Business process modeling, or BPM for short, serves a very important role in an organization’s operations. Its underlying goal is process improvement leading to greater efficiency, reduction of costs, and scalability. Despite being considered a good practice, this area of business process management may not be as widespread as one would expect, and to those dabbling in it, it may pose a bit of a challenge at first.
Which BPM software is the best? What process mapping tool should I use? Is there a modeling technique specifically for my process flow?
These are some of the questions this post will try to address and in doing so help you make an informed decision concerning choosing the best business process modeling tool for you. Let’s begin.
Just recently, we devoted an entire article to the process mapping technique known as Business Process Modeling Notation. Check it out if you’d like a more in-depth look at what it’s all about.
In essence, BPMN provides an extensive, standardized system for modeling processes. When applied, it produces a flow chart breaking down all the business activities making up a particular process. This process simulation method’s main advantage is its flexibility, which allows modelers to design diagrams serving a variety of purposes.
For one, a BPMN diagram can show a process in a broad perspective but can also be made detailed enough to give actionable guidance to individuals responsible for particular tasks involved.
What makes this possible is a standardized set of symbols including:
- Flow objects – Defining events, activities, and gateways.
- Connecting objects – Solid lines showing the direction of tasks, and dashed lines indicating flow of messages.
- Swim lanes – Specifying individuals or departments responsible for carrying out particular tasks.
- Artifacts – Adding an extra layer of information to the diagram while not being a part of the process itself.
UML stands for Unified Modeling Language and was originally created by software developers but has since become one of the most widespread business process modeling techniques.
There are 14 types of UML diagrams available, a number of which are suitable for creating a business process. Importantly, these can be further divided into two broader categories – structural and behavioral diagrams. The former are oriented towards analysis and process description, its structure, while the latter focus on the entities and individuals involved, as well as particular components.
Popular behavioral diagrams, used to showcase the flow of processes, are activity diagrams. Others include case diagrams and interaction overview diagrams. Common structural diagrams include types such as class diagrams, object diagrams, and component diagrams.
SIPOC process diagrams are used as a part of the Six Sigma methodology which provides a set of techniques and tools for business process improvement. One of these is a SIPOC diagram.
The acronym stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customers – key process components stakeholders have to work with. When a SIPOC diagram has been finished, each letter is usually written at the top of the relevant column in a table format. Next, a list of key elements in each category is created.
Before completing the list, though, a current business process map should be created to provide an idea of how it works and help determine the elements referring to each of the letters of the acronym.
Value stream mapping is applied when you wish to lay out all the steps in a business process. What makes this approach a little different is its focus on improvement through elimination of waste. Process analysts may attempt to identify the following types of waste:
- Waiting – A delay in production due to an issue with a preceding process.
- Motion – Unnecessary actions extending the time needed to complete a task and increasing the cost.
- Transport – Scaling down the steps involving transportation.
- Overproduction – Producing a surplus causing waste or storage costs.
- Overprocessing – Taking too much time to perfect things instead of moving on to the next step.
- Defects – Force re-doing things or produce items unfit for customers.
Gantt charts are perhaps the least popular of the tools discussed here because they were developed 100+ years ago and more powerful business process modeling techniques have been created since. They’re still useful for rather simple, time-sensitive processes, showing when a particular task should begin and end, and if a bigger process is completed as scheduled.
Business process analysis and mapping serve a highly important role in organizations’ affairs. Exactly how you approach this is up to you, however, it’s a good idea to take advantage of what different modeling software has to offer.
Pre-existing tools provide you with the means to create charts and diagrams in order to improve your business operations. Browse through the available solutions and take that next step.