Alina Urbaniak

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What is Business Process Modeling? Definition, techniques and examples

As an executive, you make important decisions every day. Sometimes it’s instinct or a feeling that pushes you in a certain direction. But the best leaders choose data-driven decision making. When analyzing data, they focus on the fine details in order to identify inefficiencies that cause wasted effort and money. Business process modeling speeds this task up and reduces the risk of wrong decisions. In this article I will explain what BPM is, what elements comprise it and what benefits it delivers.

Business process modeling is a visual presentation of a company’s processes or workflows (the flow of tasks in an organization). It displays a sequence of activities that helps to simplify analysis for executives and facilitates improvement of a given process. These processes may involve the work of more than one department in the company. For example, it could require interaction between the financial and marketing divisions.

PURPOSE OF BUSINESS PROCESS MODELING

Business process modeling can have various purposes because every company can adjust it to their needs. However, there are some common features of BPM that can help a range of companies.

The fundamental purpose of business process modeling is to understand a particular process. Visual presentation gives you a clear picture of the different components and the dependencies between them. You can also identify weaknesses and use this knowledge to improve your processes, organizational quality and efficiency.

The products of BPM are easy to understand for both technical (Chief Technology Officers) and non-technical (Marketing Managers) professionals. They can later use those insights to gain a competitive advantage.

What about operations officers? They can use business process modeling in order to accelerate processes, reduce cycle times and costs.

HOW CAN BPM IMPROVE YOUR PROCESSES?

You’ve already got a sneak peek of the benefits that business process modeling can deliver. But there are even more reasons for using this method.

  • Clear start and end points of the process. BPM helps get everything sorted out and you can easily navigate through your process diagram.
  • Control over the process. Organized data helps keep you relaxed about your project.
  • Standardization. You set rules that can then be used in future processes.
  • Risk elimination. You can model changes that you want to apply to your process before implementing them.

ELEMENTS OF BUSINESS PROCESS MODELING

BPM can be created in a form of Gantt chart, flow chart or data flow diagram. It has three main elements: events, activities and gateways.

An event symbol marks the start and the end point of a particular activity. A rectangle represents an activity and can be used to show different steps in the process. The gateway indicated by a diamond displays the possible paths an activity may take. And sequence flow (a line with an arrow) connects the other elements.

Now let’s have a look at the BPM lifecycle. Everything begins with defining a process we conduct in our organization. Once we’ve done this, we need to understand it. Then we can engage in analysis, what means looking at weaknesses and investigating their impact on the process as a whole. With that knowledge we can redesign the process. Once every change is clear for us, we can implement them. No less important is the phase of monitoring and controlling, which concludes with performance and conformance insights.

BPM lifecycle
BPM lifecycle

BUSINESS PROCESS MODELING. TECHNIQUES

BPM can be expressed using a range of different techniques.

  1. Flowchart

This tool lets you split, for example, a decision-making process into several elements. By doing that, you can see the dependencies between those elements.

  1. Gantt chart

This is a horizontal bar chart that shows you the entire project timeline as well as the tasks and resources it involves.

  1. Simulation

A means of capturing the dynamics of your process.

Changes in business processes are often risky and their outcomes are difficult to correct after implementation. The ability to test their effects offline is invaluable to business managers, and this is one of the core strengths of simulation techniques.  – Vlatka Hlupic, Alessandra Orsoni and Gert-Jan De Vreede in “Modelling and simulation techniques for business process analysis

and re-engineering”.

  1. Data Flow Diagram

A DFD is used to present the flow of information through a system visually. Although one can mistake it with a flowchart, the difference is that a flowchart shows the logic of a business process.

  1. Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)

BPMN modeling has the aim of allowing a person to map a workflow in such a way that it can be understood easily by other interested parties.  BPMN is a language, and like any language the purpose is to facilitate communication. – Brian S. Reale in the ebook “BPMN 2.0 for Beginners”

Some of the other BPM techniques are: Petri nets, UML activity diagram and Hierarchical Process Models.

EXAMPLES

Using a flowchart, you can see particular elements of your process and the dependencies between them. Let’s take a look at an example we’ve prepared:

Every element of this material management workflow is separated and put in a logical order. What’s more, the gateways (diamonds) contain yes/no questions to be answered in order to proceed to the next step or to change the path.

Obviously, your flowchart can be more detailed. Besides events, activities and gateways, you can also mark a range of different elements like subprocesses, predefined processes and documents.

If you want to see the particular tasks in a process and follow their timeline, the perfect choice is to create a Gantt chart.

Here you can see a sales team’s Gantt chart. Every larger element (design, strategy) is divided into smaller tasks (creating new product design, packing strategy). The progress bar is a very useful tool. Adding progress bars to the timeline shows you how much work remains before the deadline.

BIOINFORMATICS PROCESS MODELING

Synergy Codes has created an application that allows users to model bioinformatics processes and associated tools. It enables them to filter tools and processes by characteristic. This way, users can break a complex process down into a simple journey and get a clear description of it.

omicX – a French start-up – works in highly advanced fields such as DNA sequencing. Every part of this process uses a number of different applications, systems and programs. Before Synergy Codes delivered its solution, users had to verify the compliance of data traveling from one application to another. Our task was to create an app showing the steps a user should complete in order to complete the process.

WHY DO YOU NEED A BUSINESS PROCESS MODELING APPLICATION?

As I’ve explained in this article, BPM can bring a host of benefits to your business. It helps you eliminate risks in your operations, improve efficiency and accelerate decision-making processes – just to name a few of the most important benefits.

There are some ready-to-use and one-size-fits-all solutions on the market. But the problem with such tools is that they may not be suited to the particular needs of your business. Every company is unique, which is why a deep understanding of your requirements is vital in designing the best possible solutions. That’s why a custom web application will benefit you far more than some pre-fab tool.

Contact us today, we can’t wait to learn about your business needs!