee, E.W.: Business process management (BPM) standards: A survey. Business Process Management Journal 15, 744–791 (2009)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gregor, S.: The Nature of Theory in Information Systems. MIS Quarterly 30, 611–642 (2006)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Scheer, A.-W.: ARIS - Business Process Frameworks. Springer, Berlin (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Niiniluoto, I.: The Aim and Structure of Applied Research. Erkenntnis 38, 1–21 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Fettke, P., Houy, C., Loos, P.: On the Relevance of Design Knowledge for Design-Oriented Business and Information Systems Engineering. Business and Information Systems Engineering 2, 347–358 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hevner, A.R., March, S.T., Park, J., Ram, S.: Design Science in Information Systems Research. MIS Quarterly 28, 75–105 (2004)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Carlsson, S.A.: Developing Knowledge Through IS Design Science Research. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems 19, 75–86 (2007)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Houy, C., Fettke, P., Loos, P.: Empirical Research in Business Process Management - Analysis of an emerging field of research. Business Process Management Journal 16, 619–661 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Weber, R.: Theoretically Speaking. MIS Quarterly 27, iii–xii (2003)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Trkman, P.: The critical success factors of business process management. International Journal of Information Management 30, 125–134 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Recker, J., Dreiling, A.: The Effects of Content Presentation Format and User Characteristics on Novice Developers Understanding of Process Models. Communications of the Association for Information Systems 28, 65–84 (2011)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Sloman, A.: The Computer Revolution in Philosophy: Philosophy, Science and Models of Mind. Harvester, Hassocks (1978)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Cooper, H., Hedges, L.V.: Research Synthesis As a Scientific Enterprise. In: Cooper, H., Hedges, L.V. (eds.) The Handbook of Research Synthesis, pp. 3–14. Russell Sage Foundation, New York (1994)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Hung, R.Y.: Business Process Management as Competitive Advantage: a Review and Empirical Study. Total Quality Management 17, 21–40 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    van der Aalst, W.M.P., ter Hofstede, A.H.M., Weske, M.: Business Process Management: A Survey. In: van der Aalst, W.M.P., ter Hofstede, A.H.M., Weske, M. (eds.) BPM 2003. LNCS, vol. 2678, pp. 1–12. Springer, Heidelberg (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Chalmers, A.F.: What is This Thing Called Science? University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia (1999)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Thagard, P.: Computational Philosophy of Science. The MIT Press, Cambridge (1988)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Simon, H.A.: The Sciences of the artificial. MIT Press, Cambridge (1996)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Dubin, R.: Theory Building. Free Press, London (1978)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Wacker, J.G.: A definition of theory: research guidelines for different theory-building research methods in operations management. Journal of Operations Management 16, 361–385 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Frank, U.: Towards a Pluralistic Conception of Research Methods in Information Systems Research. ICB-Research Report Nr. 7, Institut für Informatik und Wirtschaftsinformatik (ICB) der Universität Duisburg-Essen, Essen (2006)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Davis, F.D.: Perceived Usefulness, Perceived Ease of Use, and User Acceptance of Information Technology. MIS Quarterly 13, 319–340 (1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Walls, J., Widmeyer, G., Sawy, O.E.: Building an information systems design theory for vigilant EIS. Information Systems Research 3, 36–59 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Gregor, S., Jones, D.: The Anatomy of a Design Theory. Journal of the Association for Information Systems 8, 312–335 (2007)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Pries-Heje, J., Baskerville, R.: The Design Theory Nexus. MIS Quarterly 32, 731–755 (2008)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Bunge, M.: Scientific Research II: The Search for Truth. Springer, Berlin (1967)CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Pries-Heje, J., Baskerville, R.: A Design Theory for Managing Software Process Improvement. In: Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology (DESRIST 2009), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2009)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Siponen, M., Baskerville, R., Heikka, J.: A Design Theory for Secure Information Systems Design Methods. Journal of the Association for Information Systems 7, 725–770 (2006)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Venable, J.R.: The Role of Theory and Theorising in Design Science Research. In: Chatterjee, S., Hevner, A.R. (eds.) Proceedings of the First International Conference on Design Science in Information Systems and Technology (DESRIST 2006), Claremont, California, pp. 1–18 (2006)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Patas, J., Milicevic, D., Goeken, M.: Enhancing Design Science through Empirical Knowledge: Framework and Application. In: Jain, H., Sinha, A.P., Vitharana, P. (eds.) DESRIST 2011. LNCS, vol. 6629, pp. 32–46. Springer, Heidelberg (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Winter, R., Krcmar, H., Sinz, E.J., Zelewski, S., Hevner, A.R.: What in Fact is Fundamental Research in Business and Information Systems Engineering? Business and Information Systems Engineering 1, 192–198 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Goodhue, D.L., Thompson, R.L.: Task-technology fit and individual performance. MIS Quarterly 19, 213–236 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Coase, R.H.: The Nature of the Firm. Economica 4, 386–405 (1937)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Wu, I.L.: A model for implementing BPR based on strategic perspectives: an empirical study. Information & Management 39, 313–324 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Ursic, D., Anteric, S., Mulej, M.: Business process re-engineering in practice - An example of a medium-sized Slovenian company in difficulties. Systemic Practice and Action Research 18, 89–117 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Williamson, O.E.: Market and Hierarchies: Analysis and Antitrust Implications. Free Press, New York (1975)Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Williamson, O.: Transaction-Cost Economics: The Governance of Contractual Relations. Journal of Law and Economics 22, 233–261 (1979)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    von Bertalanffy, L.: General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications. George Braziller, New York (1968)Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Penrose, E.T.: The Theory of the Growth of the Firm. Wiley, New York (1959)Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Wernerfelt, B.: A Resource Based View of the Firm. Strategic Management Journal 5, 171–180 (1984)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Fiedler, F.E.: A Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness. In: Berkowitz, L. (ed.) Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 1, pp. 149–190. Academic Press, New York (1964)Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Fiedler, F.E.: A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness. McGraw-Hill, New York (1967)Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Alchian, A., Demsetz, H.: Production, information costs, and economic organization. American Economic Review 62, 777–795 (1972)Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Jensen, M., Meckling, W.: Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs, and ownership structure. Journal of Financial Economics 3, 305–360 (1976)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Fishbein, M., Ajzen, I.: Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behaviour: An Introduction to Theory and Research. Addison-Wesley, Reading (1975)Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Ajzen, I., Fishbein, M.: Understanding Attitudes and Predicting Social Behaviour. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs (1980)Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Conner, K.R.: A Historical Comparison of the Resource-Based Theory and Five Schools of Thought Within Industrial Organization Economics: Do We Have a New Theory of the Firm? Journal of Management 17, 121–154 (1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Kogut, B., Zander, U.: Knowledge of the Firm, Combinative Capabilities, and the Replication of Technology. Organization Science 3, 383–397 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Pfeffer, J., Salancik, G.: The external control of organizations: A resource dependence perspective. Harper and Row, New York (1978)Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Searle, J.R.: Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1969)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Wade, M., Hulland, J.: The Resource-based View and Information Systems Research: Review, Extension, and Suggestions for Future Research. MIS Quarterly 28, 107–142 (2004)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Constantin Houy
    • 1
  • Peter Fettke
    • 1
  • Peter Loos
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Information Systems (IWi) at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI GmbH)Saarland UniversitySaarbrückenGermany

Personalised recommendations