Meaning of BAU

The meaning of BAU

Sometimes the meaning of BAU isn’t easy to describe because of the different contexts that apply.  Here is how I would describe what BAU is and isn’t in relation to day-to-day business operations and project work to better help you understand it.  I’ve used examples in the hope of making it easier.

The meaning of BAU according to Wikipedia

Business As Usual (BAU) – the normal execution of standard functional operations within an organization – forms a possible contrast to projects or programmes which might introduce change.[1] BAU may also stand in contradistinction to external events which may have the effect of unsettling or distracting those inside an organisation.”

You may notice that the definition talks about the functions performed as part of normal operations versus those performed as part of a project.

And here is my way of explaining it:

What BAU isn’t

Business As Usual or BAU isn’t:

  • Work undertaken by a consultant who has been bought into the organisation for a specific reason
    • (to support a re-structure for example)
  • Tasks involved in a project defined as part of delivering a change to the way the business operates
    • (this is not business operations BAU, but is project BAU – see below)
  • Work that is left over after a project has finished that is not handed over to anyone
    • (it then doesn’t belong to anyone and falls through the project handover to BAU crack.)
  • Exception items or work that is requested to be completed by staff outside their normal scope of day to day work
    • (both in the day-to-day business operations and project task sense)
  • Project work that is defined by the boundaries of the project start and end dates


What BAU is

Business As Usual or BAU is:

  • Work undertaken by a staff member on any day that is defined in their job description
    • (this is business operations BAU)
  • Project outcomes or deliverables that are successfully transitioned into the businesses normal way of operating, so that the changes become transparent to the business
    • (this is where there is a strong handover process during the final stages of a project)
  • Tasks that naturally slot into the processes run by the business on a day to day basis
    • (again business operations BAU)
  • Tasks handled and managed by a team in order to comply with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) or Operating Level Agreement (OLA)
    •  (business operations BAU)
  • Project deliverables handed over to a support team so that they fully understand how they are to provide support on a day to day basis moving forward
    • (business operations BAU)
  • Work that fits within the definition of what a team, business unit, division is tasked to perform that delivers on the overall business objectives of the organisation
    • (business operations BAU)
  • Tasks that are defined on a project schedule for a project team member to deliver in their role as a project team member on the delivery team.
    • (project BAU)

Why there is confusion

I think that often there is confusion within an organisation about what constitutes BAU.

Different people will consider tasks they perform during their day as being BAU, whereas other people won’t.

If you are having difficulty and want to understand what BAU is to your organisation, talk to your Manager or supervisor to gain some clarity on your role.

I like the Wikipedia definition in terms of stopping to consider if what you are doing creates a change.

If what you do doesn’t create change the activity is most likely BAU.

If what you do is part of a defined change then it should fall within the definition of a project. The project may be formally managed by a Project Manager or not.


*Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles from